Cervélo founders Gérard Vroomen and Phil White had spent years of academic engineering work to develop faster bikes, but no traditional manufacturers were interested in their radical aerodynamic designs. They were still getting requests for custom bikes, so they took matters into their own hands. Cervélo was founded in a garage in 1995. The groundbreaking aero bikes immediately appealed to time trial and triathlon riders. On the other hand, the bike industry and pro racers seemed determined to stick to traditional frame shapes. But Cervélo knew which way the wind was blowing.
Cervélo’s first pro team sponsorship came just seven years after the company was formed. Team CSC climbed back up the world rankings aboard aerodynamic Cervélo bikes, culminating in a Tour de France win by Carlos Sastre in 2008. The next year, Cervélo started its own pro team, Cervélo TestTeam. As expected, it aimed to win big races, but it was revolutionary in how it used the team’s rider-manufacturer collaborations to improve consumer products. The experience gave Cervélo valuable data on how its bikes performed at the sport’s apex and underscored the importance of building bikes for riders first.
The aerodynamic obsession starts at the very beginning of Cervélo’s development process. Engineers use hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of supercomputer time for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) testing of different frames and tube shapes. That work led to the company’s Squoval library of square/oval tube shapes, which are used in almost all Cervélo frames. After a frame is designed and tested in virtual reality, prototypes are proven in the wind tunnel. Cervélo wasn’t satisfied with the bike-centric aero testing, so it developed a human dummy for wind tunnel testing to get better data reflecting real-world riding. Finally, bikes are taken to indoor tracks for further testing by professional riders. Every step of the way, Cervélo focuses on developing a better relationship between the rider and the bicycle, and the results are bikes unparalleled in both quality and speed.