Go fast, stop fast. Over the years bike manufacturers have managed to create super quick machines that cut through the wind with ease, but up to now have struggled to fulfil the complete package of making a bike that stops as fast as it goes. Cervelo claims to have solved this dilemma with the S3 Disc. We joined the HotChillee ride captains on a spin down to Folkestone to see if this balance truly has been addressed.
We were kindly lent an S3 Disc by ‘The Captain’, one of HotChillee’s most experienced ride captains. Last used at their Roubaix event, a cobbled 111-kilometre jaunt through some of the most iconic and testing roads cycling has to offer.
Still in its Roubaix set up, ‘The Captain’ had fitted 28mm Continental tyres and extra thick Cervelo bar tape. I usually ride a 48cm sloping Colnago, so found this 51cm Cervelo would be the best fit.
Lowering the stem, sliding the Fizik Antares saddle back a couple of centimetres and lowering the S-Series seatpost, I was ready to join the HotChillee guys for their dry run of London to Paris, stage one.
As a first ride, we would generally recommend doing a 30 minute - 1-hour spin on a new bike but being tight on time I was not able to fit this in, a 161-kilometre day in the saddle it would have to be!
Joining the twelve ride captains, all on a mixture of S3 Disc and Cervelo R3 Disc Road Bikes, we set off at a punchy 35km/h. Straight away I could feel this bike loved to go fast. Picking up speed quickly, the S3’s aero tubing and partial seat tube cutout ensured speed was held with ease.
Shifting through the Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed gears was a smooth and easy process, helped no doubt by the reduced-friction bottom bracket guide, which has been designed to offer easy setup.
A nice touch is the future-proof cable management that ensures the frame can be used with electronic groupsets should you wish to swap at a later date.
Reaching the first climb of the day, I jumped out of the saddle and found the S3 accelerated smoothly as I put the power down through the pedals. The bike’s 8 kilogram weight works slightly against it up hills when pitted against an out and out climbing bike, such as the Cervelo RCA, but on the rolling 500 metres climbs around Kent and Surrey I found this added weight actually helped when it came to stability and comfort.
Now, aero bikes are not known for comfort, so I was very pleasantly surprised as we trundled along the lanes in a tight formation, to find the bike took potholes in its stride. In fact, this was by far one of the most comfortable bikes I have ever used, possibly thanks to the wide Continental tyres and Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon Disc Centre Lock Clincher Wheelset.
These 45-millimetre deep carbon fibre wheels use ISM technology to help cut through the wind and as we battled a nasty cross/headwind down to the coast, I could really feel the aerodynamic benefits. The only slight downside I found with these wheels was in crosswinds when, at speed, they felt a little unstable in the gusts.
Using new carbon fibre rear dropouts, the S3 Disc features 12-millimetre thru-axle technology to enhance stiffness around the wheels.
A major innovation found more and more on top end road bikes is the addition of disc brakes. Being a traditionalist, I hadn’t had much experience of using discs before and was still on the fence as to whether they were necessary on a road bike.
Very early on and my mind had been made up. I was won over. The braking was predictable, I could brake later than on standard caliper brakes and with the frame’s chunky tubes, I thought the Shimano rotors looked fantastic with the bike.
Pushing on, we began doing race pace through and off efforts. This was where the S3 Disc really came into its own. Banking the bike over into the corners, the innovative tapered steerer design showed Cervelo had spent some serious time working on the handling of this bike. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. The bike felt like it was on rails, stable, predictable and direct, where ever I pointed it seemed to go without any complaints.
The rear triangle takes design cues from the R series, keeping weight down and stiffness up. Sprinting into Folkestone, even after 160 kilometres in the saddle, the frame’s stiffness really shined, no doubt thanks to the BBright bottom bracket and FSA chainset.
Tired but content. Averaging 32km/h and taking 5 hours to do the ride, I was incredibly impressed with the Cervelo S3 Disc Road Bike. The assured braking, provided by the disc brakes, combined with the stiff and aerodynamic aero frame makes this a very appealing package. For those looking for a fast, agile bike for sportives or punchy club runs, this is the ideal choice. If you're looking for something a little more spritely on the climbs, the Cervelo R3 Disc Road Bike could be a better option. Our opinion aside, the Cervelo S3 Disc gets a big thumbs up from the HotChillee ride captains.
- Stable and direct handling
- Fast on the flat and holds its speed well
- Disc brakes work well, providing assured braking, even at speed
- Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset offers smooth shifting
- Mavic wheels catch the wind a little in crosswinds
- Not the lightest bike around and isn't as agile on the climbs as some aero road bikes