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Fastest bicycle, craziest rider

August 29, 2007

A human being working at maximum output generates just about a kilowatt, or a scoche more than one horsepower.  It’s interesting to see how much you can do with only a little power:

Science Daily — This October, Jerrod Bouchard will attempt to become the fastest college student to be propelled by his or her own power.

Jerrod Bouchard (left) is determined to break the collegiate human land speed record this fall.  The senior in mechanical engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla, will try to break the collegiate human-powered land speed record of 61.5 mph Oct 1-6 in Battle Mountain, Nev.
- Student Hopes To Break Human Land Speed Record Using Bullet Shaped Bicycle

I can appreciate that.  Once I hit 26 mph on a straight-level riding my bike, but I about croaked from the effort.  The fastest I ever went on a bike was 55 mph, but that was headed down highway 12 on the East side of White Pass in Washington State, in about 1972.  A friend and I were bike-packing from Vancouver, BC to Ellensburg and we’d camped near the top.  On the way down, we got into the exhilaration of speed and pedaled like mad, tucked into the smallest cross-section we could muster.  (It’s also possible we had wind behind us – conditions were prit’ near ideal)  A Ford LTD pulled alongside us and the passenger grinned at us and flashed his hand 5-fingers-twice.  After a bit, we ran out of breath and coasted for miles, heading down into the Yakima valley.

Of course, we were idiots.  The sew-up tires on our bikes were not made for that kind of speed.  Nor was the road really smooth enough.  Sometimes you just look back at dumb things you did and wonder how the hell you survived…

Today instead of an Italian touring bike, I ride a Chinese mountain bike.  I probably never get over 20 mph anymore.  Pathetic.

Hope the guy breaks the speed record!  If he survives, it’ll probably help him get a job at some company that makes electric cars or something.

  1. Ed K
    August 29, 2007 at 20:35 | #1

    I was thinking of getting this (probably Chinese) bike just for an excuse to get on a bike again and start peddling.  If one is not considering going over 15 mph on a “La Jolla” cruiser …


    I also thought about the possibility of extra chainrings and a front derailleur to make it a 3-speed and yet keep the coaster brake to feel really old.  How stupid (or impossible) is this idea?

  2. August 29, 2007 at 21:29 | #2

    Sure, it should be an OK bike.  Wal-Mart’s multi-speed bikes seem to be impossible to keep in adjustment but the single-speed bike doesn’t really have anything to adjust. 

    Or, just watch the want-ads and yard sales.  I’m gettin’ to where I like bikes with really fat tires.  They’re safer, I think.

    It wouldn’t be impossible to have three front chainwheels and one rear, but you’d need a chain tensioner cobbled from a rear derailleur.  After all when you shift to a smaller chainwheel, the excess chain length has to go somewhere.

    Front derailleurs scrape the side of the tensioned upper chain to change gears, so I’m not fond of them.  My favorite simple chainwheel-gear bike would be a five-speed, which uses a rear derailleur with five chainwheels (changes gears by moving the untensioned lower chain from side-to-side with a sprocketed cage) and only a single front chainwheel (thus no annoying front derailleur). 

    If you can find an old five-speed (Maybe Schwinn or Raleigh – look for wheels that spin freely with no visible wobbling) and have it serviced, that would be great.

    If you don’t mind spending the bucks a vintage 3-speed (find one with British Sturmey-Archer hub instead of the cheaper Japanese Shimano 3-speed) and have it serviced at a bike shop.  The bike will be about $20 at a yard sale (look for true wheels again) and about $100 to $200 for parts and labor.  Raleigh, Triumph, and Schwinn are good brands.

    Some bike shops (usually the ones with older proprietors) take trade-ins and rebuild them during the slack winter months.  Those rebuilds can be excellent value.  Whatever you get, make sure it’s fun to ride.  Don’t let the 20-year-old salestwit try to sell you his favorite bike. 

    Someday I’m going to build the ultimate Sturmey-Archer three-speed…

  3. August 29, 2007 at 21:46 | #3

    That … was a very cool story.

  4. August 30, 2007 at 12:58 | #4

    I’m way too big of a wuss to go 55mph on a bicycle.

    But second hand cheap bikes seem the way to go for sure.  I got my first one for $75.  I think it’s a 1972 Fuji and I bought it about 3 years ago.  It sure is fun to look at the modern day Fuji’s that can be lifted with one hand or one finger, and then go to my bike that feels like a tank.

  5. EdK
    August 31, 2007 at 08:32 | #5

    Thanks much for the info.  I guess I never thought about the chain tensioner being needed, it probably would be EASIER to add on a rear derailleur and compatible hub instead.  Or just make do with a one speed.

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