Aero Road

Triathlon & Time Trial

Endurance Road


Classic Road

Rca Engineering

In The Begining

In 2008 Cervélo began an ambitious engineering project in California to push the composites R&D envelope. This facility is where we prove our leadership in innovating faster, stiffer, lighter and stronger bikes. Here we create new manufacturing techniques and improved design processes, including new bicycle-specific layup and ply analysis software. Our final step: Strength and safety tests that surpass industry standards by at least 20%.

Our Ambition

When starting on a second run of the limited production Rca, we looked hard at areas for potential improvement. And we realized: Why not apply the Project California learnings about frames to the fork? As we hoped, the result was significant weight reduction and an increase in lateral stiffness, as well as a significant decrease in longitudinal stiffness for an unequivocal ride quality improvement. Thanks to new materials and layup techniques, the new Rca frameset weighs 35 grams less than the classic edition, while maintaining its elegant frame and Squoval tube shapes.

The Bikes

In 2010 Cervélo launched the R5ca: 100 grams lighter than the nearest competitor, and 30% stiffer (Tour magazine, Nov. 2011). The R5ca showcased our Project California development process and was the outcome of our reality-based test protocols. It proved itself less than two years after its launch with Ryder Hesjedal’s victory at the 2012 Giro d’Italia. We followed that up with the original Rca in 2012. This new frame weighed in at 667 grams and maintained the stiffness levels of its predecessor.

The Process

First, we performed a cross-disciplinary parametric design study to determine the sensitivity of aero, stiffness, comfort and weight to the systematic dimensional variation of 15 different design areas of the frame. This involved creating 93 different frame shapes and running 279 FEA analyses.

Design Cycle

Second, with optimum aero, stiffness, comfort and weight goals firmly in our sights, we began an iterative design process to engineer the first Rca frame shapes. This process is a cycle: design, virtually test, redesign, test again. With each iteration the new design comes closer and closer to the goals, step by step. We used this same process to improve on the original Rca, and launched a new frame in 2014.

Engineering R&D

Bicycle engineering and composites are highly dynamic fields. In the two years between the original and the new Rca frames our engineering team researched many new materials and techniques, allowing for new possibilities in structural engineering. We revisited some of the key engineering innovations that made the Rca such a spectacular project in the first place, and worked to make them even better.

The Result

The new Rca layup schedule is the most complex in Cervélo’s history. Where some bike frames involve two dozen steps as most, at Project California we lay over 500 individual pieces of carbon. Each individually cut piece of aerospace-grade carbon fibre is weighed and recorded before it is laid into the Rca moulds. Each completed Rca frame and fork is then weighed before and after paint, and again after final assembly to ensure consistency.

The Project California Fork

The Project California engineers have also focused extensively on fork design. As tested in the lab, the California-made fork delivers significant performance improvements: 15% stiffer laterally, and 7% more compliant longitudinally. The new design marries complex shapes and materials. Boron filament increases compression strength at the crown/bearing seat, while carbon septae increase stiffness of the ultralight fork blades. Use of syntactic foam at the brake receiver reduces weight overall without impacting fork strength.

Uncompromised Engineering Redefined

As an engineering company focused on making fast, light, and safe bikes, we know we benefit most when we develop technology within the company. While others have subcontracted outsiders to develop their leading-edge bikes, Cervélo has developed the people and technologies internally. This focus on leadership means every Cervélo is built to the same standards, and receives many of the benefits of the carbon-fibre layup and technologies in our most advanced Project California frames.


Lessons from our cross-disciplinary parametric design and iterative processes have been applied to our top aero option to produce a road bike that's simply faster.


Many of the Core Design Features used throughout our line-up were developed by Project California.


Cross-disciplinary parametric design means better options for triathlon and racing against the clock.