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Cycling Hour Record: A history of hour record bikes

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Cycling hour record bikes

2014: Following the rule change, Jens Voigt was first to take the Hour Record, with a distance of 51.110km (Image credit: Maxime Schmid)
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2014: Matthias Brandle rode his Scott Plasma 5 to beat Voigt's record, riding 51.852km

2014: Matthias Brandle rode his Scott Plasma 5 to beat Voigt's record, riding 51.852km (Image credit: Getty Images)
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2015: Jack Bobridge had a failed attempt on a Cervelo T4, posting a distance of 51.3km

2015: Jack Bobridge had a failed attempt on a Cervelo T4, posting a distance of 51.3km (Image credit: Getty Images)
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2015: Rohan Dennis broke Brändle's record, riding this BMC Trackmachine TR01 52.491km

2015: Rohan Dennis broke Brändle's record, riding this BMC Trackmachine TR01 52.491km (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Cycling Hour Record bikes

2015: Thomas Dekker attempted the Hour Record on a Koga TeeTeeTrack, posting 52.221km (Image credit: 90/24 and SEG Cycling)
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Cycling Hour Record: bikes

2015: Alex Dowsett was next, taking Dennis' record with a distance of 52.937km (Image credit: Getty images)
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2015: A month later, Bradley Wiggins subsequently smashed Dowsett's record, riding 54.526km aboard this Pinarello Bolide Hour Record bike

2015: A month later, Bradley Wiggins subsequently smashed Dowsett's record, riding 54.526km aboard this Pinarello Bolide Hour Record bike (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Cycling Hour Record: bikes

2016: Tom Zirbel's failed attempt used this Diamondback Serios time trial bike (Image credit: Sam Wiebe / Rally Cycling)
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2019: After multiple failed attempts by riders, Victor Campenaerts stepped up with this Ridley Arena to take the record with 55.089km

2019: After multiple failed attempts by riders, Victor Campenaerts stepped up with this Ridley Arena to take the record with 55.089km (Image credit: Belgian Cycling Factory)
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1942: Heading back in time. Fausto Coppi attempts the Hour Record during the Second World War, riding 45.798km in Milan

1942: Heading back in time. Fausto Coppi attempts the Hour Record during the Second World War, riding 45.798km in Milan (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Cycling Hour Record: bikes

1972: A close up look at Merckx's bike, presented to the Belgian by Ernesto Colnago (Image credit: Cicli Colnago)
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1972: Eddy Merckx takes the Hour Record before carbon fibre, disc wheels and aero helmets were integrated into the sport, riding 49.431km

1972: Eddy Merckx takes the Hour Record before carbon fibre, disc wheels and aero helmets were integrated into the sport, riding 49.431km (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Cycling Hour Record: bikes

1984: Moser on the Vigorelli track in Milan during his 1984 record attempt (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cycling hour record bikes

A better view of Moser's choice of bike (Image credit: Enervit)
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Cycling hour record bikes

1993: British cyclist Graeme Obree races in his famous superman position. He took the record in this position with a distance of 51.596km (Image credit: AFP)
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1993: Six days later, Chris Boardman's Corima hour record bike broke the record with a distance of 52.270km

1993: Six days later, Chris Boardman's Corima hour record bike broke the record with a distance of 52.270km (Image credit: Josh Evans)
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1994: Miguel Indurain took the record aboard this Pinarello Espada, riding 53.040km

1994: Miguel Indurain took the record aboard this Pinarello Espada, riding 53.040km (Image credit: Getty Images)
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1996: Chris Boardman breaks the Hour Record again, this time, in the eventually banned superman position, riding a yet-to-be-beaten 56.375km

1996: Chris Boardman breaks the Hour Record again, this time, in the eventually banned superman position, riding a yet-to-be-beaten 56.375km (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Even nearly 20 years later, the Lotus Sport 110 still looks sleek, modern, and undeniably fast

Even nearly 20 years later, the Lotus Sport 110 still looks sleek, modern, and undeniably fast (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

Following the news that Alex Dowsett is going to reattempt the cycling Hour Record, we're looking back at Hour Record bikes of old, with a brief history of how the record has developed over the years.

The British time trial specialist has held the cycling Hour Record before, but it was during a period of popularity for the gruelling event and the record was his for just 36 days before Wiggins made it his own. 

Dowsett has long been a proponent for optimising his equipment, and throughout 2020 he has regularly swapped his team-issue Factor Slick time trial bike for a Specialized Shiv TT in the pursuit of free watts. He's yet to announce which bike he will use for his second Hour Record attempt. 

Cycling Hour Record: History

The Hour Record dates back to the late 19th Century, when, after several attempts in the United States and the United Kingdom, Henri Desgrange – who went on to establish the Tour de France – set a record in Paris following the newly-formed International Cycling Association.

The Hour Record went on to be continually broken throughout the 20th century at velodromes around the world by the likes of Guiseppe Olmo, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser for the men’s record.

Aerodynamic appreciation

In the 1990s, Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman began experimenting with bike positions and designs in an effort to improve aerodynamics. The UCI, however, eventually outlawed the radical bike designs and positioning made famous by the duo, and in 1997 the UCI brought in new rules restricting competitors to traditional equipment, and that all attempts were to be made on a traditional road bike with drop handlebars. 

As a result, all records between 1972, including Boardman's 56.375km ride in 1996, were recognised in the record of 'Best Human Effort', and Merckx's former benchmark of 49.431km was reinstated as the World Hour Record time to beat. Boardman took the challenge, subsequently riding 49.441km in the year 2000.

Fast forward to 2014

Following a decline in popularity of the Hour Record, likely due to the stringent rules in place, the UCI updated the rulings to replicate modern regulations for track pursuit bikes, and also adhering to other UCI regulations including the biological passport. Ultimately, this meant that any bike that was legal for use in track pursuit disciplines was legal for use in the Hour Record.

Since the rule-change popularity has boomed, the mark has been broken six times, by Jens Voigt, Matthias Brändle, Rohan Dennis, Alex Dowsett, Bradley Wiggins and, most recently, Victor Campenaerts.

Click through the gallery above for a look at the Hour Record bikes throughout history.