Ben Ludolphy sent me this picture* together with a letter about the machine from its builder, Tony Foale with whom he was able to get in touch.
Thanks for your note. It was very interesting to hear about the ice-racer. I didn't know that it had even been raced, let alone right up to 1994. I built it for T-Mill tours who were the main sponsors of the de-facto British ice-racing team.
They took it to somewhere cold (maybe Sweden) to do some testing but they were so busy with teaching new riders to ride on ice with normal ice-racers that they didn't have enough time for the new bike and I was told that they only did a few laps and although it showed promise they didn't have time to develop it and so decided not to race with it. I never heard anymore about it until your message, so if you can provide me with more of its history I'd be very grateful.
A bit about the philosophy of the design:
I knew nothing about ice-racing until I was asked to make this machine, so I studied hours of videos to see what was happening. Absolutely amazing, I'd love to see a real race. Anyway when I saw the incredible lean angles I realized that the suspension would get very high loading from cornering even if the surface was perfectly smooth and so unless I used huge amounts of suspension movement I knew that it wouldn't be possible to have a good suspension both along the straights and also in the bends. T-Mill told me that the corners were more important and so I used a suspension with lots of preload.
The idea was that this wouldn't move much along the straights but the static loading from cornering would overcome the pre-load allowing the suspension to move with the bumps. The problem is that when the bike is really leant over there is little bump force in line with the suspension, most of it is just trying to flex the frame. Another problem would be that when the suspension tops out, it would do so with a sudden bang which in many cases would tend to lift the wheel.
Really, this is a very difficult problem and I think that maybe trying to get the "optimum" degree of frame flex might be the best overall solution, but this would need a lot of frame building and testing. I would be most interested to hear how this bike worked in practice. maybe it wasn't too bad if it was used up to 1994, do you know if it still exists?
There is not much more that I can tell you about the ice racer except to say that I was just asked to build a machine with rear suspension. No-one else was trying it at the time, I don't know if any others have tried it since. Due to the incredible lean angles it is a very difficult thing to achieve much improvement. I attach a photo showing how the bike looked originally. Fuel was contained in the top tube visible in the picture already on your web site. The picture on your site is the only other picture that I have ever seen of the bike, thanks for that. For fellow enthusiasts, Tony has a very interesting site of his own so please do go and visit his pages at www.tonyfoale.com .
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