Cycling land speed record

Cycling land speed record

The cycling land speed record has been beaten by former US national track, road and mountain bike champion Denise Mueller-Korenek, who covered one mile at 183.932mph/296.009km/h at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

The previous record had been held by Fred Rompleberg of the Netherlands (167mph/268.76km/h) and was well above the previous women’s record of 147.7mph/237.7km/h.

Mueller-Koronek achieved the feat on an adapted 1,000-horsepower converted dragster with farings, the same kind used by Rompleberg. 

Her team consisted of two former record holders: John Howard and Fred Rompleberg himself, who each broke the record in 1985 and 1995, respectively. 

"Denise Korenek has extraordinary power but her spirit is the key to her success. The unique combination is why she was able to smash the World Paced Bicycle Speed Record with a staggering speed of 183.9mph," said John Howard. 

"She now owns the distinction of being the fastest human ever to ride a bicycle!"

 And that “bicycle” is quite the machine. Created specially by KHS bicycles, it features a custom carbon frameset with an elongated design and 17-inch motorbike wheels. A suspension fork also helped reduce vibrations on the salt flats during the record attempt, while the gearing on the bike is a double reduction setup which only works effectively when the bike reaches speeds of around 50mph/80.46km/h.

 Mueller-Koronek was towed by the dragster until the 50mph/80.46km/h speed was reached before she began to pedal under her own power. She was able to get as close as possible to the car’s faring without touching the front wheel due to the inclusion of a padded bumper attached to the head tube of the bike. Mueller-Koronek wore a 4kg race suit composed of leather, Kevlar and neoprene, and used a two-way radio to communicate with the car driver. 

The dragster had been kept safely in storage for over 23 years since Rompleberg's previous record was set – the team restored it and revamped the methanol-fuelled engine. Professional driver Shea Holbrook was behind the wheel for the new record attempt. 

"For the first time pacing for Denise I drove outside of my comfort zone to get the job done." Holbrook said. "Every second of the day I'm a tad anxious but when Denise and I leave the starting line all my nerves calm. 

"This is the most intense thing I've ever done for obvious reasons but you know what's crazy? I'd do it again. We made history at the Bonneville Salt Flats and it's a day I'll never forget." 

After the ride, Mueller-Korenek said: "That was rough.” She was bounced around on the flats at speeds normally reserved for supercars only, and finished the attempt with her throat entirely coated in salt dust. 

Cyclists have attempted to break the land speed record for more than 100 years, with the first record set back in 1899 by Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy of the USA. He became the first person to exceed 60-mph (96.5 km/h) on a bicycle by slipstreaming a train along a track of wooden boards laid along the railway track sleepers. He is quoted as saying he rode into what he called "a maelstrom of swirling dust, hot cinders, paper and other particles of matter" during the attempt. 

The record was broken in 1941 by Alfred Letourneur, who reached speeds of 108.92 mph (175.29 km/h) by slipstreaming behind a racing car along Highway 99 near Bakersfield, California. It was the first time anyone had beaten Murphy’s record because until the 1920s, no-one had access to a vehicle fast enough to do attempt it. Other cyclists had attempted slipstreaming behind cars and motorcycles, but it was Letourneur who first smashed the 100mph barrier. 

The record was broken again in 1973 when Dr Alan Abbott took to the Bonneville Salt Flats behind a dragster, achieving a speed of 140 mph (225 km/h). Then, in 1985, the record was broken again by John Howard, who hit 152.2 mph (244.9 km/h) while tailing a racing car in the same area. 

The record stood until 3 October 1995, when Fred Rompelberg achieved an incredible 167.044 mph. His record was achieved from behind a dragster which had been fitted with a wind shield. To this day, he’s still the fastest man to have ever ridden a bicycle.

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