Beastie Blog 3: Graeme Obree gets through qualifying session for HPV speed record

Rick Robson is following Graeme Obree as he attempts to break the human powered vehicle world speed record in the USA

A stunning sunrise over the mountains greeted the riders as they unloaded there machines ready for action. With tyres pumped and visor mounted The Beastie was ready for its first proper test pushing through the cool early morning Nevada air.

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The qualifying round was over a shorter 2.5-mile course and is employed to get the riders and machines used riding this most spectacular stretch of tarmac.

I headed off down the course before it was closed to traffic with film maker David Street. I opted for the end of the timing strip to photo riders at there fastest and get a gauge on how well The Beastie was travelling.

Exactly as explained in the previous night’s meeting, the school bus rolled down the road before the traffic stopping crew closed both ends of the course to traffic. Then in a slightly Mad Max-esque moment one of the organisers tore down the road in his Mustang muscle car to check the route was clear.

There was absolute silence and no wind whatsoever as I waited for the first HPV, Graeme was setting off third, riders leaving the start in three minute intervals. The radio of the time keepers 150 metres away crackled into life; the first HPV had fallen over at the start.

There was silence again for another minute; the second HPV had fallen over at the start! Soon one of the toppled over riders got started and trundled past me at a pretty good speed.

I was then looking out for The Beastie. The radio crackled into life again, “Graeme’s down, fallen at the start”. There was a fairly anxious wait for the radio again, “Graeme has left the start area” Few! Looking down the expanse of tarmac I could see The Beastie moving fast, the machine twitching and kicking out as the power was laid down.

As it reached the timing strip start there was a huge kick out to the side with Graeme looking precariously near the far edge of the tarmac. Graeme righted The Beastie but the huge wobble and laying off the power was clearly not ideal when entering in the 200 metre timing strip.

The confirmed speed of 46.8 mph was a pretty good start on the shorter course and with fairly serious handling issues.

How did the first ride go? “Well falling at the start wasn’t great, once up and running it feels fine. It gets really twitchy when you start giving it the power. It seemed more stable when it had the big gear on with lower cadence. I think I need the 12 sprocket back.”

Evening finals, first session
With limited time before the evening ride, The Beastie remained on the same gearing for the five mile evening session. Gone was the morning’s perfect calmness, the evening run was into an almost 10mph headwind. Trying a slightly different tactic of using the first few of miles as a gentle warm up before pushing hard for the last 1000 metres, the evening run was impressive.

47.7mph, Only slightly faster but into a headwind which saw other riders considerably slower than their morning runs. It seems like Graeme and the Beastie are getting to know each other better.

“Well the total distance I had ridden the Beastie before we came here was about three kilometres and today I’ve done 7.5 miles, it’s about learning to ride it to get its maximum.”

With the first days lessons learned, Graeme has opted not to ride the Tuesday morning session to allow time for the gearing tweaks, ready for a Tuesday evening run.

Evening session, timing start

The Beastie veers to the side of the road, but Obree keeps it upright

The Beastie in full flight
Graeme Obree clocks 47.7mph

Related links

Beastie Blog part two

Beastie Blog part one