The tech that helped Team GB win gold
Great Britain has had an incredible run of success at the London Olympics. Legends have been made almost instantly. Be it Mo Farah’s incredible 10,000 metre win, Ben Ainsley’s stunning sailing or Victoria Pendleton’s efforts in the velodrome, our Olympians are well and truly doing us proud.
And behind every medal is some of the most advanced sporting technology available. Every athlete wants the best of the best when it comes to kit. Having the latest and greatest can give athletes that extra edge. So what do Team GB’s medal winners use?
We have already had an extensive look through Bradley Wiggins’s bike of choice so will be instead examining the machine on which Sir Chris Hoy won his gold medal. Unlike the Tour De France, track cycling can be done on bikes not commercially available to the public. Naturally this means every country competes on cycles that are rare or even one-offs.
For Hoy, it was an entirely unbranded carbon fibre frame which will have been put together entirely by hand. Hoy’s own exact measurements will have been used to build a bike to suit him perfectly. Even the seatpost will be at the exact height for him, so it can be set into the carbon frame without needing to be adjustable.
Track bikes are also incredibly thin and absurdly light. Hoy has said his gold medal-winning bike weighs less than 7kg. It has custom-built handlebars that wrap round at the front to give him the best possible grip position while also being highly aerodynamic.
The only real branding we can spot on Hoy’s bike is a pair of Mavic Comete Track wheels. A snip at £1500 each, they are the lightest, strongest and most aerodynamic track wheels you can buy.
We can’t guarantee it, but we expect Hoy uses Sugino cranks and that underneath his blue Team GB cycling overshoes are a set of extremely expensive cycling shoes, not unlike those Wiggins used in the Tour De France.
The real key to all this is that the bike is as thin and light as it can possibly be. If you are after a machine like Hoy's then there are only a few choices. For those on a budget, the Cinelli Vigorelli is a classic and will be more than enough to compete on. If however you have plenty of cash to spend, try something like the Look 496 ZED; truly a beautiful piece of bicycle.
We're going to be honest here, our knowledge of ultra-high-tech canoes only really extends as far as something Ray Mears might have put together in a pair of short shorts. Still, a gold medal is a gold medal and what a race it was that Etienne Scott and Tim Baillie put on.
Slovakian-made Vajda canoes were the choice for just about everyone competing in the slalom race and Scott and Baillie were in a Vajda H2 when they won gold.
Vajda has a huge range of top-end slalom canoes which should give you an idea of the sort of technology involved. We were absolutely amazed by the design that goes into these things. The H2 comes in different forms built from different materials. The Elite entirely carbon fibre version of the canoe is no less than £2500.
The same applies when it comes to paddles, which are put together by Vajda. Other than that, these guys won the slalom by sheer muscle power alone. Well done lads.
When it comes to rowing getting an idea of the sort of tech used is much easier. For the most part, Olympic medals are won using German-made Empacher boats. The iconic yellow launches are naturally world class and use the absolute best in boating materials.
Constructed from a combination of carbon fibre and Kevlar, the Empacher boats are light yet very strong. Oars are also constructed from carbon fibre and are of the more modern and familiar cleaver shape in order to maximise the surface area and chop through the water better than traditional oval oars. The cost is where the Empachers get really astonishing, though.
For a single scull alone, expect to pay anything from £7400. A top-of-the-range eight, which can weigh as little as 100kg, is £32000. Absolutely everything can be built to a custom standard and you can throw more carbon at the Empacher boats than basically any other piece of sporting kit. You can also have clever things fitted such as a cox box, a way of talking to other rowers electronically from the front of the boat.
At the moment there are only a few places where you can get hold of Empacher boats in the UK. The go-to is the manufacturer’s official website, where you can spec out a boat to exactly what you want.
Track & Field
The eagle-eyed among you might have spotted that Greg Rutherford was sporting a Nike Fuel Band when he claimed his gold medal over the weekend. Designed to help athletes track just how much training and exercise they are doing, the Fuel Band is an incredibly clever piece of kit. The great thing is that, unlike some of the other Olympic kit, this is actually affordable. If you fancy reading more about the Fuel Band then check out our review here.
Mo Farah put in a pretty unbelievable effort with the 10,000 metres, bringing home gold in what has to be one of the highlights of the Olympics so far. It wouldn’t be right looking at track without at least mentioning some sort of trainers. So what did Farah run in? Nike makes an incredibly special pair of Flyknit track spikes which weighs only 110g. Using cutting-edge materials, such as a shark-skin heel for extra grip and flywire upper which is breathable, light and flexible while virtually seamless, these are the best long-distance track trainers available right now.
Where can you buy them? We not entirely sure. Nike has a range of Flyknit racer shoes currently available on its website, but the track spike version is nowhere to be seen. If you do come across them, please let us know and we will add a link. We also noticed Farah's wife walking on to the track, post race, clutching a BlackBerry. That, apparently, is how the families of Team GB Olympians contact their sporting other halves. See, we do our homework.
He might not have managed it at Wimbledon but Andy Murray did succeed this time in defeating Roger Federer and bringing home Olympic gold. If you are going to beat the man from Switzerland, you're going to need some serious kit.
Murray chose a Head Youtek ig radical pro to do it with. According to head it is the most aggressive racket it makes, generating a huge amount of power and spin. Built from D30/Innegra materials, it weighs just 310 grams.
The really clever bit about Murray’s racket is the material it uses. D30 can stiffen when you receive or send powerful shots, but be soft and supple when you play slower shots where you need the control. Space age stuff really. Tennis fans can pick up Murray’s Youtek racket for around £144 here.
Any other Olympic kit you have spotted? Let us know in the comments below ...