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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”.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

8 comments

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jollygoodvelo [1419 posts] 3 years ago
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Fantastic video. Wish I had the money for one of his bikes as thanks for the proper old-fashioned British bonkers he represents.

What I'd love to see is a pro rider giving it a real bash around somewhere like Herne Hill...

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edster99 [336 posts] 3 years ago
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 41

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billyman [148 posts] 3 years ago
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superb video, good luck in your future attempts sir

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Mattrb78 [23 posts] 3 years ago
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That was brilliant and very inspirational. Keep it up. Great stuff

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leqin [171 posts] 3 years ago
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well that was wonderful and quite inspiring.

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usedtobefaster [172 posts] 3 years ago
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Amazing, wonderful, brilliant.

The UK needs more people like this will just to go out and try with what ever resources come to hand.

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winstonpushbike [1 post] 2 years ago
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great video, great project, but not just the guys in the 60s how about the 80s when Dave leGrys did something similar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmpxJWAJbFM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62NALM7zfYY

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RuthF28 [100 posts] 2 years ago
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Wow. I can't imagine what that kind of speed would feel like. Fantastic.