Canadian manufacturer Cervélo have released their lightest ever frame, the 667g RCA. It’s an evolutionary development of 2010’s R5ca, which Ryder Hesjedal rode to Giro d’Italia victory last year. This new RCA features an aero shaped Squoval downtube, hollow carbon dropouts, an integrated power meter magnet and a new 3M Powerlux resin. It will cost $10,000 and be limited to just 325. Form an orderly queue.
This is envelope pushing stuff. Cervélo have taken their already light and sub-700g R5ca and developed it a significant step further. They’re claiming 667g for a size 54cm, with paint and hardware (seat clamp etc). When they launched the R5ca, it was the result of a collaboration with a Californian carbon fibre specialist, Project California, to allow them to develop new carbon fibre layups and use FEA software to find performance gains where possible, and this has continued with the RCA.
Which means this frame isn’t going going to be cheap. At $10,000 it's in some very elite company. The R5ca had a similarly high price of $8,000. And just 325 are being produced, so you'd better rush if you really want on. If you haven’t started saving now, then you’d better hurry up.
Part of the reason for the frames high cost is the use of a new resin, 3M Powerlux. Due to its high cost, it's only used in key areas of the frame, those prone to the most stress like the seat tube and head tube junctions. 3M's Powerlux resin is infused with 40% nano silica particles which makes the carbon structure more resistant to cracking or buckling. This allows the RCA to be lighter with no reduction in strength. Here's a promo video from 3M that shows how it works.
They’ve also borrowed some of the aero lessons from their S-series aero road frames. The new Squoval 3 downtube - a rounded rectangle essentially - now has an aero shaped frontal surface, to smooth airflow around it. They claim this new tube shape should save 7.4 watt compared to Squoval 2, to give a 100 kilojoule reduction over a 5-hour stage. It's not a difference that is going to set the world on fire, but racing at the top level, the pros will take any performance edge they can get from their equipment.
In a first that we know of, the carbon dropouts are now hollow, to save yet more weight. The stays are bonded into the dropouts, rather than the other way round, which is more typically the case. This contributes to a 5g weight saving. The internal cable routing also passes through the new dropouts for clean routing.
Cervélo have done a first and integrated a magnet for power cranks into the downtube. The neodymium magnet is actually included in the layup procedure.
The new FK33 fork has a steerer tube coated with PowerMetal Nanovate nickel, to avoid the steerer tube potentially failing from overtightening of the stem bolts. That's good to know if you don’t use a torque tool to tighten the bolts. The geometry remains the same as the R5ca.
So, can you expect to see the Garmin-Sharp team racing the RCA this year? Perhaps, if they weigh them down with some lead tubing, as it’s going to be well under the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit, the minimum weight for road bikes to race at. We doubt it though.
It’s interesting stuff, this pushing the limits of carbon fibre, and Cervélo have clearly spent of a lot of time developing it. What everyone is wondering, though, is whether they are working on a new model that will fit in somewhere lower in the range. An R4 perhaps, that takes the lessons learnt on this expensive vanity project and applies them to a frame that is more affordable. We’ll have to wait and see. Noticeable by its absence is any sort of endurance/sportive bike in their range, like a Domane or Fenix.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.