Nicknamed ‘The Flying Scotsman’, Graeme Obree is the record-breaking world champion cyclist whose colourful life and adventures on two wheels was turned into a film.
After moving to Scotland as a child, the youngster developed a keen interest in cycling. By his early teens he was regularly pedalling long distances and winning senior races against much older opposition.
In 1993 he shot to fame when he announced a bid to beat the world hour velodrome record on a home-made bike. Dubbed ‘Old Faithful’, it included bearings from a washing machine and had straight handlebars placed unusually close to the saddle.
Graeme set a new record of 51.596km on his second attempt, and in doing so became renowned for his unique crouched riding style; handlebars under his chest, elbows bent and tucked into his sides like a skier. He lost the record six days later to fellow Briton, Chris Boardman, but regained it in Bordeaux the following year, covering 52.713km.
His innovative riding style was soon adopted by other riders before being banned by the International Cycling Union (UCI), after which he developed another riding position with his arms extended, dubbed ‘The Superman’. This, too, was banned.
However, the controversy didn’t deter Graeme and he broke several British records en route to winning seven British titles. He was individual pursuit world champion in 1993 and 1995, broke the British 10-mile individual time trial record in 1993, won the RTTC 50-mile championship the same year in a record time and won the 25-mile championship in 1996.
In 1997 he clocked 18:36 in a 10-mile time trial and next day won the British Cycling Federation 25-mile championship. He also won the 1997 Time Trial Championship, during which he rode in a conventional position in order to show his versatility as an athlete.
In 2003, he published his autobiography The Flying Scotsman, and a feature film of the same name was released in the UK, USA and Australia in 2007, with Jonny Lee Miller playing the lead role. Graeme is still a keen cyclist.
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