Video: Graeme Obree's record-attempt recumbent rolls out

Former Hour Record holder unveils bike he'll use for speed record

by John Stevenson   July 12, 2012  

Beastie 1.png

As we've previously reported, former Hour Record holder and national treasure Graeme Obree is preparing for an attempt on the human-powered land speed record. True to form, Obree has been designing and building his own bike for the attempt, and he's just released a video of its maiden flight.

It's an intriguing machine. Previous speed record human-powered vehicles have been standard recumbents, as far as there is such a thing. Current record holder Sam Whittington used a supine position, leaning back but facing forward, and turned conventional cranks and pedals when he powered his Varna Tempest to 83mph in 2009.

Obree, as you might expect, has thrown out the rule book. For a start, he'll be riding 'Beastie' in a head-down, prone position. The idea is clearly to get into a lower and therefore more aerodynamic position, but it doesn't exactly look comfortable. In the video, though, Obree says it “feels great!”

A set of cranks needs quite a lot of vertical space, increasing the frontal area of the bike, so Obree has thrown them out too. Instead the bike has a treadle drive, with levers turning a chainring and chain drive.

It's a wobbly-looking beast, but that's not unusual – low-profile recumbents often need helpers to get them started. When you're that close to the ground, you don't have much time to correct a wobble before you fall.

Obree has previously said he'll have a carbon fibre and Kevlar skin to streamline the bike. He'll need it if he's to beat Whittington's record, let alone the 100mph mark he's set for himself. We can't wait to see Beastie in action with a full shell!

Meanwhile, here's the video:

24 user comments

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Utterly bonkers and fantastic at the same time - let's hear it for eccentric British genius. I really hope he can crack the record.


posted by OldRidgeback [2577 posts]
12th July 2012 - 12:30


he wants some mudguards on that. Wouldn't want to hit a dog pile with my face that close to the tyre,

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [1112 posts]
12th July 2012 - 12:34


This guy reminds me of someone who is slowly losing the plot. Possibly turning into a hermit and coming out with these crazy ideas. This may be a prototype but could you imaging doing 100mph on that?!

posted by lewskisdub [15 posts]
12th July 2012 - 13:43

andyspaceman's picture

posted by andyspaceman [246 posts]
12th July 2012 - 13:47


He's having a kevlar shell though isn't he?

Probably not much dog crap where he's doing the attempt anyway.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
12th July 2012 - 13:50


but...will he be able to use his body to it's full aerobic capability with his weight at least partially supported by his chest, as it appears to be?

I'm guessing he's already thought of that, but just saying...

andyspaceman's picture

posted by andyspaceman [246 posts]
12th July 2012 - 13:50


Totally mental idea, but who am I knock him! I'm guessing there may be umpteen failed efforts before he gets this record, but you cannot write him off. I'm not sure a teadle drive can deliver the same power as a pedle stroke, that'd be my worry, but hey what do I know!
Good Luck Greame!

posted by pmr [193 posts]
12th July 2012 - 14:10


I can't imagine he can deliver the same power with that pedal construction as when pedaling normal cranks. But it's Obree, so i won't be surprised if he succeeds with this strange contraption Smile

Dutchie's picture

posted by Dutchie [66 posts]
12th July 2012 - 14:13


Hope his beastie has better luck than Rabbie Burns'

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.


posted by OldRidgeback [2577 posts]
12th July 2012 - 14:24


I just love the guy's drive, never count him out.


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1108 posts]
12th July 2012 - 17:57


As he'll be travelling behind a car I would've sacrificed a little aerodynamic drag for a standard pedalling action. Turning equal circles has be more stable than kicking back and forwards? It seems a bit like thinking the 100 metres sprint might be more efficient if you run it straight legged. Thinking

I believe he can break the record in that position - but not with that method of motivation.

Back to the old drawing board.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1218 posts]
12th July 2012 - 21:47


Got to love Graeme! Really wish him well.

In these days of Sky and other mega teams this type of venture is really refreshing.

posted by StickyBottle [4 posts]
12th July 2012 - 22:06


This is such a great story, it doesn't really matter if people laugh, and he doesn't ultimately get anywhere near the record, he's nothing to prove and he's following a dream.
I suspect he will go faster than people think though.

posted by pmr [193 posts]
12th July 2012 - 22:11


As he'll be travelling behind a car...

No cars involved - it's the IHPVA world speed record he is going for:
I had a wee shot of a procumbent with a similar riding position that Venom built in the mid 90s, and I seem to remember the steering was quite twitchy.
The treadle drive is an interesting idea. For similar reasons, the Dutch team from Delft university are using an elliptical drive this year, which has allowed them to make their fairing more aerodynamic:
I think the 100mph target is just good publicity. The additional power required to get beyond the current record of 82mph makes 100mph pretty unlikely, but good luck to Obree with his attempt on the record. He is a great athlete and an inspirational character. He is going to have to get his skates on to build and test a fairing before September, though!

posted by kcr [102 posts]
13th July 2012 - 0:12


An extreme design which appears to need significant development to achieve high straight line speeds. In fact, it looks as though achieving a straight line at any speed will be a challenge. Good luck to the fella though.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
13th July 2012 - 8:57


Why doesn't he go even further and move the wheels apart so that he can lie between them, reducing frontal area? He would obviously need to turn the chainwheels flat to get the most benefit, but I'm sure there's something in his washing machine that will let him do that...

posted by jonboy0011 [5 posts]
13th July 2012 - 9:48


Go Graeme!!! Applause

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [220 posts]
13th July 2012 - 20:57


Obree is an inspiration!!

What ever happens (and i hope he succeeds) he should be applauded for trying, thinking out of the box, and not caring if people might ridicule him.

As someone already pointed out...


posted by mr_leemur [34 posts]
14th July 2012 - 9:15


Can anybody tell me the where and the when of his record attempt because if possible I would like to be there.


posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [733 posts]
14th July 2012 - 11:06


Well, thats your opinion and you're more than welcome to it..... but if mankind had always been so CONSERVATIVE (scared) in his thinking, we'd still be living in caves ..

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I don't know whether Graeme will achieve his goal, but I certainly applaud him for giving it a bash, life is full of people who CAN'T, WON'T, SHAN'T, Etc ..... How about a little CAN, WILL SHALL eh ..

Good Luck Graeme!!

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [325 posts]
14th July 2012 - 11:22



That was in response to lewskisdub ... I hit reply rather than quote ..

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [325 posts]
14th July 2012 - 11:24


Keep her lit Graeme and in the words of an old homeguard chappie I hope yer Not (Doomed)! in your quest. All the Best of British mate! Big Grin


Baldy1alex's picture

posted by Baldy1alex [54 posts]
14th July 2012 - 14:37


If anyone can do it, he's the man, and *if* he doesn't succeed it wont be for lack of courage ability or vision.
The man is an inspiration and deserving of more recognition than he has had.

MBE campaign anyone?!?

posted by smudgegs [15 posts]
16th July 2012 - 11:18

1 Like

lewskisdub wrote:
This guy reminds me of someone who is slowly losing the plot. Possibly turning into a hermit and coming out with these crazy ideas. This may be a prototype but could you imaging doing 100mph on that?!

[[[ LEWSKIS--no, I can't. He can barely steer The Blob at 13mph, let alone 100. This will only end in tears.


posted by PhilRuss [332 posts]
8th September 2012 - 1:18

1 Like