Industry Standards part1

I noticed that every bike company claims to have the lightest, stiffest, and most aero bike. Everyone seems to measure these things differently. Isn’t there an industry standard to help me compare bikes?

Industry Standard

“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.”

   -Andrew S Tanenbaum Ph.D


So Dr. Tanenbaum wasn’t thinking about bikes, but his comment certainly applies.  There are a few measurable aspects of a frame that can tell you how it performs.  But, if everyone is measuring these aspects differently, how do we know what we are comparing?  It would be great if there was one agreed upon standard so that you could be certain that you are in fact comparing an apple to another apple.  

There is no such thing as a wrong or bad standard.  Different standards, or different measures, will tell you very different things about a bike.  Essentially, these different measures will answer different questions.  Knowing how to compare bikes accurately means knowing what questions you are asking, and what question a standard is answering.

Cervélo’s mission is to make our athletes, people like you, faster or more efficient in their riding.  Therefore, we base our tests on answering ‘does it make you faster?’  The performance of one frame can be compared to another based on weight, stiffness, aerodynamic drag, and rider comfort.  Over the next few articles, I will try to break down why different manufacturers will come up with different results and which results paint the truest picture.  


Part 1: Weight

All else equal, lighter bikes make climbing easier.  And there is something to be said for that look on your friend’s face when he first picks up your R5 and can’t believe how little it weighs.  Does less mass (in your frameset) make you faster?  Certainly not in every scenario (downhill, anyone?), but it becomes especially important on climbs steeper than 5%. (Why 5%? Have a look at “Weight vs Aero,” aka “Col de la Tipping Point”.)

Fortunately, a standard already exists for comparing mass.  Simply weigh the options you are considering and compare the numbers.  However, you can’t compare a frame that you don’t have.  So why don’t manufacturers just make it easy for you and publish their frame weights?  There are a few reason for that.

First, the weight can vary slightly from size to size.  Nothing in this world is perfect, so even two frames of the same size and model can have different weights. Slight variations are tolerated - literally, in or out of tolerance. Weight weenie? Weigh a batch and select the lightest.

In manufacturing a frame like the RCA, we measure the mass of every individual part at every part of the manufacturing process to ensure that the quality and mass of the frame is completely controlled.  Because of this process, we can be confident in saying that the average weight of a 54cm frame is 667 grams.  



Detailed chart of weights measured in RCA manufacturing

Second, not every manufacturer weighs their frame in the same condition.  If the idea is to have the lightest frame possible, it is tempting to weigh the smallest size frame with no hardware (seat post clamp, derailleur hangers, etc.) and no paint.  Size, paint and hardware can account for a significant difference in weight when you start looking at the lightest frame available.  And if you were a bike manufacturer, wouldn’t you want to claim to have the lightest frame?


How we measure

Since we want to make you faster, we weigh frames with everything necessary to make that frame work.  When we present a frame weight, like the 667 gram RCA, it is a weight for a fully painted frame including hardware like seat post clamp and derailleur hangers.  After all, you do need your seatpost and derailleurs to ride it.  



What you need to know

If you find a claimed weight, always ask what was included.  Was it weighed with hangers and clamps?  Does it have a seat mast?  If it has a seat mast, is all of the hardware included?  What size was weighed?  Was it painted?  When comparing two frame weights, make sure you are comparing the same effective parts.  More often we are seeing frame set or ‘module’ weights.  If one option includes the headset, bottom bracket, seat post including all of the hardware necessary to mount a saddle, make sure you include the same when considering another option.  

If you can’t put a frame on the scale yourself, the next best thing is to look for an unbiased third party measurement.  Publications like Tour Magazine, Bicycling, Velonews, and Bicycle Radar often publish weights and do their best to avoid relying on manufacturer claims.  


Weight comp chart

We compiled our own list of frame weights for internal use (from the RCA white paper).


So you found some nice, light frame options.  The comparison doesn’t stop there.  Read Part 2 where composite engineer Will Chan discusses frame stiffness standards.

Comments (11)
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  • Asfascia

    Good Mornning, J have a Cervelo S5 Ultegra, where is the SN and PN on the bike, j don't find it; Thank

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  • herby

    Hello Damon how r u. I have a cervelo r2 with the 105 5800 components and I was wondering if a 9sp could be turned into a 11sp I have dura ace components on my other road bike . Thanks Damon

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  • owen79

    Hi Damon, could you please tell me approx what does the S2 weigh...full bike as sold standard.

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  • owen79

    Hi Damon Rinard, I'm very glad to read that the S2 is same frame, bar forks and paint, and the same carbon than the S3. I'm new to road bike cycling and its awesome that you guys offer a great package at such a low price. It looks incredible. I want to make you aware that a bije store on youtube, one in Utah is saying the s2 carbon is lower standard and different from s3. This made me think that maybe its nit that good which is why I came to the cervelo website.

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  • Damon Rinard, Cervélo Engineer

    Hi alan, The S2 and S3 share the same frame (except for paint). Same mould, same carbon, same layup, same weight, same stiffness, same aero, same everything. So the difference is only in other parts: fork and components. To answer your second question, the S3's better parts help save weight compared to the S2. Cheers, -Damon

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  • alan

    I have been trying to find some info about the difference of the s2 and s3 series of the aero road bike. Also what would cervelo suggest would be best for a person looking for aero light FAST and durable bike between the s2 and s3

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  • Rod

    Hi, can someone advise the weight a 2014 P3 in a size 58, with pedals. I can't find any info anywhere. Thanks

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  • Rick-R5ca

    I recently ran into a BBRight standards issue...there are 2 standards! After talking with Don, there is a Press-fit standard and a Direct-fit standard. Press-fit uses a 46mm opening in the shell, while the Direct-fit uses a 42mm opening in the shell. Luckily, BBRight Direct-fit only applies to the R5ca's, all other BBRight's use the Press-fit

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  • CVL

    What is the frame weight difference between the VWD S5 from the standard S5 frame? What does equate to in terms of performance if all other factors are equal? Thanks, CVL

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  • Damon Rinard, Cervélo Engineer

    Hi Sausskross, Like you, I like having the data! Yes, you guessed right: the larger and smaller frame sizes change weight at a different ratio. As you guessed, we scale the layup with size, to keep the high performance properties appropriate for the frame size. Glad you'll be reading about stiffness with us next! Cheers, -Damon

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  • sausskross

    Hi Demon, this is a very interesting chart for frame weights in different sizes. The percentage grow of weight is increasing for the two largest frames. I guess this is to keep the capacity of frames for larger & havier & more powerfull riders. I stay tuned for a similiar chart for the stiffness of different sizes. Cheers, -sausskross

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