After two weeks of intense flight testing several members of the Atlas team switched gears, travelling to Battle Mountain, Nevada for the 2012 World Human-Powered Speed Challenge! The WHPSC is an annual event where competitors in high-tech streamlined bikes try to break the human-powered land speed record. The record is currently held by Sam Whittingham and the Varna team of British Columbia, Canada, at 133.2 Km/h (82.8 MPH).
For the past 13 years, teams of engineers and high-powered cyclists have descended on the small town of Battle Mountain each September with one goal: to go fast! Just outside Battle Mountain, on Highway 305, is a 6+ mile extremely straight and extremely flat stretch of road. This road has been surveyed by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA) and certified for land speed record attempts, and it is their staff and volunteers who administer and manage the event every year. This year, participants from France, the Netherlands, Russia, and Australia were on hand, an incredible international showing! University of Toronto and the team members of AeroVelo have participated in the WHPSC for the past 3 years, setting the Collegiate record in 2010 and 2011. Todd Reichert currently holds the Collegiate Land Speed record from 2011 at 116.9 Km/h (72.6 MPH) in Vortex.
This year Trefor Evans, Marc Jutras, Todd Reichert, Cameron Robertson, Alex Selwa, and Alfie Tham signed up to make the long trek to Nevada. In light of the large number of riders (all of our designers/builders on the team also train to ride the streamliners), we decided to bring two bikes, Vortex (U of T’s 2011 bike) and Bluenose (2012 bike). Vortex was in good shape to run already, but Bluenose required quite a bit of prep to get into riding shape.
Bluenose this year has been (and will continue to be) a testbed for new ideas. In prep for Battle Mountain we integrated a cable-actuated steering mechanism, meant to decouple the high-powered pedalling motion from the steering of the bike. We also moulded and installed a silicone-based front wheel fairing, which would streamline the front wheel yet be flexible enough to allow substantial steering input for safety. In addition lots of sanding, filling, and shaping was done on Bluenose’s composite shell to achieve the optimal aerodynamic shape.
During qualifying runs on Monday we found out very quickly that the cable-steering had uncoupled the power stroke of the legs from steering, but unfortunately then coupled the lean of the bike and steering, which are two very closely-linked motions. This was even more unstable than power-coupled steering, and we quickly converted Bluenose back to a more conventional tiller-steering mechanism. We continued to spend much of the week making incremental improvements to Vortex and filling/fairing Bluenose’s shell, trying to get every bit of speed possible out of the two bikes. One could always find our team outside the motel (Super8, where most of the competitors were staying) working on the bikes.
With our conversion back to tiller steering however, we still had some trouble with Bluenose’s stability. After one particularly strong wind gust, Trefor in Bluenose experienced a growing wobble resulting in a high-speed crash (he was quite alright afterwards as you can see, the bike was in fine shape afterwards too!):
Overall the team had a great time, our goal was to ride the bikes as much as possible (Bluenose and Vortex ran nearly every afternoon and evening) and have fun. We also took the time to meet many of the other riders and builders throughout the week, admiring their diverse two- and three-wheeled creations. This event attracts the best in the cycling industry from all over the World, and everyone was more than happy to show us what made their machines faster and more advanced than any crop of bikes we had seen before. What an awesome learning experience!
Each of our team members ended up posting some very impressive speeds, with personal bests of:
Trefor Evans: 103.1 Km/h (64.6 MPH) in Bluenose (speed limited by stability concerns)
Marc Jutras: 104.8 Km/h (65.1 MPH) in Vortex, 2nd Place Collegiate Competitor
Todd Reichert: 112.4 Km/h (69.83 MPH) in Bluenose (speed limited by stability concerns)
Cameron Robertson: 109.6 Km/h (68.1 MPH) in Vortex
Alex Selwa: 99.5 Km/h (61.8 MPH) in Vortex, 3rd Place Collegiate Competitor
Alfie Tham: 95.3 Km/h (59.2 MPH) in Vortex
The WHPSC at Battle Mountain is always a thrilling and fun event, and the team at AeroVelo is excited to make this annual pilgrimage a part of our work. Congratulations to the new World Record holders (Gareth Hanks with the new Tricycle record in “Completely Overzealous”, Tom Amick/Phil Plath with the new Tandem record in “Glowworm”), and we look forward to seeing everyone again next year!