Team GB really are reinventing the wheel with new design forming a perfect circle for the first time
- Great Britain’s wheels will be particularly round when the cycling gets underway
- They have made them ‘in one’ from a single continuous piece of carbon
- This is instead of gluing together two discs and the rim as they did before
The bad news for the rest of the world? Great Britain’s wheels are particularly round. Just wait until the French find out.
During Team GB’s stunning success at the velodrome at London 2012, France’s team boss accused them of skulduggery and L’Equipe questioned if they had ‘magic’ wheels. British Cycling chief Dave Brailsford then fuelled the fire by joking that they were indeed ‘specially round’.
This time though, Team GB really have reinvented the wheel. For the first time, they have made them ‘in one’ from a single continuous piece of carbon, rather than gluing together two discs and the rim. The primary objective was to shed the weight of the adhesive, which could be up to 100g. But the knock-on effect has been to form a perfect circle.
Design engineer Sam Pendred poses with the bike made by Hope Cycles for Team GB
‘When you are bonding bits together, it can be in slightly the wrong place,’ explains Sam Pendred, design engineer at the British bike’s manufacturer Hope. ‘Because we’ve managed to make that whole rear disc wheel in one go, we’ve taken out a lot of complexity and a lot of chance for error – so the wheels are as round as they are going to get.’
The Lotus x Hope HB.T – a collaboration between the two British engineering and manufacturing firms – was actually released in October 2019. But it has only been used by a couple of riders in one-off races since then, such is Team GB’s desire to keep its benefits under wraps until the track cycling at Tokyo 2020 gets underway on Monday.
The most radical part of its design is its wide forks and seatstays, designed so air can deflect around the rider’s legs. Asked if it will be the best bike on show at the Izu Velodrome, Ian Weatherill, the Hope managing director is unequivocal. ‘It is,’ he says. How can he be so certain? ‘It is the concept of the aerodynamics on it.
‘In the past, bikes have been designed as a bike, not a bike and rider. We are the first company to work with British Cycling on the concept of bike and rider combined.
Pendred showed Sportsmail’s David Coverdale around the bike a few weeks before Tokyo
‘It may be psychological, but one of the test riders said that when you are riding it, you don’t feel the wind on your legs.
‘British Cycling have gained all over the place, with a combination of skinsuits and helmets, and the bike is a chunk of that. They are hoping they can just edge ahead of everybody else.
‘If a rider feels as though they’ve had the best anyone can do for them and it also looks fantastic, it makes them feel better. It makes all the difference thinking they are on something special.’
Hope executive Robin Godden adds: ‘Part of the bike looking different is that on the startline, opponents will look at it and think, “That bike is better than mine”. The fact it’s different and it’s not been used, it kind of gets in the other riders’ heads.’
The bike has received rave reviews from Team GB riders since they started using it in training before they travelled to Tokyo, with Jason Kenny saying it ‘hits the nail on the head’ as he goes in search of his record seventh gold medal.
‘The riders have sent us messages thanking us,’ reveals Weatherill. ‘Jason and Laura Kenny sent us a lovely little video for us to show the staff here.
‘Laura was asking for another bike! Nice gestures like that shows their mentality and it lifted everyone here.’
Weatherill estimates Hope have spent about £1million developing and making the 40 bikes which will shipped to Tokyo to be used by Team GB’s 16-strong track squad.
Under new regulations set by cycling’s governing body, UCI, the bike is actually available for the public to buy, although it will set punters back £15,000 to £25,000.
‘We will never get our money back from selling the bikes,’ adds Weatherill. ‘But it just give us a good feeling to support British Cycling and hopefully help them win some medals.’