Graeme Obree on speed record: ‘At least I had a go’

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

After improving his HPV Prone World record to 56.6mph the day before, Graeme was psyched up and ready to go on the University of Toronto machine Vortex to try to break the British record.

One last time down the pan flat highway to the start, Graeme was in good spirits, “Its like a free roll of the dice this morning, I’ll give it a punt”. At the start line Graeme’s ride for the morning was sat at off the highway on its blocks.

“From my ride yesterday I know it’s fast, when the chain un-shipped I just coasted on the side of the road for absolutely ages at 28kph, then the car came past and the guys jumped out and caught me.”

With the road closed Graeme was set to go with the Toronto University guys pushing off. After initial wobbles, Graeme was away. I jumped in a following car and floored the accelerator – still took nearly two miles to get within a couple of hundred metres of Graeme in the Vortex. Through the speed trap and the speed was hard to judge, but it seemed less than the speed of The Beastie the day before.

As the hatch on the Vortex was popped open, Graeme talked through his ride. “At least I had a go, I really didn’t feel stable and I really didn’t want to hit the gravel on the sides of the road, I did promise the Toronto Uni’ guys I wouldn’t stack it. The tiniest movement on the steering and I just veered across the road. It is an impressive bike though; gently tickle the pedals and the bike’s doing 30mph”

After having a chance to relax, Graeme continued, “It would have been irresponsible to give it a punt at over 100k’s an hour. I’ve learned you can’t just get in and do it, it was a lack of time in it to get used to the handling. I can’t believe I took the responsible option, I must be growing up!

“I think I will have a crack at Human Powered TV watching for a while, I’m looking forward to just having a ride out too. It had been great here. It’s a really interesting sport, I’m really glad I came. I do still believe 160kph / 100mph is possible in the next 20 years with the developments I’ve seen here this week, there is absolute cutting-edge technology here and brilliant, friendly people.

“Having looked at some old HPV magazines, the Beastie was pure 1970’s! I think the Beastie reached near its maximum. I thought aerodynamically it was good, but it’s basically a big sail with flat sides. I really appreciate that the guys here didn’t just laugh out loud at it. I think that 56.6mph is pretty near the maximum for The Beastie.”

With The Beastie on its way back to the air freight company, we are heading back to Salt Lake City on the long trip home, a good chance to reflect on on a week of highs and lows. We had met some great people from all over the world with one common lifelong ambition – to go as fast as possible on Highway 309.

Getting ready in University of Toronto’s Vortex machine

Vortex cockpit

One last joke before the off

Climbing aboard

Obree sets off

Down the Highway

No British record, but Obre says he’s learned a lot from the experience

“I’ve learned you can’t just get in and do it, it was a lack of time in it to get used to the handling”

Related links

Obree has sights set on British record

Beastie Blog part five

Beastie Blog part four

Obree makes last-minute tweaks ahead of HPV speed attempt

Beastie Blog part three

Beastie Blog part two

Beastie Blog part one