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R3 Team
Video: off-road testing
Smartwall for Carbon
R3 Cross

CSC newcomer Karsten Kroon testrides an R3 prototype on the cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders course

Fabian Cancellara wins Paris-Roubaix on the R3

At Cervélo we see a need for two distinct types of road bike frames: aerodynamic frames (our Soloist family) and frames optimized for stiffness-to-weight (STW) ratio (our R-family). While the Soloist family is often superior to any other road frame available, there are situations where a non-aero frame is preferable:

  1. If the UCI weight limit is not taken into consideration, the STW frame and by extension bike can in theory be made lighter for the same stiffness. In practice, the Soloist Carbon is as light as most "superlight" frames on the market and has superior stiffness, but if the Soloist Carbon technology is applied to a frame without taking the aerodynamics into consideration, an even lighter frame would result. That is exactly what we did with the R3. In most situations, the slightly higher weight of the aerodynamic frames is far outweighed by their aero gains, but on rides where the difference is made on the climbs, a high STW frame would be preferable.
  2. In very rough conditions such as Paris-Roubaix, we can create better tire & mud clearance on a non-aero frame. Especially with the new R3 and R3 Bayonne frames, the increased tire clearance allows Team CSC to run their 27mm pavé tires. In fact, you can even run narrow 28mm cyclocross tires on these frames should you desire to.

The R family started with the R2.5, a frame that was strong enough for the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix yet also the lightest bike in the Tour de France (as ridden by Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre). But the R2.5 was a fairly traditional frame both in tube shapes and construction methods, so soon after it was introduced we started working on a new project for the R-family. This became project FM41, and the goal was to design the ultimate STW frame by starting from scratch and not taking any of the current solutions for granted. In other words, although the frame did not have to be aerodynamic, it did not have to be traditional either. It should be designed and engineered with a complete focus on optimizing STW, without any regard for how such a frame would look in the end.

Our first focus was on the tube shapes. From all the different situations one can encounter while riding, we distilled the three most important areas that have an effect on the design:

  1. the out-of-saddle sprinting or climbing case,
  2. the descending case,
  3. the ride quality case.

Each of these cases loads the frame in a significantly different way, ideally requiring different tube shapes and material usage. The problem is how to balance these different loads in the overall design and how to find tube shapes and carbon selections and lay-ups that perform well in all three cases.

The resulting tube shapes of the R3 are very unique, but they are unique for only one reason: engineering. Every shape on this frame, from the Squoval downtube to the super slim seatstays, is driven by the engineering focused on optimizing the STW. Never has a frame been designed with such a singular devotion to solving the STW puzzle, and the test results show this.

At the same time, the seatstays of the R3 not only help achieve this incredible STW ratio, they also provide one of the highest vertical compliance scores ever measured. So with regards to torsional & bb stiffness and vertical compliance, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Team CSC will use the R3 in selected races, mainly on the cobblestones. Team CSC newcomer Karsten Kroon tested an R3 prototype on the cobblestones near his home, and his feedback on the R3 was extremely positive. He always thought his old bike was the best frame for the cobblestones and he couldn't believe how much more comfortable and better tracking the R3 was. In head-to-head tests, the compliance in the R3 seatstays allowed him to keep much better contact with the road than on his old bike which tended to skip over the cobbles.

The combination of tire clearance, vertical compliance and light weight means that Team CSC will be the only team able to get bikes as low as 6.8kg for the classics even with the use of heavier wheels and tires. For most other races, it does not make sense for Team CSC to use the R3 because the bike would be too light. There is no point in riding with a superlight frame and some lead weights under the saddle, better to use those few extra grams of weight to make the frame aerodynamic, i.e. ride the Soloist Carbon. But for those of us who do not have to be concerned with UCI weight limits, the R3 allows for a bike that is not only extremely light, but also very safe due to its stiffness & strength and comfortable due to its vertical compliance. Talk about a win-win-win situation.

Fabian Cancellara made full use of the R3 capabilities and the extra-ordinary compliance of its rear triangle at Paris-Roubaix. Says cyclingnews.com: Like a number of teams, CSC rode on carbon bikes during the race. It was questioned by others before the start, but Riis put his full support behind his director Scott Sunderland. It proved to be the right choice, as Cancellara appeared to be floating over the cobbles and the team only suffered one puncture on the day. Sunderland explained to Cyclingnews that the Cérvelos they used had a box-section downtube and a special chain- and seat-stay design so that the rear triangle flexed more on the cobbles, almost like rear suspension. In addition, the team was running 27mm tubulars with normal spoked wheels. "I have never been that comfortable on the cobbles," Fabian confirmed to the VUM papers. "The frame; the wheels, everything was picobello." Great words of praise for the lightest frame in the ProTour from the most powerful man in the most punishing race.

Video: off-road testing

With the R3 being so light, some may wonder how strong such a frame can be. The answer is very strong, and the R3 passes our impact strength tests in flying colors. To illustrate that point, we took a prototype version of the Bayonne, an even lighter version of the R3, out for our yearly To Hell and Back ride. This ride goes over gravel roads, dirt tracks, rocks and snow, not something you would normally use a superlight frame for. But the R3 and the Bayonne are built to last and had no problem. Aside from Gerard riding the Bayonne, this video will also show John, one of our engineers, on a prototype of the R3 Cross.

Off-road testing

This one pager shows you all the pertinent information about the R3 in a compact format, including geometry, spec and its main features. Download it to view or print out.

R3 one-pager


Squoval chainstays & downtube - Optimized for the highest possible stiffness-to-weight ratio (STW), the chainstays and downtube has a Squoval shape.

Multi-shape toptube - The toptube loading case is a lot more complex, hence it is Squoval near the headtube and seattube and oval in the center section.

Oversized bottom bracket area – The increased volume of the bottom bracket area provides great STW. The smooth contours of the BB volume help both for this BB stiffness and also for its strength as the fibers have a much more continuous path to transfer the loads better.

Lay-up optimization - The stiffening plies are added to the sides of the tubes where they have the greatest effect in bending. They are feathered to distribute the loads into the structure. We also add more plies on the bottom of the down tube, the headtube and the toptube to distribute the loads from a potential headtube impact. Finally, we add Kevlar to that same area and downtube to prevent catastrophic failure.

Seatstays - We don't have a catchy marketing name for these seatstays (send in your suggestions), but they are quite simply the most amazing seatstays on any bike – a true testament to the skills of our engineering team. We have always known that the seatstays end up carrying very small loads, an effect that is even more dramatic in combination with the new Squoval chainstays. The seatstays in an R3 are almost unnecessary for the vertical loads, they only provide torsional stiffness. Therefore, we were able to design the R3 seatstays to act as leaf springs in the vertical plane while having a more standard dimension in the lateral plane for torsional rigidity. Thus it combines strength, comfort, torsional stiffness and minimal weight.


Squoval downtube
The downtube and chainstays of a bicycle frame mostly see lateral bending, even if the frame as a whole is in torsion. Yet virtually all frames on the market sport round or oval downtubes and chainstays. Excellent shapes to counter torsion of those tubes, but not lateral bending. A box section is the best shape to counter lateral bending, which is why we use a box-inspired shape on the Soloist Carbon chainstays (of course the downtube on the Soloist Carbon is TrueAero-shaped for aerodynamic reasons). On the R3, we squared off the box shape even more, leaving only a small ovalization of the shape to boost its buckling strength. This squared-off oval, or Squoval, significantly increases the stiffness-to-weight ratio (STW) of the shape in lateral bending and is used in the chainstays and the downtube. The front and rear of the toptube also use the Squoval shape, but it transitions to oval in the center to counteract the torsional loading in that section.

Smartwall for Carbon
Upon hearing Smartwall, most people immediately think of Cervélo’s method to obtain excellent lateral stiffness in an TrueAero tube. But the Smartwall principle is universally applicable, not just on aero tubing. After the tube shapes are optimized, the lay-up allows us to further refine the character of the bike. In fact, Squoval tubes are very well suited for the Smartwall application as they have two sides that are very far removed from the central plain – i.e. adding even a small amount of extra material there increases the lateral stiffness significantly. To properly distribute the loads from the Smartwall section into the rest of the tubes, the additional plies are feathered.

R3 Cross

Jonathan on his R3 Cross
In 2004 we started the development of a cross version of the R2.5, specifically for Jonathan Page, multiple US cyclocross champion. Halfway through its development, we decided to change to the R3 platform. Not only did this open up the opportunity to increase the stiffness of the frame and the tire clearance, it also allowed us to construct the world's lightest cyclocross frame while at the same time making it the strongest.

Jonathan Page received the final pre-production frames just two weeks before the 2006 Cyclocross World Championships, tested them, liked them and rode them to an impressive 10th place finish, the highest finish ever for a US cyclocross rider in a world championships.

The R3 Cross release date has not been set yet, and at this point we cannot provide any additional information about this model. We will release any new information through our éNews newsletter.


R3 frames ready for assembly at our Toronto facility
The R3 is scheduled to start shipping in March 2006. We roll out new models per size,starting with size 56, then 54, 58, 51, 61 and 48cm, usually with 1-2 week intervals.

Note 1: We are actually ahead of our schedule, and have shipped the first R3s in January.
Note 2: The fact that we start shipping doesn't necessarily mean your order will ship. As you can imagine, the demand for the new R3 is very high, so even though you may have ordered your frame early, there may be hundreds and hundreds of orders ahead of you. On the positive side, we have once again significantly increased our production in order to meet the surging demand. To find out when you can expect your R3, check with your Cervélo dealer as our dealers receive regular updates on their order status.


The goal is superlight, but functional, in TopVélo’s Spécial Light
VeloMotion tests R3, Willier Scandium and Litespeed Ghisallo (English translation)
VeloNews tests top frames including R3 for high stiffness and low weight
TOUR Magazin reviews the top carbon frames including R3 (English translation)
Bicycling review of the R3 in their 2006 Buyer's Guide


73 Degree Seattube Angle
SizeWheel SizeHead Tube AngleBB DropTop TubeHead Tube LengthFront CenterRear CenterStand Over HeightStackReach
Note 1:The standover height is measured to the toptube directly above the bottom bracket.
Note 2:The above headtube lengths are for integrated headsets. To compare to non-integrated headtubes, deduct 20mm from the above lengths to adjust for the stack height needed for non-integrated headsets.

The R3 is available as a frameset or with one of two component kits; the Ultegra kit and the DuraAce Team kit. Because Team CSC is so focused on equipment, it uses many different parts depending on the race course so there is no such thing as THE team kit. The Team kit we have put together reflects a few choices that the team makes for maximum durability, most notably the Ultegra cassette that you will find on all of their training and about half of their race wheels. We figure that just like it is for Team CSC, durability is a more important feature on your training wheels than saving a few grams. Speaking of wheels, for the complete team kit, speak to your Cervélo dealer about a set of Zipp wheels with a DuraAce cassette for racing.
PartUltegra kitDuraAce Team kit
ForkTBDWolf SL
SeatpostFSA SLK 32.4mmFSA SLK 32.4mm
Shift/Brake LeversShimano Ultegra STIShimano DuraAce STI
Front DerailleurShimano Ultegra Shimano DuraAce
Rear DerailleurShimano Ultegra Shimano DuraAce
CassetteShimano Ultegra 11-23Shimano Ultegra 11-23
ChainShimano Ultegra Shimano Ultegra
Brake CalipersCervélo Mach 2Shimano DuraAce
CranksetFSA SLK MegaExoFSA SLK MegaExo
Bottom BracketFSA SLK MegaExoFSA SLK MegaExo
HeadsetCane Creek IS-2 1 1/8"Cane Creek IS-2 1 1/8"
Handlebars3TTT 4GXLFSA HB-250
SaddleSelle Italia SLR XPSelle Italia SLR XP
WheelsEaston VistaEaston Circuit
TiresVittoria Diamante Pro LiteVittoria Diamante Pro Lite
Specs may change without notice.

Every Cervélo frame comes with a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner. For full details on this warranty, please click here.

ConfigurationPricing [USD]
R3 Team frameset$2,800.00
R3 Team Ultegra bike$4,000.00
R3 Team DuraAce bike$4,600.00
Prices listed above are subject to change without notice.

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