Bicycles

Cyclist reaches 85.71 mph on way to human-powered speed world record

AeroVelo engineering has had this very record in their sights for some time
AeroVelo engineering has had this very record in their sights for some time
View 3 Images
AeroVelo engineering has had this very record in their sights for some time
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AeroVelo engineering has had this very record in their sights for some time
Eta was expected to offer around a one percent improvement on performance compared to its predecessor
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Eta was expected to offer around a one percent improvement on performance compared to its predecessor
Todd Reichart recovers after his record-breaking run
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Todd Reichart recovers after his record-breaking run

Aboard an enclosed recumbent bicycle in Nevada today, Canadian Todd Reichart has claimed the world record for human powered speed. The annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge draws cyclists from around the world seeking to push the limits of pedal-powered motion, but it was the 33-year-old who left the competition in his wake to clock a top speed of 85.71 mph (137.9 km/h).

Reichart and his team at AeroVelo engineering have had this very record in their sights for some time. In June last year the team announced its plans to set a new human-powered speed record, which stood at 83.1 mph (133.8 km/h) at the time courtesy of a 26-year-old Dutch rider named Sebastiaan Bowler.

And AeroVelo's confidence in approaching this objective was pretty well-founded, having proven its credentials in the realm of human-powered vehicles in the years previous. In 2011, its Vortex bicycle achieved a speed of 72.6 mph (116.9 km/h), a new land speed record for college-built and college-piloted vehicles. It has even ventured into aviation, developing what it describes as the first working human-powered ornithopter and also winning the Sikorsky Prize in 2013 with its Atlas human-powered helicopter.

So with this considerable momentum behind it, AeroVelo set about crafting a vehicle capable of propelling it even further into the record books. Dubbed Eta, a Greek letter often referenced in engineering as the symbol for efficiency, the bike to take them there would be an upgrade of a 2012 version called Bluenose.

The pilot sits in the recumbent position, with their legs out in front of them, in an enclosed capsule crafted with aerodynamics as a driving principle. Using a camera mounted to the top of the vehicle and a video monitor to see ahead, Eta was expected to offer around a one percent improvement on performance compared to its predecessor, according to the team's computer simulations.

Eta was expected to offer around a one percent improvement on performance compared to its predecessor
Eta was expected to offer around a one percent improvement on performance compared to its predecessor

Despite its meticulous planning, all didn't go to plan for the AeroVelo team come race day, with the first qualifying heat seeing Eta topple over on launch and damaging a front fairing. It then sat out the second heat while repairs were made, in time for Reichart to enter the third and the rest is history.

The course for the event consists of a 5 mile (8 km) run-up section for the pilots to build speed before a 218 yard (200 m) section on which they are judged. Reichart covered this distance in just 5.22 seconds, beating Bowler's previous record by 2.58 mph (4.152 km/h).

Source: Recumbents.com

7 comments
Bruce H. Anderson
At the speed, 2mph is a huge gain. So CONGRATULATIONS! I wonder if the aerodynamics could be improved by adding dimples, like a golf ball. The gentlemen at Mythbusters tried it on a large sedan and it looked like the idea had merit. It might be interesting to try on such a one-off purpose-built vehicle.
Island Architect
This is wonderful and congratulations! Apparently clean thinking from top to bottom. And I wonder how it compares with the cyclist in the 1910's who raced behind a train and hit a very high speed with the train solving the wind resistance problem with a fairing. They placed boards on the tracks over the ties and between the rails. He came close to 100mph. Bill
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The draft record was around 134 mph about 20 years ago. This is a totally different proposition.
Eric_D
@Bruce H. Anderson Why doesn't AeroVelo's speedbike use Golf Ball Dimples? https://youtu.be/ZXpZy_A7mMk Round ball has boundary layer separation - ETA doesn't ! Their whole YTchannel is worth a look.
phissith
Look like a mini coffin not a bike!!
BZD
Amazing how far the tech has been pushed in this competiton. The bikes are of course just as useless as the rocket cars used for the land speed record, but the knowledge gained is not. @phissith It certainly would a coffin in regular traffic. If you look for it you'll find a video from a previous year where another contestants falls over, slides a really long way and eventually slides into a car parked next to the road. No injury occurred afaik, but it certainly was not pleasant.
Paul Gracey
As one who has been a volunteer at 15 of the 16 of these events held, let me clear up some misconceptions.@BZD: These bikes are built using Carbon Fiber and Kevlar. We have had a number of spectacular crashes over the years and the shell of the bike is often more protective of the rider than his helmet within it. Our safety rules now prohibit cars anywhere near the road, and the crash that occurred this year after a timed speed over 80 mph left not a mark on the rider, though the bike needs a lot of work to be ride-able once again. @ Eric_D: "Mile a Minute Murphy" did indeed go almost 100...Kph or 60 Miles per hour. @ Island Architect: I admire "Mythbusters" too, but automobiles are quite a long way back from the remarkable aerodynamics in use in these bikes, or even most Bonneville type race cars that add scads of horsepower to the equations governing top speed. Because of the limitations of human power, these bikes have the aerodynamic drag of just one of an automobile's two wing mirrors, or even less. Dimples are just really good for golf balls and other blunt objects.
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