With a new project bike destined for the workshop session soon, here’s a further explanation of what it’s all about. We also take a look at an important component consideration: the wheels. For this Cervélo Caledonia, Zipp 303s wheels have been selected.

– Click the link above to see the 2nd video from the ‘Project Caledonia’ #StoryOfMyBike series –

In May 2020, Zipp released a new logo and added a few wheels to its catalogue. The 303s is a tubeless, disc brake wheelset that “maintains its ideal-for-every-terrain 45mm rim depth but adds a significantly wider internal width to provide greater performance and ride quality in almost every measurable way”.

That quote is from the US manufacturer’s official explanation and Zipp is clearly chuffed about how good these wheels are.

Thankfully, only days before going to the workshop at Velofix to build up the ‘Project Caledonia’ review bike, a set of 303s wheels arrived at RIDE Media HQ.

The frame for this custom build will be Cervélo’s new Caledonia 5.

A few weeks before Zipp launched the wheels that boast a vast amount of tech that is said to increase strength, aerodynamics, and exploit the advantages of current trends in the cycling market, I spent a long time on a conference call with Bastien Donzé the French Zipp product manager who is based in Colorado Springs.

If you’re keen to know more, let me know – via email or social media – and I’ll upload the (long) discussion to RIDE Media’s Soundcloud station. (Below is a little clip Donzé showed me during the presentation, that showcases the vibration differences of old-vs-new wheels, high-vs-low tyre pressure.)

There is a lot more to say about the wheels but there’s plenty of time for that as they are going to be ridden for a few months as part of this #StoryOfMyBike series.

In the meantime, this post further explains the genesis of ‘Project Caledonia’ and why this bike is shaping up the way it is.

Zipp’s product manager, Bastien Donzé, shows the difference in rim profiles from one generation to the next.

the Zipp 303s wheels for this project include SRAM’s XDr freehub body, which enables the use a 12-speed cassette.

Custom vs off-the-shelf

My intention with this project is to document the various elements of the build and – hopefully – get people thinking about the many options that exist for customising what they ride.

I recently went to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and set off on my MTB to explore some trails, admire the beauty of the Australian bush during the regeneration phase a year on from the devastating bushfires of 2019. As the photos below show, it’s a well worthwhile exercise… for the riding, and the sheer beauty that you can find on the trails.

While I was there, I also considered if it might be the kind of place I’d ride a bike like what ‘Project Caledonia’ is shaping up to be.

Cervélo, as I’ve said before, claim that the Caledonia is “a bike for the way riders ride”. It’s a lot like a road bike, and a little bit like a ‘gravel bike’.

(For the record, ‘gravel riding’ is a term I’m slowly adjusting to even if I have been a little cynical about the concept, as I’ve always believed that a bike is a bike – and you ride wherever, whenever and however it seems appropriate. But the industry loves creating niches and so, for the purpose of this project, I’ll play along and see where it leads me.)

I love my MTB (a Focus Jam) and a year ago I was riding it more than my road bike (a Focus Izalco Max), but lately it’s been road, road and more road riding. But I have ridden the MTB on the road plenty of times, and the road bike on trails (occasionally).

Still, they say ‘gravel’ is the new black… well, no they don’t – but it’s certainly on-trend at the moment. And so, I thought, I’ll get in the groove and set up the Caledonia as though it’s going to be ridden here, there, and pretty much anywhere.

In 2020, I’ve rediscovered the love and, after years of far too much screen time, I’m glad to be finding the time to be back on the bike regularly, exploring my town, getting fit, and enjoying #TheCyclingLife.

The aim of this ‘Project Caledonia’ experiment is to create a bike that will manage trails like this, as well as smooth bitumen – and allow me to expand my cycling repertoire.

All my life I’ve been a cyclist, and so I’m keen to get a taste of a bike that is designed for “the way riders ride”. What does appeal to me is the idea that it could open up new roads or trails and allow me to expand my range of cycling destinations.

Will it be suitable for the Oaks Trail, from Woodford to Glenbrook? Maybe. I hope so, because it’s beautiful there, and another bonus is that it is entirely free of traffic lights… and even traffic. I expect the Caledonia will be good for the fire trail sections but it could get a bit dodgy on the singletrack… still, I think I’ll be willing to give it a try if the bike is up to it.

We’ll soon see.

The recent adventures on the Oaks Trail were done on my Focus Jam MTB. When I next visit the Blue Mountains, I’ll have the ‘gravel bike’ ready to roll…

Aiming for a point of difference

Of course, one glance at the bright red Caledonia 5 frame and the obvious temptation – for me at least – is to more-or-less replicate the set-up I have on my road bike and then do as I’ve always done: ride to my heart’s content and, when the legs get weary, go home with a sense of satisfaction (and the many other extras that come from a good day on the bike.

But, as they say: been there, done that… time for something new, something unusual – yes, something different.

On y va! It’s almost time to ride. But first, comes the component selection and some fun considering the myriad items that exist to create a bike that’s just not off-the-shelf or out-of-the-box.

I’m not going to get too whacky – and, trust me, there are some outrageously fun creations out there that beg for more attention. (The photo below is a fine example: stay tuned to see more of this genuinely innovative true adventure bike by Curve in an upcoming YouTube clip. That is unusual! Very different indeed.)

Cycling in 2020 offers greater scope for experimentation than ever before. Here’s a fine example… now, there are gravel bikes and there are adventure bikes… and there are incredibly different bikes like this creation by Curve. (Stay tuned to find out more…)

The workshop awaits

This story began as a quick explanation about my wheels of choice for the ‘Project Caledonia’ and quickly morphed into an explanation of why there’ll soon be a new bike at my place. It happened that way because, when you’re not just staring at a screen, scanning bike company websites and considering the spec that someone else has dreamed up, the mind tends to wander.

There’s plenty more to say about my intentions for the Cervélo, and there will be a steady flow of features on the various components I’ve selected for the project. I’m also open to suggestions. What would you do? What do you think about when you consider your future bike? If the Cervélo Caledonia was your frame, would it be a road bike? Or a race bike? Or gravel bike? Or cyclocross bike? Or a luxury commuter…?

What wheels would you want? And what tyres would you select?

The Zipp 303s wheelset, the second part of the ‘Project Caledonia’ puzzle. More component will be revealed soon.

I’ve ended up with the Zipp 303s and I’m keen to see how they match the frame. They seem appropriate but I’m also lucky: they didn’t cost me anything. They are ‘media wheels’ (ie. on loan from Zipp for the purpose of this experiment). I think they will suit the bike, and they look great, straight out of the box.

There’s a lot more to say and hopefully you agree that it’s a fun project and certainly more enjoyable than buying a bike that’s been spec’ed by someone else, working for one brand or another, who is guessing where and how and why you ride.

Disc brake wheels… of course, as it’s a disc brake frame.

For me, the various bits of this two-wheel puzzle are coming together nicely.

I’ve got a frame and wheels to suit my need for a change in scenery. And, as you’ll soon discover as this series progresses, there’s also a groupset with an interesting twist – one that offers a little bit of this, a little bit of that… and ultimately leaves a lot to the imagination.

Do I need another bike? Hell no. My place is pretty full already. But I’m going through with this project just because I can, because there are loads of possibilities, because it’s fun… and because – although it’s still bike riding – it’s also something that offers a bit of an escape.

I’m also pretty confident to say that I’m not the only person in 2020 who is looking for a change of scenery, maybe some new destinations, and something different to keep them occupied while, of course, still doing the thing they love.


– By Rob Arnold

(Please, subscribe to RIDE Media’s YouTube channel and follow the progress of ‘Project Caledonia’ – and, of course, don’t be shy if you have any questions or comments. Feedback is not only welcomed, it’s encouraged.)