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Cervelo R3 review

13 Aug 2020
Verdict:

A trust all-rounder that remains relevant despite recent launches

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Comfortable ride • An assured descender • Decent climber
Against 
Lacks that zipp on the flat and from a standing start

You would be mistaken, like I was, for thinking that the new Cervelo Caledonia ‘race endurance bike’ has plunged the Canadian brand’s trusty Cervelo R3 into obscurity.

‘The R3 is still a highly relevant platform for Cervélo,' the brand explains. 'Whilst the Caledonia shares some of its lineage with a derivation of the R3, the R3 “Mud”, we view the use cases and consumers for the two platforms to be different. 

‘Much as the Roubaix-orientated R3 “Mud” didn’t replace the pure, GC-bred R3, the experiential and diverse Caledonia platform doesn’t supersede it either.’

With its room for 34mm tyres and aerodynamically tuned tube shapes, the new Caledonia is more like the quintessential modern-day endurance bike than the R3. Meanwhile the Cervelo R5 remains at the top of the tree for any rider looking for uncompromised race performance.

The walls have certainly closed in on the R3 in terms of what it can offer its rider but after a summer’s worth of testing, I still believe it has a relevant place in Cervelo’s arsenal.

Geometry and performance

Buy the Cervelo R3 from Sigma Sports from £4,845

Anyone who has ridden the Cervelo R5 will likely wax lyrical about the bike’s ability to respond to the most explosive of efforts, guiding you up some rather rude gradients with ease, failing to compromise any watts through flex.

Cervelo says the second-tier R3’s carbon frameset has been designed differently. Apparently it looks to afford the rider with comfort rather than the outright performance of the R5 and has therefore compromised stiffness, weight and speed in place of a more dampened and controlled feel.

This also reflected in the R3's geometry that is slightly less aggressive thanks to a higher stack, shorter reach and overall front end that sits 22mm higher, providing a more upright and stable riding position.

For example, when I got out of the saddle to stamp on the R3’s pedals, I noticed it just took a second longer than your outright race bike to respond.

I still found that the bike felt fast uphill, something that was reflected in my times, thanks to what is ultimately still quite a light bike at 7.39kg (56cm frame with stock Shimano pedals) but there is a clear difference compared to the lighter, more aggressive R5.

When it then came to descending these hills, however, the R3 really began to excel. I persistently felt encouraged to let go of the brakes and let the bike do the work of guiding me around corners. I'd put this down to what is ultimately still quite a tight, racey geometry matched with bigger 28mm tyres that certainly did not lack in terms of grip.

This is also a very comfortable bike. Over long distances, the newly released Caledonia with its more relaxed frame and wider tyres will likely now shine brighter, but I still felt as if the R3 did its part in protecting my body with a frame that did its best to absorb the biggest bumps and a set of 28mm Continental GP5000 tyres that could also be run at lower pressure.

While 28mm is officially the largest tyre that can be fitted in this frame, undoubtedly you could push that wider unofficially.

Although I must say, I am confused as to why Cervelo specs the R3 with Continental GP5000 tubeless tyres and Novatec R3 disc tubeless-ready rims, yet does not supply the bike tubeless from the box. This is a move some of its main competitors – Giant and Canyon, notably – have already made and would certainly present a step forward for the R3.

I also found the Novatec R3 wheels to be a contributor to bike’s sometimes-pedestrian feel on the flat. At 35mm in depth, they’re at the shallower end of the ‘all-rounder’ spectrum and are merely ok, in comparison to the frameset and other areas of the spec list.

What was outstanding, however, and something that often goes unnoticed, were Cervelo’s in-house AB07 Ultra Light Alloy handlebars. So many handlebars are so shallow in their drops and uncomfortable on the wrists when used aggressively. These were the opposite, proving more forgiving when dipped into the drops.

The top-spec Cervelo R3 comes with Shimano Ultegra Di2 disc, a trusty companion for any bike, and at £5,099 is rather reasonably priced. For many similarly specced, middling all-rounder ‘GC’ bikes, you will likely be looking to spend closer to the £6,000 mark.

Sure, there are some outliers like the Giant TCR Advanced SL1 Disc that while £6,000 does come with an integrated Quarq power meter. But in terms of the broader market, the Cervelo R3 is certainly reasonably priced especially when you consider it is £1,600 less than the likewise specced R5.

Buy the Cervelo R3 from Sigma Sports from £4,845

Conclusion

After testing the Cervelo R3, I am convinced that it remains a relevant bike.

While the Caledonia may have undercut it in the ‘performance comfort’ space, the R3 is still Cervelo’s best option for those not willing to spend big on the R5 but looking to experience its all-rounder performance benefits.  

Spec

Frame Cervelo R3
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2 disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra disc
Chainset Shimano Ultegra Di2, 52/36
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-30
Bars Cervelo AB07 Ultra Light Alloy
Stem Cervelo Ultra Light Alloy Stem
Seatpost Cervelo Carbon SP19
Saddle Prologo Zero II
Wheels Novatec R3 Carbon 35mm Disc with Continental GP5000 tyres, 700 x 28  
Weight 7.39kg (56cm)
Contact cervelo.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£5,099

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