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Video: Experiments in speed. Framebuilder Tom Donhou sees how fast he can go drafting a Ford Zephyr

Low-key English madness with a 104-tooth chainring

Framebuilder Tom Donhou has always been fascinated by the land speed record attempts of the 60s, set by those slightly mad pioneers who pushed record from the 300s up towards the 600mph mark in jet-propelled cars built in their sheds. In that spirit, he set out to see how fast he could go on a bike. This video tells the story.

The current land speed record for a bike is 268.831 km/h (167.044 mph) set on Bonnville salt flats by Dutch rider Fred Rompelberg in 1995. Donhou knew that without salt flats and a dragster to chase, that record was out of reach, but he set out on a personal quest for speed anyway.

He built the bike himself, in his own workshop, using the tubes he’d build into a bike for any regular client, and adapted his own classic Ford Zephyr to act as the pace car. A friend helped build a fairing to route the air over him. “Essentially, it’s a shed strapped to the back of the car,” says Donhou.

Cliff Polton of Royce components came to the party with a whopping 104-tooth chainring to give the bike a ‘cruising’ speed of 60-70 mph, and you can watch the results below. In the words of a certain new grandfather, it’s all “refreshingly mad”.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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