Future gazing is always fraught with risks. The list of technological innovations purported to tip the world on its head but swiftly consigned to the skip of history — we’re looking at you Betamax — is long. But the creators of the unconventional Hope/Lotus bike that will carry British hopes into the Tokyo Olympics is a “milestone in the evolution of bikes”.
Around 40 people were involved in the development of the ‘Marmite’ machine, including several veterans who made up the design team for the UK Sport Institute (UKSI) bike raced to victory time and time again in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
However, this swaggering hulk is a completely new beast and one with big shoes to fill. Most strikingly, the bike features extremely wide, 8cm deep forks and seatstays, with the goal of channelling air more efficiently around the rider’s legs.
“I’d abolish all bikes and make sure that they’re all based on this concept going forwards, though I’m not sure that everybody would agree with me,” British Cycling’s director of technology, Tony Purnell, tells Cycling Weekly.
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BC’s technical director since 2013, Purnell says the initial concept came from searching for a space for creativity within the UCI rulebook.
“We knew we had to create something really special. But the rules were pretty restrictive! There was almost nothing we could do. We realised the only scope [for creativity] was that there were no real width restrictions.”
There is a finite limit, but at 50cm it gave the design group quite a lot of space with which to play. “I did some research, all fundamental stuff, and drew a sketch on the whiteboard. From that sketch, suddenly it all became real. We cobbled a bike together from sawn-up bits of old bikes, and original tests in the wind tunnel looked pretty promising,” Purnell says.
Discussing the design process, Hope design engineer Sam Pendred notes the distinction between the method used to create this bike, and what goes on elsewhere: “You can design a very aerodynamic bike but as soon as you put a rider on it, you create massive problems for yourself. The largest effect on aerodynamics comes from the rider. If you address that issue from the start — turning the question on its head to ‘how can we make the rider more aerodynamic?’ — you design a package.
Read the rest of our feature on the new British track bike in this week’s Cycling Weekly magazine. Available in shops priced £3.25