A bit of history, if you care…
Sometime in 1994 my training/sparing partner Jonathan Vaughters [I usually won the sprints and he always won the climbs] suggested that I try and set the US hour record. At the time it was held by legendary time trialist John Frey at a distance of 49.404KM. This was in a special era of time trialing in the US; a select group of riders had highly specialized bikes that were the product of paper engineering, like a conventional bike that has been squashed in a vice. They had razor thin forks, tiny CNC machined brake calipers, top tubes that sloped at extreme angles, and seatposts that were about 10x as long as they were wide. Riders all wore long tailed aero helmets and panty hose on their heads to contain their hair.
Time trial culture was a subset of road racing that has it’s own devoted tribe, and riders based their seasons around timed events and setting US records at various distances. This era has long passed and this genre has nearly gone extinct.
In September of 1995 I set the Elite US hour record in Colorado Springs, CO. Jonathan and his girlfriend helped me keep track of laps and called splits. I rode 50.191km in one hour and also set the 10km, 20km and 50km US records along the way [USA Cycling used to recognize these as separate record points but nobody cares about these details now]. The previous record was held by John Frey [49.404km] and was also set in Colorado Springs, which is a concrete outdoor 333.3 meter track.
I was pretty decked out for 1995. Aero equipment today does not get leaps and bounds faster, with the notable exception of my skinsuit and helmet. The full carbon Lotus frame was light years ahead of most other bikes in that age. I had an aero front wheel with a deep profile and wide rim, and my position had been refined in the wind tunnel. I used a 55×14 gear and averaged close to 100 RPM. My average power, recorded with a SRM power meter, was 311 watts. My drag was measured in this position at Texas A&M at around 4.6 lbs @30 mph.
The track is 6035 feet / 1840 meters above sea level and is still functioning today, although it has been covered by a massive dome now. Local riders struggle for access to the facility as it is mired in layers of red tape. The facility is owned by the US Olympic committee, an organization that is the definition of a modern entity that is ostensibly for public service but is in reality ruled by an undercurrent of litigious fear. They seem far more concerned about being sued than serving the local rider population.
In 1997 Norm Alvis broke my record and rode 51.505 km. I tried to take it back later that year and was ahead at 10km but fell behind by 20km and abandoned the attempt.
In 2013 I trained for another attempt on the US record and rode 49.806km. I trained the entire season with the attempt in mind but after a storm delayed the construction of the Boulder Valley Velodrome, I was forced to move the ride to Colorado Springs. I intended to try the record at the end of September but then came more weather challenges, in the form of 1000 year level floods in my home town of Boulder. After week of not riding and dealing with our house, which had considerable water damage, I almost decided not to ride. The entire city of Boulder had an apocalyptic feel, there was water everywhere for days and furniture floated down major streets after being liberated from storage units or living rooms. With some reflection I realized that preparation for this ride had taken a lot of time and energy, and I had made a commitment to sponsors that needed to be honored, regardless of the outcome. My family had also endured my training and preparation, the least I could do is my best on the track to pay them back in a small way.
Many local roads were closed so training required some creative problem solving. After finding excellent form in the early part of September and a subsequent two weeks of almost no riding, I did what I could to polish my abilities and went for it. Unfortunately, the result came up short.
After half way, I was about 25 seconds (just over one lap) down on the schedule to further Norm Alvis’ distance and then the wind picked up, putting me further off schedule. I rode farther than the world record for the 40-44 age group at that time but the record was not submitted to the UCI as there were no doping control officers present. I did get the USAC 40-44 record, in addition to riding the furthest of anyone in the 30+ categories at the time. As the UCI had recently changed the regulations on bicycles and hour records, for a short time I would have had the Elite World Hour Record had this ride been submitted to the UCI, as detailed in this article:
This would have amounted to a technicality and my distance would have been beaten and subsequently crushed by athletes with a lot more horses than I have. But it would have been cool to be in the record books in a right time right place kind of way.
One week later I established the Absolute Record [read: Merckx style] for the US, with a distance of 46.452. That ride was extremely challenging and my bike had some technical issues which contributed to my ride being sub optimal, but it was what it was. I used a Nobilette custom steel frame with Wolber aluminum rims, and custom 34 cm drop bars. Now the UCI has done away with that category, which makes the effort completely obsolete. The reality is that it was an obtuse line to draw in the sand in the first place and it never made sense to try and turn back the clock on an effort like this. Nobody wants to see riders time trialing in drop bars for an hour with spoked wheels when we have tools like disc wheels and aero bars at our disposal today. I am glad the UCI has moved on. I can say this because I was stupid enough to sign up for it…
Fittingly, I don’t have a single photo from either 2013 attempt. It was as if all of it never happened.
Fast forward to September 22, 2018 I set a 45-49 World Masters Hour record in Aguascalientes, MEX. The previous record was 49.3KM held by Kent Bostick, set in Manchester England in 1999.
The final distance of 50.245KM was 54 meters farther than the distance ridden in 1995, which was 50.191KM in Colorado Springs at the age of 23.
Some of the increased distance can be accounted for by superior equipment, but most of it is the ridiculously fast venue of Aguascalientes, MEX. This track is so fast, it should probably be illegal. Just get on your bike and you are going 40km/hr.
Equipment notes 2018 Hour Record (Aguascalientes MEX):
- Bont Zero+ shoes
- PTI carbon orthotics
- Speedplay zero pedal
- Ceramic Speed optimized Dura Ace chain, Ceramic Speed bearings
- Enve SES aero base bar with Speedshop 51 extensions and custom made carbon pads
- SRM Origin crankset
- Sugino Zen chainring and SuperZen gold plated cog
- Mavic Comete front and rear discs, with Vittoria Pista Speed tires
- Giro Aerohead helmet
- Panache Cyclewear Speedsuit
For a great interview with some other details, see this page:
A complete list of recognized hour record distances is regularly updated by Mike Mowett on Wikipedia and can be found here:
This page is well maintained and has all the current distances.