Back when I was racing in the early Eighties it was still considered quite a big deal to “beat the hour” for 25 miles. I never managed to do it until the 90’s when aerobars, disk wheels, skin-suits and silly helmets became common place. With the recent trend of including a “Merckx – Non Aero” category to local time trials it got me thinking if I could beat the hour today on a bike using technology from the 70-80’s. I set my target era to 1972 – 1982 technology as this encompassed the glory days of the conventional Diamond Framed bike. This covered a decade from Merckx’s hour record to the beginning of the “funny bike era” in UK time trialing (low profile bikes with sloping top tubes and small front wheels).
The UK national 25 mile championships in 1972 was won by Alf Engers in a time of 53m40s. Beating the hour would have been good enough for about 45th place out of a field of 120 riders. Engers time is remarkable for the technology of the day. The UK national 25 mile championships in 1982 was won by Dave LLoyd in a time of 55m34s. A sub hour ride would not even get you in the front half of the field that year.
“Project 72” was born and I have set myself a target to beat 25MPH for a 40K using a round steel tubed frame, fixed gear, No aero bars, No aero wheels, no skin-suit, no aero-helmet (pretty much UCI athletes hour spec before that category was dissolved). Although fixed gear was never that competitive in 1972 the fixed gear seemed somehow appropriate to the Merckx category as it reflected his hour record bike. For this reason “Project 72” has to be fixed and it has to be orange.
To beat 25MPH (40.23KMH) on my 48×15 fixed gear bike I will need to average >100RPM and do a 40K time of better than 59m39s. I have done 59m52s (24.91MPH and 99.64 RPM) on my 48×15 fixed bike with aero bars, skinsuit and aero helmet so beating 25MPH is a really tall order. I reckon the aero bars, helmet and Skinsuit have to be worth at least a minute and more likely two. Putah Creek is also not a fast 40K course as it has four 90 degree and three 18o degree turns. This means that on the bits between the turns you have to be pushing quite a bit faster than 25MPH to get a decent average. My pedaling sweet spot is around 96RPM so spinning at around 110RPM will be hard work. I have done 57m36s on a 48×14 (96.6 RPM) with the same bike setup but I am unsure I could push that gear non aero.
My first attempt should be June 5th at the Putah Creek 40K TT providing I can get “Project 72” finished in time. This event should give me a base mark on what I need to do. Until that event “Project 72” will be kept under wraps.
Another Type of 72:
All this self doubt about be able to beat the hour on a 48×15 is actually quite ludicrous when you see people in the UK beating the hour on 72″ gearing. See this website here. That is around 118 RPM . I think to get 72″ I would need a 46x 17 gear or maybe a 52×19. I couldn’t imagine pedaling that gear at 25MPH.