Focused on your ride experience
The most common definition of ride quality is “a comfortable ride.” This is accurate - to a point. When you dive into the engineering side of ride quality and comfort, it starts to become very complex. After conducting a long-term collaborative study with the University of Sherbrooke, we concluded that despite subjective opinions on what is “more or less comfortable,” there are no universally accepted definitions for "comfort" or "ride quality".
With this in mind, Cervélo's approach to ride quality focusses on the rider's experience. We define ride quality as the feeling of the bike being appropriate for its intended use. That means that the application of ride quality will be specific - and different - for each bike. For example, the S5 aero road bike is all about speed. That’s why we lowered the front end for a more aggressive rider position with even better aerodynamics and increased stiffness to aid power transfer and handling.
Different technologies and elements are applied to our endurance road bikes. For these bikes, we chose a shorter, more upright geometry for the frame, selected tube shapes that prioritized vertical compliance and lightweight, and then constructed the frame without using ultra-high modulus (UHM) carbon for a damped ride feel. Together, these create a bike for riders who want to ride further, faster.
Elements of comfort
As we said, comfort is very difficult to define and measure because it is so subjective. However, it is helpful to look at elements that correlate to comfort in two categories: static and dynamic comfort.
Static comfort is your perception of the bike when at rest, such as when you are sitting on it on a trainer in the shop. In this situation, factors such as fit, your contact points with the bike (feet, seat, hands), and body position are in play. Context will have a big impact on your perception of static comfort - for example, whether you stretched that day or how well you slept.
Dynamic comfort focusses on the experience of the bike in motion. Dynamic comfort is very complex, but there is one measurable element that correlates well with perceived comfort: vertical compliance, which is the deflection (movement) in a vertical plane that can be measured as a response to an input. Simply put, vertical compliance represents the bike’s ability to react to a bump in the road.
When the front wheel contacts the bump, even as you sense the impact in your hands, each of the elements in the system deflects to some degree in response. The components between the bump and your body make up the system. The chart below shows the relative contribution of each component to total compliance in a road bike. These charts help us to focus our engineering efforts so that we optimize the vertical compliance of our bikes: what is optimal will depend on the bike and its intended use.
Ride quality involves the interaction of technologies and elements to create a ride experience that is appropriate for a bike's intended use.