I absolutely love trawling through eBay to find nuggets of cycling esoterica, but this particular bike… well, it might just be the weirdest yet.
There’s a lot to talk about here, but let’s tackle the aerodynamic elephant in the room and start with that front wheel.
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The Wear and Tear — yes, that’s really what it was called — Black Hole was a unique hubless wheel/fork system designed for time-trial, track and triathlon racing that was brought to market in the mid-nineties.
As revealed in an interview with our frenemies at BikeRumor, the wheel was the first product developed by Paul Lew — a key figure and an influential aerodynamicist at Reynolds Wheels.
As far as I understand, the rim has a track embedded into its inner circumference. This runs on three track rollers that are fitted along the bottom edge of the inner supporting structure. An additional roller sits at the top of this structure to ensure the rim stays aligned.
As you can imagine, the primary benefit of this design was said to be the aerodynamics — as the inner portion of the wheel is static, it was claimed to produce less turbulence than a regular wheel, thus reducing drag.
Ride reports from the time claim that the ride quality of the Black Hole was remarkably normal, though was said to be incredibly noisy, with the whole structure reverberating and amplifying vibrations on rough surfaces.
Performance wise, the system was claimed to have roughly the same characteristics of a disc wheel.
The pricing at the time appears to have been in the $1,200 to $1,400 range, which would have been a whole lot of money back when it was originally launched.
In 1994, the wheel was ridden by Bryan Walton on the track in the 4,000m individual pursuit and it was ridden to further success at Kona, setting a number of split time records there.
Performance needn’t have mattered though as, according to the interview, less than 100 units were sold and the wheel system was banned by the UCI not long after launch.
A beautiful prototype
This particular example is attached to an absolutely beautiful prototype Otro Pentax time trial bike.
According to the bike’s eBay listing, the bike was ridden by team ONCE around 1994, though it was never used in competition as the manager of the team was apparently concerned about the safety of the system.
The build quality of the frame is absolutely amazing, with a beautiful aerofoil brazed in behind the headtube. I’m also a big fan of the poo-brown shade of the finish on the bike.
The build is also delightfully of the era, with a full Mavic groupset, including finishing kit. The super wide bullhorn bars are also a nice touch.
Although the connection isn’t totally clear, the bike appears to be owned by whoever runs PerfectGeometry, which has to be one of my new favourite Instagram accounts.
This particular bike is just one example from what must be one of the most remarkable collections of retro bicycles that I’ve ever come across.
If you’re looking to own a truly unique piece of cycling history and have a cool $15,599 kicking about, this is definitely one for you.
What do you think? Would you like to see developments make their way back or is this one best resigned to history? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to like or subscribe.