These Guys, Way Oustide the Box

Because I consider myself a “Rider” first and a “Writer” second, we’ll start with this guy: His name is Graeme Obree, and he came literally out of nowhere Scotland in 1993 to set a new record for the hour and win the world pursuit championship, setting two new world records in the process.

As admirable as these accomplishments are he managed it all on on his own, with an unorthodox position on a bike he designed and constructed on his own.

Let us take a look at a clip, shall we…

I became aware of this character a month or so before when he broke Francesco Moser’s eight year old hour record. You have an hour, cover as much distance as you can within that time. The difference from a time trial is that a time trial covers a specific distance, and the person with the fasted time wins. The event above covers 4 kilometers, and the amount of time it takes the top notch athletes puts it within the realm of the mile in track and field.

Having myself been, generally speaking, an out of the box thinking type of guy, a person who came somewhat out of nowhere to qualify for the national championships in only my fourth race, and ending the season with an invitation to try out for the National team in my first year as a Junior, I kind of identify with Obree, Oh and I built bicycle frames and raced them. This is where we intersect. A bit (I never got to the world championships, let alone won one.)

However, there are very few people in the world that can say they have a reason to be members of the club.

The first frame I built was revolutionary on a couple of accounts and built 4 and a half years before I had heard of the flying Scotsman. It had a fillet brazed bottom bracket (not revolutionary) and an offset rear triangle and dish-less rear wheel (revolutionary, still so, as I have yet to hear of anyone else doing anything like it.)

Graeme’s bike was even more so, given that its design also incorporated his new and more aerodynamic position, his bike was not just revolutionary, but a revelation. In any event, I had found a new hero.

Here is a shitty copy of a documentary on the breakthrough year including preperation for the hour record, Graeme at the torch, and the compitition with his compatriot Chris Boardman who was the Gold medalist in the pursuit in Barcelona the previous year and the guy who set a new record in the Hour about a week after Obree had set the new standard.

Here is part one of of eight:

For those so inclined, the rest should not be difficult to find.

In 1994 he returned to the World Championships only to find that his position and bike had been disqualified, literally minutes before qualifying, because a fucking asshole was running the UCI (world cycling body) at the time. I happened to get within punching distance of said asshole at the 1996 Tour du Pont, bit my tongue, unclenched my fist and walked on by. The same asshole would basically allow Lance Armstrong (another person with whom I have been within punching distance) get away with his lies.

In 1995 Obree made sure his bike and position were within the “rules and won his second World Championship. His new position was dubbed the “Superman” and became the standard position for all races against the clock, Until asshole decided to ban that as well.

In any event I was amazed at the time 22 years ago, and recently came across the videos above so here we are…

The second part of this piece is inspired because I like to call myself a simulacrum of a Writer, and have the following video interview of this master-craftsman and innovator on one of my puting devices: Rod Serling with Mike Wallace:

I’ll let the man speak for himself. and just note that he filled my curious childhood full of dreams good and bad, and I wouldn’t change anything.

An amazing person, a visionary, genius. He also penned the screenplay for one of my favorite movies, “Seven Days in May”


Comments: 14


Holy crap! Seven Days In May was Rod Serling?

I never knew that, and as I love that movie, it makes sense.


Indeed he did. Took a couple veiwings before i noticed.

It’s on a regular rotation at casa UNE. About five or six times a year.

It has yet to lose its appeal.


The UCI has *always* been prejudiced against any sort of technological advances in bicycling…just ask any ‘bent rider…


Bruce, i feel you.

Ultimately i am glad that i did not go to jail for punching Verbruggen in the face, and i had forgotten the other option, tripping.


We should compare cycling histories. I accompanied the 7/Eleven team to the Giro in 1985, the first American team in a grand tour. My friend Mike Neel was the coach, and he gets a couple of chapters in my book, which is mostly about mountain biking.

Book is here:

Sierra Street Blues

Great book. Mike Neel could fly.

I used to compete against Dave Stohler back in the day. Dude was amazing.


Charlie fucking Kelly is in the house?

Folks, Repack Rider was one of the pioneers of mountain biking. And another hero of mine.

Sir I would love to talk shop sometime. Talk about the early days and what the giro must have been like.

Would have dropped by sooner, but been moving dirt
all day.

Thanks for dropping by.


Thanks for the kind words. Have you seen the book?



I have seen it on your site, but have not yet had the opportunity. I will read it soon.

I wouldn’t be surprised if have caught some excerpt from sites about the early mt. Tam days.

Oh, and you are most welcome. It has been a pleasure to meet you.

You made my day!

Comrade Rutherford

I never watch the videos people embed, but I made a rare exception for the Obree race. That is amazing! .25 second gain every lap.

What is interesting is that once he achieved a 3 second lead, Obree slacked off. Even though he got the medal and set a record, that record would have been even shorter if he had kept up the speed he had for the first 3km.

One thing is for sure, his handlebars lack steering precision. It’s great for the speed on the straightaway, but you’ve got to be really careful in the corners. See how he almost wipes out on his victory lap.

Comrade Rutherford

And only Rod Serling would say, “A lovely show called ‘Judgement at Nuremburg”


Comrade R,

A couple of things, three actually. Like you i rarely do the embedded vids, preferring the source myself.
So I am glad you enjoyed it. And I only discovered it a week or two ago.

Secondly, maintaining a nearly 55 kilometer per hour velocity for four kilometers is extraordinarily difficult, often one will lose a bit of speed during the last as one might just be hanging on.

As far as the steering “precision” is concerned. I have only raced on a 333 meter velodrome on what might be called a standard track bike in comparison to Obree’s bike, and can tell you that if you aren’t constantly focused the same thing can happen in an instant.

The margin for error on a 250 meter track is even smaller. I will grant you that Graemes bike might be a little twitchier, but not by nearly as much as it might appear.

Also take into account adrenaline. Winning your first world championship in world record time in your first attempt…Well lets just say that a “Mission Accomplished” type of blunder might be in the offing if you catch my drift.


My brush with cycling greatness? I worked at Trek bikes for almost four years while Lance Armstrong was winning his tours. And it’s really freaking disappointing that some of my best Trek memories are tainted by the fact that our (and America’s) most popular rider was cheating to win.


There’s a movie about Obree – The Flying Scotsman (2006). it’s not bad.


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