Sophie Ryan is online editor for the Business Herald

New Zealand's secret super bikes debut at Rio Olympics

Sam Webster of New Zealand, left, and teammate Edward Dawkins compete in the men's team sprint qualifying round at Rio Olympics. Photo / AP
Sam Webster of New Zealand, left, and teammate Edward Dawkins compete in the men's team sprint qualifying round at Rio Olympics. Photo / AP

While the men's cycling sprint team raced for gold at Rio Olympics this morning there were members of the team feeling the nerves back home in Auckland.

David Higgins of Sheppard Industries designed and built the Avanti bikes that the athletes powered across the line for the silver medals.

Homegrown company Sheppard Industries operates the Avanti brand and is the largest wholesale bike distributor in Australasia.

Higgins had an anxious morning waiting to see the bikes on the velodrome at Rio - the first time the full super-bike was seen in public.

"For the build-up we had a mix and match of stuff. They'd been keeping the design of the new handlebars under wraps so it was pretty cool to see it all in the qualifying round," Higgins said.

The Avanti Pista Sprint Team Bike.
The Avanti Pista Sprint Team Bike.


Avanti Pista Pursuit Team Bike.
Avanti Pista Pursuit Team Bike.

And in the space of two hours it was all over. The team had beaten an Olympic Record, been in the pole position, and finished in second place with a silver medal.

"It happened very quickly," Higgins said. "I'm pretty proud of the bike... we know how fast it can go."

Higgins has been working closely with the sprint team, Eddie Dawkins, Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell, to develop and customise the bikes for the best performance.

Higgins has spent the past three years developing the kit and felt like part of the competing team after "being so involved in every single part of the bike."

Higgins said the key thing for the sprint bike was reducing aerodynamic drag - eventually cut by more than 15 per cent - and lightening the bikes' weight.

NZ sprinters test out the new bikes in a wind tunnel.
NZ sprinters test out the new bikes in a wind tunnel.

The exposure for Avanti had led to enquiries from around the world, but Higgins said he was focused solely on the New Zealand competitors.

"Track cycling is a reasonably small market and we concentrate on the Kiwi team," he said.

Higgins will remain glued to the track cycling at Rio Olympics to follow the pursuit teams and individual racing still to come.

- NZ Herald

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