Tag Archives: time trials

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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Roadside for a TTT: Tour de France Stage 9 in Plumelec

On the Saturday evening after watching Stage 8, I returned to the house to find the appero being served and the barbecue being readied for cotes de boeuf, saucisses and pork chops. Drink was taken and I hatched a last-minute plan to watch the TTT with the one true cycling fan amongst the group.

We set off at 10am from our location in central Brittany to drive the hour towards the TTT course. I felt it was a bit early and wasn’t relishing nursing my groggy head for several hours at the roadside before the race came past. My companion was right to leave so early though, as we got through a few back roads and pretty close to the course at just the right moment before the verges became clogged with parked cars. We’re on the penultimate climb, about 5km from the finish line, and have a good view down the drag of the teams heading our way.

It’s already jam packed with fans and we see several teams doing an easy recce, as well as Oleg Tinkoff riding the stage – nobody seemed to recognise the Tinkoff-Saxo team owner, despite Contador being hugely popular in France.

The madness of the publicity caravan whizzes through, and there are some ugly scenes. It’s another cliche that can ring true – grown adults debase themselves for a commercial freebie, but that’s for another blog post.

Several riders in white and red, publicising Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque – a heart surgery charity. There are several Tour luminaries including Roger Legeay, former DS of Gan / Credit Agricole, Jean-Francois Pescheux, former race director, Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thevenet.


To the racing, and the teams come through in descending order of the highest-placed rider on GC. Orica are just surviving, as I overheard Matt White explaining to a journalist the previous day. They had come to win the TTT, and since it’s now impossible, with 3 riders retired and 1 rolling wounded, they will be taking it easy.

My friend and I try to start a stopwatch – I’m no timekeeper, so I focus on the photos and note-taking, while he aims to clock which teams are ‘up’ or ‘down’.
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Scottish Time Trialling: photoset

I shot pictures at the Corrieri’s Classic 10 time trial in early March and posted them on Stirling Bike Club’s flickr account – the aim of the game being to get the action shots published as quickly as possible for the benefit of the competitors and the event organisers.

Gone are the days of race previews and news on this blog: Life, The Universe and Everything has taken over and the type of writing that isn’t time-bound has taken precendence: historical pieces, route reviews, and contributed content such as interviews or race PR from the organisers.

I wanted to revisit my photos from that TT though, and process a few of the image files to give an alternative view. Amidst the action and competitor shots, I wanted to look for the little details and take a few sideways glances at racing against the clock – similar to how Balint Hamvas shoots cyclocross. Not being a time trial stalwart myself, this was a challenge – do these evoke the feel of an early season TT in Scotland? What are the feelings that run through your mind as you warm up, head to the start, and the clock ticks down to your start time?


Headwind on the course.

A chat before the start
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Jen Taylor 2013 Scottish womens road

Jen Taylor: Scottish women’s road champion

When Jen Taylor won the Scottish women’s road race championships in Mid-may, up in Aberdeenshire, I recognised her name but that was about it. She has now just competed in the National Road Race Championships in Glasgow, so here is a belated hat-tip to Scotland’s women’s champion.

British National Road Race Championships 2013
Lining up for the British nationals alongside the pro women

By all accounts the Scottish championships was a well-run event, put on by Phil Allan and was ‘enjoyed’ (if that is the right word) by the riders. The organiser, freshly taking on a big event such as this has enough on their plate, but I’d hoped for a wee bit more coverage leading up to and after the race. Scottish Cycling’s publicity output has increased noticeably in the past weeks and months with reference to our champions and other races and results, but leading up to the event there was not a huge amount of information available.

Ed and Martin at Velo Veritas paid good attention to the day, the course and the men’s race and ran an interview with winner Gary Hand. My mind was turning over about the women’s race though – who was the winner who had beaten several full time athletes and a few pros – Jennifer Taylor.

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(Scottish) Cycling vernacular: testers

In a previous post I referred to Scottish rouleurs getting a chance to test themselves in an early season time trial, and someone queried my terminology, suggesting the correct phrase for this type of riding should be testers. As we head towards March, time triallists will be looking to the first classified 10 of the year, the Corrieri’s Classic.

A tester is the British slang for a pure time triallist, and wikipedia lists this as “slightly derogatory” – a time-trialist who tends to over-specialize in the discipline. What do you think of this? I’ve heard time trialling devotees refer to themselves as testers as well as roadmen use the word in a slightly disparaging way.


On the continent, a rouleur (or passista if you’re Italian) is a general term for a rider capable of fast riding on the flat. This phrase does seem to encompass a workhorse cyclist who can drill it on the front, chase down breaks and crank up the pace ahead of a lead-out, but as the Euros don’t have as much of a tradition of time trialling as we do, they don’t seem to have specialist terms for against-the-clock specialists. Before the RTL-l’Équipe podcast was cancelled, I remember the (French) panellists bemoaning the lack of French time trial specialists and referring to them as ‘rouleurs’.

The Bunch

Much of our cycling slang comes from continental terms and a few French slang phrases exist for types of rider that we don’t seem to have names for, such as the puncheur – a punchy rider? – and the barroudeur – a swashbuckling all-rounder who loves the solo break.

Voeckler, the people's champion!

Also worth a look is a glossary of European cycling terms on one of my favourite sites, The Inner Ring.

Scottish Climbs: Logie Kirk, Stirling

This climb, local to me, is a short steep narrow road that takes you from the church at the bottom to the Ochil Hills. The church sits in the Forth Valley, in the lea of the Abbey Craig hill, site of the Wallace Monument. Otherwise, the base of this climb is surrounded by the flat farmland of the Forth Valley, with the Ochils range rearing up along the ‘hillfoots’ villages of Menstrie, Alva and Tillicoutry.

The Logie church that sits at the bottom is in the shadow of the Witches Craig, a set of cliffs that were said to be the site of pagan rituals.

Logie Church  Stirling

Starting from the car park, the first section, past the cemetery, seems easy in comparison to the rest, but in fact the bumpy, gravelly road makes it hard to get a decent head of steam up.


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Scottish Cyclist: Archie Craig, 1930s

I competed in the Lothian Flyer Race in June and Archie Craig, the Lothian Road Club rider, after whom the race is named, was represented in the form of his daughter Sheila and her sister’s grandson Massimo, Archie’s great grandson. He died in 2000 aged 87.

Born 27 August, 1912, he was a member of the Lothian Road club, with day rides and drum-ups a part of the cycling culture in the 30s and 40s. There are several pictures of Archie and his clubmates below, that give a feel for club life.

A young, wet looking rider competing in a club, or an open TT?

His daughter Sheila told me: Dad went cycling on the continent, on a few trips in the 30’s, staying at hostels and sleeping out. Few did this back then, and on his return fellow club members and everybody wanted to know all about it. There were some great stories – unfortunately the war stopped a great deal of cycling, but in 1950 Dad went with a few Lothian CC friends cycling through France, Pyrenees to Andorra and down through parts of Spain(travel to Spain had just been authorised again and you needed a visa to go to Spain.

Thanks to Sheila for sharing these photos. Although Lothian Cycling Club and Edinburgh Road club were rivals in the past, LCC no longer exists, and ERC now promotes the race in Archie Craig’s memory.

The Lothian Cycling Club members

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Rothesay weekend day 1

Today saw the Serpentine hill climb and the two-up TT at the Rothesay Weekend.

I don’t have the full results but photos courtesy of Dave Swan / Bute Sport Photography group are already online.

The competitors will be enjoying some apres-race refreshments right now, an important feature of this social occasion that marks the end of the season for many.

But on Sunday there is a 10 mile TT in the morning and an APR in the afternoon, so anyone overdoing things tonight may suffer tomorrow.

Jamie Kennedy, Glasgow Couriers

Bute Wheelers
Bute Wheelers

International cyclocross legend John McComisky
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Scotland’s unique time trialling stuation

February sees the first time trials of the season, the Ice Breaker 2-up, followed by the 3-up in Musselburgh in March- both races can be windy and cold affairs and the shelter of a team-mate or two to draft behind is essential. These team time trials open the year, with 10 mile races dominating the calendar in March and April before the longer 25s and 50s come in. Early on there are a couple of mountain TTs with the Knockhill Mountain Time Trial and the Tour of the Meldons, amd then much later in the season a couple more classic hilly TTs: the Tours of the Campsies and Trossachs, and finally the hill climbs starting around September. We have a lot of time trials.

The good news for any Scottish amateurs who have invested in top-end kit in the past few years, is that. Scottish Cycling won’t be adopting the new UCI regulations for the specification of time trial bikes. The bad news is that they will be phased in over the coming years. So a bike like with the Specialised Shiv nosecone below wouldn’t be allowed.

Matt Hennon Inverclyde Velo 22.44

The UCI now specifies some pretty restricive technical regulations about time trial bikes, and as Scottish Cycling is the internationally recognised governing body for cycle sport in Scotland it would normally be subject to the UCI technical regulations for time trial bikes.
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Scottish racing moments of 2011

‘Tis the season for ‘Top 10’ style lists, so here’s a brief rundown of some of my highlights of 2011 where Scottish racing is concerned. I certainly haven’t watched everything closely- these are just the things that stand out, off the top of my head. Please contribute your own ideas in the comments.

in no particular order

Arthur Doyle’s 19:45
Arthur is pretty much the best time triallist around, particularly in 10s and 25s and this blistering time at Westferry at the end of August was brilliant. Check out this discussion on Braveheart which looks at other 19 minute rides.

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