The Obree Position (mk2): The "Superman" position
After Graeme Obree was banned by the UCI
at the world championships 1994 under mysteriuous circumstances, his fans
wondered if he would come back. And he came back, presenting another new
This time he used common equipment: A normal bike, a very long
stem (Look Ergostem) and a Profile Aerobar (extended to its limits).
Now his arms were stretched out, the hands about 30 cm before the front
hub. (With a normal aero-bar setup the handlebar is mounted lower, and the hands
are about 15-20 cm before the front hub). Because of this stretched out
position, looking like Superman flying, it was called "Superman" position.
The picture shows him in the jersey of "Olympia Dortmund" in the spring of 1995.
The World Championships 1995
At the world championships 1995 in Bogota he won the title with a brilliant
comeback beating Italy's Andrea Colinelli.
The Atlanta Olympics 1996
In 1996 his position was adapted by a lot of other riders. In the Atlanta
Olympics both 4000 m single pursuit titles (men: Andrea Colinelli, women:
Antonella Bellutti) were won with the superman position. The Italians used
ITM handlebars with special front-ends. Colinelli improved Obrees record to
Personal remark: I think the best superman position was maybe the
"superwoman" position of Antonella Bellutti, who won the gold medal in the
3000 m single pursuit. See a video on youtube of the final.
Obree himself was handicapped by a virus infection and failed to
qualify with a disappointing time.
The World Championships (track) 1996
At the world championships in Manchester Obree was still not in shape. But
Chris Boardman, who participated in the Olympic road time trial (but not in
the track events), made an unbelievable "comeback".
He had equipped his Lotus bike with a custom made "superman" handlebar and
shocked the cycling world with a 4000 m world record of 4:11.114, beating
(Statistic of this race)
The Italian pursuit squad, all riding in "Superman"-position, broke also the
world record, almost reaching a time under 4 minutes.
Chris Boardmans's hour record
One week later Chris Boardman improved the hour record with the same bike he used at the world champs to 56.375 km/h. For the statistics look
Chris Boardman hour record page. Look for two
pictures at Chris Boardman picture page .
The World Championships (road) 1996
Though Obree's position was now established on the track, only few riders
tested it on the road. At the time-trial world champs in Lugano, I saw only
one women (Italy's ???) using it.
October 1996: UCI bans the Superman-position
In October the UCI created another new rule to ban an invention by Graeme
Obree: The handlebar ist not allowed to extend the front hub for more than
This effects of course the superman position, but also conventional
setups (my triathlon bar extends the hub for 18 cm). But to make it really ridiculous, the UCI allowed a very big distance of 75 cm between the front
hub and the bottom bracket. (A standard bike with 100 cm wheelbase would
have a distance of around 60 cm).
So one needed to lengthen the front part of the frame and still could get the
superman position. Probably these bikes with a large wheelbase of ca. 115 cm
would not handle very well, but for time trialing that shouldn't matter.
Only for tall riders these values were still not enough to get a full stretched-out position.
November 1996: Nations Open / Jeannie Longo's hour record
At the end of october 1996 it still was unclear when the new rule would be
official. At the Nations Open in Paris-Bercy all riders still used Obree's
Jeannie Longo broke the hour record for women with a superman setup.
The 1997 road racing season
During the 1997 season UCI officials made a lot of confusing decisions, for
- At the Paris-Roubaix race the Trek suspension bikes of the US Postal
Service team were banned...
- At the Giro d' Italia Pavel Tonkov's time trial bike was banned - two
minutes before the start...
- The Pinarello TT bikes of Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich were banned just
before the Tour de France.
When a fairing at the rear wheel was removed, Riis and Ullrich could use the
As ar as I know no bike was banned because of the "superman" rule. The funny
thing is that Jan Ullrich's handlebar extends the front hub 18 cm!
The World Championships (track) 1997
At the track world champiochips 1997 in Perth all riders used conventional
setups. Though the inside track was probably as fast as the track in
Manchester, the times increased roughly 1 second/km compared to the results
from 1996. This demonstrated nicely the effectivity of the superman position.
1998 - 1999: UCI rules finally on the web
The UCI rules could finally be found at the UCI Site.
You can download the PDF file there, or check
the most important rules on my UCI rules page.
Now they decreased the distance between the front hub and the bottom bracket to a maximum of 65 cm. For small riders there is still a change to reach a moderate
superman position. This was valid just for 1999, since the rules changed again.
1998 - Graeme Obree abandons hour record attempts
In 1998 Graeme Obree planned to attack the hour record again. One could find a picture
of him at the 1997 BCF TT Championship with a modified setup. It looked like his bike had a longer down tube than before,
at least the handlebar was now quite small compared to
the normal "superman" setup. As one could see, his "superman" position was not as
good as with the old setup.
Later in the year he gave up his plans saying that the new UCI rules did not
allow to break the record.
This looks like the '98 bike. On the page scotlandforvistors.com
its said that this is the bike "that Graeme Obree won a variety of records and
championships on", but that's definetely not the case. If it is an old frame, at
least he moved the saddle back quite a bit (look at the seatpost) to get a
The UCI rules for 2000
The UCI rules for the year 2000 put more constraints even to a normal aerodynamic positions, since the handlebar extensions "may not project beyond a point 10 cm in front of a vertical line passing through the front wheel spindle" (Look at my
UCI rules page.)
Especially for tall riders it is almost impossible to get a comfortable
aero position - don't even think of a superman position!
This effects just the aerodynamic position. But there are new rules regarding
the frame design, which effect to the whole bike industry severely, since only
standard frame designs are allowed anymore.
The UCI rules for 2001
In 2001 the UCI had to modify their rules for tall riders...
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