Main image credit: Design Museum
Chris Boardman set a world record for the 4,000m individual pursuit at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics on the revolutionary Lotus Type 108. Designed by Norfolk-based Mike Burrows, the Type 108 was then modified and perfected through wind tunnel testing conducted by the Lotus aerodynamics specialist Richard Hill.
The frame of the Type 108, also known as the LotusSport Pursuit Bicycle, is a carbon composite monocoque that uses advanced aerofoil cross-sections, with the frame itself acting as a ‘wing sail’.
Boardman caught World Champion Jens Lehmann in the final of the 1992 Olympics, having already set a world record of 4 minutes 24.496 seconds in the quarter-finals on the cutting-edge aero frame.
A total of 15 Type 108s were built, including one prototype in 1991 and three frames for use in the Olympic Games.
The road-going version was the Lotus 110, on which Boardman rode to victory in 1994’s Tour de France prologue to clinch the yellow jersey. Here’s our review on the Lotus 110: The Story of a Bike book, if you’re interested in learning about the bike’s fascinating backstory.
“Boardman’s famous ‘Superman’ riding position was about creating an airflow channel between the rider and the bike frame, minimising interactions,” explains Lotus’ chief aerodynamicist Hill.
However this monocoque design was banned in professional cycling following the UCI’s Lugano Charter of 1996, and so with the updated regulations, Lotus has since shifted its focus towards getting the rider and the bike to positively interact with each other with its new track bike developed for this year’s Team GB riders.
“In this way they can benefit each other and cause each to lower the drag of the other,” explains Hill. “We achieve that by careful manipulation of the interference between the two.”
Hill was heavily involved in optimising the aerodynamic performance of the new Lotus Olympic track bike the Team GB riders are using in Tokyo at the Izu Velodrome this upcoming week.
Hill explained how aerodynamics have moved on in the years since he worked on the Type 108 in an interview on Lotus’ site: “Back then it was simply about developing an aerodynamic bike that would go fast.
“But really there are two separate elements – the bike and the rider – which come together as one to move through the air. That was the approach we took with the new bike.
“Put simply, since 1992 we have learned how to use the bike’s design to make the rider more aerodynamic, and also vice-versa.
“What’s improved is our understanding of how to get a bike and its rider round the track together in the fastest possible time.”
Find out more about over here about Team GB’s Tokyo Olympic track bike manufactured jointly by Lotus and Hope Technology, with Renishaw contributing 3D printed titanium parts.