Aerovelo

This weird AF bike just broke the speed record for human-powered travel

144 km/h with legs alone.

DAVID NIELD
23 SEP 2016
 

No matter how hard you're pedalling to work and back, you're not getting anywhere close to the Aerovelo Eta bike, which just set a new speed record for a human-powered vehicle: 144.17 km/h (89.59 mph).

Thanks to the Eta's aerodynamic carbon fibre shell, lightweight frame, and specialised recumbent layout (where the rider sits back), rider Todd Reichert hit car-worthy speeds along a dry stretch of highway in Battle Mountain, Nevada last week.

 

The new record, adding nearly 4.8 km/h (3 mph) to the previous best, was set as part of this year's World Human-Powered Speed Challenge, held in the Nevada desert.

"This was another massive leap in an event that had been fighting for 0.16 km/h (0.1 mph) gains over the last decade," wrote the Aerovelo team on its company blog. "Breaking into this new range of speeds, Eta has truly earned its name and its title as the world's most efficient vehicle."

While a fit and athletic rider is essential to hitting these incredible speeds, factors like minimising friction and wind resistance are also crucial. The Eta has been built with a very low centre of gravity and handmade tyres, and weighs just 25 kg (55 pounds) without a rider.

It's worth reading the full story of the Aerovelo team's week in Battle Mountain, because not everything ran smoothly, and it shows just how thin the margins can be when a bike is refined to this degree - a day earlier, a squashed bug on the nose of the bike wrecked the team's chances of hitting maximum velocity.

The engineers also had to contend with an unexplained speed wobble effect that they countered with a rubber steering damper.

 

Temperature and wind can also play a vital role, and hot weather at the end of the week laid the foundations for the Eta's record-breaking run.

"Looking back at the year, there are two lessons that were further hammered into our team’s psyche. First, no matter how much we think we know, the harsh reality of the real world will always keep us humble," writes the Aerovelo team

"Second, is the importance of being absolutely prepared, consistent and mentally focussed for every single run. In the end there's not much we can do about bugs and weather, except how we prepare and how we react."

Aerovelo was founded by Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson in 2010, and has made three bikes before Eta, which was specially commissioned to try and break the speed record.

Unlike previous models, the Eta ditches cockpits and windows, so the rider instead relies on a video display showing speed stats and other vitals. 

And as you might expect, everything is packed very tightly and precisely inside Eta's enclosure. The wheels are just 4 mm (0.15 inches) away from the shell, and going through 1,200 revolutions-per-minute at top speed.

That's a step up from the level of engineering you have on your own bike - but if you've got a speedo attached, see how your next run compares to Eta.

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