Tag Archives: Graeme Obree

Obree the innovator: predecessors to Old Faithful

On a recent This Week In Cycling History podcast, John Galloway and Cilian Kelly went off on a tangent (as they sometimes do) musing over the origins of Graeme Obree’s aero tuck position, used to break Francesco Moser’s hour record on his Old Faithful’ bike in 1993.

Obree was an innovator, rethinking his position on the bike and the bike itself,  achieving aerodynamic gains by  going back to first principles and bringing a ‘beginner’s mind’ to bike engineering. I’ve heard him speak about this in person several times – he would look at his bike and think (or maybe say out loud) ‘what if I had never seen a bike before – what would I do differently?’

Early frame innovations

Obree could weld his own frames and would design  Found on Bob Reid’s homage to the Flying Scot bicycle, the picture below shows some of the genesis of his frame innovations:

One predecessor of ‘old faithful’ was this machine he built and seen here at a road race in Carluke in 1987. The short back end prevented Graeme from using double chain-rings and the frame has a brazed-on chain guide.

Obree custom frame 1987

You can read about Obree’s story in his own words in ‘The Flying Scotsman’

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Help kick start an Obree film

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to see Richard Moore quiz Graeme Obree on his career at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

He was his usual eccentric yet inspirational self with several lines sticking in the memory and making you think again about the way you view things – which is his default way of looking at the world.

He talked about owning his bike shop and being in the comfort zone, as many of us often are, like a ball sitting on a flat surface. Sometimes something comes along to nudge that, and sets the ball off in a new direction.

Motivation and determination are key to his make-up: for example, he asked: would Moser (the previous hour record holder to Obree) have ‘chucked’ a training session in the snow, if he had had two punctures and frozen hands?

Being ‘willing to die’ and ‘getting the ‘last bit of toothpaste out of the tube’ were two ways of describing 100% effort needed to break a record that stuck in my mind.

During the evening, we watched a short rough cut of footage shot at Obree’s world speed record attempt in the USA. Read on to find out more of the background to his record attempt and Journey Pictures’ kickstarter campaign that will transform the thousands of hours of film into a documentary.

CSP_1760 - Copy

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A night with Graeme Obree at Ronde 24 Nov

Here is some info about an appearance by the great Graeme Obree that readers may be interested in.

On Saturday 24th November, Magdala Media (organisers of the Scottish Bike Show) & Ronde Bicycle Outfitters will be hosting ‘A Night with Graeme OBree’ celebrating the Scottish legend’s achievements in cycling and the upcoming cycling land speed record. Taking place in Edinburgh at Ronde, this special evening will be open to the public to attend, including an interview session with Graeme to be lead by the Founders of the ‘Velo Club Don Logan‘ podcast, followed by Q & A from the audience.

Neil Dryden, Ronde Bicycle Outfitters commented, “To have such a prestigious ambassador for Scottish Cycling coming to our premises is amazing. We often host in-house evenings showcasing various new brands and niche designers, but to have one of my hero’s at the store is really quite exciting.”

Graeme will discuss his amateur and professional cycling career including becoming the World Hour record holder, his brushes with the UCI, rivalry with Chris Boardman, Drugs in cycling and coming right up to date with his world land speed record attempt aboard The Beastie – his latest and most radical bike design.

‘Beastie’ will be on show during the evening and will provide all attendees with an up close and detailed view of the ingenious and revolutionary design the Flying Scotsman built from nothing.

There are a small number of tickets available for ‘A Night with Graeme Obree’ at £18.00 per person. From 7pm – 10pm, the entry price will include complimentary wine, cheese and nibbles.

To pre-register your tickets, contact info@magdalamedia.com or neil@rondebike.com Tickets will also be available to buy at the Ronde Store this Friday 9th November:

66-68 Hamilton Place Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AZ

Tickets sold are on a first come, first served basis – we look forward to celebrating the evening with everyone.

Return of the Flying Scotsman

Most of you should have heard of Graeme Obree’s upcoming attempt on the World human-powered vehicle land-speed record. If you haven’t, watch this video. And if you have, also watch this video, because Graeme is brilliant.

[edit 2015: Humans Invent seems to have vanished but the video is still available on youtube.]

It’s like time trialling but without the UCI regulations on bike dimensions. Without restrictions, the type of bike that you tend towards is a recumbent with full aerodynamic faring, an ideal outlet for Obree’s design innovation and creativity. Speeds of up to 80mph can be reached and if conditions are right he hopes to hit 100mph.

If you’ve got time for a more in-depth listen, check out this audio from Jack Thurston of The Bike Show, during Graeme’s visit to Look Mum No Hands cafe in London. Graeme goes into detail about the land speed record as well as topics like motivation, training, nutrition and more.

And you can see Graeme speak in person at Stirling University this Wednesday, 28th March at the Pathfoot Building. It’s free, followed by a screening of Chasing Legends at the Macrobert cinema.

Scottish Cycling Foods IV: Marzipan

“We have evolved to eat food” said Graham Obree at a recent talk at Look Mum No Hands cycling café in the East End of London. He was speaking to Jack Thurston of The Bike Show to promote his new training manual, The Obree Way.

Energy drinks can be indigestible– you’re bypassing the first stage of digestion which takes place in the mouth, and with energy bars you end up breathing in crumbs.

So his ingeniously low-fi solution for energy food is a lump of marzipan in the cheek, hamster-style, that can dissolve and be munched on gradually as you ride. “How can you not like marzipan?” he asks, rhetorically, at the talk.

Marzipan is yummy!...

It is well worth a listen, click through to the Bike Show website and scroll to the bottom for the audio. It’s also availble on iTunes as a podcast download.

Scottish cycling foods III: Tunnocks
Scottish Cycling foods II: Irn Bru
Scottish Cycling foods I: Oatcakes
Euro Foods

Graeme Obree to open Etape Caledonia 2011

Graeme Obree, aka The Flying Scotsman, has confirmed he will open this year’s Macmillan Cancer Support Etape Caledonia cycle challenge – immediately after bearing formal witness to the start line nuptials of fundraisers Rick Millin & Jo Louden who will tie the knot in front of 5000 participants in the UK’s biggest closed road cycling event.

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Race-pace.net blog

A quick plug for a twitter associate, Phil Jones, who has relaunched his blog at race-pace.net. Phil is a big fan of Sir Chris and Graeme Obree, and met them both- booking Obree for public speaking, and attending a business lunch with Hoy.

Questions for Sir Chris Hoy
Graeme Obree interview

Phil, like me is relatively new to the sport of cycling and has posted several useful pieces such as an introduction to bike fit and bike buying guides.

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Jason McIntyre and Graeme Obree 2007

Jason McIntyre in 2007 riding an 18:49 to win a midweek 10 on the West Ferry course. I mistakenly thought this was the Scottish Championships, but David Martin aka threepockets advised me on twitter that the champs were on the A77 that year. He won that too, and beat a record held by Graeme Obree.


For some reason I feel a bit of a fraud posting pics and info about Jason- his untimely death was relatively recent and he is sorely missed by many in Scottish Cycling. It still feels a bit close to the bone and I don’t want to be jumping on the bandwagon. As I’m new to the sport, I never watched him race but I still enjoy learning more about such a class rider.


Graeme Obree in the colours of his local club, Fullarton Wheelers, riding a typically massive gear.

thanks to Ian Johnston on flickr for permission to use the pictures. Click on the images to see his other photography.

Graeme Obree’s ‘The Hour’ watch

Graeme Obree designed a watch to celebrate his record-breaking hour record.

Graeme Obree interview – The Hour from Mr Jones on Vimeo.

The watch appeared last year, and the other week he was on STVs ‘The Hour‘ programme (available on limited catch-up, click ‘part four’). There’s his typical frankness about the pain of attempting the hour record in this video, mixed in with some philosopy about time.

Obree’s 2009 hour record bike

I have had the photo below, (by Andy McAndlish, originally published in an article on bikeradar) on my desktop for a while and the moment had been lost to blog it. Sometimes you have to be quick, which is why I try to stay away from race news and results.

But I have started listening to old episodes of the Velocast again (still available on podomatic), and in episode 10 they discussed this bike, albeit with aero bars.

(Photo: Andy McAndlish)

There’s another great shot of Obree riding the bike if you click through to bikeradar, showing his outstanding aptitude for innovating to find an extremely aerodynamic position. He used his trademark custom parts to get an aerodynamic position, but within the “new” UCI rules, which aim to keep bikes within the style of Eddy Merckx’s 1972 record.

Velocasters Scott and John covered Obree’s attempt on the hour record, which at 43 years old would have been a great challenge, but alas the machine did not work on the velodrome bankings as expected, which hit Graeme hard. He was advised to abadnon the hour attempt.

The bike remains though (and I wonder where it is now). It has a Selle Italia Flite saddle with a purple fluffy cover reminiscent of some sort of muppet. The Reynolds 653 steel frame catches the eye, with it’s 1-and-1/8 inch tubing that is very thin-looking by today’s standards. Added to this are aluminium time trial handlebars that were hand-whittled by Obree for for three months! And some custom pedals, again hand-whittled! The sort of obsessive attention to detail that made Graeme such an amazing time trialler.

More shots of the bike

Bikeradar interview with more great pics