Four years ago, a collaboration was announced between Swiss bicycle manufacturer, BMC, and Red Bull Advanced Technologies, the high-performance engineering sister business of Formula One's Oracle Red Bull Racing. The project's aim was both simple and unfathomably complex at the same time, and most easily explained by the project's title: "World's Fastest Race Bike".
The aim was to utilise the technology and tools developed by Red Bull's pursuit of Formula One success, combining them with BMC's own expertise in bicycle manufacturing.
Today, the project bears its first fruit, with this prototype time trial bike. As yet, it doesn't officially have a name, although 'Speedmachine' is printed onto the top tube, and it is rideable. In fact, it will be raced by BMC's sponsored triathlete, Patrik Nilsson, at the (COVID-delayed) 2021 Ironman World Championship at St George in Utah this Saturday.
Unfortunately, details on the bike are sparse. Neither BMC nor Red Bull Advanced Technologies have provided any clarity on whether they were successful at making it 'the world's fastest'. There's no benchmark comparisons against existing examples of BMC's best time trial bike, the Timemachine TT, or any data at all, for that matter.
Nonetheless, Red Bull Advanced Technologies Commercial Development Officer, Andy Damerum, believes the result is a potential 'game changer'.
"We’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved with BMC," he explained. "We took our Formula One methodologies in aerodynamics and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and applied it to bike design, resulting in a bike that we believe has the potential to be a game changer."
The only details we can obtain are those we can decipher from the photos.
The fork looks to have adopted a wider leg stance to provide plenty of space for the wind to travel between fork and the wheel. At the top of the fork, the crown is very angular, and appears to match the shape and position of the seat stays behind it. Despite the fork on the brand's existing Timemachine TT running in front of the head tube, the Speedmachine's fork is more traditional in its construction. It also appears to use the hidden dropout design found on the brand's Teammachine SLR.
The frame looks to take the aerodynamic frame design of the brand's Timemachine Road aero bike to the extreme. Where the road bike's bottles and cages are designed to help the wind flow past the frame, the Speedmachine is given what appears to be a removable storage compartment.
The bike can clearly accept a front derailleur, despite the bike being run with a single front chainring on the SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset for these photos.
Formula One's input has clearly extended beyond the construction of the bike, too, with the Red Bull branded carbon wheels being given garish red sidewall colouring, wrapped in with matching limited-edition Pirelli P Zero Race TLR tyres.
Prototype and development
Throughout the four-year development and prototyping journey, real rider input has been key to the project. And there are few more qualified to offer feedback on ride quality and performance than BMC ambassador, Fabian Cancellara, winner of four world time trial championships and two Olympic time trial gold medals, not to mention numerous Tour de France stage wins and monuments victories.
"Two worlds from different sports have come together to create something cycling has never seen before," Cancellara said. "It has been fascinating to be involved in this project from its early stages, to continually test the athlete and machine interface. Being part of the development of a cutting-edge bike, employing some radical principles and being given the chance to influence its performance from a rider perspective has been amazing. The finished prototype is incredible, and I look forward to what’s next.”
Like Cancellara, David Zurcher, CEO of BMC Switzerland also sees this as the start of a longer-term project. "High performance is in both of our DNAs. This prototype really is the first Formula One bike and is sure to greatly impact the future of our racing bikes.”
Zurcher might describe this as the "first Formula One bike," but it's not the first time these two sports have collided. McLaren is perhaps the most intertwined with road cycling, having sponsored Bahrain McLaren (now Bahrain Victorious) in the 2020 season. McLaren's involvement doesn't end there though, as far back as 2011, the brand collaborated with Specialized on the S-Works McLaren Venge.
More recently, Valtteri Bottas, who spent four years driving for Mercedes before a 2022 switch to Alfa Romeo, helped launch the N-Plus Velo13 Mercedes AMG F1 aero road bike, complete in his team's colours.
As yet, the bike hasn't been given official approval status by the UCI, nor has BMC given any clues as to whether this is even an aim for the bike. However, the design of the frame appears relatively constrained in comparison to some pure time trial frames such as the Felt IS 2.0.
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Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.
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