Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson create crazy human-powered vehicles. They've built a helicopter and a flapping-winged aeroplane, and now their bike, the Aerovelo, has just broken the Human-Powered Speed Record.
The Aerovelo hit 139.44kph (86.65mph) at its top speed and here's how they did it...
How hard is this record to achieve?
Todd Reichert: This is a huge challenge. There is an intensely competitive community of world-class cyclists and designers driving this record forward, and the record has only gone up by 4.8kph since 2001. So to go from 133.78kph to 139.44kph was a pretty big leap.
Watch below to see the video of their successful record attempt.
And how dangerous is it?
Cameron Robertson: We ride in remote locations so most crashes just end up with the bike sliding off into the scrub. We've crashed at over 95kph and walked away, and a rider hasn't been seriously injured in years. But knowing how to react when you hit a bump or a wind gust is vital.
So how come the bike goes so fast?
Todd Reichert: The main reason is lack of drag. The bike has a shell that is designed to keep the thin layer of surface air – the bit within a quarter inch of the body – flowing smoothly. That requires very precise shell shaping, isolation from road vibrations and a smooth surface free of scratches or bug splats!
But it can't all be about aero?
Todd Reichert: That's the biggest factor but every small detail matters, from the selection of the tires, the weight and stiffness of the frame, the lubricant on the chain, and the types of bearings you use. Then of course there's the engine...you need a powerful and experienced rider.
Todd, you're the rider, so how hard do you actually have to pedal?
Todd Reichert: On a level road you can actually get to 80kph using about 150W, which is below even a warm-up pace for a trained cyclist. For higher speeds, it's a bit more effort. On the record runs, I aimed to run up around 350 watts for the first four minutes and average around 600 watts for the last minute, but I maxed out at 500 watts. It was limited by the bike, so there's more to be gained by figuring out how to deliver the power I know I have. To get to 130kph you have to go pretty hard right from the beginning of the five mile run, so by the end you're pretty wiped.
What specific training did you have to do?
Todd Reichert: I do 50 percent strength and power training in the gym, and 50 percent on the bike. The hardest bit is getting comfortable on the bike and figuring out you can actually dump all of your power without flying off the road.
Because of the enclosed shell, you use cameras and a TV screen to see where you’re going – that must be a bit weird?
Todd Reichert: It takes a bit of getting used to. It's kind of like playing a video game, except the consequences are a bit more real.
You failed to break the record last year. What changed?
Cameron Robertson: Lots of changes to the internals of the bike – changing the frame layout, improving chain efficiency, adding electronic gear-shifting, modifying the steering and adding new wheels and tyres. We even had a new ventilation system to get more air to the lungs of the rider!
So this is now the fastest human-powered vehicle on the planet?
Cameron Robertson: Yep. Human-powered aircraft and watercraft are both extremely slow and draggy in comparison. So this is the fastest, full stop. One day, though, a bike could be built to run on rails and break the record – a human-powered bullet train?
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