Bradley Wiggins’ handlebars 3D printed by Sheffield’s Mercury Centre

Made from titanium, the handlebars were produced using 3D printing, or additive layer manufacturing, because of the ability to produce intricate designs that could continue to be adjusted right up until the final practice stages of the event.

Sir Bradley will be making the Hour Record attempt, which measures the furthest distance a rider can cycle within an hour, at London’s Lee Valley Velopark. The record is currently held by British cyclist Alex Dowsett, who set a new target of 52.937 km just a few weeks ago.

Pinarello Bolide HR, the bicycle that Sir Bradley will be using, is the track version of the Bolide, the time trial bike that has achieved many victories in recent years, including the World Championship in Ponferrada 2014 with Sir Bradley. It has been designed by Pinarello Lab, the technical department of Pinarello, which also sponsors Sir Bradley’s team. The chief designer is long-time British Cycling aerodynamics and composites expert, Dimitris Katsanis.

Although the rest of the bike is made from carbon fibre, there was a need to produce handlebars perfectly tailored to Sir Bradley’s body size and cycling style. In order to do that a number of design variations had to be produced and tested in a very short timeframe, something that would be difficult to achieve in carbon fibre. The same product will be available for purchasing through MOST, Pinarello’s own brand of handlebars and accessories.

Pinarello Lab approached Sheffield’s Mercury Centre, a research institute within the University’s Faculty of Engineering, that works closely with industry to facilitate the use of new processes such as 3D printing. The research group at the Centre have been creating world leading scientific research on these processes since 2007 and have worked closely with Formula 1 teams and aerospace companies in the past, so were the perfect partner for this world record attempt.

James Hunt, research associate at the Mercury Centre, says: “The key is to manage the airflow around the bike so the different components of the bike disrupt that flow as little as possible. Because the handlebars hit the airflow first it’s absolutely critical to perfect that part of the design – 3D printing allows us to make shapes that optimise this aspect that would be very hard to achieve using other manufacturing techniques.”

Using an Arcam Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing machine, the designers were able to make subtle corrections swiftly and without needing to create new moulds to form each piece, giving enough time for the parts to be tested rigorously and adjustments to be made ahead of the record attempt.

Dimitris Katsanis, chief designer in Pinarello Lab, says: “Bolide HR is the most aerodynamic bike in the world. When it came to the handlebars, we needed them to be as good in terms of aerodynamics, but we also needed them to be a perfect fit for the rider. We’ve already seen our design working well in trials and Sir Bradley is cycling faster than ever.”