Readers’ Rigs: Cervélo S3
Today’s rig is a Cervélo S3 that was bought as a frame only back in 2011 but has received some classy upgrades to put it easily on par with more modern machines. Built up with SRAM Red and some sweet carbon rims from Fairwheelbikes the bike weighs in at a very light 6.32 kg to make it a great climbing and flats bike for owner Twain from San Francisco.
Name: Twain Mein
Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA USA
Bike: 2011 Cervelo S3
Groupset: SRAM Red
Wheels: 25mm FSE clincher rims with Carbon-Ti hubs and Sapim spokes, built by Fairwheelbikes.
Pedals: Look Keo Carbon Ti
Saddle: Fizik Antares 00
Other: Ritchey WCS carbon road fork and stem, Zero gravity Gravitas brakes, KCNC skewers, Alligator cables, Dura-Ace 11-27 cassette, Cateye cyclometer, SRAM GXP ceramic bearing bottom bracket, 53×38 chain rings, 3T Ergo Nova carbon bars, SRAM 1091R chain, Specialized Turbo S-works 700×26 clinchers.
Weight: 6.32kg/13lbs 14 oz.
What made you choose this bike?
A bit of background — I’m primarily a roadie and triathlete and started seriously riding 32 years ago. I’m also a gear nut and fascinated by how technology can help improve performance and make cycling more enjoyable. I’ve focused on buying bikes that I thought were technologically remarkable or notable in some way. My first “performance” bike was a Nishiki International that I got in college in 1986 for $450 – I paid $50 more to upgrade to Shimano 600 SIS. The Nishiki was interesting because it used large diameter steel tubing. The ride is remarkably smooth and I used it for years for road riding and triathlons; I still have it today. The next notable bike is a 2004 Teschner SC7000; I spent a long (and expensive!) phone call to Australia with Peter Teschner himself prior to purchase. It features a super light (for the time) 2.8lb Scandium frame coupled with Time carbon rear stays and a magnificent paint job. It is fantastic for climbing and I also used it for triathlons. A few years later, when I saw the 2006 Scott Plasma triathlon bike, I was instantly smitten. It featured the first integrated seat mast on a tri bike, had amazing aero tubing and was, unusual for a TT bike, very light (2.6lb frame). Unfortunately, while very fast and able to maintain speed on the flats, it wasn’t very good for climbing; I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where we have a lot of climbs. I then bought a Cervelo R3 in 2008. That bike pretty much changed my life! The ride quality was just amazing – somehow super responsive but still extremely comfortable. And it climbed like nothing else I’d ridden. The only downside was it seemed to sort of hit an “aero wall” around 25 mph.
And then I saw the Cervelo S3 and knew it had to be my next bike. It combined the aero tubing concepts of the Scott Plasma with the comfortable rear stays of the Cervelo R3. It was a pioneer in the “aero road bike” category. And I had to have it! And the bike does not disappoint. I have ridden other aero road bikes, including the BMC TM02 and Fuji Transonic and, while both are very fast on the flats, I have found their climbing ability to be very mediocre and “mushy”. The S3 is remarkable because, while aero, it is also very good for climbing. In fact, I have more PR bike climbs on the S3 than the R3, a testament to it’s climbing ability.
When did you buy it?
I bought the S3, frame only, from a friend who owns a bike shop in February of 2011 and I built it up with SRAM Red. However, assembling the internally routed derailleur cables was a challenge to say the least, let alone getting the correct bend and length for the housing. The routing of the derailleur cables is particularly unusual in that the insert from the top of the top tube rather than from the sides of the down tube. It didn’t just take hours, it took days!
What modifications/additions have you done? What components are you running?
With a frame weight of 1050 grams, the S3 isn’t super light; my R3 frame was 150 grams lighter. But I have a bad case of weight-weenie-itis and have always tried to make the S3 lighter. To get it skinnier, I’ve equipped the bike with SRAM Red (10 speed), Zero Gravity Gravitas brakes, SRAM GXP ceramic bottom bracket, KCNC skewers, 3T ErgoNova carbon handlebars and Alligator cables. I also use a Dura-Ace 11-27 cassette because, though slightly heavier, it is quieter than the SRAM Red dome cassette. With all my bikes, I apply Flying Tiger decals to the head tube. The decals provide aerodynamic dimpling, like a golf ball, to make the bike faster. (LOL, that’s what I tell people who comment on the decals and they always believe it!).
The S3 rides exactly like it looks; those vertical narrow and deep tubes result in a somewhat harsh ride as all of the road imperfections bounce right back up to the rider, especially at the front end. However, perhaps a blessing in disguise, I accidentally dropped the bike from a rafter while the front wheel was removed. The drop cracked the beautiful stock 3T fork. But I replaced it with a Ritchey WCS carbon fork. Not only did this save 65 grams, but the ride quality has improved dramatically; the front end is much more forgiving though still very responsive with a great feel for the road.
But the biggest improvement to my S3 is a set of wheels built up by Fairwheelbikes. They combined super light but very serviceable hubs from Carbon-Ti, Sapim spokes, and carbon rims from a company called FSE (Filament Spun Evolution). Incredibly, this clincher wheel set weighs just 1270 grams with the rim strips installed. The rims are 25.58mm wide and 25mm tall and I’m running 700×26 Specialized Turbo S-Works clinchers on them. With this combination, the bike is completely transformed! The ride quality is much more supple and I don’t feel as beat up riding even 70 miles or more. Yet the bike accelerates and handles much quicker; it’s like it has become a hot rod yet that, somehow, is now more comfortable. As a bonus, the weight savings helped to get the bike under 14lbs!
How many miles/kilometers do you do a year?
I rode 3500 miles last year and also swam 213,000 yards and ran 551 miles. There are only so many hours in the day!
What do you love about this bike?
To be honest for many years I appreciated the bike though I didn’t always look forward to riding it. While it is great for climbing, the stiff ride would get pretty fatiguing and I didn’t really like being on it for more than 2 hours.
But replacing the front fork and the new FSE wheels have made the bike both more comfortable yet also much more responsive; it seriously feels like a brand new bike. I love riding on this bike now and can’t wait for an excuse to go out again. It’s pretty remarkable to “re-fall-in-love” with a bike 7 years later!
Favorite riding area?
I am fortunate that I live in the San Francisco Bay area. We have these awesome climbs that take you out to the coast; there is a myriad of epic ride choices.
Favorite riding experience on your bike?
It’s not my favorite but maybe most memorable ride. My triathlon coach challenged us team members to ride a local climb (called King’s Mountain) ten times in ten days OR, ten times in one day. Kings Mountain is a 4 mile climb that averages 7% and includes over 1500 feet of elevation gain. In any case, a teammate and I chose the latter challenge which ended up being 84 miles, eight hours and ten minutes in the saddle, and 15,144 feet of climbing. That was quite a day!
While I am currently running 10 speed on all of my bikes for cross-compatibility issues, I would love to upgrade the S3 to SRAM Etap and 11 speed and add a Stages Power Meter. Otherwise, the bike feels completely dialed.
This bike has been a solid foundation that I’ve used to experiment with different parts through the years. And though I appreciated it, I didn’t always look forward to riding it. But it’s really cool that the recent fork and wheel change has transformed this bike. At this point, I can’t see a reason to upgrade to another bike at all.
Thanks to Twain for sharing his ride with us. Got a bike that you’re proud of? Well how about sharing it with fellow PEZ fans and getting it featured in Readers’ Rigs so we can all stare at it! Contact us via the Comment box below, or send us a Readers’ Rigs submission direct to [email protected] and your bike could be featured in all its glory here on the pages of PEZ.