In its quest to shave off fractions of a second at the Rio Games, the U.S. women’s team pursuit squad is riding equipment with a radical innovation: an inverted bike. All the parts that transfer power from your legs to your wheels—the ring, chain and rear cog—are on the left side. Nearly every other bike on the planet carries them on the right.
The idea for the flipped bike came after the 2012 Olympics, where the U.S. women advanced to the medal round after beating Australia by just 0.083 seconds. For the Americans, that was too close for comfort. Working with Felt, an American manufacturer, they dusted off an idea that a few people had toyed with in the 1960s and 70s and quickly discarded.