How fast have you ever ridden a bike, one that was not going downhill or not following a car or truck? It’s not that difficult to hit 40 mph coasting down a steep hill, or when trailing a truck that is creating a pocket of low wind resistance.
Recently, Dutch students went far beyond that at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge near Battle Mountain in Nevada. Their bike is an aero recumbent, meaning it has a lightweight shell encasing a reclining cycle. The shell was painted with a very slippery, thin paint used by formula one cars to reduce air drag. Even tiny reductions in this facet of racing can have a big impact. They called their vessel the VeloX3, and it was ridden by Sebastian Bowier when they hit a top speed of 83.13 mph to take the new world record. The student team all worked together on the design, construction, testing and racing.
They had six days of racing to try to break the world record for an un-paced human-powered cycle. Initially, they noticed their bike’s outer shell was deforming due to the forces it was experiencing at high speeds. After this problem was corrected, they were able to go faster and started zeroing in on that world record. They raced on a state highway, not on a special track. This fact would defeat any naysayers who might say their feat is not that impressive, because it didn’t occur in real-world conditions. If an aero recumbent can achieve a top speed of over 80 mph, would it be reasonable to say it could cruise comfortably at 35-40?
Might there be millions of aero recumbents on the roads at some point in order to replace cars? Some large-scale bike system designs have resembled urban train rails with covered tracks for the bikes in order to reduce wind and rolling resistance. This new bike record has proven that such an expensive support system may be unneeded.
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