Our approach is engineering-driven. We apply the same rigorous process for each of our high performance bikes: build, test, refine, and repeat until expectations are exceeded.
The result is industry-leading bikes that consistently come out on top in comparison tests and win awards from the most respected industry publications. Most importantly, our bikes earn accolades from racers and riders all of types, from World Tour pros to everyday athletes.
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 C Series endurance road bikes. For these bikes we chose a shorter, more upright geometry for the frame, selected tube shapes that prioritized vertical compliance and light weight, 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 deflect 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.
Aerodynamic drag is the major factor affecting a bike and rider – it can account for up to 90% of the overall resistance that a rider must overcome. There are several types of drag relevant for us. First, pressure drag. As a body (in this case a bike and rider) passes through the air, it forces the air molecules to move out of the way in order to pass through them. These molecules push back on the body, creating pressure. The component of this pressure that faces aft (to the rear of the body) is called pressure drag.
Secondly, there is friction drag. Air, like all fluids, has viscosity (or “thickness”). The air molecules that come into contact with the body stick to its surface and stay stationary in relation to the body. As the body continues through the air, other air molecules pass by the stuck molecules as they flow around the body in layers, following parallel paths. This is the laminar boundary layer. The viscous nature of air creates a shear force, or friction drag.
At some point on nearly all bodies, laminar flow cannot be maintained and the air molecules tumble and mix instead of flowing smoothly. The transition point is where this turbulent boundary layer begins. This behaviour of flow is related to a parameter called the Reynolds number, which is determined by several physical characteristics of the flow. The laminar flow regime exists up to Reynolds numbers of around 10,000. Beyond Reynolds numbers of 10,000, the flow transitions to “turbulent” flow, as shown in the figure below.
A carbon bike frame layup is made by placing hundreds of individually cut plies of carbon in a mold in a certain order and orientation. The more precisely these plies are cut, the lighter the frame, as less material is used to achieve the desired strength and reliability.
But that’s not all of it: different areas of a bike frame experience different demands. The front of the bike, for example, experiences different forces in different directions than the bottom bracket junction. Similarly, the down tube, seat tube, drive side chain stay, and non-drive side chain stay each have unique forces and demands placed upon them.
To accommodate these unique demands, we create different layups (layers of fibres at different angles) at specific areas of the frame to create the desired performance. Knowing which fibres to place where and in what direction is critical to reducing weight, maintaining strength, and producing a stiff bike that’s comfortable to ride. This is where our advanced knowledge and experience in composite engineering comes in.
We precisely select different types of fibres and carefully position them in the correct locations and orientations to best exploit their properties. Using advanced engineering software tools like Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Ply Draping allows us to better understand exactly how each layer of carbon fibre is working and if it is being used properly. In conjunction with these tools we apply our extensive in-house engineering knowledge of how they work and testing that correlates simulated results with real-world experience.
The result: we build extremely light bikes which are stiff, strong, and comfortable to ride.
Cervélo’s Future-Proof Cable Management system, for instance, achieves compatibility across mechanical, electronic, and hydraulic brake and derailleur systems. Currently, Future-Proof frames include interchangeable cable stops that snap into the frame and are easily swapped out by hand to accommodate upgrades. The benefit: One frame, any system. You can buy with confidence, knowing your bike is easily upgradable and can be enjoyed with the latest technology for years to come.
Then there’s Cervélo’s Reduced-Friction BB Guide, which maintains a consistent curve for each cable path that avoids side bends or kinks. The result is significantly reduced friction, leading to easier setup, smoother shifting, and longer service intervals.
Our shielding seat stays, meanwhile, allows standard brake calipers to be hidden from the wind — reducing aero drag — but retaining elite braking performance, simple adjustment, and access to replacement parts of non-proprietary systems. The same goes for our adoption of the flat-mount standard for disc brakes: it is compatible with all commonly used calipers and rotor sizes via adapters.