Bike Review: 2009 Cervelo RS

Photo courtesy of Road Bike Action

Known for being perched atop expensive cars and for powering Carlos Sastre to a 2008 Tour de France victory, Cervélo carries a mystique that many bike industry insiders are still trying to figure out.

The name Cervélo is actually a combination of the Italian word for "brain" and the French word for "bicycle." The other visible mystery of Cervélo is the words "Vroomen. White" on the chainstays. A play on words? No, the names of two college friends who began making bikes in 1995 that would later become some of the most sought-after bikes in the world.

Phil White and Gerard Vroomen began making bikes in 1995 at McGill University and were asked by two-time world champion Gianni Bugno to build him a time trial (TT) bike, as his sponsor would not. They built him a TT bike called the "Baracchi," but couldn't get any bike companies to mass produce it for them, so they pooled together their tuition money and started Cervélo.

In 1996, they launched the company with two road bikes and two TT models, and then in the year 2000 quickly implemented some major rule changes by the UCI into their line—and the demand increased to own a Cervélo. Fast-forward to 2002 when Bjarne Riis came calling for team CSC (now Team Saxo Bank), and the rest is history.

Beginning in 2009, Cervélo will be the first road bike manufacturer to sponsor its own high-level pro team, with Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd already signed on to what Cervélo is calling TestTeam. On the women's racing side they sponsor Cervélo-Lifeforce, and Team TBB on the multisport side.

The Frame

The RS frame has an interesting story and is made up of six major design features that come together to give the RS a unique ride and fit. To begin, the down tubes and chainstays feature what Cervélo calls a "Squoval" shape and are optimized for a high level of stiffness-to-weight ratio.

The top tube is a combination of shapes, but mostly ovalized, and the bottom bracket area is dramatically oversized to increase the volume for strength and stiffness under heavy loads. The frame is constructed using lay-up optimization, meaning "stiffening plies" are added to tubes to increase strength where needed. In addition, Kevlar has been added to the head tube, top tube and the bottom of the down tube to prevent catastrophic failure.

The radical (thin) seatstays are borrowed from the popular R3 race bike and are designed to offer more vertical compliance. The longer head tube length is for the average rider who chooses a higher handlebar position, and the RS chainstays are 10 millimeters longer than the R3's to position the rear wheel further back on the bike, in order to compensate for the taller head tube. The frame weighs in at 1,050 grams.

The Parts

Our Cervélo RS was loaded with great components beginning with 2009 SRAM Force, a 3T Funda full carbon fork, an FSA integrated headset and SL-K 27.2 mm carbon seatpost, in a Team CSC graphics package. The wheels are Easton Circuit with Vittoria Diamonte Pro Lights tire. The package was completed with a Selle San Marco Ponza saddle and an FSA Gossamer aluminum handlebar.

[Editor's Note: The RS is now offered on the Cervélo website with a Shimano Ultegra SL group set.]

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