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Cervélo started with the idea of adapting their workhorse S3 road bike for disc braking. They ended up with the S3d, which does adapt the S3 for disc brakes, but also gets lighter (40g less), stiffer (9%), and more aero (2 watts) in the transition.
“Workhorse” is a word Cervélo likes to use for the S3. It’s an apt appraisal. It sits between the S5 and the R3 in terms of design, taking elements of both, and creating a third way. It’s aero and light while still maintaining a fairly traditional aesthetic. In terms of geometry, it will feel fairly fast without being twitchy-almost traditional, but without a super-low bottom bracket. Some probably see it as a crit bike, but the geometry is identical to Cervélo’s R series, so it should largely ride the same, just a bit stiffer, and there is the aero benefit as well. So, yes, it will crit like nobody’s business, but it also will climb well, manage road racing, and just be fast bike for riding hard regardless of the terrain or road surface.
In many respects, the S3 has a split personality. You’ve got the aero and the comfort. The aero is in the fork and front triangle. The fork itself has been redesigned for disc braking. The 12mm thru-axle allows for the fork to be lighter and laterally stiffer. The left leg is bulked up a bit to better counteract the forces the brake creates. The legs are a bit wider, and join up with a sleeker crown, improving aerodynamics along the way. With the aero downtube, it is making you faster in three ways. The shape is the obvious one, but the fact that the upper portion of the downtube is dropped lower to take up the space between the tire and what used to be the downtube’s lower edge further smoothes out airflow. And the shape of the downtube does a great job of hiding round bottles from the wind. Meanwhile, the cutout seat tube and 405mm chainstays mean the wheel is partially hidden by the front triangle.
In terms of comfort, the frame has pencil-thin seat stays to allow for some vertical compliance on rough roads. The seat post tapers dramatically before reaching the saddle, allowing for a little give there as well. The frame fits the stock 23mm tires with the stock 25mm wide rims, providing a 26mm wide footprint.
Even with this comfort, the wide BBright bottom bracket and the oversized downtube and chainstays limit torsional flex to nearly nothing.
Moving to disc brakes is a big deal. It took re-thinking layup and design of the rear end as well as the fork. With the chainstays, the carbon plies were not only laid up differently, but the shaping of the left chainstay changed a bit. And to make sure everything was locked into place and lighter, they chose to utilize a 12mm thru-axle rather than a traditional quick release.
Of course Cervélo does not disappoint when it comes to proprietary features that help their bikes perform. The BBright bottom bracket is a given. But so, too, is the future proof cable management system-think aero, flexible, and smooth. It’s been evolved a bit so the rear brake hose goes in on the left side of the head tube. The rear brake hose also hides in the head tube, and the front brake hose goes through the left fork blade. But you still get the plugs and stops to convert from mechanical to electronic to hydraulic to wireless shifting. And the runs are smooth and fast. Brake runs can accommodate hydraulic or mechanical. If you go the wired, electronic route, the battery sits inside the frame in the downtube above the bottom bracket, with access via the bottom bracket cable guide.
The Cervélo S3d shows how smart engineering means that disc brakes are a net benefit to an all-purpose road bike.