The Daily Telegraph

Mike Burrows

Designed Lotus 108 bike which took Chris Boardman to victory

- Mike Burrows, born 17 April 1943, died August 15 2022

MIKE BURROWS, who has died aged 79, was a bicycle designer best known for the Lotus 108, which carried Chris Boardman to the Olympic individual pursuit title in 1992; it was, said the cyclist, “the most elegant, beautiful piece of machinery that’s ever been designed. I had the lightest, fastest bike in the world.”

Burrows had been working on the revolution­ary design throughout the 1980s, but it was not until the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, lifted their ban on monocoque frames – in which much of the load is carried by the bike’s external carbon composite “skin” – that it became possible for the Lotus 108 to be adopted.

Boardman had first laid eyes on what became the Lotus 108 when he was riding in the 1985 World Championsh­ips at Bassano del Grappa as a teenager. Burrows was there trying in vain to get his machine ratified by the UCI.

By the time Boardman arrived in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics the ban had been lifted and his machine captured the media’s imaginatio­n, he recalled – “almost more than its rider did”. He duly broke the world record in qualifying, broke it again in his quarterfin­al, and in the final overtook his great rival, the German Jens Lehmann, to take gold.

Michael Burrows was born on April 17 1943 in St Albans. Although there was no particular bent for cycling in the family, he learnt craft skills from his father, a cabinet maker who later opened a toy shop.

Leaving school at 15, Burrows worked as an engineer in a machine shop, making boat parts, as well as a coin-wrapping machine for banks. In 1969 he moved to Norwich to do “boatyard stuff ” on the Norfolk Broads.

His fascinatio­n with bicycles kicked in when his car broke down and he borrowed his wife’s bike to get to work. He went on to buy his own, and began tinkering to improve the aerodynami­cs.

He came up with his carbon frame, designed to minimise wind resistance. But finding manufactur­ers was a problem, especially as at that stage the monocoque design was banned – until the former Formula Two racing driver and Lotus test driver Rudy Thomann visited Burrows’s shop and saw his design. He alerted Lotus, who began working with Burrows, and when the British Cycling Federation saw the possibilit­ies it was all systems go.

But first there was the small business of the UCI ban. The first track-ready prototype was given to another British cyclist, Bryan Steel, to ride in a World Cup qualifying event. It attracted a great deal of attention and the UCI scrutineer gave it the OK.

But after Boardman’s Olympic triumph, and his time-trial victory on a Lotus 110 – a road version of the 108 – in the 1994 Tour de France, the design was banned again by the UCI.

Burrows went on to create designs for the Taiwanese firm Giant, most notably the original Total Compact Road or TCR, which featured the sloping top tube that is now standard-issue on the modern road bike.

He was also passionate about recumbent cycles, in which the rider is in a reclining position, and his machines set many records. His Windcheeta­h recumbent tricycle holds the record from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, 861 miles in 41hr 4min 22sec, ridden by Andy Wilkinson.

In 2014, on Guy Martin’s television programme Speed, Burrows helped to build a recumbent tandem on which the profession­al motorcycli­st broke the 24-hour tandem record with Jason Miles.

Burrows continued racing himself into his mid-70s, and carried on designing, building and repairing bicycles until a few weeks before his death. A Lotus 108 is now part of the permanent collection at the Science Museum in London.

Mike Burrows is survived by his wife, Tuula, and by their son.

 ?? ?? Burrows at his workshop with his speed time trial bike in 2016
Burrows at his workshop with his speed time trial bike in 2016

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