Obree will spend the week tweaking the bike set-up.

Obree will spend the week tweaking the bike set-up.

The Flying Scotsman, Graeme Obree, qualified for the final of the human-powered land speed record in Battle Mountain, Nevada last night with an official speed of 46.8 mph in his morning session. However, he reached speeds of around 55 mph within the first 0.5 miles. In the evening session following modifications to the bike he reached 47.7 mph, while other competitors struggled with the evening headwind conditions.

Obree reached speeds up to 55 mph.

Obree reached speeds up to 55 mph.

Obree tells Humans Invent he has opted not to ride in the Tuesday morning session and instead work on the bike setup in preparation for Tuesday’s evening longer run. For Graeme, it’s about fine tuning throughout the week and trying to find the right balance to ensure he can focus purely on maximum power output.

How did qualifying go and how did the bike feel?

I’m ok. The bike’s ok. Well, we got it across the line. It feels good to have got my qualifying in and I think I know a lot more about the Beastie. I need to work on some modifications tonight, particularly the gearing and some of the bearings. The run went well and it was interesting to get out there. I had to ride one-handed for a while as I lost my breathing tube, and had to reach round to pop it back in my mouth so we will need to find a solution to that – and that’s a time on the bike where you have to be careful as you don’t want your head crashing into the spokes!

The perfect backdrop.

The perfect backdrop.

I started off really well, straight out of the block. Within 0.5 mile I was up to 35 mph. I thought, I still have 2 miles to go, so I think I peaked too early almost. I got across the line in 46.8 mph officially past the gun, but I was getting speeds up to 55 mph. We are going to spend tonight looking over the gearing and we are going to look at a couple of different setups, so I am confident that we can do something.

How did you feel on the start line?

I think to be honest I need a bit of practice on the bike itself. The key is the setup. I had some problems with syncing the steering and the natural peddling action. So it’s actually three different problems, the third being my body. I have to find the most efficient execution to exert the maximum amount of power while also staying in control and building smoothly the gears. For me, I think I need practice. To get close to 55 mph within 0.5 miles is brilliant but when you start too quickly it’s really difficult to get back on it after that and try and find more in the tank. I also felt part of the bearing starting to slip, so I was suddenly trying to process lots in my mind, when really I need to be focusing on my eyeballs not coming out of my head!

But I am happy. Qualifying was all about showing that the bike was stable, getting it across the line and trying to learn as much as we could.

For the rest of the week now there is a shorter 2.5 mile attempt in the morning and a longer 5 mile attempt in the afternoon. Which will suit you and the Beastie more?

You see, I think the shorter run suits me because I reckon I can get up to 55 mph pretty quickly. That is where the Beastie is strongest. For me it doesn’t make sense to take 3 miles to get a bike up to speed. I mean, you get to 55 mph and then you think, where do I go now? I still have 4 miles to go! So, for us, our strategy will be to concentrate on the morning run. Stability is the key and I think we will get that with more and more practice. I want to work increasing my ankle movement and trying to make the setup easier with my gearing. It’s something I will look at tonight. What I think at the moment is that we have a lack of practice and testing the mileage.

A very difficult tube change.

A very difficult tube change.

I’m looking at the two runs, and for me, 2.5 miles isn’t actually a short, sharp burst. That is a pursuit distance. I’m not really sure why the other guys need 4 miles? But I suppose they must as they have their own techniques and they are working their way through the gears. I will be using the afternoon run as riding time to hone the bike and test. I think the 2.5 miles is the one where we can put the Beastie through its paces. Fingers crossed.

What is the surface at Battle Mountain like? Have you had to make any adjustments for that?

It’s so smooth. You feel the speed right away! You just go, it’s brilliant! I think we paid a wee price with the breathing apparatus. My breathing tube started slipping out and I was one-handed, so I had to reach back round to get it back in, making sure I didn’t stack it, so I lost speed there. I have just attached a little rubber tube to tie the breathing tube to the back of my neck, so if it gets covered in saliva and I lose it, I can pull it back easily. I need to try and eliminate these other factors that I am thinking about, so I can focus on putting the effort in!

Independent filmmaker David Street covering QF.

Independent filmmaker David Street covering QF.

As you pick up speed the steering starts to lose stability, so that is something we will look at, but it seems a common problem across all participants. You need the steering to be as stable as possible so you can give it a real punt and try and push on past 55 mph for the last 1.5 miles.

Tonight I will be testing my theory. Then I can alter my theory if needed. That’s the part I love. Everyday is different, it’s a real live experiment. I’m in my element. If it doesn’t work out right, you tweak. It’s fascinating because some people have been coming back for ten years and they still haven’t cracked it. My plan is to improve every day. If I can do that then we are making progress.


Follow the Graeme Obree attempt from the beginning here.


Photo Credit: Rick Robson: www.cyclesportphotos.com.

The End
  • TriClanger

    If anyone can do it Graeme can. The Flying Scotsman will pedal this into orbit!

  • Phil

    Go Graeme!! Add another world title to your belt!

  • Gary Grayson

    Well Done Graeme !

  • Norman

    Go Graeme go. Believe and you will do it. Never stop believing (and peddling).

  • Ian

    Good Luck Graeme! Have a good ride.

    I’m interested why you decided to lie face down rather than having a longer vehicle and lying between the wheels?

    • Bob

      Probably:
      – Balance (the lower the CoG the greater the steering input required to maintain the rubber downwards)
      – Steering (The longer wheelbase requires more steering input – and this affects aero*)
      – Vision (Between the wheel you have to look through the front wheel)

      But I’m no expert.

      * Note that Sam Whittington says he’d have hit 84.5mph if he’d been able to have more than a 15m assisted start simply due to narrowing the wheel apertures due to the reduced steering which he would have needed.

      • Ian

        Very interesting, I’ve never read much about these vehicles. Are you allowed electronic devices on the vehicle?, as I guess some of these issues could be overcome by these (if you had a super large budget).
        P.S. I have a claim to fame is that I did ride a criterium on the Isle of Man in about 1992 with Graeme Obree wearing the World Champion Jersey. Psyched me out anyway..

  • Eddo

    You’re truly an inspiration to the good old fashion emperical engineer Graeme – Good luck…

  • InspiredByGraeme

    Go on Graeme, give it some wellie!!!

  • Kenge2

    Hope the weather sits on your tail and you fly Graeme. Good luck.

  • Remive

    Go Go Graeme!

  • Alan

    Well done Graeme, all of Scotland is right behind you.

  • Houstie in California

    Gaun yersel Graeme!

    …..Right that’s part one over wi’ – now for the real McCoy! …. Make way for the Wee Sleekit Cow’rin Timrous Beastie. There’s work tae be done!

  • Chris NE24

    A true revolutionary, where Obree goes others follow, helping putting the Great back into Britain.

  • Reg

    I’m all for the positivity surrounding this but we can’t avoid the issue that the bike design has to be called into question, as the speeds are quite a bit slower than the other competitors. He’s going to have to find an extra 15-20mph to be competitive, which will take some doing. Lying face down ‘may’ make the frontal area smaller (although I’m not even totally sold on this) but it’s not a good design if the power output is affected. Maybe this isn’t relevant, and it’s the taking part that counts…

    • Bob

      At these speeds aero efficiency is everything – a saving there can easily outweigh an efficiency loss elsewhere as the effects of aero increase by the cube of speed, and other losses tend to be fixed or have a linear relationship with speed.

      Besides, he’s ridden what – a total of 10 miles so far?
      On a pretty new style of bike – I think 55 is a good start!

  • Elma

    It’s because Graeme designed this bike from scratch, his concept is aerodynamics. As such he said in an earlier report that he chose the position of a skydiver, which is a high speed Human with the least drag.

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