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February 06, 2019 3 min read

Several years ago we read a Vincenzo Nibali interview in Cycle Sport Magazine. Whilst the article talked about his racing schedule and background there was one sentence that sparked an ongoing mission. It mentioned that in training rides he sometimes brushes his hand on the ground whilst tackling tight twisty descents. To us this sounded unbelievably awesome. There were no photos of this and we still haven't seen any, but this only made it all the more exciting. What must it look like to have someone get their hand down on a bicycle round a corner? Having the speed, skill and bravery to release the lower hand just at the point when it's most needed most.

 

As our background and influences are as much from skating, surfing and snowboardiing as cycling, this made us think of the iconic Bertlemann slide which was created by surf pioneer Larry Bertlemann.

It was the legendary Z-Boys, such as Jay Adams, who then went on to imitate his style on skateboards.

Where surfing and skating led, snowboarding followed with the hand skimming across the surface of the snow during carving turns.

It was then that we spotted a shot of DMR rider Olly Wilkins riding his mini moto.

Seeing this shot of Olly was a turning point. To see someone scrubbing the hand whilst on two wheels, albeit with an engine, showed us potentially how it could be done, However we still had the image of Nibali in our minds and of doing this on a road bike. This was the source of the inspiration. We spoke to Olly and asked if there was anyone he knew who would be up for trying. This was the hard part. Finding someone who was willing to potentially loose a lot of skin. Luckily Christian Fairclough was keen and we also used the talents of top sports photographer Pete Webb. For these early attempts we tried it on a Kinesis ATR with large volume tyres and flat pedals with a view to move to full road kit and clipless pedals once he had it dialled.

After numerous attempts it proved to be elusive due to several potential factors. Was the camber of the corner a help or a hinderance? Would it be better with thinner tyres? Seat up to push your weight over the front wheel or seat down for a lower centre of gravity? Later on we Photoshopped the photo of Chris to see what is the type of angle we were after to fit the image in our mind.

Our conclusion was that to get the image we wanted the tyres would be right on the limit. A fraction too much and the bike would snap out from under you. Also to get this angle the speed would need to be much greater but this in turn means the G forces would be higher so harder to drop the hand and remain in control. We then came across this image from Matt Hunter of Specialized.

Seeing the video of how this was done made us decide to switch our attention to trying it off-road. Matt was getting the bike wonderfully flat but could a hand also be taken off the bars at the same time?

 

Charge Bikes and Morvelo Test Team's Chris Doney took up the challenge and he created a corner on which to try. First up was the Fat Bike as he felt this was the safer option for the first attempts. The results were good and despite numerous crashes and grappling with cornering forces one handed, which wanted to pull the bike upright and straighten the bars simultaneously, the image taken by Pete Webb does have that feeling of a Bertlemann.

Moving onto the cross bike was a greater challenge. With less grip and narrower bars the bike was even harder to control, but the result was once again good, having that feeling on casually brushing the ground and being in supreme control.

This video shows both attempts and how it looks in practice.

 

However we still haven't scratched the itch. We still want to do it on a road bike and get the bike fully laid over. The epitome of speed and control. Perhaps it simply not possible but that's not to stop us trying. If you are interested in taking up the challenge please get in touch. And that means you too Nibali.


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