Land speed record hopes for wooden bike

Best friends who have combined talents to set a land-speed record with a fully wooden bike are hoping for a final push to get them into the history books.

After more than 800 hours of careful crafting, the metal-free machine stands proudly in the Potter Heigham home of its creator, Michael Thompson.

Inspired by the Tour of Britain, it came about because of a bet with Norwich-based triathlete James Tully, who will ride the cycle dubbed the Splinter Bike.

Mr Thompson, whose father and grandfather were carpenters, started his attempt in September and has spent half a year developing the glue-bound bike in an eco-shed in his back garden.

He hopes it will create a new category of land-speed record covering human-powered vehicles made from only natural materials. The category has been set up by the Speed Record Club.

'It's in our kitchen at the moment and though it's not yet turned a wheel in anger, we know the design works,' the 40-year-old said.

'The whole process was very challenging and I'm just very relieved to have finished it. Now it's over to James, and rather him than me.'

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Taking the measurements of his friend's current road cycle, he based the design on the revolutionary Lotus bike used by Chris Boardman to clinch gold in the pursuit title during the 1992 Olympics.

With a central frame of birch ply, it has oil-rich wood in the bottom bracket section and something extra special for the handlebars and wheels.

'Bam Nuttall do a lot of river maintenance around the Broads, and they had some Ekki wood from the 1950s which lines the riverbank which they had replaced. They rang us up to see if we wanted some, so we used a plank of it.'

However, after being finished in March it now has nowhere to go. And despite getting extensive sponsorship for the parts it lacks the funding needed for the proper record itself – a total that may come to �7,500.

'We nearly got use of Marham, but then you had Gaddafi and Libya so that couldn't happen,' he said.

'We're just looking for somewhere smooth with lots of space to test it, and as we're hoping to set an official land speed record we have to comply with all the rules and regulations.

'This means we need sponsorship to cover things like timing specialists, laser beams [for the start and finish lines] and volunteers helping out to progress.'

Mr Tully, who has known Mr Thompson for decades and chose him as best man at his wedding, got involved with the bet little thinking his friend would carry it through to completion.

Now it is the father-of-two's turn to take up his side of the challenge –getting it to a hoped-for speed of 31mph, and all without breaks.

The 37-year-old is hoping to trim his weight down from 15.5 stone to 14 stone for the record attempt and said that his main concern was with friction generated between the components.

'He kept muttering about it but I said there was no way. He bet me, and I said I'd ride it thinking it wouldn't happen.

'Then he ran with it, and now I'm hoping the whole thing doesn't collapse underneath me,' said Mr Tulley, who added that he thought it would 'be like dragging a wardrobe down the Acle Straight'.

If you are interested in sponsoring the pair's efforts, email Michael Thompson on Thompson_Norwich@hotmail.co.uk

john.owens@archant.co.uk

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