In 2016 cyclist Chris Froome became the first British 3-time winner of the Tour de France, but as his team began preparations for this year's race they wanted to give Froome an edge.
They turned to a relatively new technology: 3d printing titanium handle bars for the Froome's bike.
"By cutting our timescales using AM, were able to design the part to fit the rider, eliminating the need to create adjustable handlebars, and therefore reducing unnecessary weight," said Dimitris Katsanis, CEO of Metron Advanced Equipment and a member of Froome's team. "Faster turnaround times meant we were able to print two different handlebar designs in Titanium for Chris Froome’s time trials: one for riding on the flats, and the other for hills."
Every ounce of weight matters when you competing over 23 days on a 2300 mile long course through the French Alps. Time was the other big factor as Froome could test iterations of his new handlebars within days, not weeks, providing a massive advantage over older manufacturing technologies.
3d printing titanium and other metals is expensive however and isn't meant to be a replacement just yet for non-complex parts and components. It can however be useful for more complex geometries.
"When it comes to metal parts, AM (3d printing_ really comes into its own with complex components – custom handlebars, racing yacht parts – anything where complexity and weight mean a competitive advantage," Katsanis said. "In general, if a designer or engineer comes to the point that one says ‘great idea but how can we make that’ then this is the moment that AM can be a solution."
Froome will be working with handle bars 17% lighter than what he would have otherwise had using adjustable handlebars using older technology.
Update: Chris Froome won the 2017 Tour de France. Was it the handle bars? :)