Cervélo RCA launched, costs $10,000, weighs 667g + video

New $10,000 limited edition frame weighs just 667g, with new aero shaped downtube and 3M Powerlux nano resin

by David Arthur   March 14, 2013  

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.

20 user comments

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Yay I'm re-in-love with Cervelo! Smile

But I'll give them a year to trickle down otherwise my next bike will be a Scott Foil! Thinking

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
15th March 2013 - 0:04

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YESYESYES

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
15th March 2013 - 0:18

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"3M have developed a resin with uniformly dispersed silica nanoparticle. Because the particles are so small they can flow between the carbon filaments and providing increased strength due to the greater density of carbon."

Sorry. What?

"they reckon this new tube shape should save 7.4 watts (74 grams or reduced drag compared to Squoval 2) a 100 kilojoule reduction over a 5-hour stage."

Again?

There's some sort of direct-to-brain wiring that allows these sentences to pass through my eyes in a subconscious fashion, as 'tech'. Perhaps it's because I'm a man, and men love this sh*t. I have a decent grasp of physics, and of manufacturing technology. But neither of these ostensibly critical facts about the analysis of the machine seem to make sense, or to be complete as statements. Anyone?

There's a profession in the movie industry, for a technician who draws additional details onto the surface of spacecraft, to make them look more 'tech'. None of it does anything, or is intended to represent a real purpose. Perhaps this is the marketing counterpart. I don't doubt that what they're doing is incredibly advanced in material science terms, but it'd be nice if they could give their audience some credit when writing this crap.

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posted by Didonc [14 posts]
15th March 2013 - 1:31

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Didonc wrote:
"3M have developed a resin with uniformly dispersed silica nanoparticle. Because the particles are so small they can flow between the carbon filaments and providing increased strength due to the greater density of carbon."

Sorry. What?

"they reckon this new tube shape should save 7.4 watts (74 grams or reduced drag compared to Squoval 2) a 100 kilojoule reduction over a 5-hour stage."

Again?

There's some sort of direct-to-brain wiring that allows these sentences to pass through my eyes in a subconscious fashion, as 'tech'. Perhaps it's because I'm a man, and men love this sh*t. I have a decent grasp of physics, and of manufacturing technology. But neither of these ostensibly critical facts about the analysis of the machine seem to make sense, or to be complete as statements. Anyone?

There's a profession in the movie industry, for a technician who draws additional details onto the surface of spacecraft, to make them look more 'tech'. None of it does anything, or is intended to represent a real purpose. Perhaps this is the marketing counterpart. I don't doubt that what they're doing is incredibly advanced in material science terms, but it'd be nice if they could give their audience some credit when writing this crap.

Yeah but just look at the finish, it's even got a little bear on the top tube! Drooling

Sq

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posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
15th March 2013 - 4:12

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Didonc wrote:
"3M have developed a resin with uniformly dispersed silica nanoparticle. Because the particles are so small they can flow between the carbon filaments and providing increased strength due to the greater density of carbon."

Sorry. What?

"they reckon this new tube shape should save 7.4 watts (74 grams or reduced drag compared to Squoval 2) a 100 kilojoule reduction over a 5-hour stage."

Again?

There's some sort of direct-to-brain wiring that allows these sentences to pass through my eyes in a subconscious fashion, as 'tech'. Perhaps it's because I'm a man, and men love this sh*t. I have a decent grasp of physics, and of manufacturing technology. But neither of these ostensibly critical facts about the analysis of the machine seem to make sense, or to be complete as statements. Anyone?

There's a profession in the movie industry, for a technician who draws additional details onto the surface of spacecraft, to make them look more 'tech'. None of it does anything, or is intended to represent a real purpose. Perhaps this is the marketing counterpart. I don't doubt that what they're doing is incredibly advanced in material science terms, but it'd be nice if they could give their audience some credit when writing this crap.

The sentences don't make sense.
In the first 'providing'' should be replaced by 'provide', then it makes grammatical sense. As to technical sense; resin to fibre ratio is critical in fibre-reinforced composites. It looks like if you can coat the fibers with resin at a nanoscale then, essentially, you use less 'glue' to hold the fibres in place and, hence, increase the ratio of fibres (the load bearing component); this means you increase the specific strength, meaning it can be lighter for the same strength or stronger for the same weight.
In the second 'or' should be replaced by 'of', then it makes grammatical sense. As to technical sense: well, Watts are a unit of power and KiloJoules are a unit of energy; so it looks like you won't have to produce as much power, meaning you can eat less when riding your fictional five-hour TDF stage!
Hope that helps....

posted by pwake [280 posts]
15th March 2013 - 4:56

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Nanoparticle filler is not a new concept or unique to 3M/Cervelo. In fact many nanoparticle fillers are available as resin additives. These additives may be the previously overused and underperforming CNTs (carbon nanotubes), to silica (very common), rubber, and just about anything else that can be dispersed evenly.

Additives reduce the amount of resin that is required as they take up volume, they also modify viscosity of the resins and this can enhance the quality of prepreg and/or improve the resin flow during curing, and they can also change the physical properties of the resin and thus the carbon fiber composite. Silica is a good additive for improving resin toughness.

More reading: http://goo.gl/9VlBH

This does not take anything away from the 3M resin or the fact that Cervelo's factory is using this resin, but it is again a case of something that is old news and common outside of the bike industry being presented as groundbreaking and new in part to justify the HUGE price premium.

And as Didonc (the poster) says, the marketing copy and justifications for various advanced features and engineering are scientific non sequiturs and belong in low grade science fiction.

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
15th March 2013 - 10:10

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Stop reading the waffle and look at it. It's a fine looking bike. Understated, nothing too radical. It just looks...right. That's another fiver wasted on the idiot tax tomorrow night.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [536 posts]
15th March 2013 - 10:34

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mythbuster wrote:
Additives reduce the amount of resin that is required as they take up volume, they also modify viscosity of the resins and this can enhance the quality of prepreg and/or improve the resin flow during curing, and they can also change the physical properties of the resin and thus the carbon fiber composite. Silica is a good additive for improving resin toughness.

Thanks. What I suspected - presumably therefore the silica is less dense than resin to reduce the weight of the matrix; and/or it's acting as a plasticiser. Cheers for clearing that up.

The other non-sequitur for me was the 7.8 watts = 78 grams.

Comments on http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/in-the-wind-tunnel-with-jim-felt-a... suggest that using mass as a measurement of force, however ridiculous that might be, is an industry norm. 78g is equivalent to 10W at 50kph.

Is this really true? My not-terribly-impressive legs put out about 160W; so this now-slightly-more-rounded tube is going to save me over 6% of my output? For comparison, my shiny new dynamo hub, taking into account inefficiencies in conversion, costs me a similar wattage when it's running. But that's a whole energy generation system. Perhaps I should go home and start cutting out fins to stick to my frame.

But it does have a bear on the top tube...

Didonc's picture

posted by Didonc [14 posts]
15th March 2013 - 10:57

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Big Grin The irritating missed opportunities are as follows:

1. everybody, including the Cervelo engineers (the inhouse ones) knows very well that the greatest aero benefit is derived by the front of the bike, and the cheapest/easiest gain is to increase the aspect ratio of the head tube/top tube/down tube junction.

2. Everybody in the industry also knows that the truncated airfoils only work on high aspect ratio airfoils, placed where the airflow naturally wants to separate. The short and fat truncated airfoils do not work, ever, under any circumstance, not even at high yaw angles.

However, Cervelo cannot deviate from the R5 shape too much as that is what they need to sell a lot of, thus the non-aero head tube and the front of the bike remains.

They also need to jump on the "fat, brick like shapes are all of a sudden super aerodynamic" bandwagon as that is what consumers now expect from "aero" bikes.

...and lastly, Cervelo could have made a brand new shape that better takes advantage of structural engineering and carbon fiber composite properties and either drop even more weight or increase stiffness to levels that are useful for more than marketing.

...and the thing is they know how to do this, but they also must sell stuff, so here we are...

posted by mythbuster [31 posts]
15th March 2013 - 13:47

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aaah damn! I've already placed my deposit for the special edition 25K BMC 'Lamborghini' road machine then look what pops along.

posted by Roberj4 [184 posts]
15th March 2013 - 14:26

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Is it just me, or did they forget to integrate the pig-ugly external battery on this £10,000 bike?

For £10,000, I'd like my battery in a velvet-lined watertight compartment within the frame structure.

Surely this "engineering revolution" isn't beyond the wit of man? If the engineers at Cervelo are so good then why haven't they added this basic future-proofing pre-requisite? ...or did all the good engineers leave with their ideas when they got bought out?

Holding onto my cash until the time when batteries are integrated within the frames.

NorthernRouleur

posted by NorthernRouleur [26 posts]
15th March 2013 - 14:30

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NorthernRouleur wrote:
Is it just me, or did they forget to integrate the pig-ugly external battery on this £10,000 bike?

For £10,000, I'd like my battery in a velvet-lined watertight compartment within the frame structure.

Surely this "engineering revolution" isn't beyond the wit of man? If the engineers at Cervelo are so good then why haven't they added this basic future-proofing pre-requisite? ...or did all the good engineers leave with their ideas when they got bought out?

Holding onto my cash until the time when batteries are integrated within the frames.

Because, and I'm sure I've said this before elsewhere, the latest Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset comes with a battery that goes inside the seat tube, thus eliminating the need for Cervelo to do any 'futuure-proofing' as you call it.

I don't know why they didn't slap a new groupset on it for the photos really, probably because it's still rarer than a very rare thing

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1414 posts]
15th March 2013 - 16:46

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So why did they do it on the P5 and not this bike?

http://www.triathlonbusiness.com/2012/industry-news/cervelo-p5-and-shima...

I can't find any announcement on the seat-post friendly battery fitting from Shimano but I see there are 3rd party solutions (though these invalidate the warranty). Any links to shed more light?

NorthernRouleur

posted by NorthernRouleur [26 posts]
15th March 2013 - 17:07

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I wonder how much of this technology was developed in a laboratoire like this one, and who between Monsieurs Vroomen and White has the sleekest, shiniest hair (my guess is not Vroomen.)

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
15th March 2013 - 17:44

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NorthernRouleur wrote:

I can't find any announcement on the seat-post friendly battery fitting from Shimano but I see there are 3rd party solutions (though these invalidate the warranty). Any links to shed more light?

Keep up, Di2 9070 info http://road.cc/content/news/58458-shimano-dura-ace-di2-upgraded-2013

"The lithium-ion battery will be available in two versions suitable for both external and concealed internal mounting"

And Calfee did something a while ago http://road.cc/content/news/61575-calfee-launch-di2-internal-battery

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posted by David Arthur [1414 posts]
15th March 2013 - 18:21

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Nice. But How much !

Saying that I've just read that 20% have been sold already, so there must be a few people on the planet with a spare $10k.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

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posted by badback [264 posts]
15th March 2013 - 22:17

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Hmmm, wonder what the replacement plan is like - should you actually ride it and erm prang it.What am I saying if you can afford this, you wouldn't twice about it, would you (?).
- Personally, I'd prefer a little 953 number Nerd

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
16th March 2013 - 7:37

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Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor

Just buy a cannondale super six evo black if you're in the market (FULL BIKE = £7.5k) and save yourself enough wonga to nigh on buy ANOTHER super six evo black (did i mention full bike for £7.5k?) when you get fed up of the first one...

Oh and the frame is lighter - not that that matters - oh weight (get it) it does to Cervelo!

http://road.cc/content/news/61231-cannondale-2013-launch-655g-supersix-e...

posted by cllr hodgen [45 posts]
18th March 2013 - 10:10

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The Cervelo RCA is slightly aero, thus canceling the effect of the lower weight of the Supersix evo Black

posted by zachchai [1 posts]
5th December 2013 - 3:17

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Applause . Love it, but want a BMC SLR01

Sean

posted by seanieh66 [193 posts]
5th December 2013 - 6:40

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