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Vintage video - Frenchman hits 186kph riding a bicycle, more than half a century ago

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.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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