Giant step for designer of 'superbike': Inventor of gold-medal cycle to work for Taiwanese. Jonathan Theobald reports

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MIKE BURROWS, the inventor of the revolutionary 'superbike' that shattered records in the Barcelona Olympics, is to work for a Taiwanese company.

Mr Burrows has signed a contract with Giant, one of the British cycle industry's main competitors. Machines he will work on will range from mass-production women's shopping bikes to hi-tech racing machines.

He agreed to the deal after becoming disillusioned with British industry. He claims that the car manufacturer, Lotus, which built the bike on which Chris Boardman won a gold medal in Barcelona, has blocked further production while retaining the patent. He also says that he has been ignored by Raleigh, Britain's largest cycle maker.

Giant produces 1.6 million bikes a year in its Taiwan factory, nearly all for export, placing it among the world's top three cycle manufacturers. The company approached Mr Burrows after he built another world record- breaking bike for Graeme Obree, the Scotsman who set a world record last July by riding 51.597km (32m) in an hour.

Mr Burrows, who is self- taught, will operate from his Norfolk base where he has already started work on a bike that he believes can win the Tour de France. He said: 'It's sad that it's not an English company, but having visited Taiwan there's no question that it's the best place for me. Their engineers want to learn and it could be the perfect combination. If I can give Giant the technological edge there'll be no stopping them.'

Tim Buxton, managing director of Giant's UK subsidiary, said: 'We're all very excited. Mike will give us concept engineering. I spent a week with him and learnt more than I have for a long, long time.' He said that Giant's engineers were not cyclists and Mr Burrows would help them to understand their customers needs.

Howard Knight, managing director of Raleigh, which makes 800,000 bikes a year in its Nottingham factory, said: 'It's always unfortunate from a competitive point of view if good ideas go outside Western Europe to be developed in the Far East. But we are committed to innovation and will give Giant and Mr Burrows a good run for their money.'

He added: 'He has not approached us so it was not a matter of our turning him down.'

Lotus has produced a bike, costing more than pounds 3,000, which it says will be available later this month. Patrick Peal, the company's spokesman, said: 'The Olympic bike was designed for pursuit racing for which there's only a tiny market. Our road-going version had to be quite different. That's why Mike Burrows won't get large royalties.'

He said that Lotus had honoured its commitments but Mr Burrows had submitted no invoices.

(Photographs omitted)