By Arnaz M. Khairul

THE WX-R Vorteq track bike has been making waves across the globe at the tailend of 2019, when global sites got through their reviews of the headlining hardware for the year.

Firstly, to the consumer market, this is undoubtedly the most expensive bicycle available to mankind, with a list price of £60,000 or RM317,317. It is even listed online on the Vorteq website for ease of purchase, but there’s a few catches.

It’s only available in sizes M (for Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom) and S (for Azizulhasni Awang), the two sizes for the pair of Malaysians who will be riding for Malaysia at the Tokyo Olympics on July 24-August 9.

Second and most importantly, before the smartphone army of netizens begin lambasting the government over bicycles the price of the aborted Toyota Vellfire ministerial official car replacements, it is important to note that the Malaysian government did not pay for the purchase of these bikes and for a reason that should make every Malaysian taxpayer beaming with pride rather than anguish.

The WX-R Vorteq is manufactured by the company at the British facility, but no reviewer would ever have guessed that the design, the entire development of the related technology, is Malaysian.

Yes, the WX-R Vorteq was developed under a covert research and development programme by the National Sports Institute (NSI), which will also include the development of technical attire, training equipment and components.

Don’t believe us? Well, the NSI, dumbfounded by the innacurate revelations spread across various media outlets and reviewers, will be making their own announcements and clarification on the matter for the Malaysian press soon.

For the moment, all Azizulhasni can say is: “I don’t know about the details. This is part of an R&D programme and I am just the rider. So, I just ride what they give me.”

A source, best kept unnamed, said the programme had been kept under wraps to fend off peering eyes and to give the Malaysians an edge over their rivals, with a key focus towards giving Azizulhasni his best shot at delivering the long sought after gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

“That is the price of all the research and development that the NSI have put into it. The issue was when the UCI (International Cycling Union) enforced new regulations for the Olympics this time around, whereby all track bikes used by the cyclists competing in Tokyo must be those that are available for purchase in the open market,” said the source.

It was supposed to be kept under wraps, as European rivals like the British, Germans and French have been doing with their equipment programmes.

So, the NSI decided to work with UK-based Vorteq to produce the bikes for that purpose and the price for custom-produced equipment in such limited batches and sizes would obviously have to be set at a premium by the manufacturer. Of course, that is not the price the NSI are paying, as they basically own the design and technology.

It is unlikely that a frameset with a list price of £25,000 (RM132,000), compact handlebars at £10,000 (RM52,800) four-spoke front wheel at £6,000 (RM31,700), disc-wheel also at £6,000 or even an adjustable saddle-mount at £3,000 (RM16,400) for purchase separately, should you want to mix and match to bring down the price of the complete package, would attract the weekend warrior-type buyer.

Vorteq states that the carbon equipment is developed using computer simulation techniques CFD and FEA, and then verified in the wind tunnel and on stiffness testing machines.

And by comparison, Azizulhasni had pioneered the super-compact handlebar that streamlined his sprinting position to give him an edge. But never will any bike-fitter recommend a size 30 handlebar for a rider with shoulder breadth of 42cm!

Even the windtunnel tests involving the riders have been kept under wraps. An amazing feat in this day and age where the average human being ensures every step of every day is detailed on social media.

Is it worth it?

Performance-wise, if anyone thought a 32-year old Azizulhasni would be winding down his career, then never in his career had he clocked a 200m flying lap in under 10 seconds so many times in a year, than in 2019, marked by his 9.774s national and Asian record at the Asian Championships in Nilai last March.

As much as you can’t put a price on the R&D that went into this programme, the same goes to an Olympic gold medal around the neck of a Malaysian in Tokyo.