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José Meiffret would pass 200kph the following year, riding behind a Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Yesterday, we reported on Graeme Obree’s latest tests on Beastie, the bike he hopes will help him surpass Sam Whittingham’s IHPVA world record of 82.8mph (133.3kph), and today we spot this video of a Frenchman going more than 50kph quicker – what’s more, he set that speed more than half a century ago.

There’s a big difference, of course – unlike the IHPVA records, the rider, José Meiffret, was motor-paced, and in pretty stylish fashion, by the now iconic gull-winged Mercedes-Benz 300SL.

Still, given it was 1961 - to give an idea of how long ago that was, it's the last year Spurs won the league, and the Berlin Wall hadn't even gone up yet - and the fact the bicycle weighed 20 kilograms, it’s an astonishing achievement.

And all the more so when you consider the cyclist, aged 48 at the time, had almost been killed during an earlier attempt.

The following year Meiffret, who died in 1983, would indeed become the first cyclist to exceed 200kph, setting a speed of 204.73 on an autobahn near Freiburg, Germany, again in the slipstream of the Mercedez-Benz 300SL.

Just look at that chainring – possibly the biggest we’ve seen, even bigger than that used by Britain’s own Dave LeGrys. Now in a museum in Paris, the bike can be seen in this picture – the chainring has 130 teeth, and what’s more, the rims are made of wood.

Meiffret’s record has since been beaten – the Guinness World Record for motor paced speed on a bicycle is now held by Dutchman Fred Rompelberg, who achieved 268.83kph riding behind a dragster at Bonneville salt Flats, Utah, in 1995.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

9 comments

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WolfieSmith [1380 posts] 4 years ago
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That's what our Graham needs to complete the kit - a white leather skull cap with chin strap like the driver has. Tres Chic my friend.

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 4 years ago
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Question: Why did Fred Rompelberg need a dragster? Many road cars are capable of the speed he reached.

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armb [109 posts] 4 years ago
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How many of those cars could reach the same speed with an fitting designed to cause as much drag as possible, like the one in the picture? A streamlined car is going to give much less assist to the cyclist.

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Gkam84 [9100 posts] 4 years ago
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I want to know how long it took him to slow down and stop from that speed. I am guessing that isn't a fixed gear??

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 4 years ago
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armb wrote:

How many of those cars could reach the same speed with an fitting designed to cause as much drag as possible, like the one in the picture? A streamlined car is going to give much less assist to the cyclist.

What I'm confused about is the fact that a dragster is built for acceleration from zero, and not top speed.

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notfastenough [3722 posts] 4 years ago
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204kph on the autobahn! Imagine driving at 120mph and being overtaken by a guy on a bike tucked in behind a sports car!  4

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TeamCC [146 posts] 4 years ago
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I loved the camera angles and facial expressions, what a wonderful video! Capital Cycles

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mr-andrew [300 posts] 4 years ago
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He looks like the sort of man who trains by smoking a pack of Gitane and eating a hearty breakfast of steak fried in lard.

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billyman [148 posts] 4 years ago
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superb, and a extremely courageous man.