Olympic cyclists' helmets were designed in Bristol
WHETHER it's Sir Chris Hoy sprinting round the track or Bradley Wiggins cruising to time-trial gold, there has been one common sight in the 2012 Olympics – the red, white and blue helmet of Team GB's cyclists.
And employees of a Bristol business have been prouder than most watching the team smash world records and scoop medal after medal.
The space age-looking helmets were designed and developed by Crux Product Design, based at the Paintworks off the A4.
Their relationship with the all- conquering cycling team started in 2009 after one of the company's founder-directors, James West, contacted UK Sport.
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Following informal meetings and a successful pitch to experts including former Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman, Crux were awarded the all-important helmet contract.
Mainly designing products for the medical industry, such as asthma inhalers, the 10 bike-mad Crux designers and engineers, who all ride to work, were able to get their teeth into a project close to all of their hearts.
"We were basically in charge of the concepts, design, styling, graphic design, testing and project management," said Mr West.
The striking, stream-lined helmets have been made using plastic outer and inner shells, sandwiching a lightweight, aluminium "honeycomb", similar to that used in jet plane wings and Formula One cars.
The challenge was to come up with and test a design that adhered to strict European safety regulations, while providing an aerodynamic edge.
Throughout the development phase, the cyclists tested the proto- types in wind tunnels until they were perfected and ready for competition.
The longer, "pursuit" design and the shorter "sprint" helmet have helped the cyclists become the nation's most successful team at the games, winning eight gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes on the track and the road. Their success has provoked sour grapes from some opposition, with rival coaches accusing them of having "magic wheels" and secret equipment.
None of the Crux team managed to secure tickets to the velodrome to watch the track races, so they have been glued to their computer and TV screens every afternoon when the medals have been decided.
"It's been awesome to watch," said Mr West. "In the last few days, from 4pm, we've probably not had 100 per cent productivity here. It's been very exciting."
Looking back on three years of hard work, he added: "There has been a bit of pressure, but it's been really good being a part of it all."
On the debate about whether Team GB had an unfair technical advantage, Mr West said: "I quite like it when people say things like that. They need to work harder, don't they?
"I think 99.99 per cent of it is down to the training, the athletes and the coaching, but I do think part of what we've done helps."
The Crux team also worked with other Bristol companies in developing the helmet.
Polysigns, on Newfoundland Road, made the vinyls for the eye-catching helmet logos and flags; Laserit, based in Yate, made the buckles; and AG Metal Services in Kingswood polished the finished product.