“It’s really cool, I love it,” says Mark Cavendish, in just six words making months of work worthwhile many times over.
Elevating both performance and aesthetics in equal measure, Cav’s bike is the result of an exciting collaboration between Team Dimension Data’s technical partners and Silverstone Paint Technology in the UK, a specialist firm serving Formula One teams and whose work is so advanced that those teams cannot be named because they fear losing a competitive advantage. Applied to the bike, it slashes the weight of the paint from 75 grams to just 24.6g for the frameset. It’s two microns thick, or 0.002mm. “It’s brand spanking new technology and it’s cool to be the first to have it in cycling,” says Cavendish.
ENVE’s contribution was in two parts, one rather more straightforward than the other. Custom chrome and green graphics were the easy part. Cavendish had also requested a custom version of the ENVE SES Aero Road Bar, combining that bar’s aero top section with the vertical drops of the Compact Road Bar because that’s the shape he likes to sprint with but he also wanted the aero advantage of the wind tunnel developed wing section. It’s an interesting bar and its story may not end here.
Chris King himself got involved to produce several sets of Buzzworks race-spec, super-fast hubs in a perfectly matched anodised green finish.
Really, though, this bike’s standout feature is the paint finish. From the front it pairs the distinctive green hues of Dimension Data and the Manxman’s own CVNDSH brand, each sparkling on the chrome undercoat which is progressively revealed as they fade along the bike’s length. Along the top of the down and top tubes run a series of lines of unequal length.
It looks fast but there’s a great deal more to it than that, as we found out when we spoke to Tom Briggs, Senior Graphic Designer at Cervélo and the man behind the design. Tom explained how the bike had to reflect Cavendish’s personality and riding style, speak to the team’s work for the Qhubeka charity and still maintain the bike’s identity.
“I spoke to Cav a few times,” says Tom. “From the start he emphasized that he wanted something visually simple, with a classiness. From Cervélo’s side we wanted to keep it close to the production bike so that when he was sitting next to his teammates he looked like part of the team. That was important to Cav as well and came down to preserving the mask lines.” Then came the artistry and a quite amazing depth of thought.
“I read his books to understand him more as a person and one thing that really struck me was how differently he talks about a sprint,” says Tom. “Other riders talk about sprints being chaos but Cav doesn’t look at it that way. He can slow it down, draw his own line to the finish and focus. That became a key concept for the bike. The visual element on the tops of the top and down tubes has one line leaving the pack behind – that’s Cav. It’s very simplistic, just a series of lines that cascade forward. And by fading the green from the front to the back I think it allows that calmness to come over the bike visually, so we’re able to take the mask lines of the bike and also have this calm motion of moving forward.
“We’ve also tried to draw a lineage through our history with the team. In 2015 we did a custom design for all the team bikes, using a chrome base which was to do with the Qhubeka foundation. The nice thing about chrome is that you see yourself in it, bringing you into the team and hopefully involving you in the charity. Cav liked that for this bike, too.”
Cervélo and Silverstone Paint Technology first collaborated on the all-conquering Team GB track bikes for the Rio Olympics, having found each other through mutual ex-F1 friends. “It has become a critical partnership for us because of what they bring to these top level bikes,” explains Tom. “I speak to Mark at Silverstone Paint Technology almost daily.
“When we worked on the Team GB bikes together, Mark showed me this new material,” he continues. “It looked like a mirror but you could see the carbon weave in it. He explained that it’s a heat shield for really hot parts of an F1 car – brakes, turbos, exhaust. I thought it was really cool and wondered if it could be used as an aesthetic element, so we kept it mind. When this bike came up it seemed the perfect chance to use it, marrying the technology and aesthetics. Cav is very driven to find technological improvements in the bike so I thought it would appeal to him. When I showed him the concept and he understood the tech he was really excited about it. He gets a lot of custom gear so that was really nice.”
Mark Turner, who runs Silverstone Paint Technology, has two decades working in and around Formula One, starting before he’d even left school on the Jordan team where he worked alongside ENVE aerodynamicist Simon Smart. He explained to us how he and his team were able to achieve such a lustrous finish at such low weight.
“It’s a coating more than a paint, applied using a chemical adhesion method for maximum gloss without the weight of several clear coats,” he says. “We’re happy that we came in at under half the target weight given to us by Cervélo. There’s discipline to every aspect, it’s all weighed at every stage. For F1 we check the weight of every car component when it comes in and goes out. It’s the norm in F1 but probably not in many other places.
“In F1, the constant striving for improvements pushes technology forwards rapidly,” he continues. “That’s why F1 is still the go-to source for new technology to trickle down to other sports and industries. The trickle down rate depends on how long teams can keep something secret. This project has been great for us because we so rarely get to talk about our work.”
As well as looking spectacular and weighing next to nothing, the special finish even has an aerodynamic function, hypothetically at least. Because it’s so thin it better preserves the exact airfoil shapes of the frame and also reduces frontal area, worth perhaps a couple of centimeters in a sprint finish. Cavendish has won races by less.