How to unpack (and pack) a Cervelo P5 for airline travel

My last three races this year were on my dream bike, the new Cervelo P5. I’ve had a bit of a thing for Cervelo since the P3 came out, and the P5 is enough of an advancement in bike technology to make any cycling nerd’s mouth water. My excitement was warranted too, this bike is stealthy, stiff, comfortable, and sexy. It also has a few more nuts and bolts than an average bike, which require a bit of extra effort for travel.

P1000922I raced on this bike within a week of receiving it, at the Dallas US Open. This meant that after riding it twice I had to pack it into a box. Making things more difficult is the type of box I use. It’s a custom semi-hard case that is much smaller than any bike box on the market (without having to carry the wheels separate.) The box is techincally 69 inches if the airline measures it, but I’ve only been charged three times in four years. But on to the assembly of the P5, because that’s why you’re here.

This is my box all packed (this was how I packed it in Florida after Rev3, so it actually shipped like this). Now, after taking apart and putting back together the P5 a few times it only takes me a few minutes longer than my P3 (or any other standard bike without the crazy nose cone and special stem).P1000920


The front wheel sits where the cat is. I put the wheels into wheel bags along with plasticore pieces that I cut into circles to protect the spokes.



P1000931Here I take the bike out of the box. At home I put in the seat post so I can put the bike into the bike stand. When I’m traveling I just lay everything out on the bed of my hotel room (on a towel) or on the floor if need be.







Here you can see how I used an old Base Amino jar and a skewer to protect the rear dropouts from being crushed inside the box. I also remove the rear derailleur, which requires a little plastic tool to unplug the Di2 cable. Some people will use a bolt with washers and wing nuts to hold the rear drop firm, the reason I like the jar is because it sticks out far enough to protect the derailleur hanger. This is especially important on the P5 (same with the P3) because the hanger is not replaceable, so if you leave it vulnerable it could ruin the whole frame.


These pictures show the head tube and the way I have the bars folded over. This is really the only part of the P5 that differs in packing from any other bike. The issue is that the rear brake’s hydraulic line is trimmed quite precisely, which doesn’t allow the bars to be pulled far from the frame. Normally I would fold over the bars so that the elbow pads are against the frame, but because of the special stem and the way the cable routs through that stem, there’s no way to flip the bars around. Luckily, the Di2 means that the rear hydraulic line is the only cable to deal with, the electric wires for the derailleurs have plenty of slack. Since the cable is so tight, it’s best to place a rag around the head tube before you drape the bars over to avoid scratches. You can also see that I keep the front brake in an old sock so it doesn’t scratch anything.


Basically here I just put the fork into the head tube, the way you would on any other bike. Because the hydraulic line is so short you have to simultaneously put the stem onto the head tube, but that’s no big deal. Just like any other bike, you have a headset on top of the stem and you just tighten it until it’s snug to load the bearings.

Next, you attach the front brake, which – again – is the same process as any other bike setup. So far these are all the same steps I take to put together every other bike I’ve travelled with.



Now, I change brake pads so that I don’t get aluminum shreds from my training wheels scraping up my carbon race wheels. This takes a 2.5mm wrench with a ball tip so you can get to the screws at an off angle. Again, this is nothing unique to the P5, but the position of the rear brake does make it slightly harder to get to the screws that hold the brake pads in place.



This is how you release the brakes. There’s a little clip the has to be pulled back while squeezing the brake, then held as the lever is released. That allows the lever to open wide, releasing the calipers enough to take a wheel off, or put it on.


At this point I put on the wheels. In my bike case the wheels are placed on either side of the frame, which both protects the frame and takes up less space than any other configuration I’ve tried. Since I’m back at home I’m putting on training wheels and putting the race wheels into storage for the winter.

At this point a normal bike would pretty much be done. You would still need to P1000958tighten the stem and put on pedals, but for the most part the bike would be assembled. And at this point the P5 is probably okay to ride, but there are all the parts that we pay good money for (because they make the bike faster) so we need to put them on.

To the left you see the nose cone (black thing in the middle), the brake fairings (the two parts below the nose cone), and the cap to the integrated stem (square part on top). Then there are four screws for the stem top, three to hold on the nose cone and one that bolts a water bottle cage to the handle bars. The other parts in the picture are the Di2 tool for unplugging the rear derailleur and a Garmin handlebar mount for my Edge cycling computer.


Here are some pictures of the nose cone assembly. I stripped the three screws that came with it so these are phillips head M3x8mm screws that I picked up from ACE Hardware holding on the nose cone. The brake fairing just clips into place without any screws. It took me a couple tries to figure it out the first time, but now it’s quite easy.

I made two short videos to show the fairing assembly and how to stow the cables in order to put on the top cap. The main thing with the stem cap is to make sure the Di2 controls aren’t being pinched in such a way that the button gets pressed. That could be bad. Also, if you’re changing wheels, like I did here, you’ll want to adjust the rear derailleur before you put on the stem cap while you can still get to the Di2 controls. Disassembly is super easy on this part. You just unscrew the screws and make sure to put everything in a baggy so it won’t be lost.

The “hard” part. Which isn’t so hard.










This is how it looks when everything is screwed on.

The last step is to straighten the front wheel and tighten the stem onto the steer tube.

I also put a bottle cage on the handle bars using the screw and hole that are built into the bars.

And there you go. P5, ready to race. In total there were 7 more screws than a normal packing job for my bike case. The cables make it a bit tougher to fold the bars against the frame, but otherwise the bike fits into my case just like my P3 did, and my BH and Beyond before that. To me, it’s totally worth a small amount of extra work for packing, and the hour or so it took to figure out how to do it right the first time. This bike is screamin’ fast – it’s so much fun to ride I added to half-iron distance triathlons to the end of my season instead of calling it a year after Dallas. I love this bike.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

Join the Conversation


  1. OK so where can I get a bike bag like that? I live in Malaysia and travel monthly to races out of country in SE Asia. I have had lots of bike travelling disasters and excessive ‘luggage’ charges. Thx

  2. I bought the materials from a fabric store, then paid a friend who makes custom boat covers to sew it for me. When I picked it up he said, “if anyone asks where they can get a case like this tell them they can’t afford it. That was way too much work to be worth it.” I got the shape from a guy on Slowtwich a few years ago, but he made his out of fiberglass, which I have never worked with.

  3. You gain massive internet points for having a kitty in many of your pictures. Also, your DIY bike bag, as terry said, is drool-inducing!

  4. Hi, thanks for the info! My husband has a P5 so this is very helpful.
    But I have a question regarding the P3 (you said you used to have one). I just tried to remove the handlebar (I’m packing for travelling) but the front break cable is too short. Do I have to remove the break??? (I see you did that with your P5)
    Thanks in advance

  5. I would remove the front break. It’s quite simple and then you don’t have any tugging on the cable and you can fold the bars over more easily. I put an old sock over the front break once I take it off.

    To remove: use a 5mm allen wrench. On the back of the fork there is a hole, put the allen wrench in there and loosen the bolt until the break comes off. To make sure you don’t lose the bolt you should remove it from the frork and screw it back onto the break. This will also ensure you do not lose the washer between the brake and the fork. If you have trouble getting the bolt out just stick the allen key in the hole from the front and push the bolt out. Once you’ve done it once it’ll be quick and easy the next time.

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