Ellen van Dijk’s Speed Concept is a record-smashing marvel

Ellen van Dijk’s Speed Concept is a record-smashing marvel

Photos and story behind the bike that Ellen will be riding in her attempt at history

Ellen van Dijk’s UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot could be a crowning achievement in her career, and Trek is going all out to mark the occasion with an otherworldly Speed Concept design.

The hour record requires a special bike. For the effort to be officially recognized, it must be done on a regulation track bike, which primarily means that it must be fixed gear — no shifting allowed.

Of course, there was only one bike for the job; van Dijk has already used the Trek Speed Concept to win a World Championship, so no other frame would do, really. But to get the Speed Concept hour record-ready, Trek had to put their best designers and engineers to task creating a bike that could both do the job and look iconic. 

See for yourself in the gorgeous photos below, and read up on how the bike came together.

Building a record-smashing bike

Glen Leven, one of Trek-Segafredo’s two team support managers along with Koen de Kort, remembers hearing about van Dijk’s plans to break the hour record at December team camp in Spain. At the time, a spring date was suggested for the attempt, and Leven was worried it wouldn’t be enough time to prepare the bike. Acquiring parts would be difficult, not to mention the task of modifying a Speed Concept into a fixed-gear track bike.

Leven remembers talking to Trek senior engineer Brad Addink about the prospect, and Addink quickly putting Leven’s worries to rest.

“He said, ‘As soon as you know it’s getting real you let me know,’” Leven recalls. “And by the end of training camp, we were sitting together, Brad, Jordan [Roessingh, Trek director of road bikes and Project One], Josu [Larrazabal, Trek-Segafredo head of performance], Ellen, Koen and me. And we talked for the first time about this. Everybody was worried about the timeline. But only Brad was like, ‘This is no problem.’ 

“When Brad the engineer was confident, I also felt confident.”

That’s not to say that the last five months haven’t required a lot of work. Leven and De Kort have been working nearly full-time testing and piecing together the equipment — both on the body and the bike — that van Dijk will need to break the record. In total, Leven estimates that 20 people — from engineers, to mechanics, to logistics support staff, to partners at SRAM and Bontrager — have been involved in creating an hour-worthy bike.

The team’s biggest challenge, other than the time crunch, was adapting the Speed Concept into a fixed-gear bike. With no need for a rear derailleur and hub, Leven worked on making the rear axle narrower, and creating an adjustable, horizontal dropout that allowed for different chain tensions depending on the fixed gear ratio. 

Van Dijk will be riding a 58-tooth chainring and a 14-tooth cassette. That ratio was deduced through testing as optimal for maintaining 93-97 rotations per minute and, of course, breaking the current women’s hour record of 48.405 kilometers.

Leven and his crew also took out the front thru-axle, which was unnecessary for such a specialized bike. But beyond those adjustments, van Dijk’s rig will ride like the Speed Concept she’s used to. Her position on the bike hasn’t changed since she won a time trial World Championship last September. “All the rest is the same setup as her regular TT bike, because we know that she can keep that position for a long time, and that she can be successful in that position,” Leven says.

Leven can’t say that the process of putting van Dijk’s bike together wasn’t stressful. But as the work nears the finish line — soon, all that will be left is for van Dijk to ride her heart out — he is most proud of the team effort.

“It was so impressive to see the starting point of this stupid idea to do the hour record, to all the people who became involved in getting this project done,” Leven says. “In two weeks, we had all of Trek involved. The highest engineers of SRAM got involved. That was, for me, the most impressive, to see, from one idea, how many people and what kind of people you can get involved in a story like this.”

Modernise the clock

Van Dijk’s hour record attempt isn’t Trek’s first foray with the feat. In 2014, Jens Voigt became the first rider to set the men’s unified hour record at 51.110 kilometers. His Speed Concept design was iconic, with a split black-and-white scheme and stopwatch faces on his wheels.

Van Dijk’s Speed Concept recalls Voigt’s design, but senior designer Greg Thorne wanted to update the look for a new era. Since Voigt’s attempt, the hour record has only grown in stature, and bike technology has become more advanced. Van Dijk’s blue-and-white design pays homage to the past, but also reflects her own next-level dedication and sophistication as an athlete.

What could be more important than that?

The blue on van Dijk’s bike and kit mirrors the Cote d’Azure baseline paint that is a staple in velodromes. The “Hold the Line” graphic on her top tube and kit is a reminder to van Dijk of one of her toughest tasks: Keeping her bikes steady and fixed on the inner line of the velodrome track, so that she is completing laps as efficiently as humanly possible. 

Overall, the bike is a fitting tribute to the outsized prestige of the hour record, and the fiercely focused time trial specialist that is Ellen van Dijk.

Design and engineering will come together on Monday for an event unlike any other. You can tune in right here at 5 p.m. CEST/11 a.m. ET to watch history in the making. And be sure to note: When you see van Dijk hauling around the velodrome track, she’ll be representing a village-level effort of preparation. 

“All the hours we have spent in meetings to get the bike done, it was incredible,” Leven says. “And that’s the part where I’m the most proud of, to get all these people together to get this bike ready for the hour record in a short timeline, it’s been huge.”