While there have been plenty of great cycling innovations, there have been some stinkers too. Here's our pick of the five worst inventions ever to grace the world of cycling.

1. Steve Bauer’s Eddy Merckx Stealth bike

There was a reason that Bauer's bike only saw a handful of outings (Photo: Watson)

There was a reason that Bauer’s bike only saw a handful of outings (Photo: Watson)

The rigours of Paris-Roubaix requires some pretty special equipment, but Steve Bauer took things a step further in 1993, riding a radically designed bike that would take the sting out of the infamous pavé.

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With a 60º seat tube angle, a whopping 109cm wheelbase and Rock Shox suspension fork, the super-comfortable bike was a dream to ride over rough surfaces, but the bad news for Bauer was that with four fifths of Paris-Roubaix made up of normal tarmac, it was a bit rubbish for the rest of the race, and the Canadian would eventually finish in 21st position.

2. Spinergy Rev-X wheels

Mario Cipollini was one of many pros to adopt Spinergy wheels (Photo: Watson)

Mario Cipollini was one of many pros to adopt Spinergy wheels (Photo: Watson)

The 1990s were heady days for the bicycle designers. Nothing was off-limits, so this was clearly the one point in history where something like the Spinergy Rev-X wheels could emerge. With eight carbon-bladed spokes they were certainly aerodynamic, and saw much use in the contemporary pro peloton.

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However there were two drawbacks. Firstly, despite being aerodynamic, they weren’t actually that good, being both flexy and weighty. A bigger issue though, was that they could be seriously dangerous. Not only were the carbon spokes liable to cracking, but having their sharp edges flying through the air was always a recipe for disaster. In fact, they were eventually banned by the UCI, reportedly after a rabbit was killed in a cyclocross race and Paolo Bettini cut his hand in a crash.


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3. Shimano Biopace chainrings

Shimano had the right idea, just the wrong way round (Photo: Moto Miwa, Flickr)

Shimano had the right idea, just the wrong way round (Photo: Moto Miwa, Flickr)

Non-round rings have enjoyed significant success in recent years, with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome both buying into the thinking that the rings help to extend the amount of time a rider spends in the power phase of the pedal stroke, thus helping you ride faster for the same amount of power input. But despite this, there’s still considerable debate about whether products such as Q-Rings and Osymetric rings actually work.

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However, one product that didn’t work was Shimano’s Biopace chainrings, which had a similar design, but with the chainrings rotated to a different angle. In effect this meant that the time spent at the dead spots of the pedals strokes was increased, and the time spent putting down power was decreased: far from ideal.

4. Cinelli Spinaci bar extensions

Spinaci bars saw use by climbers such as Claudio Chiapucci (Photo: Watson)

Spinaci bars saw use by climbers such as Claudio Chiapucci (Photo: Watson)

In and of themselves, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Cinelli’s Spinaci bar extensions. Set up correctly they were essentially a more comfortable version of time trial bar extensions, designed to give a more aerodynamic position but without discomfort over long hours in the saddle.

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What made the Spinaci’s not only ineffective but also pretty dangerous was the way they were used and set up. During their time in the pro peloton, many riders either had them set up too low, meaning a loss of power, or too high, negating any aerodynamic advantage, while having 200-odd riders racing at high speed without having quick access to the brake levers was always going to be a recipe for disaster. No wonder the UCI would eventually ban them in 1997.

5. Mavic Mektronic wireless shifting

Chris Boardman used Mektronic's wired predecessor on his time trial bikes, but never made the jump to wireless (Photo: Watson)

Chris Boardman used Mektronic’s wired predecessor on his time trial bikes, but never made the jump to wireless (Photo: Watson)

With the fanfare that accompanied the launch of the wireless SRAM Red eTap groupset earlier this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was the first wireless groupset the world had ever seen.  But in fact it was way back in 1999 that the first such system was launched, the Mavic Mektronic groupset.

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Despite being highly innovative, there were a number of reasons that the system didn’t take off. Firstly the wireless shifting only applied to the rear derailleur, with the mechanical shifting of the front derailleur clunky at best. The shifters were also incredibly ugly and the shifting could also be sluggish, and, because the system worked using radiowaves, could be disrupted whenever you rode near a broadcast tower, giving the rear derailleur a mind of its own.

  • Dharma Dog

    You forgot the Campag SGR pedals. Way too heavy, clunky, no way to get the foot out quickly. But at least they stayed in one position until you clipped in, then they spun freely. Probably the worst component Campagnolo ever made!

  • llos25

    With experience since the mid 50s I would say that bottom brackets have improved no end the latest press units are superb and if you have the correct tools an absolute doddle to fit.

  • Bob Vitray

    When I worked at Romic we bought chain in bulk on rolls.

  • Sandra Kees

    super bike!

  • These weren’t on the list. The Adidas pedals. Totally locked your foot in the pedal. No float.

    http://velobase.com/ViewComponent.aspx?ID=320eab0a-fde8-4776-b6e0-759c91aef788&Enum=109

  • http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/19

    I still have my Spinacci on my bike (Colnago titanium 1997). I don’t race anymore, so I can keep them – and I’m glad.

  • TimothyHolmes

    Nice piece, Henry.

  • Andy

    That would have made them terrible in croswinds. They were probably bad enough as they are.

  • Seabeast

    This list only includes thing made for professional racers, but there were a lot of really daft things made for cycling in general, especially in the 80s.
    I don’t see any mention of Aerolite pedals, the kind that were just a cylinder with a cleat that snapped over it and was nearly impossible to walk on. Amazingly, they are still made.
    I had a pair back in the 80s when they first came out. My feet tended to slide off sideways on hard efforts, so I’d have to remove the foot and get back onto them again mid-ride. Not such a good feature in the middle of a track event! They really were the lightest clipless pedals ever, but very frustrating to use. I think I gave up after a few months.

  • GoatHerd

    The spinachi’s were reborn as draft-legal tri-bars. And they work very well! Not all olympic-distance atheletes use them but some do!

  • AB

    Pretty sure the writer is wrong about point 3 – Shimano Biopace not working. Even Sheldon Brown advocated them: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/biopace.html

  • Jdog

    And technically SRAM’s eTap also uses radio waves. Just a digitally encoded signal, probably at a different frequency band to the Mavic system.

    Interesting article on Zap and Mektronic here http://pelotonmagazine.com/pages/from-inside-peloton-mavic-zap/, if you can forgive the break/brake spellings 🙂

  • Geoff Smith

    I did over 150.000 kms on a pair of Spinergy’s race, train and touring..I changed the Shimano cassette carrier twice then sold them on eBay for £200…great wheels. Geoff

  • Matt Burt
  • Matt Burt

    I’ve seen Spingery wheels on an old Trek Y bike not that long ago. My eyes!!!

  • John Westwell

    Michele Bartoli was supposed to have been injured by a Spinergy wheel in early 1999 – as I recall, it was a nasty cut in the kneecap area. He never really got back to his best after that.

  • harvey jones

    now i feel like I’m a bit of a saddo haha. Since this article I’ve been looking at spinaci bars on ebay and wondering about getting some 🙂

  • blair houghton
  • Nigel Rue

    I just love it when guys like you two come out with snippets of information like this. I may never need to use them, but if I do it’ll save so much hassle. Thanks guys.

  • harvey jones

    Never knew that, ah well I am happy with the shift mate anyway.

  • FT Davidsson

    you can just use Campy spacers with a Shimano cassette and it works flawlessly. Miche makes the spacers.

  • Nigel Rue

    The Spinergy’s are actually eight spoke, four each side. Perhaps if the two sides had been phased 45 degrees apart they wouldn’t have flexed as much?

  • harvey jones

    I’d still like some Spinaci bars, not in a group but for occasionally tackling a segment in a more tucked position. Fair enough in the peleton they were not a good idea.
    Spinergy wheels always seemed ok to me, hurting a rabbit? I have Campagnolo Zonda wheels and at 28 mph they decapitated a rabbit when I was on a training ride. At the time I recall the concern was they could be more damaging to other riders in a crash situation, maybe.
    As for Biopace I had those and had knee trouble which cleared pretty much straight away when I swapped out the chainrings for round ones.
    My favourite simple little gadget that will never make it into the peleton is my Shiftmate adaptor that lets me use Campagnolo shifters with Shimano gears, just looks like a washer but suddenly shifts like a dream.

  • Neilo

    Mavic gears in general were a nightmare though. I never understood how Kelly managed to win anything with them.

  • Tony Short

    The Bauer bike shouldn’t be on this list. If someone can come 21st in one of the World’s toughest tests of man and machine on a a prototype bike with no factory support then in my mind it’s something to celebrate. That said, it is f*ck ugly.

  • David Bassett

    I have a pair of the MTB wheels on a bike pre suspension and they have had some huge hits and till run true

  • rominger

    Mavic mektronic was 1992 or 1993, nearly cost Rominger a Vuelta. Still pretty good when you consider the age and how long it took other companies to innovate and improve

  • SeanMcCuen

    nah.

  • Thanks for the info. I’ve always wondered about that bike. I heard Eddy didn’t want his name on it and it took two chains to complete the drivetrain.

  • Sheik Urbooti

    My Rev-X Xtra-lite’s are still rolling perfectly fine, fifteen or so years and tens of thousands of miles later, thank you very much. Sure, there are always far better wheels nowadays but like most others on this “list,” they deserve special recognition for their audacity and innovation in their heydays and their contributions to this otherwise extremely conservative and slow-to-innovate industry. And I’m speaking as someone in this industry. Refinement of ideas always come from extensive trial and error, so instead of dissing everything here, they deserve a place in the cycling hall of fame as pioneers.

  • PMP cranks – ah who could forget them!

  • Hugh Strickland

    Left out press in Bottom brackets. Worst ever.

  • Mark Penrice

    Those 4-spoke wheels… oh dear. Pretty certain there’s a reason you don’t usually see car wheels with less than five, and the few with three are quite chunky and obviously reinforced, like Boardman’s setup pictured above (don’t know if I’ve even SEEN 4-spoke automotive ones – even 3’s are actually better balanced, load-wise)… You can probably figure out it’s a bad idea in terms of load spreading and suchlike just by building some kitchen-table models, but those actually made it into production… It’s not really surprising they ended up snapping.

    As for the Stealth Bike, they didn’t think that through enough I reckon. Make the changes a little less extreme in order to improve the going on the rough stuff, but not as compromised on the smooth… and make it so the suspension can be locked off most of the time in order to give better handling and power transmission, but unlocked to absorb the bumps when needed. Wouldn’t that be a winning combination? Sports cars often feature adaptive damping these days, after all, and even my own happy crappy utility motorbike, which before the days of Chinese imports was the cheapest 125 you could buy, still has adjustable rear shocks to give the choice of comfort on rough roads when lightly loaded by reducing the damping force, or better handling on smooth roads / increased load capacity by increasing it (ie less movement for the same shock, moving it closer to being “locked”). The first case making it easier to go fast when the surface is bumpy, the latter making it easier to go fast with better economy and remain in control more easily on smooth surfaces.

  • deAuxerre

    That Merckx bike should not be the list; it was a one-off custom experiemnt, and not a widely-available commercial product. Was designed by the brother of Noël Dejonckheere (DS BMC Racing). Bauer only used it in 2 early-season races in 1993:

    In Ghent-Wevelgem, he found it descended well in the wet conditions, seated climbed was hugely powerful (especially with the curved saddle), but out of saddle climbing suffered, and he finished in the bunch sprint (won by Cipollini). A few days later, he tried it in Paris-Roubaix (he finished 23rd), but being a compact rider, found that he sat too low in the bunch.

    Many other custom bikes designed for specific races (such as Paris-Roubaix), broke, failed and abandoned.

  • Nigel Rue

    Oh dear, one of my bikes has Spinaci bars, another has 3&5 spoke carbon wheels.

  • Ed

    Surprised you didn’t include the cranks with a right angle bend in them. Used by Ian Cammish.