Made in North America: US partners play key roles in composites, layup and production


The P5X frame challenged our design and manufacturing capabilities like never before, as well as those of our new manufacturing partners: HED Cycling Products and ENVE Composites.


The P5X frame challenged our design and manufacturing capabilities like never before, as well as those of our new manufacturing partners: HED Cycling Products and ENVE Composites.

We investigated a number of manufacturing methods, including resin transfer molding, a foam or honeycomb core, and typical bonded multi-part molding. In the end, we decided that a single-piece hollow monocoque, produced via conventional pre-impregnated carbon bladder molding, would allow us to take full structural advantage of the unique frame shapes. This resulted in extremely complicated tool designs which, combined with the need for confidentiality, top-shelf carbon capabilities and scaling up to the volume we needed, led us to favour North American manufacturing options over those based overseas. Thankfully, we found a kindred spirit in Steve Hed, who was extremely enthusiastic about our project and immediately set his team to work on revamping HED’s manufacturing processes to suit the P5X. It soon became clear that there was no other choice to manufacture this frame.

Frame layup development took place at HED’s Minnesota facilities over the course of almost two years, and resulted in our “typical” layup rules being thrown out the window and completely rewritten. By building and breaking 106 different test frames, drawing on knowledge from our Project California facility and applying our Finite Element Analysis expertise, we pushed the performance envelope further than ever before and learned more about layup than on any other project. HED also expanded both its manufacturing capacity and process knowledge, moving into areas the company had only touched on previously.

At the same time, prior research showed that the fork/handlebar system would be a key element of the design. We wanted a partner who could not only manufacture parts for us, but could contribute to the design and development process, especially where ease of adjustability and packing were concerned. That’s where ENVE Composites stepped in. The company’s aero bar design experience was exactly what we needed, and their team collaborated with ours extremely well.


The completion of the first working model of the P5X frame was bittersweet. It happened mere days before the passing of Steve Hed, the founder of HED Cycling Products. Anne Hed’s last conversation with her husband was a brief chat on the phone about the frame. Steve was overjoyed that it had just come out of the mold, she recalled: “It worked! It was amazing! And they want us to make them!”

Steve’s joy and enthusiasm in life are how we all remember him, and in Anne’s mind this final exchange is forever linked to the P5X project. Through the tremendous resilience and effort of Anne and the entire HED team, the project survived and thrived, and has gone on to honour Steve’s legacy.


Q: As one of Cervélo’s lead equipment partners, what has the P5X project meant to you?

Scott Nielson, vice-president of engineering: It was a great opportunity to take a lot of the conceptual thinking we have been doing and put it into practice. When we saw the concept that Cervélo had come up with, we immediately saw ways to accomplish the vision they had. Making a split aero bar to ease packaging and shipping your bike was brilliant, and the collaboration between ENVE and Cervélo resulted in a solution that gives customers functionality they never thought possible.

Q: How did this project challenge your team?

Kevin Nelson, chief engineer: There were parts of the project that were similar to our existing TT handlebar solution, but the split handlebar presented some new challenges. Trying to meet the weight goals with the aerodynamic constraints was not simple. That said, the beauty of carbon is that you can manipulate and refine it to accomplish nearly anything given enough time to iterate. In this case, we solved the challenges and the result is a front-end system that is functional, user-friendly, and really fast.

Q: What is your favorite design feature of the integrated front-end?

Kevin Nelson: I really like the concept of the telescoping extension upright. This provides the user with so much adjustability while maintaining a very simple user interface.

Q: What makes the SES 7.8 Disc wheelset different from other disc brake-specific wheelsets?

Jake Pantone, director of marketing: We saw that disc brakes on road bikes create the opportunity to design products outside the box established by rim brake tolerances. Last year, we embarked on a journey to develop a disc brake-specific line of Smart ENVE System wheels. Starting from the ground up, the goal was to create the ultimate aero road wheel lineup. We tested several dozen concepts and shape iterations to ultimately arrive at the shapes used by the SES 7.8 Disc found on the P5X.

Without the requirement to manage heat generated by braking on the rim, we can move material to another area to either save weight or improve another ride characteristic, like impact resistance or stiffness. You essentially end up with a clincher rim that weighs roughly the same as a tubular of the same depth. This is something anyone can feel from the first pedal stroke.

Last year the SES 7.8 debuted at Kona and was ridden to the fastest bike split of the event. Since then, numerous professional and age-group triathletes have set personal bests and course records riding the SES 7.8. While the aerodynamics of the SES 7.8 are second to none, the inherent stability of the wheel in gusty variable crosswinds means that athletes ride more confidently, more comfortably, and ultimately faster.