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Why I choose to buy a Cervelo P2

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Buying a bike is a very personal thing. Like a motorcycle, a bicycle is nothing without a rider. It does not exist without a human, it simply falls over. So it is an extension of you. In this way I have always thought of bicycles and motorcycles as MECH model 1s. You strap them on (or clip them on) then they merge with your body. When you move it moves.

Deciding on a particular bicycle brand can be daunting. Basically you have only a few variables to play with. And there are lots and lots of brands. The group will be various levels of Shimano or SRAM (or in some cases campy), components will be a mix of other vendors, and you can change whatever you want except for two things. One is the frame, the other who you buy it from. And frames are usually well built by the bigger names. It would be like if cars always used the same 2 or three engines, dashes, windows, doors and shocks, but we focused all of our branding on the chassis.

My local bicycling store (www.sportx.ca) carries Specialized, Cervelo and Norco frames. I live in a small town with one (very excellent) bike store, and while there are excellent bike stores within 75 kms, my LBS is worth supporting. And I just don’t see enough differences in the frames of the top tier companies for TT bikes, which includes Cannondale, Specialized, BMC, Blue, Aragon 18, Cervelo, Trek, Planet-X etc. In the end I just don’t think a frame really matters. If that was true then pro riders would moan about their frames, but in 98% of the time they simply show up at the pre-season training and it’s Oh, we have Felt this year. Cavendish has gone from Scott, to Specialized to Pinarello and still wins. Thor won’t miss his S5… I would be fine on any of these frames. But I wanted to choose what my LBS had and the new Shiv wasn’t out yet. That left me with the older Transition frames and the P series from Cervelo. The transition was nice, but even the lowly 105 version was $2500 and it got steep fast.

I didn’t want a Cervelo for a number of reasons but I found one in the back of my car at the end of the process. How did that happen?

I have issues with Cervelo. Being in the technology business I see a lot of companies that are “engineering” companies first and they usually fail at the more important side of the business, which is revenue. Cervelo made a few good moves, getting into the Tour with CSC was a good move. And they have survived, but the rules change all the time (unless you are the UCI!) and you have to adapt. Cervelo TestTeam didn’t make a lot of sense in my mind and I think a lot of people now see that as a costly mistake despite the good press they got.  I wonder about companies that are very technology focused and if they will survive.

Indeed, shortly after my purchase, Cervelo went through some changes and introduced the buy one, get $2k towards another bike. That would have been helpfulSmile. I would have picked up an RS too. And then they announced some funding arrangement with the private equity firm PON. Both were poorly communicated. There is a very simple rule in business, if you have to announce bad news you announce it on a Friday. By announcing the funding change with the least amount of info on the Friday before Christmas, even if this was good news (it does mean the company has funding) means it wasn’t meant to be seen by anyone really. So either there was a problem with funding or they thought it was ok to announce good news on a Friday.

That is the type of mistake an engineering company makes. People were confused. Why the fire sale, why the funding news…hmmm.

Other things that concerns me on Cervelo.

1- Lack of understanding that the world is online. I know that bike fit is important, but that is an after sale process and some (if not most) people know what frame size they want. Not sure why they don’t allow online sales. Adapt or die.  It is pretty common now to see somebody with an online ordered bike and be very happy. Many brands live online. Canyon (www.canyon.com) is a good example. They also supply tour level teams. And you can only buy it online. Phillip Gilbert seemed to enjoy his Canyon in 2011.

2- Web Site.  See above. When I was looking info on the P2 I found the site next to useless.  The picture has wheels you don’t get, some of the gallery looks like the bike from 2007, reviews are years old.  There is a link (http://cervelo.com/en_us/Cervelo-TestTeam-2.0/) that has been static for about 2 years. Is there a Test Team 2.0 coming, is it just sloppy web clean-up???

3- BBright…world doesn’t need yet another bottom bracket standard.  This is called Hubris. I like that more and more people are having the conversation on all these bottom bracket formats. Velo’s 2012 buyer’s guide has a great overview of the problem (Adapt This. Why today’s variety of BB standards has hurt the consumer…pg. 20 not online that I can see). I have tried to understand all of this as I work to upgrade the crank on my P2 and I am still confused and am worried I won’t get the right BB for my new crank.

4- P5 pricing. This one I think I understand why, Cervelo can’t make tons of frames so they restrict it to the high end. But that also means I won’t see really any P5s for quite some time and I use Tri Transition areas as showrooms and I am sure others do as well. Specialized, who to be fair can probably create a lot more frames, has pricing from the low end (ok, you don’t get the wow frame) thru entry points for various spending groups. But it probably made some sense to push out a few more frames and get one lower cost mechanical build. Still the frame is $4500! That means that even with say a 105 group it will be over 5k…yikes.

There are some Good things.

1- Fantastic forum and customer service. Company is honest and really cares about the product.

2- Nice to see the bike under some teams, and I do hope that continues but didn’t need to be the high price of full team status

3- The new P5 micro-site shows they are starting to understand the power of the web

4- They have good ads..better than most

5- Beyond the Peleton was awesome…but it’s now gone. Would have been nice for them to at least end with the awesome 2011 TdF…

But…it’s not about the company. Since 80% of the bike I can still get support from somebody if Cervelo was to disappear tomorrow I want some value. And this is where the P2 really shines. I just simply have to say it’s a good value.  If you ditch the wheels and have some pedals you can probably get it for well under 2500 without trying, and less if you do. I tried to re-create a nice tri bike along the same lines at planet-x, Ribble, various chinese sites and in the end I usually ended up pushing against the P2 price point and having to do some work myself and piss off my LBS. So why not support my local LBS, get a great bike and not have to worry about waiting by the mailbox.

So why did I buy the Cervelo P2. It’s a great deal on a great bike from a great LBS.