Graeme Obree tests land speed record vehicle


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Last week Graeme Obree was putting Beastie through its paces for the first time, in preparation to break the human-powered land speed record and we had photographer Camille McMillan on hand to capture the day’s events exclusively for Humans Invent.

When we last spoke to Obree in September he was still tweaking parts of the bike and the fairing (the shell that goes round the bike to improve its aerodynamics). He told Humans Invent then that they were looking for a flat, straight surface roughly two miles long. The place he chose was Machrihanish airport, a former RAF station in Scotland.

On Thursday 15th November they arrived at the airport for testing but despite the forecast indicating it would be a clear, dry day it was gusty and pouring with rain. This proved problematic because the spray from the rain made it almost impossible for Obree to see where he was going. As a result, he wasn’t prepared to push the bike to its limits.

Obree says, “It wouldn’t have been prudent to put a proper punt on, when I couldn’t see where I was going. I couldn’t get a speed on because it would have been irresponsible to blindly fly up the runway. If I had gone into the grass it would have been quite nasty.”

Obree drilled through the shell because of the rain:

Obree drilled through the shell because of the rain

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.

Obree says, “I’m actually quite uplifted because with the full fairing on it’s highly controllable as long as you can see where you are supposed to go. It was disappointing that it was wet and the water was spraying everywhere but I am ten times more confident in terms of the control of the bike.”

Obree decided to take the fairing off in order to test the mechanics of the bike while he could see where he was going. He says, “Later on we thought let’s have a punt without the skin on. Okay it’s wet and there is water spraying everywhere but let’s try it with just the bike, which isn’t terribly aerodynamic but I was probably going about 40mph.”

Obree continues, “It was good to see the bike was stable, it’s steerable, usable and the system works. The vehicle itself is good, it’s now about sorting out the perfect skin, which I’m pretty confident we can do. 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.”

The beastie takes off for the first time:

The Beastie takes off for the first time

The next step, once the fairing is completed, is to do further testing at shorter distances before going back to an airport and pushing the bike to its limit.

Obree says, “I’m thinking we should go to an industrial estate to try out the handling at slow speeds and the vision control, then go to the airport for a right good punt when we see a good weather window.”

You can learn more about Obree’s record attempt in this interview and through the two-part documentary below. Both come courtesy of Humans Invent.

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