The Obree Way, Graeme Obree (undated, 2012)
The maverick Scotsman shares his secrets
Maximise Marketing 20cm x 30cm, 152pp £30
The only risk in describing Graeme Obree as a nut, is understatement. It is hard to think of a successful sportsperson, much less a cyclist, who has taken such a singular approach to their career. He has wrestled with his demons – mental and sexual – in the brightest glare of publicity. He has built world-beating bicycles from scrap components and, he has launched, and abandoned initiatives with dizzying frequency.
The last time I spoke with him he told me that his living room and bedroom currently looked more like a chaotic machine shop, as he brazed, welded and bashed ‘the beastie’ into shape (its a vertical bicycle on which he promises to break the world speed record). “With everything spread out on the floor, the bit that I want is generally close to hand”, he told me.
But for all his many eccentricities, it is hard to think of a warmer, funnier, lovelier man, nor one whose will to succeed is so relentless.
He offers no qualifications to back up what he says in this book, nor does he cite a single source. Implicit in every line is the assumption that with two world-hour records and twice having won World pursuit titles, the home-brew methods that propelled him to success are worth sharing. There is nothing flip in what he says. To beat the world from a back bedroom in Ayrshire required him to apply his considerable intellect to every aspect of what makes a bicycle go fast with a kind of obsessive focus that is a wonder to behold. This book is the distilled product of that effort – no room for ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ just a determined approach that was the bedrock of his victories.
At the heart of his method is building and using a specially set up turbo trainer – Obree is beyond particular about how this ‘rig’ should be set up. His own, he explains, was used for many years in a ‘cleaned up coal cupboard’, for which he would often eschew the pleasures of a summer evening ride. He is no less fastidious about psychological and nutritional development, race preparation or equipment set up.
If you were planning to buy only one training manual, this would be a choice every bit as eccentric as its author. There is much of huge value here, however, not least an insight into just how Obree rocked the staid world of elite cycling and the obsessive headspace he inhabits.
On balance, perhaps ‘nut’ is not the right word. Obree can be more accurately called a ‘crank’. And as all cyclists knows, a crank is something that turns wheels and creates revolutions.
TD Apr 13