Why are the GB pursuit squad not wearing socks?

Bradley Wiggins and the rest of the team pursuit squad rode to victory at the European Track Championships in Switzerland not wearing socks

Great Britain in the 2015 European Track Championships
(Image credit: Watson)

The British quartet of Bradley Wiggins, Andy Tennant, Jon Dibben and Owain Doull rode around the 250m track 16 times in an impressive in 3-55.243 to not only beat the Swiss team but also make a statement ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

It wasn't just a statement of intent, there was also a somewhat controversial fashion statement…. they won without wearing socks.

The English pursuit team were also spotted sockless at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The question is why? Fashion statement? Aerodynamic advantage? Or mind games?

Bradley Wiggins, Commonwealth Games 2014, track day one, afternoon

Bradley Wiggins at the Commonwealth Games 2014 without socks (Photo: Jones)

UCI rules

At the end of 2012 the UCI banned the use of overshoes at indoor track events on the basis that their purpose was purely aerodynamic and not safety related. Likewise, in competition socks are only allowed to be up to the mid-calf.

No socks

European Track Championships - Day 2

The pursuit team all rode without socks at the European Track Championships (Photo: Watson)

As the GB team went without, the majority of the other teams at the track European Championships wore standard socks. Aerodynamics expert Xavier Disley of Aero Coach Ltd told Cycling Weekly that choosing to ride without socks is not a terrible decision from an aerodynamic perspective but there are faster options out there.

Watch: How much faster does a skinsuit make you?

“Bare legs are faster than normal socks but not faster than the special ones Wiggins had on [for the Hour Record]," Disley said.

"Ideally socks would be made out of material similar to that of skinsuits. Normal socks tend to be made of cotton, are thicker, have ridges and a hem which all create drag."

>>> The tech behind Wiggins's Hour Record success

Aero socks

In his Hour Record ride, somewhat under the radar, Wiggins wore special mid-calf length socks.


Wiggins's mid-calf high socks had integrated chevrons

Not only did the socks have a rear zip but they also had integrated chevrons which in theory, make the air stick to the lower leg for longer which therefore reduces drag and saves watts.

The higher the chevrons go up the leg the greater the aerodynamic benefit, as long as they are positioned correctly.

>>> Why leaving hair on your legs could make you go faster


The socks also had a rear zip

Mind games

In the period between Olympic Games much of the high end tech goes into hiding until the main event.

Since races can be won by a fraction of a second, keeping any technical advances secret is paramount. It was even reported after the British team's success at Beijing in 2008 that the special skinsuits were shredded to prevent the technology falling into opposition hands.

>>> Nairo Quintana's innovative new skinsuit from Endura 

British Cycling's fabled 'Secret Squirrel Club' is undoubtedly leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to ensure the British team is as fast as possible come Rio. It could be that a special aerodynamic sock is on the horizon just in time for the summer of 2016.

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