Obree's big stake in state of art

Andrew Baker talks to an Olympic cyclist about his new flying machine

The night of 23 October last year is one that the cyclist Graeme Obree would like to forget. He was beaten in Paris by his arch-rival Chris Boardman, but that was not the worst of it. "My best bike broke," he recalled.

He is understating the incident. His "best bike", the home-built special on which he had made his name, fell to bits as he attempted to accelerate into the race, and the Scot was left sitting on the floor of the Bercy track surrounded by pieces of crank and pedal. At that moment, he decided that he had had enough of home-made bikes: it was time to commission a specialist manufacturer to build a machine to his own specifications. Today, at the British Track Championships at the Manchester Velodrome, he gets to race on the result for the first time. "I just can't wait to get on it," Obree said.

The bike has been built by the Devon-based Hotta company, who produce technologically advanced machines for time-trials and triathlon riders, most of which are exported to the United States. Obree's commission is something special. "There is nothing standard about this design," according to Chris Field, the man who is building it. "It is, in every respect, state of the art, with no compromise in any area. Not one single element on the bike is standard."

The head-set, for example - what the average cyclist calls the handlebars - is a titanium pivot which Field has machined in the company's Totnes factory. "It has been a tricky process," he admitted, but the importance of this particular component makes the care worthwhile. The elongated handlebars are the key to Obree's celebrated "Superman" semi-prone riding position, which is now being imitated by other track cyclists from all over the world.

"I find cycling with my arms out in front of me like that very comfortable," Obree said. "And if these other riders are now copying the style, then it must be comfortable for them too." The positioning of the three areas where man meets machine - head-set, saddle and pedals - is the most important element in the design, and Obree took great care over it. "I drew the dimensions out for them," he explain- ed. They should be exactly the same as on my last bike. There will be some minor adjustments to make this weekend, but that's largely a matter of getting a feeling for the thing."

If the carbon-fibre creation proves satisfactory, Obree will have four made in time for the Olympics: two for the track, and two for time-trials. "The track bike is the ultimate basic bicycle," Obree said. "No brakes, no gears; just pedals and wheels." The time-trial machine is slightly more sophisticated, with the addition of gears and brakes.

"I've been waiting all season to get my hands on them," Obree said. "It has taken them a wee bit longer to build the bikes than we expected, but I would rather have it that way than rush things and not do the job properly."

Chris Field reckoned that the design-and-build process would eventually cost more than pounds 100,000. "I'd hate the bike to get stolen," he said, "and that does happen every now and then. I just hope that Graeme locks it up securely in the bike shed."

Assuming the new bike has not been nicked, Obree will today use the it to defend his national indoor pursuit championship in Manchester. He will not be short of opposition, including Britain's entire six-man team pursuit squad, but he is an overwhelming favourite to take his fourth consecutive title.

"It is a chance to ride with some meaning," he said, fending off the attentions of his sons, Euan, 4, and Jamie, 2, who will be watching today. "You can only do so much in training, and somehow it is different with an audience."

Defending his title undoubtedly means a lot to Obree, but in an Olympic year the national event is no more than a staging post on the way to Atlanta. "Manchester is pretty important," he said. "If the new bike goes well there, it will be a great morale-booster." He needs it. The wheels have fallen off once too often for Graeme Obree.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?