Cervelo launch new ultra-light frame

Sub 700g superbike available from August

by Mat Brett   May 28, 2010  

Cervelo RC5a with Brett Lancaster.jpg

High-tech bike brand Cervélo have announced that they’ll be launching a new super-light road frame called the R5ca in August. They claim the 54cm model will hit the scales at an astonishing sub-700g weight without any compromises in terms of stiffness or comfort, while the price will be an equally astonishing €8000/$9600 US.

The R5ca – carbon, naturally – features new engineering developed through the use of a “strain gauge bike” that measures the load and flex in various areas when ridden. The designers have also been using updated software to improve the carbon layup design, so that material can be positioned exactly where it’s needed for strength and stiffness, but removed from areas where it’s not necessary to keep the weight down.

The bottom bracket is a new standard (yes, we know – another one) that Cervélo call BBright (BB as in bottom bracket. Right as in right – geddit?). The designers wanted to get as much stiffness as possible down there to stop the bottom bracket shell deflecting sideways, and so wanted high tube widths and a wide distance between the bearings.

They didn’t think the increasingly popular BB30 standard gave enough shell width so their solution has been to widen the left chainstay, the seat tube and the down tube, and to develop a bottom bracket to fit.

Cervélo have altered the head tube bearing size too. Rather than going for 1½ in, which they felt was too stiff and heavy, they’ve opted for 1 3/8in which they reckon gives the best balance of torsional stiffness, weight and comfort.

The designers have been busy altering the cable guides around the bottom bracket as well in order to reduce the friction, and tweaking both mech mounts and the seat tube collar.

Cervélo have also updated their frame geometry with the R5ca, based on their concepts of ‘stack’ – the vertical distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube – and ‘reach’ – the horizontal distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube. Essentially, they’ve altered the geometries so that the stack and reach are more evenly spaced as the frame sizes progress, so that their bikes fit more people.

Rather than their usual 73° seat tube angle, they’ve gone with 72°. The logic is that most riders use an offset seatpost (one where the centre of the clamp is laid back from the centre of the post) on a frame with a 73° seat tube to get their saddle in the right position. With a 72° seat angle you can use a zero offset seat post (one with the centre of the clamp in line with the centre of the post) to get your saddle in the right place, and so save a few grams overall. Every little helps.

The R5ca frame is a product of Cervélo’s research, development and manufacturing facility called Project California – it’s based in Anaheim, near Los Angeles.

“We set-up the Project California facility in late-2007 to expand and enhance our capabilities in design and manufacturing of complex carbon structures, predominantly frames,” said Gerard Vroomen, Cervélo co-founder and joint head honch. “It is knowledge-driven, not product-driven.

“The facility enables us to set up new production techniques, build and test prototypes and refine layup designs all in one location. This reduces our development time substantially and also allows more opportunities for product experimentation. In addition, it provides much better protection for our intellectual property.”

The new R5ca is actually handmade by the engineers. The designers do the carbon layup themselves in Cervélo’s own facilities, so the whole process is controlled in-house.

Cervélo Test Team powerhouse Thor Hushovd is clearly impressed – although, we guess, he’s hardly going to say anything else.

“When I tried this frame… it was just so stiff and it acted how I wanted,” said the winner of last year’s Tour de France green jersey. “It was incredible how comfortable it was. It felt the same as the S2, S3 bikes. So they made a lighter bike, a stiffer bike, and as comfortable as the other ones. I didn’t know that was possible.”

If you’re absolutely loaded and fancy getting your hands on an R5ca...Good luck! They’re going to be available in very limited numbers, so you’d better get your name down on the waiting list as quickly as possible. Us? We’ll take two.