Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pro Bike Pron: Boardman's Lotus

Recent posts about UCI hour records, bikes designed by car designers and the Chris Hoy book can only mean one thing:- time to recap on the original 'Superbike':- Chris Boardman's Lotus. There's lots of stuff out there on the story of this bike, which isn't my place to elaborate on. All I'd like to say is that for f*cks sake this photo was taken 18 years ago! And what has changed since? Well the UCI banned it and we went backwards. The latest pursuit / TT bikes might be lighter but, despite Cervelo's claims, I'll bet they're still not as aero as this. And even if the P4 is more aero it really cannot compare with the Lotus in terms of elegance and simplicity. This is something that is often poo-poo'ed by cyclists, as if it shouldn't matter what it looks like, it's only how it performs that matters. I'd agree that performance should always be a priority over aesthetics but to me what is truly beautiful is that which combines both form and function. And the Lotus would seem to have been born out of the modernist dictum of form follows function.

Now I would like to further analyse that form a little further. When you look at the bike there are some obvious innovations such as the monoblade deep section fork, the reduction of frontal area at the cost of any notion of comfort, the mounting of the track cog on the outside rather than the inside of the frame, but most of all it's the sweeping lines that define the frame that give the bike it's distinctive profile. And those curves are born from parabolic geommetry defined as per the below:

It's as if Mike Burrows took a look at the work of Frei Otto and thought hey how can we make that work on a bicycle. On that count it must rank as a 'bikesandbuilding' classic. Design is design whatever the discipline. Frei Otto was inspired by nature and wrote a book on the subject that is also very inspiring. Whatever inspired Burrows to come up with the Lotus, it is a truly awesome machine that will remain a classic and an inspiration to all to always try to think outside the box.

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