1984 Olympic Team 100km Funny Bike
Bikes that are built specifically for time trials have been called “Funny Bikes” since the 1980’s. This is one of the first bikes to have earned that nickname.
This is a National Team bike built for the 100km Team Time Trial event at the Los Angeles Olympics.
As far as we know, there were nine “Funny Bikes” produced for the event, all hand built by Mike Melton. Mike didn’t work alone. Bureaucracy surrounds any project like this and at the very least Mike had U.S. Cycling technical director Ed Burke and aerodynamics guru Chester Kyle looking over his shoulder, with resources and money for the bikes coming from Raleigh.
The goal for the bike project was a medal at the Olympics.
The bike project was a success! Ron Kiefel, Davis Phinney, Andy Weaver and Roy Knickman brought home bronze medals. While the riders did most of the work, there were a whole bunch of design elements on their machines that made going fast just a little bit easier.
The frames, built out of teardrop shaped steel tubing, were pretty aero. The gusset behind the head tube smoothed out the air flow, as did the wishbone seat stays. The bikes were designed to have small 24” front wheels so that the riders could draft an inch or two closer to their teammates in front.
The handlebar, stem and fork design on this bike didn’t make it onto the final four Olympic bikes. The idea with this cow horn style is that it eliminated handlebar and stem material that would be surplus to providing the racer’s hand supports. Something light and aerodynamic. This set-up looks like it achieved the goals, but the simpler final version did it as well as providing an internal route for the brake cables, eliminating more sources of aerodynamic drag.
Speaking of brakes, these are really backwards. The cables are routed backwards through the levers, and then if you check out the front caliper you’ll see that this once simple and elegant Campagnolo model has been installed front to back with spring holders added in lumpy blobs to (what was) the front of the brake. The brake mounted under the bottom bracket shell is a Shimano Dura-Ace AX model.
If you’re a cyclist these days it’s hard to miss that a lot of new bikes have only a single front chainring and no front derailleur. Our Funny Bike here is also running just a single front ring (a massive 66 tooth one at that). Just like the modern trend, this design element was more about fitting gearing around other weird elements (in this case, aerodynamics) than a request by the rider for fewer gear options.
This bike was missing some parts when we got our hands on it, and the front wheel was the trickiest thing to reproduce. Besides being a 24” tubular version (which is pretty rare) the hub had to be only 70mm wide (normal road bikes have 100mm wide hubs). A look through an old Bicycling Magazine gave us a solution. In an old article, they report National Team mechanic Steve Bishop hacksawing front Campy hubs to make the 70mm width during the prototype stage and subsequently gluing the hub pieces back together.
We of course wanted to be period-correct so that’s what we did.
By the way, a funny thing prevents this bike from ever being ridden quickly again… The small 24” tubular tire needed for the front wheel is super rare. While we managed to find a new tire that’s the right diameter, there was just no way to get an 18mm wide version. Our tire, when fully inflated, lacks any clearance around the edges and stops the wheel from spinning under the fork crown.