Gear · General · Tech

Charley French – Tour de France Aerobar

With the Tour de France less than a week away we wanted to take a look at how the simple Aerobar played such an important part in the 1989 Edition, which Greg Lemond won by only 8 seconds.

It may have been a landmark occasion, but the story of SCOTT Sports’ unique approach to product innovation started long before Greg LeMond famously won the Tour de France on a bike with aerobars. The world is full of passionate athletes and full of passionate engineers, but rarely do you find both in the same person. And when you do, the results can be groundbreaking in the world of sport. One such example is Charley French.
For over 40 years Charley has been a part of some of the great innovations in SCOTT sports history. From goggle designs that stood the test of time for decades, to pursuits of aerodynamics that changed cycling forever, Charley and his fellow product designers epiphanies didn’t happen in a lab, they happened out on the mountain, on the road, on the trail while they were simply doing what they loved. The spirit of organic, hands-on innovation has been a constant throughout SCOTT Sports history. Great ideas are great ideas. When a company gives someone like Charley permission to explore what’s possible, without the restraints of marketing plans or deadlines, those ideas turn into revolutionary products. And in his mid-80s, Charley’s source of inspiration hasn’t changed. He is still just as much an athlete, out on the mountain daily, as he is a product guru.
So on the Champs-Elysees on the final day of the 1989 Tour, we know that LeMond’s legs deserve most of the credit for his victory, but it didn’t hurt that the bars Charley shaped with his hands played a key role in the 8 second difference between first and second. 
The day was Sunday 23rd July and the occasion was the final stage of the Tour de France, an individual time-trial from Versailles to Paris. In yellow was Frenchman Laurent Fignon, and 50 seconds back was Greg LeMond. L’Americain’s task seemed as improbable as The Professor’s lead seemed insurmountable, yet somehow LeMond managed to claw back 58 seconds over the 24.5km course to win the Tour by the slimmest margin in history – eight seconds.
The key to LeMond’s win was his revolutionary Aerobars. ‘The idea was Boone Lennon’s,’ says Scott’s vice-president, Pascal Ducrot. ‘As a bicycle racer and a coach of the US alpine ski team, Boone was involved in wind-tunnel testing for downhill skiers, and understood the importance of aerodynamics. With Boone was engineer Charley French, who helped develop the first Aerobar prototypes.’

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