When it hit the road in this year’s 3 656-km Tour de France, Cervélo’s Rca Project California became the lightest, most aerodynamic bicycle in the race’s history. Cervélo built just 400 of its R100 000 frames for athletes such as the riders on US-based Team Garmin-Sharp.
The Rca frame and basic hardware weigh less than 700 grams, keeping the bike’s total built weight to about 4,5 kilograms. Tour de France riders must add ballast to hit the race’s 6,8 kg minimum.
Drag consumes up to half of a racer’s energy when he’s in a pack, 90 per cent when he’s riding alone. The tubes of the Rca frame are teardrop-shaped in cross-section, improving aerodynamics. They are built from five types of carbon fibre, laid down in 500 layers.
Using technology also seen in high-end recreational bikes, riders push a button to prompt an electronic shifter, which changes gears at the ideal point in the pedal cycle.
Wheels are made from lightweight carbon fibre, but a layer of steel or aluminium is added so that the bike’s old-fashioned calliper rim brakes can grip firmly. (Racers favour a rule change to allow hydraulic disc brakes.)
Oval-shaped chainrings boost efficiency, according to some riders. The racer pedals a larger-diameter gear during the downstroke, where the most power is generated. At the top of the stroke, the gear diameter is smaller, requiring less power.
This video shows the techniques and processes used in Project California to create a two-wheeled dream machine…
In doping news…
The World Anti-Doping Agency has a new weapon against the rampant juicing in pro cycling. The Athlete Biological Passport programme uses data from repeated urine tests to establish a baseline for each athlete’s testosterone level. Any spike will spark further investigation.
– Tim Newcomb