Legend is currently one of the most overused words. However, when you talk about a person like Graeme Obree it is hard to argue with his legendary status. You could also say 'pioneer', 'underdog' and 'champion'. Obree is most famous for claiming victory against the best professional athletes to win a World Championships title as an amateur, riding on a home made bike with parts he sourced from his washing machine...
Graeme Obree has many talents but there are two which really stand out above the rest. Firstly, his athletic ability and strength of mind to push his body to, and arguably beyond, it's physical limit. Secondly, his ability to look at a problem and find a truly individual solution. Obree was 'thinking outside the box' long before it became a cliché. He didn't reinvent the wheel but he did reinvent the bike- twice infact. The UCI banned his first ground breaking riding position because he had made the current cream of the crop, on market-leading bikes, look foolish by winning as an unknown amateur on a home-made bike.
An Unmissable Opportunity
Endura are always searching for ways to make cycling clothing the best it can be, and utilise state of the art technology to do so. Aerodynamics is a big deal when it comes to cycling. Aerodynamic bike parts, riding positions and of course clothing make a huge difference to speed. Endura work with the world's best professional racers, teams and aerodynamics experts to make their kit the best on the market.
Endura presented the opportunity to get Graeme into the same Mercedes F1 wind tunnel they use to test their clothing, and scientifically test his ingenious bike positions. Finally we would be able to categorically find out if he really was ahead of the curve, and by just how far? 25 years after Graeme made history for the first time, we would be able to discover if it was his bike design or his body that made him the fastest person on a bike in the world!
Glass Half Full?
When Graeme was given the opportunity for answers he came back with this response.
'It's kinda like if you had a means to absolutely say if there is or isn't a Loch Ness Monster. It would be good to do it, but it would be sad to do it at the same time. You're finding out new knowledge, but also kind of killing off a mystery.'
When we shot with Graeme at home in the West of Scotland it was clear that he was excited by the prospect of resurrecting his 'Old Faithfuls' to test them. By the time we got to Brackley and into the wind tunnel that excitement had clearly turned to nerves.
'I just realised I don't get to keep everything after today! See before, people would say 'he was a genius', 'he was an amazing athlete', 'he's so fast and designed those positions'. But once you've done the measures I don't keep all of them'. The way Graeme saw it was that he would either be proven to be an amazing athlete or a genius based on the results, but he couldn't be both. You could almost tell he was fearing that he would lose out and not 'win' more credibility.
There's no doubting that the biggest challenge of this film was simply the time we had available. We had one morning with Graeme at home, and one day at the wind tunnel to test each position and document it. This becomes even more of a challenge when working with a legend who has countless amazing stories to tell, and clearly a whole host of great memories to share! It was clear that everyone present felt privileged to be witnessing two very different worlds coming together. From a bike which was developed through guess-work and theory, road tested on dual carriageway roads outside of Glasgow 25 years ago, to the cutting-edge wind tunnel used to scientifically test futuristic racing cars. It was difficult to keep everyone focussed on the job in hand and not simply be in awe of this awesome legendary character!
So is Graeme Obree an Athlete or a Genius? Scroll down to watch the full film and decide for yourself.