Project California Ends
Cervélo Suspends its Project California
July 6th, 2018
By Andres Douzoglou
A little over a month ago, May 31st at 7am, an email popped into our inbox with subject line: "Cervélo RCA Update", instantly, it got our attention. Could this be the next iteration? A disc brake version? Upon opening the email and reading the headline "Goodnight Old Friend" the opposite was the case. The engineering project that brought us the $10,000 frame - as it was often referred to, the R5CA, and the two versions of the RCA that followed, has concluded. While not surprising, we couldn't help but feel a little sadness.
In the 8 years of its existence, these frames commanded quite the attention. If you have a Project California, you know how special this frame is. We've mentioned its uniqueness before, and not just for its price, but in the fact that this frame invoked a lot of the same feelings about a frame often reserved only for metal, custom, frames.
Cervélo, not known for its cutting-edge frame paint choices, set a trend that spanned a few years well beyond the R5CA's original release, a black-on-black, gloss-on-matte, stealthy looker. Every other manufacturer's high-end, expensive, bikes all of the sudden donned that exact look. It was the last time they set a trend in terms of paint, and in typical Cervélo fashion, it wasn't as much a conscious stylistic choice, the paint had a very specific purpose, it added just tens of grams to the sub 700g frame.
Production of the Project California frames was always limited to around a couple of hundred worldwide. It's hard to say whether all of those ended up at retailers. For every edition, there were always a few "purchased" by riders on Cervélo's sponsored teams. Ryder Hesjedal won the 2012 Giro d'Italia aboard one of these, Tom Danielson used his quite often, and Christian Vande Velde did too, even turning his into quite the TT bike for the Vail Time Trial one year.
If we had to pick one of the three versions, the original, the R5CA would take the top spot, quite convincingly, even though on paper, it may be the heaviest, and least refined version of the three. Why? For starters, the R5CA is the only Project California frame of the three that can claim being a Vroomen • White • Design. For some, Cervélo was Gerard Vroomen and Phil White - we'd listen to that argument. While that in and of itself doesn't make it "better" frame, it certainly is more unique. The R5CA also featured a slightly slacker seattube so it would be built around a zero offset seatpost to decrease weight. This made it visually distinguishable as a result, regardless of how it was painted. Lastly, it is a frame that has survived the test of time, 8 years after its release, our display bike often draws more attention than more modern bikes, even amongst those that aren't familiar with the R5CA's significance. 8 years doesn't sound like a long time, but in carbon-frame years, it might as well be a 100.
If you're interested in this now-collector's bike, we've got a 51 and a 56 available in the latest version of the RCA available.