Every July since 1903, the Tour de France puts cyclists (and their bikes) to the ultimate test. Since 1995, Cervélo Cycles has met that test with technological innovation that has reinvented the sport.
Col Agnel is an Alpine pass on the French-Italian border. At over 9,000 feet of elevation, it’s one of the highest roads in Europe and one of the most challenging climbs ever to be part of the Tour de France.
In cycling design, an improvement in one property usually comes at the expense of another. To make a frame lighter usually requires sacrificing stiffness, which can lead to wasted energy during a climb.
The fight to stay on the cutting edge of bike engineering is nearly as cutthroat as the Tour de France itself. Cervélo, to stay ahead of the competition, needed to find a material that would avoid this performance seesaw.
The 3M Advanced Composites team had begun experimenting with matrix resins in groundbreaking ways. By manipulating particles the size of a molecule (6 millionths of an inch), the scientists were able to make materials that could do things never imagined.
Cervélo Rca: the lightest bike frame strong enough for the 2013 Tour de France.
“By adjusting the ratio of nanoparticles to epoxy, we can fundamentally change the matrix resin properties.”
- Steve Hackett
Lead Product Development Specialist,
3M Aerospace and Commercial Transportation Division
The breakthrough happened when 3M approached Cervélo with the new material. Cervélo, a thought leader in engineering, was the perfect cycling company to make the most of the matrix resins.
IMAGE: Richard Matthews, Senior Composites Engineer at Cervèlo, prepares the Rca for a stiffness test.
At an average weight of 667 grams, the Rca frame is so light, attaching a water bottle would double its weight. But the 3M resin’s ability to also provide strength was what Cervélo was looking for. Rca riders now have an edge in performance that will more accurately reflect the power they put into their races.
“I’m not a climber. So the lighter and stiffer the bike is, the better. Because I need all the help I can get.”
- Tyler Farrar
Tour de France Cyclist,
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