Why are some British riders on blacked out bikes at the Rio Olympics?

Why didn't Elinor Barker or Phil Hindes use Cervelo bikes on the opening evening of track cycling at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games?

Two of Great Britain’s riders were spotted using blacked out bikes at the Rio velodrome on the opening night of competition, which saw GB win their first gold medal and qualify fastest in both men’s and women’s team pursuit competitions.

Amidst chatter around the team’s new super-fast skinsuits and new wheels, these bikes weren’t secret new machines but in fact the UKSI (UK Sports Institute) bikes that the riders used with such success in London 2012.

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Elinor Barker, who set a new world record in the women’s team pursuit with Laura Trott, Katie Archibald and Joanna Rowsell-Shand, was understood to be using her UKSI bike because she rides with her knees close together.

The UKSI top tube is lower and thinner than that of the Cervelo T5GB, the frame specially developed by Great Britain and the Canadian bike company for the Rio Games and updated a few weeks before competition began.

Team GB on their way to a world record time in the qualifying round of the 2016 Olympic team pursuit (Watson)

Elinor Barker leads Great Britain to a team pursuit world record… on a UKSI bike (Watson)

Phil Hindes was also using his UKSI machine from London. However, amidst claims of flexing in a MKI Cervelo machine ahead of the Games, this is believed to be more a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

Hindes, who has only ever ridden his UKSI bike in competition, eschewed the reported aerodynamic benefits of the Cervelo in favour of what he knows best.

It clearly worked; the 23 year-old led Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner to Britain’s first cycling gold of the Games with an opening lap of just over 17 seconds on a 100 inch gear.

GB’s brand new skinsuits and aerodynamic socks would have made more of a difference to Hindes; the drag of the rider’s body accounts for around 80 per cent of the total drag on the track.

The UKSI bike was first developed in 2002 by Greek former track sprinter and aerodynamic engineering wizard Dimitris Katsanis.

Continually modified and developed in the 14 years since then, it has been the bike that has led Great Britain to its unprecedented success both on the road and on the track.

Olympians’ first memories

Great Britain’s team pursuit men all rode the new Cervelo T5GB on their way to qualifying fastest ahead of Friday evening’s first round and final.

In accordance with UCI regulations all bikes are technically available to purchase; however, with no price tag and an open-ended lead time, don’t go planning your next season of PBs around getting your hand on one.