GT Superbike
  • Mike

    Revolutionary? Faster than any other bike? I suppose those things are true if you completely ignore the Lotus Type 108, designed by Mike Burrows in the late 80s but declared illegal by the UCI and abandoned in 1987. The resemblance between this and the much later GT is truly remarkable. A change in official policy allowed Chris Boardman to ride the Lotus to a world record in the 1992 Olympic 4000m pursuit, proving its worth before the Americans had even started their design.

    • James Huang

      “The GT certainly wasn’t the first bike to sport a decidedly unconventional layout (the Lotus 108 preceded it by a substantial margin, for example), but it may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”

    • John Murphy

      Tip, do a basic search of the article before spouting the venom. Ctr + f.

      • James Huang

        Easy there, folks. In fairness, it’s quite a long article and I only made one reference to the Lotus (and near the end, at that). Burrows and the Lotus crew certainly have their place in the history of innovation, and it’s to be expected that someone might get a little upset if they thought that bit was being ignored or forgotten. No offense taken on this end.

        • gbshaun

          The GT was a FAR nicer and faster bike than the Lotus 108. In particular i’d point to the reduced Q factor. The Lotus 108 was excessively stiff, necessary for the monoblade rear. It was great on a smooth track, when you were fresh, and with no crosswind, but was punishing on anything else and quite fatiguing. There were also some horrible design flaws related to the wheel attachments. The 110 was a big improvement, but this GT was a step beyond.

  • Robert Merkel

    Nice bike, but I’m going to stick up for the Lugano charter.

    Without it, track cycling would be like F1, where the bike rather than the rider is the decisive factor.

    The fact that the spirit of those rules are being systematically ignored is a topic for another thread.

    • James Huang

      For the record, I’m not saying that there *should* be a no-holds-barred approach to bicycles used in competition. It’s just interesting to think about what things might be like with a less restrictive design environment.

      • Robert Merkel

        Sorry, it’s a nice article.

        The AIS/RMIT Superbike was a similar bike built at the same time for the same reason – with additional corporate skullduggery thrown into the mix.

        • gbshaun

          I remember when they stole the Lotus 108 I took to Australia in 1993 !

          • Robert Merkel

            That sounds like a tale I’d like to hear told at more length!

    • Wily_Quixote

      I think you’ll find that it is already like f1 where incremental gains in time are being sought – just within a narrow design envelope. The rider is always the decisive factor.

      Aero bikes are just one example where sport bike morphology is being squeezed to fit into design regulations.

      My beef is that the punter could be riding stronger, lighter more comfortable bikes if design was allowed to flourish.

      Despite my other post on this page it is unlikely that real world road bikes would make a completely radical departure from the norm. Mtb bikes still have a diamond frame, even if the rear of the bike articulates with the front and the angles are different. Although I concede that a y-frame might be the new norm given its comfort and aero advantages.

      • Robert Merkel

        Yes, but the current regulations (theoretically) should keep the gains available from tweaking the bike design within bounds.

        You open that up and it’s easy to imagine the F1 situation – where the differences between bikes are greater than the differences between riders.

        Taking it to the extreme, if there were no regulations at all except for “no motors” TT stages would be contested on fully faired recumbents – and put me in one of those and I’ll give Tony Martin a run for his money if he’s on a current TT bike.

        • Wily_Quixote

          I should have specified upright. clearly outright speed is the province of non racing bicycles whose speed is not limited by aerodynamics as much as the upright bike.

      • Paul Jakma

        The UCI only hold regulatory sway over bicycles used in UCI competitions.

        The UCI in no way can stop bicycle manufacturers making the stronger, lighter, more comfortable, more aerodynamic, faster, yada, yada, bicycles you claim could exist for the wider market.

        • Wily_Quixote

          The bike manufacturers sell what punters want to buy which is what pros ride. Which is why mamils ride cervelos.

          • Paul Jakma

            Then blame either bike manufacturers for not daring to be radical, and/or these stupid punters who want to masturbate over technology and demand that cycling as a _human_ competition be ruined to give them wanking material.

            • Wily_Quixote

              well as the UCI is the de facto driver of bike design for the masses I think that i will stick with attributing a fair proportion of the issue to the UCI.
              I do agree that both punters and manufacturers could be more adventurous although as we have seen with MTB, the driver is racing technology.

        • Wily_Quixote

          I’ve commented on pro bike design driving recreational bike design elsewhere.

    • Paul Jakma

      +1 to Robert’s comment. Let cycling be about human performance. Regulate weight and aerodynamics out of competition.

      Note: Bicycle manufacturers can still make and sell light-weight, aerodynamic bicycles to the tech-obsessed MAMILs, if the MAMILs want.

      • awesometown

        Oh boy, can we retire this miserable sort of old timey thought? More technology, more insane frames, more disc brakes and crazy innovation. Stuff your traditional mindset in a sack and throw it off the nearest bridge.

        • Fully-faired recumbents then, awesometown? Why not ditch all the old timey thought and go all the way? Tix to watch these things go around a velodrome would sell like…..uh….coldcakes :-)

          • awesometown

            Sure, if that’s what makes riders go the fastest and look the wildest? Go for it. Don’t be a stick in the muddle old timer. OR do and get back on your lugged steel bike with friction shifting and pedal off into the sunset.

            • In your own nasty, name-calling, obnoxious way, you DO have a point. But my problem is that there already IS a sport like you describe – it’s called MOTOGP. The UCI might suggest you take your ideas there and leave cycling to the “primacy of man over machine.” I certainly would.

              • awesometown

                OH NO MOTOGP who would ever watch that??!?! OH DEAREST me! That would be a terrible fate to have the sport be popular and push the technical limits. What will we do then?

                You’re still not convincing me as to why this is all so bad, all you do is name more popular sports like it’s a bad thing. It’s still going to be manpower vs manpower at the end of the day. If we’re talking about the top tiers of this sport (WT teams with $30million budgets or national track teams) I’m really not so concerned with parity. The best should get the best, should ride the best, and wow us with the best.

                Not sure how that effects the viewer sitting at home on their butt… is your enjoyment of the sport directly linked with the ability to be wistful about “the way they did it in your day?” I don’t think so.

                • I’ve never tried to convince you of anything, just pointing out the flaws in your arguments and posting a different opinion while you engage in juvenile name-calling. I will end this exchange with a suggestion you might actually look into the state of MOTOGP at present – dwindling fan interest, races in places nobody much cares about motos (they share this with pro cycling..can you say World’s in Qatar?) with machines so important that only the guys on factory rides have ANY chance of winning. Oh, and don’t forget all the electronic rider (traction control, etc) aids that most (if not all?) of the racers would like to see banned so they could better showcase their riding skills.
                  So you’re correct — OH NO, I don’t want to see this happen (or get any worse) with pro cycling.!

                  • awesometown

                    Someone has to act immature since this sport is littered with old timers who’d love nothing more than the ban of all technology.

                    No I’ll say good day to YOU, Sir!

    • Agree 100% Not to mention all that technology netted just two silver medals on the track in Atlanta in 1996. One of the great things about cycling (at least for now) is the fact the “primacy of the athlete” prevails over the machinery. The UCI must guard against industry profit-motives pushing cycling in the direction of F1 or MOTOGP unless their goal is to have diminished participation, insane cost increases and dwindling spectator interest.

  • mzungu

    It’s an awesome bike, thanks for the pictures. I remember seeing it when it came out and drooled. Too bad the US did not do too well that year. I guess legs matters more. :-)

    • James Huang

      Ha, they always do! The bike doesn’t exactly hurt, though ;)

    • Cyco

      The USA team refused to use the Superman position that the aero guys found in the wind tunnel (prior to Obree), because they didn’t like it.

      They also had their fastest male rider at nearly 50, against some Europeans who may have had some assistance in increasing their HCT…

  • Wily_Quixote

    Such a shame that cycling design is stuck in the 20th century. I think it’s unlikely that road bicycles would look anything like this if the rules were unfettered but it’s curious to imagine
    what we might be riding.
    Road Bikes in the 1990s were becoming increasingly flowing and organic in design and it’s not hard to postulate what they might of become.
    Perhaps a variant of the trek y-bike or zipp, or a seat-tubeless design like the kestrel, or a suspended truss frame or mtb styled gravel bike.
    But in an sport where a sloping top tube or disc brake is considered radical it’s a slim chance that we will ever see radical innovation in bike design again.

    • Steel

      Isn’t the logical extension to all this being the recumbent, given the bike itself only contributes a 1/3 fraction of drag?

      Of course there’s also nothing stopping anyone from making something more radical for the road if they chose.

      I think the uci have struck a nice balance between retaining the character of the sport while allowing innovation like the trek madone

      • Wily_Quixote

        I should have specified upright otherwise, yes, a recumbent is the obvious vehicle for those seeking efficiency

        • Paul Jakma

          You realise those radical bike designs of the 90s were all about getting the rider less and less upright? Where exactly is the line you draw? And once you’ve accepted some kind of line should be drawn, why not draw it at something shaped like the classic, tried and tested and widely loved safety bicycle?

          • Wily_Quixote

            The y-bike and kestrel had similar geometry to my 10 year old cannondale. The subject of this article is a very specific machine dialed in for aero for a specific race tailored to young flexible riders. So, no, i do not agree.

            If beam bikes were allowed there is no reason why the geometry would be any different to a current pro bike – there are, after all, certain constraints in geometry with any road bike that is not a recumbent.

    • George Darroch

      Check out some of the bikes coming out of triathlon. They’ve learned from the disaster that was the Softride, and are now as stiff, rideable, and practical as the road bikes they replace. In the case of the Ventum, probably more so.

      And Felt (whose R&D director is named above) are producing bikes which fall slightly outside the UCI rules, but benefit from the last twenty years of research on frames and flow. Have a look at their IA series, which is truly beautiful in my opinion.

  • winkybiker

    Great article, James. This and the Lotus are two great bikes. Either would be a feature of any collection. (And Lemond’s Bottechia Chronostrada, which I would sell my house to own.)

    Any idea of the weight? It looks like it would be a bit of a noodle if it wasn’t pretty heavily built. The “thinth” is astonishing. (Notably the NZ track bikes this year used bracing from the bars through to the forks for front-end stiffness for the acceleration phase. That may not have been recognised as so important way back when.)

    I love the tech. With or without the UCI rules, the engineers can get creative.

    • Gavin Adkins

      I remember reading elsewhere that it actually was a bit of a noodle.

  • winkybiker

    I was initially puzzled by the decision to lose the top-tube, given that it is end-on to the wind, hidden behind the head-tube and would seemngly contribute little drag (and would provide benefit in terms of stiffness). But when you think of someone pedaling the bike, with their legs rising and falling alternately, I’d not be surprised if the flow crosses back and forth through that space with each pedal stroke. A top tube might see more wind than is obvious.

    • Lyrebird_Cycles

      I think it might hark to the experience of riders on the Lotus 108, which has no downtube. The lack of torsional rigidity engendered by this made the bike difficult to ride according to Dazza Llewellyn, who was an Australian Team mechanic at the time.

    • Mayhem

      Might also have something to do with the super narrow Q-factor. Without a top tube the rider could perhaps squeeze his knees together a little more, thus getting more aero…?

  • Ghisallo

    May I just say that for whatever it’s merits are, that GT is one of the ugliest bikes I have ever seen? Thank you.

  • Justin

    Very well written article! I’ve always been fascinated with the Project 96 bikes as well as the bikes GT produced for US Cycling before and after it. Google searches yield very little information (as it was understandably secretive). Emails with Dave Tiemeyer yielded the most knowledge but this is outstanding! I actually own a Superbike 3 from 1997 (http://www.pedalroom.com/bike/1997-tiemeyer-built-gt-usa-track-7746) and would love to see more pictures/history about all the bikes that came before and after. Great read, thank you!

  • Carlos Flanders

    What’s ‘infamous’ about the Lugano Charter? “Primacy of man over machine” is very sensible. IHPVA is there if you want to beat Cancellara or Martin – is that flourishing?

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