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Legendary Norwich bike designer reflects on outstanding Olympic success

PUBLISHED: 08:09 18 August 2016 | UPDATED: 14:00 18 August 2016

Bicycle designer Mike Burrows at his workshop in Rackheath, with his Norfolk Gordon bike which is a culmination of all his design ideas. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Bicycle designer Mike Burrows at his workshop in Rackheath, with his Norfolk Gordon bike which is a culmination of all his design ideas. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2016

With every member of the Great Britain track cycling team winning a medal at the Rio Olympic Games, the team’s dominance of the velodrome is undoubted. But Great Britain’s success today can be traced back to the 1992 games when a Norwich bike designer revolutionised the sport.

Great Britain's Laura Trott competes in the Women's Omnium Points Race 6/6 at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on the eleventh day of the Rio Olympics Games, Brazil. Picture date: Tuesday August 16, 2016. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS - Editorial Use Only.Great Britain's Laura Trott competes in the Women's Omnium Points Race 6/6 at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on the eleventh day of the Rio Olympics Games, Brazil. Picture date: Tuesday August 16, 2016. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS - Editorial Use Only.

Mike Burrows, 73, created the iconic Lotus 108 time trial bike on which Chris Boardman won the individual pursuit title in Barcelona, the first gold medal for the British cycling team since 1920.

The track team have gone on to win a staggering 23 gold medals since that historic victory and Burrows said the turn around has been amazing but added that there needs to be more attention on the bikes.

“In my days Britain were hardly invited inside a cycling track so what has happened to British cycling has been quite a turn around,” he said. “It has been amazing but I still don’t know how much it has affected people actually buying bikes.

“You can’t buy the big muscles like Chris Hoy but you can buy a nice shiny bike in Halfords which is why there needs to be more emphasis on the bike as we want to see more people cycling around Norwich.”

Bicycle designer Mike Burrows at his workshop in Rackheath, holding his speed time trial bike he has used locally, which was originally commissioned for a Spanish Once team, and his Norfolk Gordon bike, right, which he has designed as a culmination of all his design ideas. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBicycle designer Mike Burrows at his workshop in Rackheath, holding his speed time trial bike he has used locally, which was originally commissioned for a Spanish Once team, and his Norfolk Gordon bike, right, which he has designed as a culmination of all his design ideas. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Burrows spent seven years as a designer with leading cycle 
manufacturer Giant off the back 
of Boardman’s success but in 2000 
the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, banned his 
monocoque carbon fibre frame bike from the sport.

“Anything that seems to make the bikes better is banned by the UCI,” said Mr Burrows. “There is a negative set of rules which is not allowing progress within the sport and in terms of the bike.

“The bikes are not getting any better and by default are getting worse as all the bikes from every country in Rio have basically been the same.”

Mr Burrows, who has designed 74 bikes during his career, is launching his new book, From Bicycle to Superbike, in Jarrold next month, and said it illustrates exactly what isn’t happening in the sport now.

Graphic showing the Lotus technology which made Chris Boardman's bik a world beater.Graphic showing the Lotus technology which made Chris Boardman's bik a world beater.

“It is the opposite of what is happening in the Olympics now where really the bikes have gone from superbikes and back to bicycles,” he said.

Norfolk’s Games glory

Norfolk tasted a share of success at the 1992 Games when Chris Boardman powered to gold in the 4,000m individual pursuit title in stunning fashion by catching German rival Jens Lehmann in the final.

He became the first British cyclist to win an individual title at the games for 84 years.

Britich cyclist Chris Boardman speeds during his 4km individual pursuit quarter final race at the World Cycling Championships. Date: 15 Aug 1994Britich cyclist Chris Boardman speeds during his 4km individual pursuit quarter final race at the World Cycling Championships. Date: 15 Aug 1994

His bike was Norfolk born and bred with the original concept coming from Mike Burrows which was developed by Lotus Engineering.

Project director Roger Becker said at the time: “We knew the bike was a winner. We have been through very difficult times and this has boosted team morale. The whole thing has snowballed beyond our wildest dreams.”

Boardman went on to set a world hour record on a modified version of the original four years later, managing 56.375km in 60 minutes in Manchester.

Team GB criticised for dominance

Team GB’s dominance on the boards is once again the talk of the Olympic velodrome – and British cycling head coach Iain Dyer, from Taverham, has said offended by veiled accusations levelled at his charges. Their dominance in Rio has led to athletes from a number of nations suggesting that Britain’s behaviour was sinister.

Germany’s Kristina Vogel said: “They were cannon fodder when you look at the last few years. Now they come along with a [high] level. I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything but it is all very questionable.”

Asked if he found the criticism offensive, Dyer said: “If what I am hearing is true, yes, it is It’s a shame. I can only point to the fact you can look at athletes here who are simply not at their best. We’ve won 12 world titles since London 2012. If that makes us cannon fodder coming into the Olympics then so be it.”

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