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The Amazing Flying Scotsman
May 22, 2009 10:05 AM   Subscribe

The hour record is one of the greatest challenges in bicycling, with seemingly the simplest rules: Ride as fast as you can for exactly sixty minutes, zero seconds. If you go farther than anybody else, you hold the record. In 1993, Graeme Obree held that record for one day. Fifteen years later, at the age of 44, Graeme Obree will fly again.

Obree's bizarre-looking homemade bikes and aerodynamic postures were highly controversial, as they didn't look like traditional track bikes. His 1993 ride kicked off a records war between himself, professional racers Chris Boardman, Tony Rominger and Miguel Indurain. The record shattered eight times in three years, a four-way battle ending with the cycling governing body eventually striking their accomplishments from the official Hour Record. With their attempts retroactively filed under a lesser "Human Effort" category without constraints on bicycle design and rider posture, the competition fizzled out.

Following his first hour record, Obree had a very brief, desultory professional cycling that was cut short before his first race (fired in part because he refused to dope). He has spent most of his life in Scotland, away from the European hubs of racing activity and setting national time trial records on his home turf. His autobiography, The Flying Scotsman, was published in 2003 and later turned into a feature film.
posted by ardgedee (34 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I don't think that you're physically hampered from winning at the highest level just because of age."

I respect his accomplishments and admire his moxie, but...dude. When it comes to the world of high-level athletic competition, age is more than just a number.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:20 AM on May 22, 2009


Alternative link for unusual biking outfit

With their attempts retroactively filed under a lesser "Human Effort" category without constraints on bicycle design and rider posture, the competition fizzled out.

Actually, this sounds much cooler to me than a "How fast can you ride a bike" competition. But I guess I'm taking an engineering view. I'd like to try to build a human-powered device that can move you faster than a bike. Actually powering it myself...I'd need to lay off the tacos, which is an unacceptable price.
posted by DU at 10:22 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obree-boy back in this shoe
Watch him crank it
Watch him roll
Watch him crank it, Obree-boy
Then super man fo' sho'

Well, no superman this time around.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:26 AM on May 22, 2009


And if you don't believe in artificial restrictions on bicycle shape, check out the recent 50.529 km hour record by Aurélien Bonneteau on an M5 lowracer or the amazing Sam Wittingham who clocked 86.752 km in his fully faired Varna Diablo, (narrowly missing the $25,000 Dempsey MacCready Prize for the first person to exceed 90 km)

There's a full list of hour record holders at Wikipedia.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, show, not shoe.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:32 AM on May 22, 2009


90 km/hr. In a bike. For an hour. WTF.

(Also, love the top comment at YT: "Can he breathe inside there?" Little known fact--anaerobic bike riding increases speed, especially over long periods.)
posted by DU at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2009


What about a competition for the opposite -- i.e., how short a distance can you travel in 60 minutes? You'd have to require that the cyclist always be in forward motion to avoid people just sitting in one place and scoring a zero. I would watch this race.
posted by brain_drain at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Francesco Moser, Obree and etc. all marked distances over 51km on upright bikes, unfaired but with various aerodynamic tweaks (ovalized tubing, low-spoke or disk wheels, optimized rider postures). It's interesting the recumbent record hasn't done better than that, since the rider's posture is a natural advantage.
posted by ardgedee at 10:38 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Andrea Colinelli bike looks like he ought to be selling ice cream bars off the back end.
posted by echo target at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2009


Oh, I'm terrible. The Sam Wittingham link went to Freddie Markham's 2006 record. Sam Wittingham won the record in 2007 (and the fastest land-speed record in a bicycle, 132.5 km/hr).

Sam's hour record was recently beaten by Damjan Zabovnik at 87.123 km.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2009


Would a recumbent frame's larger size and smaller wheels mean greater weight and more friction?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2009


Would a recumbent frame's larger size and smaller wheels mean greater weight and more friction?

I think at these speeds, wind resistance is a much (much) greater concern than rolling friction. As to why the unfaired recumbent record sits below the UCI "human effort" record, I suspect that's just because there haven't been as many attempts.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:52 AM on May 22, 2009


A bike ride on the moon would have no air friction, so I wonder how fast they could go. Good reason to build a moon base there.

(Wait...they could go arbitrarily fast with no air friction. Drag grows with velocity, so you eventually have matching forces. But friction against the ground is a constant, so as long as you overcome that you can get infinitely fast. Modulo Einstein.)
posted by DU at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2009


I like the irony that "unfaired" means without aerodynamic shells and the like.
posted by patricio at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Air resistance is the greatest obstacle when riding on level ground at speed. Mass is a greater factor when starting, stopping, and climbing.

Time-trial bikes will frequently sport smaller front wheels when the rules allow. The reduced air resistance and lower rotational mass more than makes up for the difference in mechanical resistance. Triathlon bikes frequently sport smaller wheels front and back because the standards for acceptable bikes are a lot more slacker than in UCI-sanctioned competition.
posted by ardgedee at 10:55 AM on May 22, 2009


For those interested in Obree, I recommend the movie The Flying Scotsman.
posted by exogenous at 10:55 AM on May 22, 2009


Oops, the movie was already mentioned in the post. Sorry!
posted by exogenous at 10:55 AM on May 22, 2009


Obviously this guy doesn't read the blue as it's a fixed gear bike and multiple MeFites have said they're too slow! Doesn't he know he's wasting his time?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:33 AM on May 22, 2009


Am I the only one who finds the 67x13 incredibly sexy? Sixty-freaking-seven!
posted by neilkod at 11:36 AM on May 22, 2009


A bike ride on the moon would have no air friction, so I wonder how fast they could go.

Yeah but the surface is heavily scarred and rutted, not to mention the rocks and craters.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:40 AM on May 22, 2009


Obviously the first thing any civilized lunar colony does is to pave the entire moon.
posted by DU at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


it's a fixed gear bike and multiple MeFites have said they're too slow

Fie, I say! Fie! If they're too slow, why do I see so many Rubino Pros all patchy from skid stopping?
posted by JohnFredra at 11:50 AM on May 22, 2009


Yeah but the surface is heavily scarred and rutted, not to mention the rocks and craters.
We could build a conveyor belt....
posted by Floydd at 11:59 AM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]



The Flying Scotsman. . .

Might make a good double feature with The World's Fastest Indian.
posted by Herodios at 11:59 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who finds the 67x13 incredibly sexy? Sixty-freaking-seven!

Is that a chainring? This is a chainring!
posted by exogenous at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2009


Would a recumbent frame's larger size and smaller wheels mean greater weight and more friction?

I read a figure once that, for a conventional bicycle, once you are over 15 mph, something like 90% of effort is expended overcoming air resistance.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:07 PM on May 22, 2009


> for a conventional bicycle, once you are over 15 mph, something like 90% of effort is expended overcoming air resistance.

Calculate the Aerodynamic Drag and Propulsive Power of a Bicyclist or read how wind resistance relates to climbing and descending.
posted by ardgedee at 12:38 PM on May 22, 2009


What about a competition for the opposite -- i.e., how short a distance can you travel in 60 minutes?

That would look like something like this. But for a whole hour. They need more cheesy Euro-pop.
posted by afx237vi at 1:19 PM on May 22, 2009


Track-standing contests are just stupid if the guys on the bikes aren't drinking beer.
posted by Mister_A at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2009


"Oops, the movie was already mentioned in the post. Sorry!"

Boy, if you ever want to feel inadequate about your accomplishments watch the movie. It's excellent.
posted by Mitheral at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2009


The achievements may also be put in some perspective when considering the fact that Obree Obree has suffered from acute depression since his late teens, and has been diagnosed as manic-depressive.
posted by Jakey at 3:11 PM on May 22, 2009


Obviously this guy doesn't read the blue as it's a fixed gear bike and multiple MeFites have said they're too slow! Doesn't he know he's wasting his time?

Ummm, I think that what multiple MeFites have said is that fixies might not be the best solution for many everyday riding circumstances. As fashion statements, whatever, but I cringe/laugh every morning as I roar past the fixies toiling away on the uphill portion of my morning commute. Sure, I lose some efficiency in my geared drivetrain and big tires, but I make up for it by keeping an optimum pedaling speed on all the city's inclines and terrains and by not wearing incredibly restrictive (yet incredibly fashionable!) tight jeans.

If you're riding at a nearly constant speed around a flat circular track for an hour, then yes, you should use a fixie. If you're riding a fixie uphill over potholes, please don't wobble into my way as I pass you.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:32 PM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's a fixed gear bike and multiple MeFites have said they're too slow!

Take it to MetaTalk. ;)

Some fella attempted the 24hr track world record in Perth a few years ago. I can't remember if he was successful, but I do remember towards the end he was vomiting and also pooped himself and did the last hour or so with shitty britches. How embarrassment.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:04 PM on May 22, 2009


Am I the only one who inds the 67x13 incredibly sexy? Sixty-freaking-seven!

Before I say anything, I want to know its views on gay marriage.
posted by notmtwain at 4:48 AM on May 23, 2009


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