Cervélo S3 Disc
The dampening effect is outstanding, be it the carbon or the lack of rim brakes and brake bridges on the frame. Hour after hour, the bike is a pleasure to dial in over the long rides.
It has been more than two years since the original R3 Disc was unveiled, and now with the Union Cycliste Internationale dangling a green light in 2017 for disc brakes once again, Cervélo has launched its newest ride. If all goes to plan, Mark Cavendish and his Dimension Data teammates will be aboard this Canadian frameset designed out of Project California.
The S3 Disc (which is No. 3 from Cervélo for disc road bikes, after the R3 and the C3 Endurance) claims to be two watts faster, nine-percent stiffer and 40g lighter than its highly touted predecessor – the S3 (with rim brakes). Working on the project was Toronto, Ont. engineer Graham Shrive, who claims this venture happened because there were improvements ready to go from the drawing board to the wind tunnel to production. The S3 Disc retains all the same geometry, but endeavours to make small changes that make big differences.
Let's begin with the fork, as a newly revised airfoil profile reduces pressure around the back of the crown and now boasts a 19g reduction in drag. Aesthetically, the bike looks fantastic without any brakes and exposed housing, but it also increases the space over the tire, allowing for different fork designs and room for a 25mm tire.
The frameset has been redesigned not only to accommodate the difference in brakes, but to also improve aerodynamics. A new rear triangle with carbon dropouts is borrowed from the Rca frameset. Here, the chainstays receive the flat mounted brakes and carry on toward the unique asymmetric 79mm-wide BBRight™ bottom bracket.
The frame's tube shapes are essentially the same, including the carry-over rear-wheel cutout that Cervélo has used many times in its illustrious history. Those chainstays and seatstays have been redesigned with airfoil profiles. The dropped downtube with its chopped trailing edge remains, as does the cable-routing system that enters the downtube, also Di2-compatible. It is important to mention here that this new system will be able to accommodate all types of drivetrains and braking systems.
Once past the two smallest frame sizes, Cervélo incorporates a 25mm offset for the seatpost. The thru-axles are 12mm, with Shimano's BR-RS805 160mm hydraulic discs. There is an option for a Di2 Ultegra build that will run you close to $2,000 more, but Pedal chose to test the mechanical 11-speed.
The build sits on a solid pair of HED Ardennes Plus GP Disc wheels that use a Conti Gran Sport Race 23mm tire. The aforementioned Ultegra groupset runs an 11-28 aboard a FSA SL-K 52/36 crank, necessary due to some chain-alignment difficulties. The saddle is a fi'zi:k Antares, and the bar/stem combo is a nicely fitted FSA SL-K stem and energy-compact bar.
Touted as stronger, stiffer and faster, the S3 Disc has borrowed from
its predecessors, but at the same time has honed the technology in the carbon lay-up, aerodynamics and refinement of the frame itself. The bikes lines and lack of brakes immediately give this ride a sleek linear finish that necessitates a second look. First comments from fellow riders will almost certainly focus on the lack of rim brakes and the visual effect this creates.
Aboard the S3 Disc, the initial sensation is absolutely smooth and straight. The harshness of a superlight thin carbon build is not there; instead, it has the strong solid feel of titanium or steel. Standing up on the frame, it shoots forward with ease, and that massive bottom bracket works in conjunction with the tubes to optimize the stiffness. One test I always do is to stand beside my bike and lower the pedal to the bottom of the pedal stroke and stand on it with the other leg – in doing so, this BB did not flex in the slightest.
Stiffness is definitely one of the S3's greatest attributes, and the thru-axles are a big part of this. Climbing steep hills is as joyful as can be on this type of ride, with its complete power transfer. There are no glitches in the drivetrain, only smooth, crisp shifting from the Ultegra 11-speed.
Of course, we would expect superb braking with the discs, and it is markedly better than the rim brakes. A true test would be a mountain descent in the rain, but unfortunately the Niagara area just can't provide that. At high speeds, the brakes are incredible, with no shuddering or squealing, and thus giving more control and confidence in dicey situations. The ease with which one can access that calibre is a nice change as well.
Again, Cervélo states that it's stiffer, more aerodynamic, stronger and faster. I can tell you that is, without doubt, the most comfortable Cervélo I have ever been aboard. The dampening effect is outstanding, be it the carbon or the lack of rim brakes and brake bridges on the frame. Hour after hour, the bike is a pleasure to dial in over the long rides.
Overall, this bike has taken the best technology Cervélo has to offer and created a bicycle good enough for the Data Dimension squad, and likely good enough to provide quality performance on any enthusiast's gran fondo, charity and/or club ride.