The History of the Hour Record – The Science Behind the Bike (1/4)

History in the making and one of the sports greatest moments. Chris Boardman is now the holder of the most coveted cycling record in the world. It is the ultimate pure time trial. It’s incredibly risky because there is no
second place. You win or your lose. What there is is a track – black line – and
a clock. The world hour record measures the distance a cyclist can travel around the track in one hour. While Olympic distances and events have
changed many times over the years the basic conditions for the hour record remain the same. Since the first record was set in 1876 on
a penny-farthing the hour record has been regarded as the ultimate test of an individual’s strength and stamina. The hour record was always sort of like your blue ribboned record within cycling and all
that the greats .. That’s really what attracted
us to it to actually get a name on the – on the trophy as it were alongside of Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser and some you know real all time
cycling greats. The bench mark for the modern day hour record was set by legendary Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx in 1972. He covered a distance of 49.432
kilometres on a traditional bike. The record stood until the 1980’s when the introduction of science and technology to cycling launched a remarkable period of twenty years during which the record was repeatedly broken. The man who sparked this trend was Francesco Moser. Professor Dal Monte had this idea of building disc wheels and we found a company that
worked with carbon fibre and they said “We can do disc wheels for you”. I broke the
record but it wasn’t particularly hard, I was very
well trained. And the 23rd we made another attempt and I broke 50.808 km with 51.151 km and then we went home to Italy. In 1993 two Brits stepped into the arena to take on the record. The first of these was Graham Obree, riding a hand made steel tube bike with carbon fibre trispoke wheels. And a radical new praying mantis style riding position. While Moser introduced new materials and innovative bike design for his record attempts, Obree concentrated on the aerodynamic aspect of long distance time trialling. Twice World Hour Record Holder
It’s been my ambition since I was fifteen. The first thing that inspired me was the World Hour Record that I would ultimately one-day ride. And the ultimate inspiration for me was Merkxx and Moser. Especially Moser with his – his infusion of technology, pushing the limits of aerodynamics and bike technology. That started a whole year of technological innovation. It was the beauty of it and the purity and beauty of it. It’s the law of the jungle. It’s like the ultimate law of the jungle isn’t it? Here’s a track. Ride round it. You break the record and get all the glory or you don’t break it and
you go away and feel like nothing for years. Obree broke the record covering 51.596 kilometres in a ride that changed his life. Innovator and Cervélo Bicycle Designer
Yeah I think that Graham Obree is really the example of how innovation can help your
performance. I think that Graham Obree raced against people who were probably athletically more gifted than he was but with aerodynamics its ninety per cent resistance; the body is
two thirds of that and you come out with the better body position than everybody else it doesn’t matter that .. is maybe ten per cent less
than the other guy. If you’re aerodynamic resistance is ten per cent less you’re the winner. Hot on the heels of the innovative Scotsman Obree was the second British challenger – Olympic Champion Chris Boardman who just six days later broke the record on a bike with carbon air foil tubing, triathlon handle bars and carbon quad spoke wheels. What appealed to me about the Hour Record was its seeming simplicity. There is a huge irony in that it just looked like you ride
round in circles until someone says stop. But where it gets complex is you can do that in any way that you like from a positional point of view from to within – within parameters equipment point of view the pacing strategy is absolutely critical with something like this. And at 10 o’clock this morning Chris Boardman – enormous cheer from a stadium packed with 2000 spectators, rolls now and the attempt is on for the World Hour Record. 1993 was our first attempt on the World Hour Record and it came off the back of winning the Olympic Games in 1992. This is unbelievable. No one has ever been inside 23 minutes at the 20 kilometres distance in the Hour Record before. Chris Boardman is on a schedule now to annihilate this record. History in the making and one of the sports greatest moments Boardman now – it’s only a question of how far can he go. The record will shortly be his. 57 minutes, 28.749 at
50 kilometres but it’s a record and there’s
no doubt about that. The gun has gone. Chris Boardman is now the holder of the most coveted cycling record in the world. Over the next three years the World Hour Record was broken a further five times on increasingly esoteric bikes. However the international cycling body the UCI, stepped in to outlaw Graham Obree’s “praying mantis”
style and tightened the rules on approved bikes and body position. I think he should get a medal from the UCI
instead of having the position banned but its not easy to be popular when you upset the apple cart. So I think Graham Obree is everything that’s right about this sport and I think that his accomplishments and the Hour Record are really some of the most exciting that we’ve seen in the history of the Hour Record. In 1996 Chris Boardman broke the record on a futuristic bike designed by Lotus Cars, using a super man position. This position was designed by Graham Obree and involved the rider
being stretched out to cut the aerodynamic drag. At this point the arc of technology
and ergonomics had reached its peak. Now I’d been labelled because of Lotus Bikes at the Olympic Games and then using the super man position to some good effect as one of the people that was really pushing technology in the sport of cycling. And it had really hit in the mid Nineties when there was all sorts of wacky ideas coming in and it was Samaranch actually of the Olympic Games who said “this doesn’t look like a bike race anymore”. And the Union Cycliste Internationale set about – set about changing the rules to
– to wind back the clock a bit to keep a bike looking like a bike. It was time for the World Hour Record to return to basics with Chris Boardman making a record attempt reminiscent of Eddy Merkx’s ride in 1972 on a traditional bike. Well it was just a mark we wanted to set but it captured people’s imagination and the UCI got involved very late in the day and decided to adopt it as the Athlete Hour record. And the record was eventually broken by just ten metres. With advantages in technology stripped away
the World Hour Record was broken by a distance of 10 metres a mere 0.02 per cent twenty-eight years after Eddie Merckx set the benchmark. With the purity of the test preserved by stringent
UCI rules what does the future hold for this prestigious prize in cycling? How far can
man go in one hour? When there are rules there is a way to get
to the edge of the rules and still get an advantage.
I mean as the rules get tighter and tighter the advantage you can find is smaller but
still today you can make a frame within those rules let’s
say Eddy Merckx’s rules that you know state that a bike should look like the one that
Eddy Merckx rode forty years ago to set his record
within those rules you could still make a frame that’s a lot faster than the one that
Eddie Merckx actually used.

Comments 33

  • i would have preffered a history of bike use development and design

  • Unless you're interested from an amateur perspective of the bike… It's mostly dictated by a lot of boring UCI rules that have come and gone over the years. Don't go there!

  • ive met obree i mean bikes of all kinds including electric not olympic styles

  • 🙂

  • why did obree use a steel frame bike?it seems they would have had titanium at that level of biking.

  • he didnt have the funding, he built the bike himself however he was given one on race day but it was too heavy so he used his but swapped the wheels

  • I'd like to see any rider today attempt the world 1 hour record on a bike from the 1970's; a genuine bike from the seventies. Not just the same basic shape but also just as heavy.

  • That only reinforces how amazing his feat was 🙂

  • Actually the bike was much lighter than that- around 12.5 lbs (5.6kg). It was made of steel as well. I don't think colnago was doing anything with Ti until the mapei dream days of the late 1990s.

    (doesn't want to let me post a link, google up "merckx hour bike" and click on the classicrendezvous page).


  • Because he made it himself. As far as track cycling goes, weight isn't the paramount priority- aerodynamics, geometry and stiffness all take precedence over weight outright.

    Obree was doing this on a bit of a shoestring budget, I'd imagine that he'd thought of using Ti, but it was prohibitively expensive (and had very limited tube shapes other than a perfectly round cylinder) for the slim gains it could offer him.

  • classicrendezvous. com/Benelux/Merckx/Merckx_hour_B-guide_1.htm

  • I see. Didnt realize this. thx!!!

  • Coupled with the fact that welding titanium is a lot harder than steel.

  • 90 ml/kg/s…..420 watts for an hour….."similar to top sportsmen".

    Now he has osteoporosis to the degree of a 75 y/o? How strange.

  • K den

  • The guy who has the current hour record used a heavier bike than even Eddy Merckx used. This is because the current record holder used heavy disc wheels intentionally to increase the rotational momentum of the wheels. So you don't need a super light bike to win.

  • Silly to say people can't innovate beyond a bike design from 1960s/70s

    Eddie Merckx bike would have been an innovation on the first attempts.

  • the biggest fiasco is cycling is the 100 year old ban of recumbent bicycles by the tour de france. 

    if not for that simple decision, at least a substantial minority if not the majority of racing bikes would be recumbents because of their confirmed aerodynamic superiority. 

    after all, the outright speed record on flats is 79 miles an hour by a streamlined recumbent. yes, 79 miles and hour. 

  • AurĂ©lien Bonneteau set a new Unfaired Recumbent One Hour record of 52.074 km so its the exact same speed as a recumbent race bike the m5 is the fastist recumebent wats the farstist racebike anybody know, i know bike cars are 35% farster then a bike 

  • Boardman's aero helmet ride "beats" Merckx's non- aero leather hairnet ride by 10 meters. Apples to apples? I'm not buying it.

  • That said, Boardman clearly put out more sustained power, given that Merckx's record was set at altitude.

  • I shared at Waf, where cyclists meet:

  • Just magnificent

  • All the early bikies including Anquetil and Merckx were not specialist track riders – most of the later ones were not either. The pro ranks riders do it for  kudos mainly after the road season is coming to a close or before the 6 day season.starts for those roadies who have a flair for the track. The point is that Merckx in 1972 got the Hour record in October after a full road season that he won The Tour de France and Giro and 4 other classics ( and many other lessor events) So, no track specialism there 1972 then.The other point is unless you have a very ameniable sponsor – there is no money in it ! The Hour Record is a cinderella part of the racing profession. Amateurs generally have no chance as they do not have the incentive to train purely for this record. Obree was a limited exception. 59 kilo's will be reached eventually but not until a price tag is attached for it. Until then Chris Boardman's all time record is still the benchmark to aim for.(over 56 k's in 1996)

  • My arch enemies in life are the faggoty middle aged men dressed head to toe in spandex, riding their bikes right in the road and complaining about any cars near them

  • graeme obree is great. he is the kind of person that made britain innovative and world leaders

  • Which OU module is this linked to?

  • After 28 years and all the advances in sports science, training and nutrition, if mercx was beaten by 10m, it only goes to show what a specimen he was

  • The audio is incredibly shitty. I can't hear a word properly.


  • Boardman MBE? Obree…nothing?

  • This has been proven as bs Grahame Obree was just that good. yes he was pushing out fewer watts. but his upper body was straining the whole time. Super man position only saved 10 watts.

  • Graeme Obree is AWESOME.

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