Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way of the Media

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“The 112mph BICYCLE: Bike shop owner spends £5,000 building a vehicle that has earned him a place in the record books”

This is a headline from the website of Daily Mail (UK). Granted, this is not a cycling publication, but it’s sooooooo irritating to me to see such a lackadaisical approach to simple, expository writing. I mean, a few minutes on google would have cleared up a lot of the errors.

Guy Martin is a British motorcycle racer who has had moderate success, even several podium appearances at the Isle of Mann TT, but he is perhaps better known as personality than as a champion sportsman. Recently he has been featured in Channel 4’s series Speed. The Daily Mail features Martin’s attempt at a motorpaced speed record. Beyond that, the tabloid newspaper’s writers manage to bullocks up every other pertinent fact.

Jason Rourke is the bike shop owner named, and the business includes a framebuilding operation. Rourke built the bike in “ten days”. That’s not exactly a big deal if you’re talking about fabrication; it would depend on whether or not that included design time. However, that five thousand quid price on the bicycle is rather unimpressive. I can spend that pretty easily with just 10min on the Competitive Cyclist website and have it delivered blue label within three days. Big deal. But that is just a matter of perspective. That and I’m not actually sure how Rourke, shop owner/framebuilder, actually earned a place in a record books, being that he didn’t actually ride the bike. But the rest of the article is actually wrong.

Guy Martin rode 112.94mph, but that was no “world record”. It couldn’t actually even be called a “world record attempt”. Frenchman José Meiffret rode 127mph behind a modified Mercedez….FIFTY YEARS AGO. In 1985 American John Howard (Olympic cyclist, 4x US road champion, 1x Kona Ironman Champion, 2nd place inaugural RAAM) rode 152mph motor-paced across the salt flats of Bonnevile, Utah. But the current absolute record belongs to Dutch professional Fred Rompelberg, who in 1995 motor-paced to a speed of 167mph. Daily Mail, be assured that Martin and his support staff would have known that they wouldn’t be setting a world record.

I mean, 113mph is scary fast for those of us with average size testicles, but that doesn’t pass as world class in this century. Later in the article it is stated “Mr Martin broke the previous record set by Dutch cyclist Sebastiaan Bowier who reached 83.13mph (133.78 km/h) on a pushbike in September this year.” Bowier set a WORLD RECORD for human-powered vehicles in a fully-faired recumbent bicycle, unpaced. That differs from motor-paced absolute records in that in the latter uses a motorized vehicle speeding in front to shelter the cyclist from air drag. Furthermore, motor-paced absolute speed records allow the rider to be towed by the motor vehicle till almost up to speed. So Martin’s British record has nothing to do with Bowier’s record at all.

I despise television for the most part (too many stupid people, too many adverts, too many stupid people in adverts), so I had to research a little to figure out who Guy Martin is. The message boards abound with comments saying that Martin’s personality is something that “the British nation could stand to have more of” and that he is great on television because he is so “un-telly”. Is it me, or does no one else notice the innate self-contradiction of that latter comment? You do know that reality television is an oxymoron in practice?…. like a sociological corollary to Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle.

I’m just irritated because some git wrote an article about speed records and got all the facts wrong. THEY’RE FACTS. THEY’VE BEEN RECORDED. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK THEM UP. WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALL THEM “RECORDS”? That and the people who actually hold the world records and their support staff seem to have put a lot more effort into their accomplishments.

FYI, Bowier beat the previous HPV record by a scant 0.37mph (specifically flying 200M time trial), set by Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham of BC. Whittingham, who still holds several other cycling speed records, is also the founder, designer, and framebuilder of Naked Bicycles. Thus Sam Whittingham is a bike shop owner who has actually earned a place in the record books.

PS. Wikipedia had it wrong too…..I corrected them.



2 Comments

The Daily Mail is well known in the UK for being subject to less rigour with the facts when a ‘great story’ is at stake.

I have actually watched the programme in question, something that i suspect neither you nor the Waily Fail journo have done.

At no time in the programme did they state that they were after a world record, rather they were crystal clear that they were after the British Paced Record. It was a great piece of TV and Guy Martin is definitely not an air-brushed airhead presenter, which is why he is regarded as ‘un-telly’. He helped build the bike and to modify the vehicle that he was paced behind, including welding and so on. He clearly worked very hard with his fitness to try to break the record (by a very narrow margin).

You are right to say that they could have got their facts straight, but the point you miss is that there is no elitism in the programme. I will never break any cycling records, apart from maybe number of falls, and yet this programme shows people that they can actually achieve something if they set their mind to it. I want to ride my bike even more knowing that there are real people like Guy Martin who are attempting crazy stuff. 

Agree with the above commenter - few people expect sound facts from the Daily Mail. The programme itself was good viewing: a diverse team of enthusiastic people using their skills to rise to a challenge, and was far more about engineering than anything else. At no point were they claiming a record that wasn’t theirs.

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