Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra Bike Review

Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra Bike

About the bike

Sometimes smarter doesn’t mean working harder, it means working more efficiently, and that’s just what Cervélo set out to design when they created the S3. The original frame is already a design classic, it’s been around that long, but why fix what isn’t broken when just a refresh will bring it up to date and keep it cutting edge and that’s just what the German engineers have done by adding Shimano’s Ultegra 8020 discs and bolt-thru quick releases for Mavic’s Cosmic Elite aerodynamic wheels.

The ride

First impression

Cenvelo’s name comes from a portmanteau of cerebral (meaning brainy) and velo (which as any schoolboy knows is French for bike) and is intended to convey the idea that the company’s bikes are smarter and more carefully thought out-which is in itself a clever name choice from the company that was originally based in French-speaking Canada. And that approach is instantly evident in the stunning looking S3, which boasts sleek aero tube shapes with deep junctions on the front triangle to give a thoroughly modern and undeniably fast look. But will the ride live up to the looks? We couldn’t wait to get on board to find out…

On the road

The addition of bolt-thru axles to the wheels is a no-brainer. Regular quick-releases are great but they do tend to stretch and flex, often manifesting as brake rub, so adding a stiffer connection will only help. For certain, once you’re out on the road, that additional stiffness is a benefit that noticeably helps to improve responsiveness when out of the saddle giving it all you can – or, in fact, anytime the rider’s weight is being thrown around. Everything about the bike just feels inline and direct.

Smart indeed is to take a winning formula, update it and improve it without bringing in any negatives, so it’s great to report that the S3, now with disc brakes, is an improvement on the previous version. It must have taken some effort to reduce frame weight by some 40g while adding in enough material to strengthen the tubes to enable the use of disc brakes and bolt-thru axles, which are claimed to increase stiffness by 9%, making it just a touch faster again.


The S3 has long been known for its low-drag tube shapes that save those vital watts when you’re sprinting for the finish line at full gas.

On early models this came somewhat at the expense of handling but not with the latest version, we’re pleased to report. With the broad and flowing lines of the bottom bracket and asymmetric chainstays, your drive is controlled and directed without any signs of flex to the rear wheel, while the broad down tube is a stable platform that allows leverage from the bars to be effective too.

When it comes to the ride, the S3 is certainly slick. It cuts through the air wonderfully and proves to be much stiffer than previous versions, at least against twisting forces. In vertical terms, it remains stiff and does pass on a fair amount of vibration to the rider, which means those looking for comfort as a priority might be better looking elsewhere.

A precise handler, it offers good if not expansive communication of grip levels to the ride.

The spec

The Frameset

Cervélo make no bones about the fact that the S3 isn’t a new design. In fact, the website talks about the company’s policy of only launching a new bike when they can make significant performance gains, which has got to be reassuring to current owners, showing that they are confident they got it right first time and don’t need to keep tweaking it. In this day and age of proprietary design, it’s not a surprise to find that Cervélo has its own bottom bracket format, which they call BBRight.

An asymmetric design, it’s 79mm wide and takes the frame out as wide as they feel is possible to yet still give maximum compatibility for crank systems and so make as stiff a platform. Small by some of today’s standards, the FSA headset tapers from 11/8-inch to 13/s-inch and so reduces frontal area and therefore drag.

In fact, there are so many fine details across the frame, too numerous to mention all of them here, that show real attention to detail.


Cervélo’s decision on the groupset front to fit Ultegra 8000 is undoubtedly a great one and puts the S3 on a par with the rest of the bikes in this test. Opting for the 8020 hydraulic shifters and 8070 disc callipers brings the benefit of hydraulic stopping and with ita notable difference in the external shape of the hoods.

When Di2 first came out, the shifters were that bit smaller thanks to the almost non-existent internals, but mechanical- shifting combined with hydraulic brakes on the other hand require more internal workings to be packed in, so the hood had to grow-this makes a for quite a stark contrast between the two options in our test of Di2 and hydraulic. The disc rotor itself is the Ultegra ICE Technologies Freeza version with its additional sculpted fins to increase its cooling capabilities.

Finishing kit

In this company, it’s no surprise to find a Cervélo own-branded seatpost as the frame design dictates the specific shape. It’s nicely matched to the stem and complemented by a set of aluminum FSA Energy Compact bars that offer a shallow drop. The saddle is Fizik’s budget Antares version (R7) with alloy rails. Saddles are very personal but the Antares is always widely liked by our testers so we’re happy enough with this choice.


These days it’s hard to find a duff wheel in the Mavic lineup so Cervélo’s choice of Cosmic Elite Disc UST fitted with matching Yksion tyres makes a great deal of sense. The Cosmic Elite wheelset retailsforjustover£400. With an aluminum rim, it’s 30mm deep, which gives a not insubstantial overall weight of1,850g for the pair but it does, however, carry the benefit of being a true aerodynamic profile that while fitted with tyres and tubes from the factory can easily be converted to tubeless (known as UST in Mavic-speak).


Frame: Cervélo All-Carbon, tapered S3 fork for disc BBRight bottom bracket

Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8000

Brakes: Shimano Ultegra R8070

Chainset: Shimano Ultegra R8000,52/36

Cassette: Shimano Ultegra R8000,11-28

Bars: FSA Energy Compact

Stem: Cervélo Ult

Saddle: Fizik Antar

Seatpost: Cervélo Aer

Wheels: Mavic Elite

Tyres: Mavic Yksio



Size tested 58 cmWeight 8.4 kg
Top tube (TT) 581 mmSeat tube (ST) 546 mm
Stack (S) 605 mmReach (R) 396 mm
Chainstays (C) 405 mmHead angle (HA) 73.5°
Seat angle (SA) 73°Wheelbase (WB) 1005 mm
BB drop (BB) 68 mm

Rating 8.4/10

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