Meet the Cycling Ergometer propelling British Cycling to Olympic gold

BAE Systems-developed static bike said to replicate forces of velodrome riding

British Cycling have called in the defence technology chaps at BAE Systems to develop a new static bike that will propel the country’s elite athletes to cycling gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics and beyond.

The new “ergometer”, as it’s being called, is said to be capable of replicating the inertial forces of a velodrome more accurately than any other testing tool. We're currently checking how it does this, and will update the story as soon as we hear back.

Of course, it also measures the work-rate and energy expended by cyclists, and the vital data collected includes gas and blood analysis. It also enables testing at high speeds to analyse an athlete’s technique.

Industrial looks

It looks quite industrial, but has a neat party trick – replicating centrifugal forces: it looks quite industrial, but has a neat party trick – replicating centrifugal forces
It looks quite industrial, but has a neat party trick – replicating centrifugal forces: it looks quite industrial, but has a neat party trick – replicating centrifugal forces

Looking quite “industrial”, with more welded metal and less rounded plastic on show than say the Wattbike, which was developed back in 2008 for British Cycling ahead of the Beijing Olympics, the new Cycling Ergometer has apparently already helped track stars like Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins power to gold.

Related: Wattbike indoor trainer review

“We take great pride in supporting UK Sport and apply the same problem-solving principles and ingenuity to challenges in sport as we do to tackling complex defence and security programmes,” said Henry White from BAE Systems. 

“The cycling ergometer is a unique system which we hope will boost the success of the British Cycling team and is one of a number of projects on which we are working this year with UK Sport.”

The details

There's a large variable fly wheel at its rear, with blades that can be adjusted to increase or decrease resistance on the pedals : there's a large variable fly wheel at its rear, with blades that can be adjusted to increase or decrease resistance on the pedals
There's a large variable fly wheel at its rear, with blades that can be adjusted to increase or decrease resistance on the pedals : there's a large variable fly wheel at its rear, with blades that can be adjusted to increase or decrease resistance on the pedals

The Cycling Ergometer houses a large variable fly wheel at its rear, with blades that can be adjusted to increase or decrease resistance on the pedals, mimic different gear ratios with incredible accuracy and generate forces for the cyclist based on their individual load and the track on which they are riding. 

The system was also designed to be easily portable, so it can be used in a laboratory to ensure the data captured is more accurate.

“Every performance on the world stage requires elite athletes to be at their best,” said Paul Barratt, Lead Biomechanist for Great Britain’s Cycling Team. “Highly accurate testing tools such as the cycling ergometer help to ensure athletes are performing at their most competitive. 

“BAE Systems has created a portable and accurate system that we believe will be integral to the teams’ training regimes and will help us to achieve our medal winning target at the Rio Games.”

British cycling's ergometer
Jamie Beach

Deputy Editor, UK
Jamie's been addicted to bikes from the moment his stabilisers came off. Earliest cycling memory is the chipboard-ramp-on-bricks, but happiest one is bombing down a Mallorcan mountain pass that seemed it might never end. Always on the hunt for the perfect rain jacket, a keen collector of hats.
  • Discipline: Road, gravel
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains with long climbs, equally long and fast descents, the chance to get above the treeline.
  • Current Bikes: Genesis Croix de Fer, Brompton M3L
  • Dream Bike: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Moots Routt
  • Beer of Choice: Augustiner
  • Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

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