Pursuit of Perfection: Lotus 108 Recycled


This article is brief and has been prompted by the Design Museum holding an exhibition on bicycles and their significance.

As the Lotus Pursuit bike is a major exhibit the editors believed it provided an opportunity to revisit the 108 and provide some further interpretation.

Subscribers are invited to attend the exhibition [details below] as it ought to appeal to a wide audience not least engineers, product designers and sports scientists.

The Lotus Pursuit Bike has become iconic and features in many recent books.

The Design Museum Exhibition examines how Design and Performance interface. The Lotus Pursuit bike is a perfect example. Britain has proud record of success with boffins , inventors and cranks seeking advantage through innovation .This has taken various forms from cottage industry through to hard science that Lotus have brought to sport.

The editors believe that the achievement of Burrows, Lotus and Boardman have contributed to the recent colossal success of British cyclists men and women in international competition. It inspired them and offered confidence and pride.

The editors have seen many photographs of the Pursuit bike on the net /in books but no working drawings that  fully explain the layout so we take the opportunity of extrapolating what we believe to be the layout.

Subscribers might like to see our existing article on the Lotus 108/110 that will gear them up.

Modern Bike

Green Machine

For many the bicycle is considered the most efficient form of transport on earth. Its credentials are:

  • Healthy
  • Minimum materials required in construction ,many sustainable , low energy requirement in manufacture
  • High level of recyclability
  • Economical to own and run
  • Non-polluting , no carbon fuel
  • Little surface damage due to low weight
  • Small storage space
  • Reasonable safe [inherently accept for contact with other motor vehicles]
  • Easily personalised / customised and adapted to individual needs
  • Synthesis of body and machine; art/craft, technology and engineering, extraordinary efficiency vis input output

As concerns grow for the environment so do the interest and importance of the bicycle. Some argue that the automobile advantages are being outweighed

The bicycle in comparison is ecological, efficient and more sustainable and generally holistic when fitness and health are factored in.

It is perhaps totally consistent with the Chapman design methodology and mantra of mechanical efficiency delivered through theoretical application of weight reduction enhanced by aerodynamic performance.

 Lotus Contribution

“Burrows filed a patent for a monocoque bike frame in 1982 and by 1984 he had produced his first rideable monocoque………..The inherent strength of carbon fibre allowed him to use a single wing –shaped blade with the front wheel axle bonded into it , the wheel then slid onto this from the side [ same applied at rear]”

The suggestion is that an introduction was brokered that allowed Burrows to meet Lotus who saw an engineering challenge and opportunity to get into the Olympics.

Boardman was invited to be involved as rider and specific wind tunnel testing commenced at MIRA.

The editors believe that the primary Lotus contribution relates to the identfication of the critical component or obstacle. In the case of the racing bike it’s the size and shape of the rider along with the mechanics of cycling and the consequential negative impact on aerodynamics. As in the past having isolated this element they proceed to find a theoretical solution capable of realization. In this they defy convention and explore and test, measure and having established data then proceed to find improvements. Aerodynamics are so critical to FI is worth noting the comparisons of approach.

Lotus like other automobile manufacturers sought to exploit their reputation and connection with a merchandise range of up market racing bikes [see our previous article and below]

From the Design Museum Website. Exhibition Description:

Cycle Revolution at London’s world leading Design Museum celebrates the diversity of contemporary cycling in Britain from every day commuting to Olympic level competition and looks at where design and innovation may take the riders of the future. This will be your last chance to see an exhibition at the Design Museum’s current London Bridge riverside location before the museum moves to its new home in Kensington in 2016. What’s in the exhibition? Highlights of the bikes on display include: Sir Bradley Wiggins’s 2015 Hour Record bike and 2014 World Championship Time Trial bike A number of Team Sky’s Pinarellos from the 2015 Tour de France, as well as kit and equipment from the team’s 2015 Tour de France win Sir Chris Hoy’s Great Britain Cycling Team London 2012 Olympic Track bike The Lotus Type 108 ridden by Chris Boardman at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games Eddy Merckx’s 1972 1984 Hour Record bike Francesco Moser’s 1984 Hour Record bike, loaned for the exhibition from the personal collection of Sir Bradley Wiggins The earliest prototype Brompton in existence A 1978 Breezer Series 1 A 1969 Raleigh Chopper. Bike builder’s workshop – showing the tools, materials and skills that combine to create a bespoke machine. Six independent British bike builders are profiled – Donhou Bicycles, Toad Custom Cycles, Hartley Cycles, Robin Mather Cycles, Mercian Cycles and Shand Cycles. High profile cyclists including Lord Norman Foster and Sir Paul Smith discuss their passion for cycling and hopes for its future in the closing film. – See more at: http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/cycle-revolution#sthash.ngf70VMb.dpuf

The last decade has seen a revolution in cycling, on a scale not witnessed in the UK since the Second World War. Cycle Revolution celebrates the diversity of contemporary cycling in Britain from every day commuting to Olympic level competition. It brings together bicycles, clothing, accessories, equipment, film and photography to explain where cycling is now and where it might take us in the future. The exhibition looks at cycling subcultures through four ‘tribes’ – the High Performers who reach Olympic speeds, the Thrill Seekers who take on all terrains, the Urban Riders who pedal our cities mile by mile, and the Cargo Bikers who work on two wheels. British bespoke bicycle frame building is showcased in the exhibition in a recreation of a bicycle making workshop featuring artisans from across the UK. Cycle Revolution closes with a glimpse into the future of cycling – how it is changing the infrastructure of the city, and how architects, designers and urban planners are responding to the needs of twenty-first century cyclists? Enjoy the ride! Don’t miss the specially-commissioned Ben Wilson bicycle sculpture in the museum’s Atrium, cycling films in the 1.5 Gallery and series of cycling related talks and events. Continue the conversation on social media and feature on the exhibition’s Social Wall @designmuseum #CycleRevolution. – See more at: http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/cycle-revolution#what-s-the-exhibition-about

Bike Sketch

This drawing by the editor seeks to demonstrate the layout of the 108 Pursuit bike. The bike needs to be viewed in several angles in order to appreciate the aerodynamic advantage achieved with the mono sided layout. Head on the bike has an extremely narrow profile. Some observers have likened it to an essentially two-dimensional object. It must have caused a sensation when raced.

In the Frame

The specification of the Pursuit bike included:-

  • Carbon composite monocoque frame with arefoil cross section
  • Mavic full disc rear wheel
  • Mavic tri-spoke front wheel
  • Selle Italia Flite seat
  • Titanium steering column
  • Front chain set aerodynamic profiled


The seat post is nonadjustable and is totally integrated with rider physique. The clipless pedals are biomechanically efficient as are the handlebars. This image is taken from the net and offers one of the best interpretations of the Pursuit bike layout.

Chain Reaction

The achievement of the Lotus Pursuit bike was possibly not just the technology and construction .The editors suggest there were significant multiple and integrated interacting but mutually complementary forces at work. We suggest these were:-

  • Team work and collaboration between parties
  • Mutual trust and respect for complementary contributions , shared beliefs and disciplines
  • British pride , heritage and determination to return to form which includes the history of innovation
  • The significant specific and customized package that enabled Boardman to extract the very best of his mental and physical strengthens in the event. Of these the handlebar layout and result aerodynamic presentation to air resistance cannot be underestimated [see small diagram with working drawing above]
  • The dream and belief in the unproven and essentially untested
  • The maintenance of secrecy and testing in lead up to Olympics
  • It’s difficult to factor in psychological but its possibly that Boardman sensed the potential advantage and this gave him additional confidence and reserves

 Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  1. Identify successful British cycling athletes including men and women and branches of sport in which they excelled include Track, Record, Time Trial and Tour de France etc.
  2. Study famous British and European bike manufactures such as Claud Butler,Viking,Raliegh, Condor,Moulton
  3. Study bike component manufactures and history of technical improvements and weight reduction
  4. Study links particularly use of frame materials in both bikes and FI construction
  5. Consider designing bike in chosen category from mountain bike to city to utility
  6. Consider how manufacturers can harness technology and skills and bring them to focus out of their mainstream – consider role of fabrics for example
  7. Learn how sportsmen/women have capitalized on their success with product ranges –applies from motorsport to tennis , golf and cycling – what are some of the most recent examples
  8. Visit local bike shop and see range of products , performance , function and construction materials
  9. Consider visit to wind tunnel in order to better comprehend aerodynamic testing why are models often used –what are advantages /disadvantages?
  10. Study the mechanism of Critical Path Analysis and the means by which it helps identify isolate/ obstacles and refocuses on alternative strategies /solutions


This image is postcard from the Riverside /Glasgow Transport Museum and depicts the Lotus 110 sports bike. Also see The Lotus Book for pictures. Image reminds readers of commercial opportunities to be exploited from success.

Exhibitions, Education and Economics

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

Chapman and Lotus designed products from cars to bikes to microlights and boats that shared much in common not least performance enhancement through design. Considerable opportunities exist to present these in education, entertaining learning experiences.

The fundamental design principles adopted by Chapman and Lotus are embedded in the laws of physics and related sciences. What makes them exciting is how he turned them to practical advantage and earned competition success. There are considerable opportunities to demonstrate and interpret this.

A particularly appropriate Exhibition title might be “Chapman: Cycles of Conception; No freewheeling”


Chapman and Lotus have and remain a force in Performance Enhanced Design. They also are at the front of sustainability, both delivered through consultancy and direct product range.

Perhaps the time is right that many of the theoretical, conceptual achievements to given more prominent promotion and visual exhibition. Those privileged to witness the solutions/ designs will be inspired, enlightened and possibly go onto create sustainable wealth.



Author: Moore, Richard
Author: Benson, Daniel
Year: 2014
Interest category: Cars & bikes
Media class: Paperback
Classification: 629.2272
Publisher: Aurum Press, 2014
ISBN: 1781312346 9781781312346
Control number 1781312346
Previous edition: London: Aurum Sport, 2012
‘Bike!’ is a celebration of the racing bikes that have propelled champions to glory and the rest of us towards our own private moment of euphoria. This is the beautifully illustrated story of the artisans and visionary sportsmen who have

Modern Bike. Boardman [see book cover at commencement of article]

Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.