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Check out the first ever bike reviewed at - a Cervelo R3 SL from 2008

Tonight's Bike at Bedtime is a trip back to 2008, when was starting out...

In case you missed it, turned 15 this week. In those years, our content has seen quite a change and of course, the bikes we've reviewed have come a long way, too. To celebrate that development - which, mostly, has been positive - tonight's Bike at Bedtime is the Cervelo R3 SL - the very first bike we ever reviewed here on It was a model year 2009 bike that we reviewed in 2008. Scoring a near-perfect 9/10 score from our very own Tony, the Cervelo R3 SL was clearly the hottest commodity back then.

> is 15! Here are our top 15 articles of all time (plus plenty of honourable mentions)

Boldly opening the review with: "When it comes to high performance, Cervélo’s R3 has more pedigree than Crufts," the Cervelo R3 impressed in our testing. It really was a bike that ticked many boxes. 

Dura-Ace 7900 - Cervelo R3 SL full bike

 > Read the full Cervelo R3 SL 2009 (frame package) review

We asked Tony what he thinks about the review now, 15 years later, and this is what he said:

"Aside from cringing at my hide-behind-the-couch prose style of the time which is, I guess, what happens when you’re writing a website powered by coffee, doughnuts and four hours of sleep a night, the main thing that stands out for me is how lucky we were to kick off our bike reviews with a model as prestigious as the Cervelo R3 SL then was.
"In the noughties and the early 2010s, Cervélo were on a roll, consistently producing bikes that were not only innovative and exciting but also proven race winners. The R3 had already won the Tour and the R3 SL would also go on to great things. Their TT/tri bike, the P3, was the dominant tri machine, and not long before this review came out they’d launched the P4 – possibly the first tri bike to have a little storage box built in (I’m sure someone will correct me in the comments if I’m wrong). 

And of course, Cervélo also had a strong shout on having invented the aero road bike with the S3. So, all in all, it was something of a coup for us to get it a month or so into our existence. In fact, we reviewed it before we even got a settled review format.

Cervelo R3 SL 2009 stays

"If memory serves, Cervélo were then distributed by Madison and I have a recollection that the then-marketing guy, Albert Steward, let us have it as a favour. We were really lucky that because we already had a track record in cycle journalism, there were a few people in the industry willing to let this fledgling website review their kit on the off-chance that someone might actually read it.

"Without those people willing to take a risk – Trek was an early supporter too in that regard – it would have been even more of a struggle to get bikes to review. Once other brand managers saw that the likes of Madison and Trek were sending us bikes then they started to do it too. So thank you, Albert."

With that walk down memory lane out of the way, let's get a few of the tech details of the bike in here. In 2008, most road riders were still blissfully unaware of disc brakes and the heated debates those metal plates would spark among the hardcore traditionalists. Hence, it is no surprise the R3 SL came with rim brakes, those being Dura-Ace – as was the rest of the groupset. 

Cervelo R3 SL 2009 bottom bracket

The 2009 R3 SL featured square but slightly ovalised tube shapes for lateral stiffness, and the same goes for the oversized bottom bracket area. The skinny seatstays - which back then were not dropped - were still aiming to reduce drag, but instead of focusing on being what we'd call an aero profile, they were trying to be as thin as possible. 

And talking about the thinness and lightness of this bike, despite being more than a decade old model, it could still fit into our lightest road bikes buyer's guide with its 6.5kg total weight. Apart from the weight, the rest of the bike would likely not be as eagerly welcomed in 2023. 

Back in 2008, Tony said that the "day Cervélo make a bad bike is the day Boy George jacks into the showbiz life and becomes a sheet metal worker…" and 15 years on, it is actually true that as far as our Cervelo reviews go. None of the brand's bikes has scored less than 8/10 on 

Cervelo R3 SL 2009 squoval down tube

Maybe it was the fact that it was's first-ever bike review, but looking back the 2009 R3 SL really seems like a perfect bike. Tony could could hardly pick a fault; it was perfect on ascents, descents, flats and everything in between. 

In 2023, the Cervélo R3 SL is likely not going to tickle many people's fancy, but back in 2008 it was one of the best road bikes on the planet - at least if we believe Tony. 

Let us know in the comments below what you think of this Cervelo and the very first review of And as always, make sure to check out our other Bike at Bedtime features

Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops. 

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festina | 5 months ago
1 like

I'd say Look has a strong shout on inventing the aerobike back in 1990. This after they had invented the clipless pedal in the 80s and the first carbon bike frame in '86. Probably one of the most influential manufacturers ever.

OrangeRidley replied to festina | 5 months ago

Assos (the clothing company) made an aero, carbon, track bike frame in 1976 - so 10 years before the carbon Look KG86!

You're probably right about the KG196 being the first aero road frame, although I'd argue the Cervelo Soloist in 2001 was more important in making them the norm.

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