Rick Robson is following Graeme Obree as he attempts to break the human powered vehicle world speed record in the USA
With handling issues causing serious concerns, Graeme didn’t ride on Tuesday, instead taking the time to strip The Beastie, replace the step-up gear from a 17 to a 12 sprocket, and add weight to the front wheel to try to aid stability.
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The annual ‘show and shine’ session at the Battle Mountain Civic Centre drew interested locals and the local primary school, fresh from learning about human powered vehicles (HPVs) in their curriculum.
The HPV riders’ autographs were in hot demand – Graeme even threw in a free oily thumb print as he was in the middle of changing The Beastie’s gearing. Back at the hotel, the shell was removed to correct an issue with a drive roller which was catching the inside of the fairing. Twenty-four seven gramme weights were added to the lightweight front wheel to try to aid stability.
With tweaks complete, Graeme refitted the shell. As he worked, a white feather floated down from the sky. “That’s it, look – white feather, good luck – it’s a sign” Graeme joked. With The Beastie back together we were all set for the Wednesday morning session.
6.30am Back down the road
I asked Graeme how he was going to approach the run: “Big gear, big controlled pushes on the cranks, nice and smooth, build up the speed a bit and see what we can do, basically just give it a right good punt back down the road!”
I got into a position 50 metres after the end of the timing strip to wait for The Beastie. Graeme came hurtling into view, far steadier than on the previous runs and moving fast again but far smoother and less twitchy than the previous runs. About a kilometre after he had passed, the noise from the chase car’s engine increased, Graeme had fallen.
Back at the catch zone, I asked Graeme what happened.
“I knew it wasn’t right after about two miles, I must have been doing about 40mph when I could smell burning from the back tyre, the transmission was making a clunking noise. I knew the back tyre wasn’t a huge issue if it blew, so I carried on. There is an issue with the transmission, just not sure what it is.
“The chain fell off about a kilometre before the catch zone, that’s why I came to a stop and fell over. If I can get the transmission right, I could go considerably faster. The big gear feels really good – far smoother, the weighted front wheel felt less twitchy”.
Graeme continued: “We’ll get back to base and do a full crash-site forensic investigation and find out what’s going on! Hopefully we will get done for tonight’s session.” It’s worth pointing out that many other riders are having similar issues and can be seen constantly tweaking their machines at the hotel.
After an initial inspection, the problem was fairly obvious. The wheel had pulled over into the metal roller arm guides, causing the tyre to smoke and throwing the transmission out of alignment. Within a few minutes Graeme had found a piece of iron bar to help get everything back in place, “there we go, boffed it back into its place!” said Graeme with a glint in his eye, “we are ready to go tonight.”
As The Beastie was fixed, official confirmation on the speed came through. 50.9 mph. The HPV World prone record currently stands at 54mph. Graeme is sure there is far more speed to get out of The Beastie yet…
Obree after the fall
The Beastie in action
Graeme Obree and The Beastie tip over the 50mph mark