Laura Trott and Jason Kenny talk cycle tech, training, 'second skin' Adistar apparel and more
The last time Pocket-lint saw Team GB's cycling team it was to talk about "hot pants" in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. The leg-warming over-trousers - officially known as Adidas Adipower, to give them their full but ultimately less appealing name - were used at the London Games to help power Team GB's track cyclists to success.
Almost a year on and the Games are a lingering memory. Both Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, on hand at Adidas HQ in Stockport, south of Manchester, dressed themselves with multiple medals. This time we're here about an entirely different kind of dress; the cycling stars have been drafted in to promote Adidas Adistar, their sponsor's new top-of-line cycling apparel range.
Pocket-lint donned the super-skinny - it really does squeeze that paunch in - pro-spec gear and, following an utter trouncing in a 500m dash against 2013 UCI Keirin World Cycling Championships title winner Kenny, we settle down, red-faced and trying to find room for breath, to chat about cycling and all the techie fandango that the sport embraces.
"It's all about pedalling fast," Kenny nonchalantly reveals with a big smile.
Speed is key for this pair, and that's where designers and engineers are essential to make gear that cuts back on weight and drag. We're well aware that with Adidas sponsorship we'll hear no foul words of the latest kit, but it still warrants the question:
The latest Adistar kit has an aerodynamic leading edge which, according to Adidas, is like an aircraft's wing. Do you - and be honest - feel a distinct difference? To what degree can you really feel that?
Laura Trott: "It just makes you faster, doesn't it?
"Clothing obviously goes a long way. You don't want to be wearing something really baggy. The most aerodynamic [thing] is skin, so you want it [the clothing] to fit like another layer of skin. The new clothing is a lot tighter than what it's been before, but it feels like it fits much better. Also when you get on a bike you want to feel like it's fitting well - you don't want to get on and think, 'Oh, I might as well be wearing a paper bag'," she laughs.
Jason Kenny: "You know it makes you faster. When you're confident you have the absolute best equipment then you don't fret over someone else having something better. You don't sit there thinking, 'What's he got?' because you know you've done the research and that you're in the best possible kit."
So you block it out of your mind in many ways?
JK: "Exactly, so in many ways it's making sure you're at least as good as, if not slightly better than, the person you're racing against - in kit terms. And then it's all about peddling fast. At the end of the day our job is all about peddling fast and that's what I tend to focus on."
Before your 2012 Olympics races we saw what became dubbed as Adidas' "hot pants". Do you think they helped in the team's success?
LT: "Yeah. In the team pursuit [at London 2012] the two rides were within an hour of one another. So obviously we put them on straight away and it just meant you didn't have to stress about getting on the rollers [to maintain temperature]. I think they really did help. I'm glad we had them."
Outside of apparel, bike tech is changing so much: Pinarello frames are getting super light, we've got Wiggins riding on an Osymetric USA elliptical chain-ring, an increasing number of manufacturers putting out carbon belt drives instead of chains. Do you ever geek out over this techie stuff - and where do you think we'll see cycling technology going in the future?
LT: "I don't really, but when the Olympic kit got handed to us - like some of the bits and pieces like the handlebars - you get excited about things like that. Because you know it's going to make you go quicker."
That's your ultimate goal then isn't it - speed?
"Yeah," Trott beams.
And what about the amateur keen to step up their cycling? What's the main thing to think about when it comes to buying or upgrading a bike?
JK: "The most important thing is reliability. I'd do a bit of research and I'd read some reviews and I'd find out what's a good bike but - more importantly - a bike that's solid and one that's going to keep on going with minimum maintenance. Something that rides well too so you can enjoy it. Then when it comes to upgrading that bike, as long as you've not gone mega-cheap then the frame will probably be okay, so just upgrading the wheels [and] you'll feel the biggest difference for sure. At the end of the day you get a light set of wheels and it'll make any bike feel quick."
Obviously you put countless hours into training. Do you ever get off days where you're just tempted to play PlayStation instead?
LT: "I think you wouldn't be normal if you didn't have days like that. But I don't get that when it's the build-up to a competition. Before the Worlds [UCI World Championships 2013] I'd never get like that because I can see the end target; the end goal. But sometimes, yeah, of course, I wake up and I'm like, 'Ugh, I've gotta drag myself out today'. But then once I'm out and up I'll really enjoy it."
And when it does come to training what's your top tip? Without team support what's advisable - get a GPS tracker to measure distance and speed, or is it best to partner up with someone else? Can tech ever really beat the human touch?
JK: "Anything that makes you quicker gets you excited. Well, for me personally. I like the monitoring side of things as well. We have a lot of things that monitor power and cadence and speed. It puts it all on a graph and we've got video links so you can see when you were at a certain power and I love stuff like that. It's got to the stage where there's so much data you don't have the brain power to process it.
"I think technology's good because, like you say with your [GPS] thing…" Kenny trails off in brief thought.
"Sometimes you'll be training really hard and then you'll look back - if you've logged it - and you'll be like, 'Actually, no, I've not gone out on my bike that much this week'. So it's good in that sense, but you can become a bit obsessive and then the mistake that most club-level riders make - and I think it's the same in most sports - is that they obsess over one thing or another thing and forget that everything matters. It is important to monitor everything, but then it's also important not to get caught up on the numbers in front of you. It's just about balance really."
We're familiar with the notion of blocking out the thoughts. Sir Chris Hoy rather famously sat on the sidelines pumping out The Chemical Brothers' Escape Velocity through his Bowers & Wilkins P3 over-ears.
What's your chosen tactic - soak up the event atmosphere or invest in the noise-cancelling headphones retreat to block everything out?
LT: "I put mine [earphones] in and slide them up under my helmet normally until right up to the last minute.
"When I'm in the little pit I like talking to everyone else, but I guess some people obviously don't and put their headphones on. Right before [competing], I like to have them on because I just don't want to hear anything [else]. I don't want someone walking past me and being like, I dunno, 'She's gonna go [ride] crap'," they both laugh. "I just don't wanna hear it. I just want my own thoughts, knowing that I can do it [win]."
Tom and Ed of The Chemical Brothers made a track called Velodrome inspired by it all. If you could have someone make a song about you, who would it be?"
LT: "Bruce Springsteen."
JK: "Foo Fighters."
The pair banter among themselves about their musical differences. We could talk audio and music at length, but we're rapidly approaching the end of our 10-minute interview lot so turn attention to how technology could make cycling safer.
Does the thought of tech failing on you ever give you any worry?
JK: "Not at all. You're brought up having faith in the people around you. It comes back to having a good team and having total faith in everyone doing their job.
"You can't account for a puncture, obviously, which could throw you off. But that's all part of bike riding."
What do you think needs to happen to improve road safety in the UK? To get more people cycling?
JK: "Everyone should ride a bike. But there's no point in having someone design a road for cyclists who's never ridden a bike before, because you can tell. You know, when a bike lane extends [gestures to suggest the lane veering]. The person who's designed that bike lane has never ridden down it."
LT: "Or it's like this big [gestures to show small size]"
JK: "I've been down some cycle paths that are great. They've been off road, [at a] nice time [of day] and [on] a good bit of path, and you're riding down and then it delivers you straight into a multi-way roundabout. It's like, you know what I mean, the person who's designed this path would've died at the end... Maybe he did. Maybe he's dead." They both chuckle.
Building from that: one thing we've seen recently is a concept helmet by Dora which has a rear brake light as well as LED indicators activated by a controller on the handlebars. It's all transmitted wirelessly via Bluetooth. Could you see such a concept - which hasn't been made yet - taking off?
LT: "Yeah I saw that. I think it's quite a good idea. I don't think we'd ride with them but for the people riding around London I think it's a good idea."
JK: "Yeah I could go with that. If nothing else, it catches peoples' eyes doesn't it?"
To wrap up. What of your future? How long do you intend to - and can you - stay at the top?
LT: "I'll keep going for as long as I can really. As long as I keep enjoying it. That's what I always say - so long as I'm enjoying it then I'll carry on. But the minute I stop enjoying it then there's no point because you're not going to win if you're not enjoying it."
JK: "Yeah it's got to be 100 per cent. You can't do it half-heartedly. It's harder to stay on top than it is to get there in the first place. Winning a race means the challenge has only just begun."
There are plenty more challenges coming their way too. In the run up to Rio 2016 Olympics and between races Kenny's looking forward to the occasional trade-in from two wheels to four - he's off to race cars. Trott's got training to get in for an 18-mile time trial in what she describes - despite her obvious enthusiasm for the sport - as an escape from "the track bubble". However many wheels and over whatever distance we wish them both the best of luck.
Adidas Adistar in-line cycling apparel is available in separate men's and women's designs via Wiggle.com. Fitting really as you'll sure need to wiggle into this "second skin" fitted gear.