HEERENVEEN, Netherlands (Reuters) - Dutch cycle maker Koga Miyata is betting that its $1-million bike will help cyclist Theo Bos land a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics after he narrowly missed out in Athens four years ago.
“I was there in Athens, I saw Theo Bos and I thought there was room for improvement,” Wouter Jager, Koga’s managing director, told Reuters.
“I guaranteed we would make him the best frame in the world. It would be tailor-made to win a gold medal in Beijing.”
Koga, a high-end bike maker in the north of the Netherlands which assembles its bikes by hand and sells them for an average of 1,300 euros ($2,023), spent the next three-and-a-half years developing a revolutionary frame for Bos.
Bos, silver medalist in the sprint in Athens, won bronze in the team sprint in the track world championships in Manchester in March and is seen as one of the Netherlands’ brightest hopes for gold in Beijing in August.
Koga enlisted experts in the aerodynamics and carbon technology sectors, including several who had worked on the Ariane-5 space rocket and the Joint Strike Fighter project.
The company, which had initially budgeted $100,000, saw costs soar to around $1 million as it tested various materials, made numerous moulds and conducted multiple trials.
“I knew it was difficult but not that so much would be involved,” said Jager.
The result is a racing bike with a sleek, aerodynamic look.
Named Kimera after Chimera, the part-lion, part-goat and part-serpent Greek mythological creature, the bike has an inverted handlebar shaped like a charging ram. It has a jutting saddle, a front wheel with just four thick spokes and a solid back wheel.
Koga says it has the lowest air resistance of any bike in the world, to help the rider accelerate as quickly as possible from a standstill to its top speed of 75 kph.
“We over-designed on the stiffness, normal people cannot ride on it,” said Jager.
Riding an earlier prototype of the Kimera, the Dutch track team took three gold medals at the Manchester world championships. The entire team will be competing on the latest Kimera in Beijing.
Cycling is the most widely used form of transport in the Netherlands due to the country’s flat landscape and network of dedicated cycle paths, with Dutch cyclists consistently among the top performers in major championships.
With 16.4 million people, the Netherlands is home to 18 million bikes. The Dutch bike industry made 967,000 bikes worth 453 million euros in 2006, two-thirds of which were sold abroad, according to official data.
Koga said it would be able to produce the Kimera for the mass market after the Beijing Olympics. And the price? A mere 10,000 euros or thereabouts, said Jager.
Editing by Clare Fallon