Speeding Ticket

Fact: This one time, man travelled 85.76mph… on a bicycle.

On the salt flats of Utah, Todd Reichart broke the world speed record for human-powered transport, using nothing but his legs, some excessively large gears and some physics.

At high speed, air resistance rapidly becomes the biggest force to contend with (next time you are driving at 85.76 mph, put your hand out of the window and imagine cycling into that wind). To combat this, the bike, which looks like an escape pod out of a science fiction movie, was designed primarily to reduce air resistance to a minimum. Perhaps surprisingly, the aerodynamic design of the pod – and not how fast the rider was cycling –  was by far the most important factor in achieving this world record, although it’s also a safe bet that Todd is not one to skip leg day.

He’s not the fastest man on a  bicycle though – that record is held  by Fred Rompelberg, who was pulled by a dragster at a speed of 166.944 mph across those same salt flats. His record was also based on reducing air resistance, due to the slip-streaming effect of the car (which was fitted with a wind shield to protect the cyclist) – although the use of a huge internal combustion engine and a total lack of common sense probably helped too.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license

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