NZ Hour Record

Monday, June 1, 2009 10:59:13 AM Categories: Bob Knight's fairing Correx corriboard corflute fairing
L to R - Nigel Farrell's left leg; an exceptionally handsome gifted intelligent wonderful kindly warm generous noble human whom modesty forbids me to name, and three quarters of Aarn Tate. - Oh, and Nigel's (bomb doors open) and Bob's corriboard faired machines, frontal view, prior to battle.


Okay, here as promised are the Results.

Bob Knight: 50.7272 kilometres. New NZ Hour Record.
Unf. at the exact moment (literally) Bob had established this new Record, Nigel had broken it. Much rejoicing in the NZ camp; chiz in the Brit camp.

Nigel Farrell: 52.6643 kilometres. Newer NZ Hour Record

We were able to determine the distance to the fourth decimal point because we had a team of scientists armed with Vernier callipers and synchronised stopwatches lying about the track and we were able to confirm it divinely because we had a cell-phone call from Thou who knowest their downsitting and uprising and spiest out all their ways (Ps 139, from memory needless to add, and not a very good memory, even more needless to add.). And if you disbelieve me, you horrid sceptics, it's on the Internet so it has to be true even though the reporter was lying about the fibreglass.


So what actually happened was this. Annalisa Farrell and I sat down in a small and cold huddle on some foam I had the Great Presence of Mind to Bring With Me (so nur to you Dr Lowing) and discussed how hard our respective hearts were beating. And, honi soit qui mal y pense, this was not some kind of illicit amorous tryst; this is just what happens when you've spent months discussing and worrying with someone about an attempt like this and you know 'zackly how much work, how many hours, how much tension, how much pressure, has gone into it. And I'm not even married to Nigel Farrell. (The attentive reader will already have presumed this but there is a certain school of thought in the BHPC that I am Bonkers in the Nut and I just wish to scotch any further imaginative allegations before they are made, Mr Larrington.) Moreover John, a son of mine who was timekeeping too, told me afterwards that his heart was pounding. I think everyone's was. That Nigel's and Bob's were goes without saying though I see I have rather pointlessly just said it.
Away they both went, the threatened icy weather holding off and the air reasonably still. Annalisa, who we have established is a pretty serious competitive cyclist and knows what she's talking about, voiced worries about Nigel going too fast too early; I voiced worries about Bob crashing an untested machine in which he had had precisely 54 minutes' riding experience. (That was Saturday.) But it was looking well even though he was taking a wide line, and I knew without his confirming it to me afterwards that this wide line was largely to do with not knowing what the bally thing was likely to do at any point. (In fact his computer told us afterwards it had done an additional 1.5 km which indicates how far outside the line he was riding. Which distance of course cannot count in a record, because all machines waver outside the line.)

For the first fifteen minutes there was a very, very slow creep as Bob closed the gap. There was very little in it, maybe an eighth of a lap, but at one point Bob could just see Nigel coming off the straight ahead of him.

We now need a Technical Digression, because I had privily asked Geoff Bird for any comments he might have about the fairing and he had replied that the only thing he could see was the prospect of Bob's windscreen misting up, it being very close to his face. Now this is an evil for which I regret I must take responsibility, because I had recommended that the closer the screen was to the eyes the better, for visibility's sake. Both Bob and I are motorcyclists (what a dreadful admission. But it's true) and we weren't too worried about this: applications of neat washing up liquid on the inside usually prevent misting of a motorcycle helmet's visor. What we hadn't banked on was the fact that when you ride a motorbike you aren't pedalling hard. (Shall we take Humorous Moped comments as read?) So during Saturday's trials when it became apparent that misting up was a very big problem, Nigel offered his cordless drill and together we all cut a slit at the base of the windscreen and this reduced the misting to the point where Bob thought he could probably see okay.

However - reverting to the Record Attempt - the misting gradually started to increase, and with the already dodgy handling of the Ratracer's new tiller steering and the slightly dodgy corners of the track, being able to see exactly where he was going was becoming more and more of an issue. And at this point Nigel, with the confidence of years of riding his machine and even riding it on open roads in time trial events with some slightly-more-tolerant-club-members-than-the-UCI-might-like, started to increase his own pace. Moreover Nigel had no screen, and with an obviously better handling machine was able to close in harder on the innermost racing line. So from about half-way through the hour, the gap reversed and Nigel started to close in on Bob. Exactly when he lapped (actually, half-lapped him; they started on opposite sides of course) him I didn't note, but it was quite late on in the piece.

And then in the 85th lap disaster, of a thankfully mild sort, struck. We felt it in the stands: a sudden blast of cold wind. You could see Bob's racing line start to waver: he was fighting to keep it on the track, and those of us who saw what happened to him at Leicester will have no difficulty knowing what was going on in his mind. - Afterwards he was to tell me it was the most terrifying experience of his entire life. - He felt he had no idea at all whether the thing was going to fall, whether he could hold it upright, whether he would crash, and almost worst of all to an HPV combatant, whether he would get in the way of his deadly (1) foe's attempt. There were about ten minutes to go, and for the whole of that time you could see Bob's machine slowing in every corner, and see him trying to accelerate to pick up the lost speed in the all-too-short straights. And - since we're all physicists and know that F=MA - you know how this acceleration takes it out of you. And from then on, Nigel started lapping him regularly - well, four times of course - and had, unfortunately, to do so on the outside of the track because Bob was sticking as close to the middle as he dared so that if the now badly gusting wind took him out, he would go onto grass and not into the hard wall around the outside of the track and perhaps spin into Nigel's way. You could see the worry in Annalisa's face. She wasn't worried for her husband - he seemed in complete control of his bike despite the wind - she was watching, with cheeks drawn and teeth clamped anxiously together, to see if Bob's Ratracer was going to fall. And at one point when it looked as if he might actually stop and withdraw, both Annalisa and I were on our feet yelling at him to keep going, because we could see he was within grasp of breaking the existing Record. I had never thought I could be so agitated as a spectator. It was horrible.

But, in the end, it was over. And, most important of all, he hadn't crashed, hadn't lost any more than a bit of skin from his knees - the fairing was too tight - and by truly miraculous courage had actually broken the existing NZ Hour Record. I trotted alongside to catch him, we lifted the cover, he flopped out and performed a creditable possum impression while Patrick the amiable Nelson Mail reporter took indiscreet photographs of a recumbent recumbeteer.

Comparing notes with Nigel afterwards, Nigel too had lost a bit of skin off a knee: he'd slipped down in his seat at one point and was unable to wriggle back up while pedalling at full power, so the fairing rubbed a nasty little sore with every pedal-thrust. He was also having neck cramps towards the end, trying to flex his head backwards and forwards to ease the pain. But his familiarity with his bike was such that he was able to relax and let it move with the wind, and this is a very great credit to the fact that his machine had sound handling right from the start and even more of a credit when it is known that it was the first recumbent Nigel had built. (If I may digress again briefly, a certain friend of mine had some pertinent first-hand remarks to make about the necessity of absolutely sound handling on record machines after a certain incident which, in the event, may now be viewed by anyone:

Therefore, at the moment, there is considerable jubilation in the NZ HPV community because two chaps in home-built corriboard streamliners managed to break a record that had been set fifteen years before, by a rider younger then that either of them are now in the world-record-breaking Kingcycle Bean. (Which you can see in a series of PDF photos by our Pete Cox at
which has as a bonus on p 44 a picture of my wonderful self standing, deja vu, beside Bob Knight not very many minutes before he lost half his skin at Abbey Park Leicester.)

However this delight is tempered by the galling knowledge that Claire King inside Mr Bird's head-in, hard-shell streamliner holds the UK women's hour record at 52.343 km and she's only a guuurrl. Therefore it is not hard to predict that further machines are going to get themselves built in due course, and that other racetracks up and down the country are going to find themselves surveyed, and that there is the distinct possibility of frightening the Manager of Invercargill which I am told has a temptingly wooden velodrome.

Nigel Farrell warming up


1) In the HPV world, Deadly Foes email and phone one another to offer help which I happen to know Nigel and Bob were doing well before the attempt, and they lend each other cordless drills and stuff on the day too. We are a gentle people.
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