Check out the honkin' big chain ring on the above bike. Looks almost surreal, doesn't it? Like it should be a clown bike pedaling around the big ring (pun intended).
Well, in 1962, the above bike was pedaled by José Meiffret to an astounding speed of 127 mph. Yes, you read that right, one hundred twenty seven miles per hour. The chain ring had an incredible 130 teeth on it (your road bike might have 52 or 53 teeth on it, or if you have a compact crankset, 48 or 50), the bike was equipped with wooden rims to prevent overheating (now there's a novel solution to the carbon rims they are making nowadays that tend to overheat), and the whole package weighed 45 pounds.
I'll be honest, I get a little nervous cruising down hills at 45+ mph on my road bike. Going 100 mph in a car had my whole body taut. Doing 127 on a bike, I'd probably be proverbially (or quite possibly figuratively) shitting in my lycra. Imagine: just the smallest crack, a little stone, heck a sneeze and you're done for. Game over.
Head over to Grist to read the whole story about it.
Reading the article made me think about another speed world record (at the time), that set by 'Mile-a-Minute' Murphy in 1899 (that's him to the right). Just as his nickname suggests, Murphy was the first cyclist to break the magical 60 mph barrier, which at the time was quite the feat. Technically speaking, he did it in 57.8 seconds, but 'Mile-a-fifty seven point eight' Murphy didn't have quite the same ring to it.
While 60 mph on a bike might not seem like all that an impressive feat, consider the fact that Murphy was riding a Tribune “Blue Streak” fixed-gear, manufactured by the Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, a steel bike that certainly weighed at least twice that of today's lightweight steeds. The Blue Streak was one of those new fangled "safety bicycles" which had really just come into vogue roughly 14 years before with John Kemp Starley's Rover bike. Starley's was the first recognizably modern bike whose form we still use today, a bike with two wheels of identical diameter, unlike the iconic penny-farthing with its two very dissimilar wheels. (Incidentally, Starley's company would later produce cars after his death and was the same company that went on to produce the iconic safari vehicle, the Land Rover - but that's a story for another day!)
Getting back to our man Murphy, to achieve his world record, the Long Island railroad laid down two miles of wooden boards between a straight expanse of track and specially fit a steam locomotive and a passenger car with a fairing extended off the back for him to ride within its slipstream.
Think of it as a primitive drafting set-up, working on the same principle as the peloton or NASCAR. Keep in mind that locomotives of the day were neither reliable or all that speedy themselves. Amazingly, all of Murphy's stars aligned though, and on his seventh attempt he set the record that his nickname would lay claim to for the remainder of his life, and indeed to this day.
And you thought YOU were fast!
Read the entire story over at Podium Cafe.
Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works is a company with a passion for bikes. We offer in home service on your bike as well as nutritional and training guidance for your body.