Don't let the professional riders take all the glory on the track, you too can 'enjoy' the fun of an Hour Record attempt on your way to work
For those unfamiliar to the Hour Record, a rider must simply cover the most distance they can within 60 minutes. These attempts are undertaken in a velodrome due to the highly-controlled environment that is largely free from external factors that you would encounter on a commute, such as cars, potholes and wind.
But don’t let those minor details spoil things – why not make your commute to work a little more like the inspirational Hour Record so you can arrive at work utterly shattered but with the warm glow of following in the footsteps of current record holder Sir Bradley Wiggins (54.526km), Alex Dowsett, Chris Boardman, Graeme Obree… and Ondřej Sosenka.
Spend hours in a windtunnel in preparation
Your work colleagues won’t mind you bunking off for a few days, or even weeks, to hone your riding position into the most aerodynamic shape possible in a windtunnel before your commuting Hour ‘attempt’.
Getting expert aero advice can be costly, though, so just before you disappear from work, you could maybe pop into the boss and ask whether the company would like to sponsor your attempt. They won’t see anything back in return, but as a valued employee, this shouldn’t matter. They are investing in you.
If that sponsorship is not forthcoming and a windtunnel is out of your league, then you could always take your bike down to the local subway (the pedestrian underpass variety rather than the sandwich outlet), wait for a breeze, and get a willing friend to light a sparkler at one end so that you can get another friend to film the resulting smoke passing over your perfectly aero-shaped back on their iPhone.
Study the footage, then make adjustments to bike set-up and your clothing as necessary and repeat. Cling film is quite aerodynamic, so if you can’t afford a skinsuit, aero helmet and stretchy shoe covers, apply liberally.
If you’re using a subway, it’s best to do this in the early hours of the morning to avoid the embarrassment of seeing anyone you might know. Although subways aren’t the best places to be in the early hours of the morning. Anyway, moving on…
Stress about the right air pressure
Everyone knows that a good Hour Record attempt can be assisted by the correct air pressure. If you pick the right day when the pressure is favourable, it could help you go just that little bit faster.
We won’t get overly scientifical here, but lower air pressure means you can go faster because there’s less air in your way when you’re cycling. TV weather forecasts sometimes give you air pressure, enabling you to pick the perfect day in advance. Anything below 1013 hectoPascals is good. Whatever that is.
Talk up your attempt over breakfast
Make sure you have a breakfast of something you like, just in case you see it again due to the super-human effort of your riding. Over breakfast it is imperative that you talk up your Hour Record attempt as much as possible. This is to convince yourself as much as it is to convince your family and pet dog/cat of your ability.
You can take the opportunity to impress them with your Hour Record pacing strategy. About how the first 10 minutes is going to feel like ‘it’s for free’ (so said Chris Boardman), then how the effort kicks in after 15 minutes, then how it feels like you are dying for the next 45 minutes. But it will all be worth it – think of the eternal glory.
Get your bike accurately measured by a UCI commissaire before you start
It is vitally important that your bike meets the UCI’s requirements for an Hour Record bike. The geometry must fall within the rules, or all of your hard work will be wasted.
We’re not entirely sure how you can get a UCI commissaire to come to your house before your ride into work, as they usually just turn up like magic when needed. Perhaps there’s somewhere from which you can hire one out.
Failing that, if you have any friends left after enticing them into a subway at 3am, you could ask them to dress up in a smart blazer and obtain a clipboard and tape measure. Then get them to look over the bike, sucking air in through their teeth and tutting ever so slightly.
Ride for an hour
One of the basic, yet wholly crucial, aspects of any good Hour Record attempt is that you ride for an hour. This is also known as 60 minutes or 3600 seconds.
If your commute is shorter than an hour, then you are in luck. Add in a few laps of a conveniently placed roundabout or supermarket car park to ensure an accurate hour is achieved. Although you may have to deal with anxious parents attempting to get Thomas and Olivia to school on time in a BMW X5. This is one drawback of not using a velodrome, and something Sir Bradley didn’t have to think about.
If your commute usually takes you more than an hour, then you have two options: the first is to ride faster, because really that’s the spirit of the record. The second is to cadge a lift up to the point from where you think it will take you an hour and then carry on.
And don’t forget to start your GPS computer just as you head off. Otherwise all this effort will be wasted.
Only turn left
Track riders only ever circle a velodrome anti-clockwise, and therefore only ever turn left. You should emulate this by refusing to make any right-hand turns. In Britain, this has the added advantage of never having to cross the road, over the path of on-coming traffic.
We don’t advise you going to the extremes that the USA Olympic team did for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, however, where they swapped their chainset from the right to left side on their track bikes. This was supposedly to take advantage of airflow when making all those left-hand turns. It all turned out to be a bit of hype.
Arrive at work completely unable to stand
Having found the perfect air pressure day, got into your aero tuck and travelled for exactly one hour into work at maximum effort +1, you can now collapse exhausted at the front door of the office. Someone will need to help you to your feet and carry you in. Don’t worry too much about your bike, as you probably won’t want to look at it for a bit.
Do not expect to do anything all day, other than tell people endlessly about how that last 10 minutes was just a blur, and how it was the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
If you feel like it, and the air pressure is still good, you can do it all again on the way home.