What's more fun than pedaling past a radar speed trap on your bike and asking the officer if you've earned a speeding ticket today? As hard as that is to achieve, the Aerovelo team has done it, with a world speed record of 85.71 mph set in this week's Human Powered Speed Championships in Battle Mountain, Nevada. The old record was 83.13 mph.
How fast is 80 mph on a bike? Down the steepest hill you've ever ridden on a bike, maybe you've topped 50 mph. On the flat, maybe 30 mph. Aerodynamic drag increases with the square of speed. That means that to go 2.7 times faster than your top speed, Aerovelo needs seven times as much energy to push the bike through the air.
Aerovelo rider Todd Reichert is a strong rider, but he's probably not seven times stronger than you are. So the team, as you might guess from its name, focused on reducing aerodynamic drag. Which is how Reichert ended up pedaling the team's glistening white carbon fiber torpedo without being able to see ahead.
His riding position is reclined behind the front wheel, with the bike's massive central spine directly in front of his head. It would be nearly impossible to see ahead even without the wind-cheating fairing installed, so the team relies on a video camera and display inside the cockpit.
Naturally, breaking a world record doesn't come easily, even for a team that has already won competitions for human-powered ornithopters and helicopters. The team fell short in its first attempt to set the bike speed record last year and returned this year to achieve its goal. It produced a video documenting last year's effort.
Photos by Aerovelo