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He used his regular cycle, a Tribune "Blue Streak" with 28-inch wheels and a chainwheel-sprocket combination that gave him a 112-inch gear. The bike had 6�-inch crank arms, suitable for the high rpm technique called "spinning." The bike weighed 20� pounds, the 5'7" Murphy 145.
The first trial was held on Wednesday, June 21. Booth did his best, but couldn't reach the required speed of 60 mph. Murphy stayed with the train and covered the mile in 64.8 seconds. That was the fastest timed mile ever attained by a cyclist, but it wasn't fast enough. It didn't break the magic mile-a-minute barrier.
The effort did, however, disclose one flaw in the planning. How was Murphy to stop? A good part of the two-mile board track was used for accelerating to speed. Then came the measured mile. That left almost no room for slowing down. As the train pulled away, Murphy was hit by the turbulent air currents. His bike was hard to control on the narrow track. Worst of all, he saw that the boards would soon run out—leaving him to crash as he hit the crossties. A Washington Post reporter described the scene: "He quietly steadied his wheel and let it run. He managed to slow down a bit, then saw that the board track ended. He leaped onto the cinders and landed on his feet, unhurt."
Fullerton had the track lengthened by three-eighths of a mile, but decided not to allow Murphy to be buffeted in the train's wake. When he had completed the mile, he would have to be taken aboard the train somehow. Meanwhile, Booth was looking for the line's most powerful engine. He decided on No. 74, which was considerably heavier than the engine used in the trial, and Fullerton pulled it out of service. Two more practice rides were canceled as being too risky. There would be just the main event.
Fullerton had timed the occasion to coincide with the annual meeting of the League of American Wheelmen, being held that year on Long Island at Patchogue. These cyclists swelled the crowd that lined the tracks on Friday afternoon, June 30. Aboard the train were railroad officials, reporters, two physicians, Murphy's trainer and masseur, five official timers, including the county sheriff, and referee James E. Sullivan, executive secretary of the AAU.
Murphy had changed his chainwheel and sprocket to a combination that gave him a gear of 120 inches. Even so, to achieve a speed of 60 mph, he would have to pedal at the rate of three revolutions per second. And the bike was too big for him; he couldn't straddle it comfortably. Fullerton had to hold it steady while photographers took pictures of the racer on the saddle.
At 5:10 p.m., 40 minutes late, Booth gave three blasts on the whistle. Reporters boarded the train; Fullerton pushed Murphy into the hood, and the great trial finally began. The train shuddered from a standing start, with Murphy holding on. He let go when the train reached 40 mph. At the beginning of the measured mile, stopwatches clicked and the race was on. Murphy, keeping his eyes on a white stripe painted on the train's platform, was bent over the handlebars and pedaling furiously. To those on the platform he was a wavering silhouette against the brightness beyond the hood.
He did the first quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds, but the train was still accelerating. The second quarter was faster—14.2. Half a mile had been reached in 29.4: breaking the mile-a-minute barrier was possible!
But the cheering suddenly stopped. Murphy began to lose ground; the train was pulling away from him. Then he was outside the hood, caught in a swirling cloud of dust and cinders. The attempt appeared doomed, and Murphy in danger of falling and possibly being killed. Fullerton shouted frantically, "Are you all right?"
"I can't see!" Murphy shouted back. The locomotive seemed to be tearing up the light roadbed. Murphy was almost blinded by a maelstrom of debris.