From the Top: Building Cervélo

The story of two engineering students who went on to create one of the most innovative bike brands in the market.

by Wade Wallace

I would argue that Cervélo is one of the most innovative bike brands in the cycling industry. Back in the 1990s when they first started, almost everyone else was focusing on lightweight bikes. Cervélo, meanwhile, was busy pioneering bicycle aerodynamics. I’ve ask engineers at various bike companies which brand impresses them most with regards to engineering and innovation, and overwhelmingly I hear them say Cervélo.

The genesis of Cervélo started in 1995 when two young engineering students named Phil White and Gerard Vroomen met in the composites lab at McGill University in Canada. Over a span of 15 years they went from building a crazy aerodynamic time trial bike as a university project to creating one of the most disruptive and loved bike brands in the world. 

But what many people don’t know is that as wildly successful Cervélo was up until 2011, it was a pressure cooker of constant financial challenges which ultimately ultimately led to Gerard and Phil selling the business to Dutch holding company, PON. 2008-2011 had been the perfect storm for Cervélo with the global financial crisis, setting up a professional team that was far more successful than anticipated, and private lender which led to the company’s turn of events.

Thank you to Malcolm Bloedel for producing this episode and Ashley de Neef for composing the music.

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