Carl Lewis speeds off-track to back AIM flotation

Carl Lewis, one of the world's greatest athletes and winner of nine Olympic gold medals, yesterday took a break from the track to launch the flotation of Trialtir, a company which has developed a revolutionary mountain bike used by the sports star.

Mr Lewis likes the new bike so much he indicated he was looking to buy shares in the company when it floats on the AIM market next month. He will receive a royalty on every bike, which retails for US$500 (pounds 310), in return for starring in a world-wide advertising campaign.

Robin Kesner, Trialtir's largest shareholder and its American chief executive, stands to make a paper profit of up to pounds 4m on flotation. She will own 50 per cent of the company which is likely to be valued at around pounds 8m. The directors will also be eligible for a share-option scheme but Trialtir has no plans to make Mr Lewis a director and he will not receive any options.

The mountain bike has a unique dual-action system which means that cyclists can pump their arms up and down as well as pedalling to set the wheels in motion. The cyclist can activate the new action, which drives both wheels, by flicking a switch on the handlebars, making it easier to go up hills or pedal over rough terrain.

Mr Lewis said at a press conference in London: "This is something that could change the way we think about health and fitness. I have had the bike for over a year and use it every day. I use it to take my dog out for a run and the bike goes everywhere; on hills, sand or just the street."

This is the first business venture Mr Lewis has become involved with since announcing his retirement from athletics. On Tuesday he crowned his glittering international career by anchoring a US 4x100m relay team to victory in Berlin, his last European track appearance.

Mr Lewis denied he would be tempted to return to the track against some of the world's current sprinting greats for one last big pay day. "Financially things are fine. The only reason I run is for passion and from my standpoint the passion is no longer there," he said.

He plans to continue his lucrative association with the sportswear giant Nike and is planning to get involved with other entertainment and business opportunities. "I am looking forward to my retirement [next month]. It is like graduating from high school and it is easier as I have had such a great career," he said.

Trialtir raised pounds 160,000 via a private placing earlier this year to develop the bike and plans to raise another pounds 1m on flotation. If the London flotation is successful it is considering a secondary listing on the US Nasdaq market.

The group aims to market the product in the US and Europe on QVC, the home shopping channel and on "infomercials" starring Mr Lewis.

It aims to sell 200,000 bikes a year within two years. The company has published illustrative profit forecasts of pounds 1.875m on sales of pounds 6.5m for the year to September 1998.