Post-Barcelona, Boardman got the usual run of fete openings and guest appearances on Question of Sport. Meanwhile, the bike got a BBC documentary, a why-oh-why-style Times leader, and finally its own travelling exhibition, 'SuperBike', now at the Liverpool Museum. Not bad for a piece of carbon fibre, however high-class and hi- tech. Boardman, himself, opens the touring display this morning, so no hard feelings between man and machine, evidently.
The so-called SuperBike's earliest antecedent hit the practice track in 1984, and was one of those kitchen-table, plucky- lone-British-inventor ideas: part traditional cycle, part one- piece carbon-fibre monocoque frame, part washing-machine. There's a picture of the 16-year- old Boardman holding up the new contraption at the 1985 world championships, but that's about all he could do. Plucky lone invention or not, cycling's ruling body, the UCI, was having none of it.
Some time around this point, its creator, an engineer and cycling fan called Mike Burrows, made what was probably his most important breakthrough. Free-wheeling back to the future, he drew inspiration from the Invincible, a 19th-century two-wheeled warhorse, with a 'monoblade'. For non- velodrones, that means a drag- reducing single front-wheel support, rather than the two forks that keep most wheels from spinning off.
By 1986, a second prototype - with monoblade - was on the road. This time, the UCI decided the frame was two tubes short of a real bicycle frame. Burrows returned to the kitchen table. By 1990 he had refined the concept, and at the end of 1991 the UCI relented, the end of an uphill pedal. Lotus Engineering swept in with wind tunnels and scientists, and just five months later Boardman sailed into history on the finished LotusSport.
You can see the race again (and again) at the exhibition, which also lets you computer- design your own bike, and see some 'superbikes' of the past, like the ill-named Facile safety- model, introduced to counter the Penny Farthing accident rate. The star of the show, though, is undoubtedly that machine. Actors warn against stage-stealing animals and children. Maybe it's time to add bicycles to the list.
'Superbike', in the Science Museum's 'Science Box' series, is at Liverpool Museum, William Brown St, L3 8EN to 18 Sept; then at Newcastle Discovery, Blandford Sq, Newcastle upon Tyne, 22 Sep-13 Nov, and Castle Museum, Norwich, 17 Nov to 14 Jan. Free
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