[CR]Graeme Obree and "The Flying Scot"

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From: Donald Gillies <gillies@cs.ubc.ca>
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2006 16:28:20 -0800 (PST)
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Subject: [CR]Graeme Obree and "The Flying Scot"

Book Review : Flying Scotsman : Cycling to Triumph Through My Darkest Hours (Paperback), by Graeme Obree.


I ordered this book from England as a Christmas 2005 gift for my brother-in-law. Last week I noticed one copy on the shelves at our local Borders bookstore and grabbed it before anyone else could get it.

This is my first cycling biography, and I'm only halfway through the book so far. Oh what an amazing biography it is !! In a nutshell, it tells the story of Graeme Obree, who won the Scottish "Best All-Rounder" (BAR) title in 1983 on his (On Topic) 1940's Cinelli and other titles such as the world sprint title, and eventually decided to go after Eddy Mercx's hour record (well, it was held by Francesco Moser at the time.)

While the British Cycling Establishment put forward their favored "Golden Boy", Olympic Champion Chris Boardman, with all their high-tech training machinery and VO2_max medical analysis tools, plus the latest high-tech carbon fiber gizmo technology, Graeme Obree, an unemployed scotsman, a cycle tourist who had covered spain on his bicycle, instead chose a path of designing and build his own custom bicycle employing used BMX parts, a super low-Q crankset, and a bottom bracket made from leftover pieces of a washing machine scavenged from his basement.

Who would set the hour record ?

The first part of the book relates his childhood and explains very well how cycling was an escape for Obree - who had manic depressive / bipolar disorder - from what was otherwise a very rough childhood. In particular, his month-long all-cycling tour of Spain and Portugal really made me want to go jump on my bike and cycle across america.

The book is very well written and contains just enough detail to really understand Obree without beating a dead horse. I cannot remember hearing a better underdog story in my lifetime. The book also gives glimpses at his wild career running a retail UK cycling shops during boom-and-bust periods in the early 1980's, almost dying during a cyclocross, crashes, and many other lessons for cyclists.

5 stars out of 5, halfway through.

- Don Gillies
San Diego, CA