Sheffield ‘printed’ handlebars play key part in Team GB Olympic cycling success

Team GB’s track cyclists dominated at the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games, winning six out of the ten medals on offer in the velodrome. The team used super lightweight, aerodynamic stem and handlebars, 3D printed at the Department’s Mercury Centre.

3D printed aerodynamic handlebarMade from titanium, the stem components and handlebars were made for and used by Olympic medal winners Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Jason Kenny, Becky James, Phil Hindes, Katy Marchant, Callum Skinner, Laura Trott and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Sheffield’s Mercury Centre, a research centre within the Department, produced a total of 19 stems and 2 handlebars for Team GB to use during the Men’s and Women’s Individual Sprint, Team Sprint, Keirin, Omnium, and Road Time Trial.

Tony Purnell, Head of Technical Development for British Cycling, approached the Mercury Centre due to its expertise and latest advances in 3D printing, with proven benefits of using the manufacturing process to make custom made components for each individual rider. 

The research centre has been creating world leading scientific research on these processes since 2007, having previously worked closely with British Cycling to produce aerodynamic handlebars for Sir Bradley Wiggins’ One Hour Record success in June 2015.

Using an Acram Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing machine, and 3D CAD (computer-aided design) files, the first component to be produced was a stem, the part which connects the handlebars to the front forks of the bike. An initial demonstrator piece was developed and subjected to rigorous testing to prove it was capable of withstanding the huge loads that track riders can generate.

Once testing was complete, the Mercury Centre, British Cycling and bike manufacturer Cervelo worked together on a rapid succession of design refinement, 3D printing, final assembly and testing.

As well as the success in the velodrome, a more complex set of handlebars were also produced for 3 time Tour de France winner Chris Froome to use on the Road Time Trial event at Rio 2016, helping him to record the 3rd fastest time of the day and win a Bronze medal.

With such rigorous testing, the stem and handlebars, made for every member of the team, were only supplied a few days before the games began. We are immensely proud to have worked with British Cycling on these components.

James Hunt, Business Development and Manufacturing Officer, Mercury Centre