How it all began
Cervélo Cycles saw the light of day in 1995 when 2 engineers, Phil White and Gérard Vroomen, decided to take the work they had been doing on developing faster Time Trial bikes to market. Already involved in bicycle and Human Powered Vehicle design since 1986, the turning point came when a top-ranked Italian pro cyclist approached Gérard to design the fastest possible Time Trial bike for him.
He had come to the realization that his bike sponsor was capable of building traditional bikes using off the shelf tubesets from Columbus or Easton, but did not have the interest or expertise to develop leading edge designs with the focus on time trialing and aerodynamics. He also realized that he could not look at the novel designs put before him and know if they were improvements, or just "different".
With help of his team we started the bike design from scratch. We evaluated the bikes on the market, and set a design goal for the bike that was difficult and uncompromising. We wanted something that was unbeatable in aerodynamics yet sacrificed nothing in weight or stiffness, and unfettered by issues of marketability. It was to be a one-off design for this rider.
The result was a pretty radical bike that pushed the rules in almost every area. It tested extremely well for aerodynamics, as well as handling, stiffness and comfort.
Starting a business
The team was very enthusiastic about the bike, and so was almost everybody we showed it to. We were already personally involved in triathlon and road racing, and everywhere we went with the bike people asked us where they could get one. An important exception was the team’s bike sponsor, who was not yet ready to part with tradition. We drew the conclusion that if pro riders and athletes, both in the cycling and triathlon world, liked our design but the bike companies didn’t, our only option would be to start a company of our own.
In the following months we built our business, overhauled our designs completely (even switching from carbon to Aluminum), studied the market and decided to take the plunge. The first bike show for Cervélo followed in February 1996. As we had few models to show (two), we decided to go for the classy Italian car dealership look with lots of empty space. Adding to that spirit was Van Gogh's "Notte Stellata" in the background and the Italian cycling jerseys from the 1950's that we were wearing. We probably got more inquiries for those than for our bikes, but at least it kept us humble and it is fair to say business has picked up since.
Within two years we had won triathlons, time trial nationals in Germany and Canada, participated in the Triathlon & Cycling World’s, and raced the Olympic Time Trial in Atlanta.
Two important factors that made our success possible are our customers and athletes. We were lucky enough that many consumers understand and appreciate what our designs are about. We know how many bikes there are to choose from, and are honored every time someone recognizes the merits of a Cervélo.
Then there are the pro athletes, who together with our customers are the true ambassadors for our bikes. Because we are a relatively small company, we tend not to be able to offer athletes and teams the same benefits the big companies can. This means that when an athlete or team chooses to ride Cervélo over something else, it really happens because of the product (and hopefully the company). This may not seem like that big a deal, but if sport is your profession, it is a difficult decision to choose potentially greater prize money winnings over money in hand with a base salary. We would like to thank our athletes for their confidence in us and our bikes.
We know that this may sound strange now that we are the only bike manufacturing with its own pro cycling team at the highest level, but this is still true today. We may be big for a high-end manufacturer but we are still small compared to some of the other companies that want to showcase their products on the pro circuit. It’s tough competing for team partnerships with companies that generate revenue with everything from tricycles to road bikes, but we are lucky that we have athletes and friends of the company who believe in us, and who have helped us to realize the Cervélo TestTeam.
Who are we?
We are a group of people who not only love cycling, we love pushing the envelope in every way possible. With the engagement of eight engineers, the company's focus remains unchanged from its early days. The additional manpower in both engineering and support services means that the rate of development at Cervélo is faster than ever before.
Every once in a while we will look back at the goals we set when we started Cervélo. The mission was simple: "To help our customers win races". It is safe to say we accomplished that, with Cervélo TestTeam ranking #1 in the world mid-way through their very first season, and the P3 being the winningest triathlon bike model in Ironman history (over 30 victories). But it is equally true for our "regular" customers, we are proud and happy to have played a small role in so many people's achievements.
Unusual for a company that has experienced such rapid growth is that it is still fully owned by the two founders, Phil and Gerard. We don't need to answer to investment companies or other shareholders about short-term goals, we can simply concentrate on building better bikes. This relentless pursuit of excellence will continue to remain our focus. We figured that each time we go to the windtunnel it cost us about $25,000. It might make more sense to spend that same amount of money on ads and marketing, but that won’t get you a better bike. We apologize in advance if our ads look like they were written by engineers. We figured you would rather read an ad designed by an engineer than ride a bike designed by the marketing department.
Three Big Breaks
In 1996, Cervélo launched with two road and two time trial/triathlon models. It was immediately at the leading edge of bike technology; maybe a bit too much so as market acceptance was initially slow. But in the year 2000, the International Cycling Union brought in quite restrictive equipment rules, and many cutting edge bikes became illegal.
Cervélo had anticipated the new rules and unveiled a complete new and vastly improved model line. Where its competitors were forced by the rule changes to take a step back or discontinue altogether, Cervélo opened up a significant technological gap and demand started to soar.In 2003, Cervélo became the bike supplier to Team CSC, at the time the 14th team on the world ranking. Cervélo was by far the smallest and youngest bike company to ever supply a team at this level. Team CSC has been crowned the world’s #1 pro cycling team aboard Cervélo for three years. The partnership lasted for six years, until the end of 2008.
In 2009, Cervélo became the first bike manufacturer in the modern era to have its own cycling team at the highest levels of racing. Led by 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and sprint star Thor Hushovd, it quickly made a name for itself. While it certainly delivers in races, equally important is that having our own team allows a more effective use of professional riders in the development of new products. It is for this reason that other thought leaders in the bike industry joined this project.
Today, Cervélo SA is the world’s largest manufacturer of time trial and triathlon bikes, as determined in industry counts including decisive wins for the past four years at the prestigious Kona bike count. The winner of the 2008 Tour de France, Carlos Sastre, did so on a Cervélo. At the Beijing Olympics Cervélo bikes were ridden by over forty remarkable Olympic athletes, resulting in three Gold, five Silver and two Bronze medals – a record.