Recently we ran a feature on the US ‘Super Bikes’ at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. But bikes can’t talk, not yet – we hear Shimano are working on it though… But what about a guy who piloted one of those 40,000 bucks ‘bikes of the future’ around the 7-Eleven velodrome some 36 years ago? Enter Brent Emery, Olympic silver medallist and the man who kicked off the ‘thinking outside of the box’ which resulted in the futuristic steeds which carried Steve Hegg to individual pursuit gold, Emery and his fellow US team pursuiters to Olympic silver and the US TTT riders to Olympic bronze.
I believe you had the original idea for those 1984 ‘Super Bikes’?
”In the lead-up to a track meeting in Europe in the early 80’s the Polish team had come to the velodrome to train at their allocated time, which was just after the slot for the East German team’s training and had seen the Germans scurrying away to conceal some radical-looking bikes.
“Eddie Borysewicz, our Polish coach still had his Polish connections and word got back to him that the Germans had some pretty special bikes in the wings.
“Eddie lamented to me that in the States we had nothing comparable. I was always a ‘tinkerer’ and had this idea…
“Back then I was splitting my time between the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs and Trexlertown where I did a lot of racing on the velodrome.
“I went to see John Stinsmen at Veloce Cycles in Allentown Pa. with my ideas, he told me come back on Monday he was busy working on race cars over the weekend. I duly went back on Monday morning and I showed him my idea; he started picking up a lug here a tube there in his workshop – we had to beat up some of the lugs really hard to get the angles we wanted, which were far from standard.”
“The bike took shape through Monday and into the night with John’s wife shuttling food and coffee in to us we worked. We got a basic 24” front wheel and re-drilled it with minimal spoke holes, the ‘bars were from a three speed handlebar turned upside down and backwards, with a few loving bends to shape it and the Cinelli quill stem machined to allow it to go right down into the fork column.
“I raced the finished bike the next night, Tuesday at Trexlertown and later in the 7-eleven invitational track meet; immediately you could see the benefit of the small front wheel, you could tuck in so much tighter when you were drafting.
“There was actually a picture of me on that bike but wearing a Japanese skinsuit up in every 7-Eleven store in the US as a promotional poster.
“That bike was the inspiration for Eddie B to get the programme off the ground to build the bikes for LA. Chet Kyle was the aerodynamics whizz and Mike Melton the builder.”
You were on the roster for the ’80 Moscow Olympics but the USA boycotted them as a protest over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; that must have been a blow?
“I’d just quit my job, sold everything I owned and with $300 in my pocket took up a resident spot at the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs. Four days later the boycott was announced.
“We all went out and got good and drunk. The Centre was an old army camp complete with barbed wire fences – we had put our jackets on the wire to clamber over and then encountered security…
“The thing is though that most of us went back into serious training the next day, just in case there was a change of heart…”
You were twice US Kilometre Champion, how did you transition to team pursuit?
“I had a bad back injury which took a long time to diagnose correctly and when it was correctly diagnosed I had to wear a back brace 24/7 for six months. And of course, when I came back, I did too much, too soon and developed tendonitis.
“Whilst I had to be careful and avoid huge kilometre starting efforts, I rode ’83 US points race championships, it was a great race and I won it – I already had the speed so that was me getting into endurance.”