With the 2016 Olympic Games kicking off this month in Rio, bike brands are breaking out all manner of special gear, from a Specialized frame that changes color when it gets hot, to an outrageous Smith Overtake helmet and matching glasses, to a left-side drivetrain Felt track bike and much more. Some of these designs are ostensibly for eking out marginal performance gains; others are just to make a big visual splash. Hey, it is Rio, after all.
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Here are a few of the notable just-for-the-Olympic designs we've seen so far.
1. Specialized Torch frames and helmets
The paint treatment was used on the S-Works Amira for Lizzie Armistead, the S-Works Tarmac for Vincenzo Nibali, and the S-Works Epic FSR for Peter Sagan, among other riders. The S-Works Evade aero helmet will also got the Torch treatment for the Specialized-sponsored Olympic riders.
2. Smith x Bicicleta Sem Freio collaboration
Smith partnered with the Brazilian artists Bicicleta Sem Freio for a limited edition package of the Overtake road helmet, Pivlock Arena sunglasses, Lowdown sunglasses and a T-shirt.
Bicicleta Sem Freio (which means “bicycle with no brakes”) is the group name for the artists Douglas Castro, Victor Rocha and Renato Reno, who have painted murals around the world and done work for brands like Nike, Levi’s and Volkswagen.
3. Murilo Fischer personalized artwork
What is cooler than competing in the Olympic Games? How about competing in the Olympic Games in your home country?
FDJ pro rider Murilo Fischer of Brazil celebrated the occasion with Rio-themed artwork on the BBB aero helmet and Gaerne shoes.
4. Scott goes fluoro for Rio
5. Mavic iO/Comete
Mavic’s five-spoke carbon iO track wheel was originally designed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and when paired with the Comete disc has won more track Olympic and world championships than any other wheelset, the company claims.
The iO remained unchanged for 19 years, but for the Rio Games Mavic updated the workhorse to work better with the wider tubulars that are en vogue. (In track cycling, “wider” still only means 21-22mm.) Mavic claims that aerodynamic tweaks improved the wheel for an overall savings of up to 20 watts.
The US track squads will be one of the many teams using the new wheel system.
6. Canyon Olympic paint
Proudly waving the colors of the Brazilian flag, Canyon custom painted Aeroad and Ultimate CF SLX frames for its sponsored athletes in Rio.
In all, there will are 20 athletes from 10 different nations riding Canyon bikes, including top-flight cyclists like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Trixi Worrack (Canyon-SRAM), as well as triathletes like João Pereira and Anne Haug.
7. Felt TA FRD
The Felt Racing Development team pursuit bike (TA FRD) is backwards. Well, not backwards, exactly, but the drivetrain is on the left in hopes of aerodynamic gains for the USA Cycling's women's pursuit team who hope to parlay their current world champ status into Olympic gold.
Why on the left? Over a 4km team pursuit track race, riders will encounter 64 left turns on the oval velodrome, and the right side of their bikes will be traveling ever-so-slightly farther and slightly faster than the left side of their bikes.
The bike also features asymmetrical airfoils, custom Hed wheels that can fit in a narrower fork, and a custom version of Vision's Metron TT crankset with a prototype dual-sided Stages power meter. Oh, and Vittoria tubulars that are claimed to beat any rival in terms of rolling resistance and aerodynamics.
Team Sky has also ridden dual-sided Stages meters, but the company only sells the left-side meter.
“We believe in the single-sided meter’s ability and validity for training cyclists with power,” said Stages marketing manager Matt Pacocha. “Being a part of this project bike, however, presented an opportunity to for us to highlight our carbon technologies on the grandest stage, learn more and continue to test prototype dual-sensor technologies, especially by benefiting from the wealth of expertise that our national team’s best coaches and physiologists bring to the table.”
8. Cervélo T5GB
British Cycling’s track bike, the Cervélo T5GB, was developed in England, with wind-tunnel analysis, stress testing and computer simulation carried out in Oxford, Leicestershire and Nottingham, as well as British Cycling’s Manchester base.
“The intelligence and expertise brought together by the partnership between British Cycling and Cervélo is unparalleled and, in record time, has delivered a bike which we are very excited about as we get closer to Rio," said Tony Purnell, British Cycling’s head of technical development.
9. Giant Olympic edition bikes
Giant dressed up its TCR Advanced SL and Trinity Advanced TT framesets for the Olympics.
Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands placed second in the time trial on his on Wednesday.