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Cervélo offers sneak peek at ultralight 'Project California'

Cervélo's new west coast test facility has yielded its first fruit, an ultralight carbon road frame dubbed 'Project California' that the company claims to weigh just 700g in a 54cm size.

Listen carefully to the video posted on Cervélo's web site, however, and it seems the prototype may be even lighter as the one provided to Cervélo TestTeam rider Thor Hushovd was just 648g.

Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen would not release any additional information aside from what's already been revealed online but the grainy images suggest a sort of 'super' R3 in terms of the basic shape and layout. The down tube uses a more radically shaped 'squoval' profile, the chain stays are notably tall and wide, and the seat stays are just as spindly.

Judging by the flat black appearance, it also appears that the Project California frame employs carbon fiber dropouts instead of the current R3-SL's aluminum ones and some sort of integrated bottom bracket. Our guess would be either direct drop-in bearings or press-fit cups but not standard BB30 so as to eliminate the need for an alloy sleeve. It's also unclear whether a tapered head tube is included – though it'd improve stiffness and allow for a bigger down tube, it would also add grams rather than remove them.

External cable routing is also evident along with a conventional, round telescoping seatpost.

According to Hushovd's posted video account, the biggest difference relative to current models is the greater front triangle and bottom bracket stiffness but with the same level of comfort as the production S2 and S3.

Project California is supposedly ultralight, impressively stiff and yet very comfortable but it will also be extremely expensive – at least for now. In contrast to Cervélo's usual overseas manufacturing, each Project California frame will be hand-built in the USA by the same engineers that designed it, thus adding obvious labor and investment costs over mass production and making for a very limited yield of about one frame per day.

Scheduled availability is August 2010 and each frame will command a cost of US$9,600/€8,000.

Ultimately, though, we expect the engineering lessons gleaned from the project to make its way into production models. Shell out the money now if you need the exclusivity and 'Made in USA' cachet but patient consumers will almost certainly be able to get something similar for more reasonable prices sometime down the line.

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