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Graeme Obree’s first test run in “the Beastie”

A few months ago, I mentioned Graeme Obree’s plan to attempt the human-powered land speed record in a machine of his own design. In September, his prone position HPV was not ready for the World Human Powered Speed Challenge at Battle Mountain, Nevada as originally planned, but Obree has continued work on the design with plans to make an attempt soon in his native Scotland.

He has been working with a team of Product Design Engineering students at the Glasgow School of Art on the development of a shell for “the Beastie” (as Obree refers to his machine), and you can see a prototype from that development in the photo at the top of this post. Last week, he did his first test run in the Beastie at Machrihanish airport in Scotland, and Camille McMillan on was there to capture the day in photos for the website Humans Invent. As you can see from the images, the weather was far from ideal, but the team pressed on…with caution. “Due to issues with visibility, Obree decided to test the usability of the bike with the fairing at a more moderate speed. The tests proved very successful and he remains upbeat despite the weather.” He also did a run without the fairing, and plans to make a few design changes before the record attempt. “The vehicle itself is good, it’s now about sorting out the perfect skin, which I’m pretty confident we can do,” he said. “The plan is to build the proper skin, which we will slightly modify in terms of headroom, and the front and tail will be shorter.”

Read more about the practice run and see many more photos from the day at Humans Invent. While you are there, check out the links at the bottom of the post to related articles, a couple of which include videos featuring the always interesting Obree. As I said in my previous post, I am a skeptical as to whether he can pull off the record, but I certainly wouldn’t count him out. Either way, his attempt should be interesting, and I will definitely be pulling for him.

Photo credits

Top image: Glasgow School of Art

All others: Camille McMillan  for Humans Invent

Posted in HPV, Uncategorized.

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10 Responses

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  1. Andy says

    I highly doubt it too. At 80+ mph, the aerodynamics will be the biggest factor by far. If you look at previous winning designs, they seem to be a smaller shell around the bike. Couple that with his odd drivetrain system that doesn’t seem like it’s offering any advantages, and it’s a longshot if he’s only maybe hit 40mph so far.

    Maybe his initial concept to lay prone was in hopes of being more aerodynamic, but that doesn’t appear to have worked with this design.

    • Androo says

      Well, he only hit 40 mph with the skin off, in a low visibility situation with standing water.

      That’s not to say that he will be able to break the record, but I think he’ll give it a good shot.

  2. littleman says

    Those kind of shells have a nasty habit of fogging up or turning into a solar cooker. In any thing like this there is always trial and error. The bike he breaks the record on (or not) may look nothing like this.

    I wonder what the un-faired record is and would he have a chance at that one?

    • art says

      Humidity management is one of the reasons why some of the faster fully faired HPVs have the rider wearing a fighter pilot style air mask ducted to one of the wheel wells. It also avoids having big intake and exhaust vents, which would otherwise be needed to get sufficient oxygen turnover. Attempting the record in Scotland should alleviate some of the solar cooker concerns.

  3. Mark Sanders says

    One of my all time Heros :-)

    • James Thomas says

      One of mine as well. I really am hoping that he can overcome the odds (yet again) and pull off the record.

  4. Jay says

    I had no idea how high the record was. Almost 83 mph from a human powered vehicle seems almost unbelievable. I am excited to see how this turns out.

  5. Pete says

    Machrihanish runway was nicknamed the cheese grater due to the rough, high friction, quick draining surface on the runway. It ate aircraft tyres……. It’s a great place for trials as I cannot think of another more wind exposed and difficult runway to do trials…… When Graham takes on the world at a more suitable venue his speed will increase. I believe that Graham has the skills, strength and determination to take the record. Good luck.

  6. Bob T says

    The fundamental difference is that it appears that his legs perform a kind of stepping motion as in climbing stairs. While I would have difficulty producing 0.5hp for any time on an exercise bike, I can run up stairs at a speed requiring 1-2hp suggesting that a stepping motion maximises the power available. This along with the absolute minimal frontal area of his prone position at least suggests to me that his design is an entirely rational one for maximum speed. I wonder if a complete fairing is best – after all it has to be big enough to contain the entire volume described by his moving legs which is of course greater than the volume at any instant ie the cross sectional frontal area of the fairing must be greater than that of his body and legs – if you see what I mean?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. | Graeme Obree’s Beastie undergoes full fairing trial | Velomobiles linked to this post on November 24, 2012

    [...] fully faired trials can take place and a Scottish venue has been found.  The Bicycle Design blog reported on trials that took place at Machrihanish in Argyle.  The site is a former RAF airfield with a 10,000 ft or [...]



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