The rattling goes right into your head because you’re so close to the ground
It was a windy day and pouring with rain which hampered visibility. Obree’s team was eventually forced to cut a hole in the front of the fairing to allow Obree to see clearly. But visibility wasn’t the only issue; Obree was unhappy with the overall shape of the shell, believing he could make it far more aerodynamic.
Obree went back to the drawing board and came up with a brand new design, which was revealed last week as he tested out the Beastie at Prestwick airport. Gone is the transparent, two-piece shell to be replaced by a far more streamlined and sleek looking fairing made from Kevlar and fibreglass.
Obree says, “The front section is rounded, then it widens out and widens out and then comes back in, in a very smooth curve and narrows down to the back end…the most important part in terms of dividing the air and then pulling the air back in again with the least amount of energy is to have a laminar (non-turbulent) flow over the sides of it.”
After testing it last week however, there were still certain issues that need resolving before he has a pop at the record in Nevada this autumn. The main problem is the launch. At standstill the bike simply topples over so it requires two people to push it forward, to get some momentum before going along unaided. But the new shape that narrows towards the end makes it hard for those pushing to get much purchase.
Obree says, “I wanted to go at a great speed right away but the guys couldn’t launch me. Back when I tested it at Machrihanish airport, I only needed one person to launch it so I assumed it wasn’t that hard to keep me upright and push me in a straight line but because it’s now all slippery and fish-shaped it’s hard for them.”
The Beastie now has an opening at the front to give Obree better visibility but, again, Obree is still finding it hard to see where he is going.
The surface [in Nevada] is dead smooth both on the micro and the macro level
He says, “The rattling goes right into your head because you’re so close to the ground.” This makes it hard to see the white line down the middle of the runway, which he uses as a guide as he goes along.
Obree got up to about 50 mph but he wasn’t pushing it to its limits because he couldn’t gauge how much runway was left. He says, “When you are 2ft 6in off the ground you can’t see how much runway you’ve used so I never actually got to my max speed. Also, you’re over geared because it is really geared to be doing 80 or 90mph.”
The road surface itself wasn’t terribly smooth. Obree says, “Although it is a nice long bit of tarmac, it is actually made of quite large stones. For planes landing, with big bulky plane wheels it’s fine, but on a bike it can be rumbly and you can get a wee bit of resistance off it as well.”
However, the conditions in Nevada will be much better. He says, “The surface is dead smooth both on the micro and the macro level. It has a smooth, finished tarmac rather than squashed stone tarmac, it is slightly down hill, the air is better and the temperature is better.”
Despite this, Obree is not entirely confident he will beat the Canadian Sam Whittingham’s record of 83mph. He says, “To go at that speed, and Wittingham is no slouch as a cyclist either, you’re thinking, I have to respect this record, it’s not going to be easy to break. But there is also the British record of 63mph held by Jason Queally. So I’m looking to break that but of course, the big cherry would be to break the world record. I hope I can but I haven’t gone at any great speeds yet, so really you know as much as I know.”
Obree will be attempting the human-powered land speed record in September on the appropriately named Battle Mountain in Nevada. We will keep you informed of any developments as the big day approaches.