Clock ticks down to Tour de France start

The final countdown to the Tour de France is truly under way in Leeds after the unveiling of the official countdown clock, which was crafted by students from across the Faculty of Engineering.

The timepiece, entitled the ‘Grand Depart Mechanical Theatre’, was unveiled to waiting crowds at Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre on Friday 16 May as anticipation builds ahead of the world’s largest annual sporting event in Leeds on Saturday, 5 July.

Dan Trowsdale, Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Mechanical Engineering, led the team of product design and electronic engineering students Jon Weston-Stanley, Benjamin Wilson, Thomas Oldbury and Tom Carpenter who worked to manufacture the clock, designed by Leeds-based theatre designer Barney George.

Made from giant steel cogs and precision cut woodwork, the clock features cyclists, bikes and a massive outer cog which counts down days while smaller inner dials tick off the remaining hours, minutes and seconds.

Such is the intricacy of the clock, the cogs and cyclists appear interconnected, bringing together a range of bicycles and cyclists which cycle at positions around the outer rim.

The twelve unique mechanical cyclists were developed from Barney’s 2D drawings using 3D computer aided design to produce data which was then used to manufacture hundreds of parts using the faculty’s 3D printing and laser cutting facilities. The custom-made printed circuit boards were designed and built by the students with computer code written specifically for this application to control the cyclists and the light display.

Dan Trowsdale said: “Working on this historic clock has been a tremendous experience for me and the students. The unveiling on Friday marked the culmination of many weeks of hard work and we are delighted with the result. We hope it is a source of pride to the people of Leeds as we build up to the Grand Depart.”

The clock was unveiled on May 16 to mark 50 days until the start of the Tour de France.

Further information

For more information, contact Ben Jones in the Press Office on 0113 34 38059 or email