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Cycling – On the way to Paris, a new bicycle set to keep the British on their feet

Cycling – On the way to Paris, a new bicycle set to keep the British on their feet

The old adage that a worker is only as good as his tools could be applied to the world of elite track cycling, where Olympic medals are often decided in split seconds. So delivering a bike that can maintain Britain’s decade-long dominance of the velodrome at the Paris Olympics is a process that takes up many of Oliver Caddy’s waking hours.

Caddy is the chief project engineer for British Cycling and his job has been to put together the puzzle of components that make up the recently unveiled Hope Lotus Paris bike – a machine that has pushed the boundaries of two-wheeled design. “It’s in my DNA,” Caddy, a former competitive racer who joined British Cycling’s so-called Secret Squirrels Club nine years ago, told Reuters. “I’ve been cycling for as long as I can remember, or taking them apart and putting them in my mom’s dishwasher. A combination of Lego and cycling got me where I am today.”

The Paris bike is once again a collaboration between British Cycling’s in-house developers and top British engineers, including Lotus Engineering, Renishaw and Hope Technology, who built the frame. Although to the untrained eye the space-age black bike looks like the one used in Tokyo, where Britain once again topped the track cycling medal list – there are modifications including Renishaw’s 3D-printed titanium pedal cranks, a split seatpost and serrated front forks developed by Lotus and British Cycling.

The carbon fiber frame, manufactured by Hope in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, features a number of other modifications. According to Caddy, the mission is to achieve aerodynamic harmony between bike and rider.

“We stopped thinking about just the bike or just the rider alone a while ago,” Caddy said. “We think the future of bicycle development lies in bringing the bike and the rider together in one system. We adapt the contact points of the bike to make everything as ergonomic as possible, so that the rider concentrates purely on his power and comfort is.” It is possible to be on the bike at those speeds and feel comfortable, then we want that to happen.”

Caddy says ‘new bike day’ is exciting after all the hours of development, adjustments and the endless talk of ‘cranks, cranks, cranks.’ It’s also a worrying day for developers – the shorter period between the postponed Tokyo Games and Paris means the new version was developed in a short time. “If you deliver the bikes at the last minute, you have to be sure the riders will be happy,” Caddy said. “They will certainly have our feet above the fire because they have not fulfilled our promises.”

Caddy admits that the Tokyo bike with its trademark wide forks wasn’t to everyone’s taste – he called the radical design Marmite aesthetic. But he knew it was fast. The Paris version, he says, is evolution and not revolution.

“You have to be careful not to mess with it too much,” he said. “It’s like a child drawing a picture and adding pieces and eventually losing what he had.” Safety comes first, because components such as the cranks have to withstand enormous torques during sprints.

“It’s like three sprinters all on the pedal at the same time,” he said. “When you see it, when you see it happen with the sling, you shudder, it’s quite violent.” It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay ahead in the cycling race as other countries step up their game. Caddy says a lot of the low-hanging fruit in terms of profits is gone.

“We’re not in the lower branches anymore. But there are still ideas and it’s about refinement and I think the LA Games will be exciting in terms of development,” Caddy said. “But there is still fruit on the tree and if it is there, we will definitely find it.”

International Cycling Federation rules state that all Olympic equipment must be homologated and commercially available one year after the Games. The Hope HBT Paris frame is available for a whopping 25,000 pounds ($31,222) and no, Caddy doesn’t have its own frame. “I have thirty, but I have to give them all away,” he said. “Maybe I’ll 3D print a mini.”

($1 = 0.8007 pounds)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)