Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review - Cervelo SLC-SL

Last week I said I'd start posting up some reviews of some of the bikes in my stable. I've owned the Cervelo for a little over a year now so I'll start there.

The Cervelo SLC-SL I rides like you'd expect, fast and stiff. Its not very forgiving, it never gives the rider much of a break mostly due to the aero post I believe. The post is awful stiff, and I really can't think an ISP would be much stiffer than this thing. It does not have the most torsional stiffness of bikes I have ridden, in fact I felt like the R3 was far stiffer yet was more compliant. I think that some of this has to do with the 'aero' tube shapes that the frame's got going on. The 3T Funda fork while well behaved is not as stiff as say an Edge Composites fork, or an Alpha Q and probably does not help out the sensations of stiffness in the front end.

The SLC-SL has probably seen more action than any other bike residing in my stable but the current frame has been ridden approximately 3,000 miles (more on that later). I have found that originally I thought the SLC was okay, but not great and almost parted ways with it several times. The SLC,as mentioned above is stiff and somewhat punishing, I think that helps contribue to the feeling I have that the more fit I am the better the bike performs. Honestly, I ride it out of shape or when just wanting to putz along and I think its not a very fun ride. However, go out and push the pace and this guy shines. For those out there without a ton of flexibility, you may want to look elsewhere, the headtubes are pretty short as well. My 51 is being run with 20mm of spacers and a 15mm HS top cap and still has quite a bit of drop. A word of note, obviously, its paramount to try to get your saddle height in the correct position but never have I felt this in such a manner as on this bike. Too high and the bike really handles poorly. Get the saddle height right and this bike will corner in a well behaved manner. It doesn't have a super low bottom bracket (68mm drop) so it feels a little taller than some european bikes but is pretty much on par with the offerings of the other major carbon manufacturers.

So, can you ride this thing for 6 hours and still walk? Yes. I think my longest days on this bike have been around 6 hours. The longest week I've done on the bike was around 22 hours over 5 days down in Gainesville in February on a variety of road surfaces from super smooth to rough FL chip seal. I was recovering well between days and never felt like the bike held me back. The bike is not smooth like a Synapse, Trek 5 series, and in fact is not as smooth as the Cervelo R3 (the S3 supposedly corrects this shortcoming). Would it be my only long day bike? I would say as long as I was reasonably fit, yes. Its a great bike and the carbon dampesn vibration/feedback reasonably.

So, what is there not to like? Well, couple nitpicks on this one. I ride a 51 (or 54) and wear a 46 or 46.5 shoe. The toe overlap on this bike is attrocious in the smaller sizes but in most real world riding situations its not too much of an issue. Just be careful when doing slow speed cornering maneuvers. The airfoil tube shape can be a handful in crosswinds but you get used to it over time. It wouldn't be my choice for the riding conditions we've had lately if I had options (which I do). The only other problem was I broke the first frame @ the bottom bracket within about 2,000 miles. Some googling shows this bike is prone to break at this spot, and I'd carefully consider whether or not buying one of these used is a good idea because of the known breaking point.

If someone took all my bikes handed me $3,500 and said replace it all with one bike would a Cervelo S series bike be on the list of candidates? Yes. Would it be the winner? That's tough to say but there are some deals out there on these things that would cause serious pause and consideration.

To rate the bike on a scale of 0-10 I'd give it an 8.