Swiss-based independent bike brand Open has unveiled its latest and most expensive road bike - the Open MIN.D. California, a US-made limited edition ultralight frame weighing in at only 775g.
The bike was designed by Open co-founder Gerard Vroomen, alongside composite design expert Don Guichard, both of whom worked on Cervélo's infamous Project California over a decade ago. Project California aimed to test the limits of bike design, rather than offer a practical mass-market addition to Cervélo’s R-series. It was the driving force behind two range-topping Cervélo frames - the R5Ca and RCa - which were two of the lightest, and most expensive, frames ever made.
Based out of the same composite lab, the MIN.D. California is similarly pitched as an exploration of design, rather than a practical step forward in Open’s range.
Open released its first dedicated road bike, the MIN.D., in 2020 to much acclaim. The brand had first gained notoriety when it released the U.P. gravel bike back in 2015, which cast a road bike silhouette while offering clearance for ultra-wide 2.1in tyres, and was broadly considered one of the best gravel bikes in the market on its release. Given that gravel lineage, many were surprised to see a dedicated road offering from Open.
With the MIN.D., fans of Open discovered a pared back and more conservative road bike that still maintained the DNA of that quirky genre-busting first release. That DNA can be seen in the MIN.D.’s outlier geometry (perhaps best demonstrated by the unusually long 50mm fork offset) and comfortable 32mm clearance. While most brands have recently veered away from integrated seat posts, Open’s MIN.D. features a ‘continuous seat tube' which hits a narrow diameter of only 25mm. In theory that offers increased vertical flex to the saddle, and rider.
The MIN.D. California maintains those distinctive elements of the MIN.D. while evoking a similar aesthetic and engineering story to Cervélo’s Project California. That will no doubt excite those who have grown bored of frames fabricated in the Far East, and echoes efforts from other brands to bring production closer to home - such as the €15,000 BMC Masterpiece.
Project California 2.0
In addition to founding Open and currently being CEO of 3T, Gerard Vroomen can count founding Cervélo amongst his bike design palmares. It was during his time there that he enlisted Guichard to develop Cervélo’s Project California frames, a frame that came in between 600 and 700g in total weight.
Since then, Guichard and Vroomen evidently stayed in touch. "Don ran the Project California R&D lab/factory that created and built the crazy light & stiff Cervélo R5CA and RCA," says Vroomen. "After the frame projects stopped, he continued with other parts such as carbon fibre prosthetics but he really wanted to make a frame again."
The two began work in the very same California-based carbon lab used before. The frames are made end-to-end in the same facility, from tube lay-up to final finishing - where normally we might expect finished tubes to be wrapped together using carbon prepreg sheets.
Treating the project as a skunkworks-style test of engineering limits, Vroomen not only claims to have cut weight from the already skinny MIN.D. (eventually peeling off 80g) but also claims increased stiffness around the bottom bracket, alongside more vertical compliance.
Lightweight marginal gains
Perhaps concealed by its simple finish, the MIN.D. California's tube shapes differ considerably to the standard bike, while it introduces a new layup and carbon fibre material choice, showcased in full view by the frame's naked raw carbon finish.
Perhaps the scales tell the best story, as Open claims the MIN.D. frameset comes in at 775g in a size L. When factoring in the additional weight of the integrated seat post, that pushes the MIN.D toward beating many of the best lightweight bikes on the market, though still a little heftier than the inconceivably light 588g Specialized S-Works Aethos.
At €7,500 for a frame alone, and with a limited run of frames, the MIN.D. California admittedly offers diminishing returns for riders, and the brand itself, compared to Open's normal MIN.D. frame. In that sense, Open admits that the project hopelessly ran away with itself.
"The advantage (or some would say disadvantage) of our Open structure is that Andy [Kessler - Open co-founder] and I don't really have to justify any of our investments and expenses to anybody," says Vroomen. "So we simply kept this Californian MIN.D. going until it was done, despite the commercial sense of it evaporating along the way."
Given the limited supply and boutique nature of the Open MIN.D. California, we may struggle to get our hands on a sample of the Californian MIN.D. to pass our own judgement. In the meantime, the MIN.D California will roll effortlessly into our ever-growing list of dream bikes - as unattainable as they are enticing.
Sizing: Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large
Price: €7,500 (frameset only)
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Peter Stuart has been editor of Cyclingnews since March 2022, overseeing editorial output across all of Cyclingnews' digital touchpoints.
Before joining Cyclingnews, Peter was the digital editor of Rouleur magazine. Starting life as a freelance feature writer, with bylines in The Times and The Telegraph, he first entered cycling journalism in 2012, joining Cyclist magazine as staff writer. Peter has a background as an international rower, representing Great Britain at Under-23 level and at the Junior Rowing World Championships.