What’s the fastest you’ve ever traveled on a bicycle? Perhaps twenty, maybe thirty miles per hour if you were really hustling? Well prepare to feel rather snail-like because earlier this week, a group of cyclists competing at the annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge just set a new land speed world record, successfully propelling a recumbent bike over 85 miles per hour. That’s right, a bicyclist — pedaling entirely by himself — just topped out at a speed that would net you a speeding ticket on nearly any stretch of road in the entire United States. And no, he didn’t need Lance Armstrong’s doctor either.
Team AeroVelo’s record speed of 85.7 miles per hour, officially recorded by Canadian pilot Todd Reichart, comfortably tops the previously set record of 83.1 miles per hour set back in 2013. During the world record run, Reichart made use of the competition’s five-mile buffer stretch of highway which allows riders ample opportunity to reach their top speeds. Once the five-mile buffer ends, World Human Powered Speed Challenge timers clock each participant over a 200-meter portion of road, which was hand picked prior to the event due to its flatness. The selected road even saw a convenient repaving prior to the competition to assure the event would go off without any hitches.
What’s most impressive about AeroVelo’s world record is the fact this isn’t the first time the team has earned such a distinction. Back in 2013, the team built a human-powered helicopter which successfully maintained flight for one minute, helping AeroVelo win the much-envied Sikorsky Prize. Even in 2010, a custom-built flapping wing craft built by AeroVelo recorded the world’s first sustained flight of its kind, staying in the air for 19 seconds.
Though it championed the human-powered aircraft categories, the land speed record had always been in its sights with the organization attempting such a record even as far back as 2011. Back then, its Vortex bicycle set the world record for college-built and college-piloted vehicles by traveling at a blistering 72.6 miles per hour. With that record under its belt, it then focused on building the recumbent bike responsible for setting the world record this week.
Dubbed Eta — a Greek reference to efficiency as it relates to engineering — AeroVelo’s main focus was to build a completely aerodynamic shell around the bike and its rider. Considering it absolutely cruised past the previous world record, it seems it hit its goal right on the head. Moreover, this is perhaps the only bike in the entire world that won’t incite a groan from road ragers for slowing up their daily commute.
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