Battle Mountain 2016: An unbelievable leap to 89.59 mph (144.17 km/hr)

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Battle Mountain 2016: An unbelievable leap to 89.59 mph (144.17 km/hr)

It would be hard to beat the excitement of last year’s World Human-Powered Speed Challenge, but 2016 held its own, with the team overcoming a terrible speed wobble early in the week, cracking the world record twice, and coming unbelievably close to 90 mph! Adding to the excitement, this year hosted the widest array of international competitors, with new teams from Japan and Mexico, and returning teams from the U.K., Netherlands, Russia, Australia, U.S.A., Canada, Italy, and France. Another incredible year, with incredible results, pushing the world human-powered speed record an additional 2.9 mph!

For more info about the event you can find official race results here, and a detailed blog covering all of the teams here.

The Aerovelo team gathered together once more, this time coming from various parts of the U.S.A. and Canada. From left: Trefor Evans, Tomek Bartczak, Cameron Robertson, Todd Reichert, Mike Kiiru, Jenny Reichert, and Alex Selwa.

The Aerovelo team gathered together once more, this time coming from various parts of the U.S.A. and Canada. From left: Trefor Evans, Tomek Bartczak, Cameron Robertson, Todd Reichert, Mike Kiiru, Jenny Reichert, and Alex Selwa.

This year the week started with a bit of a scare. Since dialing in the bike’s stability in 2015, Eta had handled like a dream, but all of a sudden during Monday’s runs, Eta developed a vicious speed wobble between 50-60 km/hr. Todd managed to figure out how to get through it and to clear the timing traps at reasonable speeds, but when slowing down for the catch the wobble resumed and nearly resulted in a slow-speed crash. Speed wobble (see video) is a very interesting phenomenon, that’s very difficult to model, and difficult to nail down. We saw this wobble for the first time a few weeks before when we were testing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but there it was only very minor and controllable.

Cameron and Mike getting ready to test a new steering configuration on a side road just outside of town.

Cameron and Mike getting ready to test a new steering configuration on a side road just outside of town.

After trying to figure out what had changed and trying a variety of solutions we ended up installing a rubber steering damper that did the trick. Unfortunately, the damper masks the natural handling qualities of the bike, making it much harder to launch, and adding a bit of unnecessary excitement to every subsequent run!

Todd and the Aerovelo team describing Eta to a group of young enthusiasts. Each year the elementary school class comes by to visit as teams openly display their designs. It’s a great event, representative of the community of people who take pride in sharing rather than coveting their new developments.

Todd and the Aerovelo team describing Eta to a group of young enthusiasts. Each year the elementary school class comes by to visit as teams openly display their designs. It’s a great event, representative of the community of people who take pride in sharing rather than coveting their new developments.

Tuesday evening the runs were cancelled with the most rain we’ve ever seen in Battle Mountain, so we were able to spend a bit more time with the kids at the annual Show and Shine and have the bike ready for action when the competition resumed on Wednesday. With slightly cooler temperatures, but almost no wind, Eta launched into what would become a world record run at 88.26 mph (142.04 km/hr)! For all our fellow nerds out there, breaking 88 mph (a.k.a. the speed necessary for time travel in the movie "Back to the Future") was almost as exciting as setting the world record in the first place! Of course, the following night / day was filled with various discussions of time travel and how we could use it to our advantage to attain even higher speeds.

Eta hitting 88 mph, creating a temporal displacement in space-time continuum. Click to see video.

Eta hitting 88 mph, creating a temporal displacement in space-time continuum. Click to see video.

The team was also honoured with a specially made hat for the occasion. Thanks to the organizers for being equally excited about this!

The team was also honoured with a specially made hat for the occasion. Thanks to the organizers for being equally excited about this!

Thursday was another good day for low winds. Todd’s power input was almost identical, but the final speed was a bit lower, possible due to cooler air, or possibly due to a small piece of foam that had broken off and gotten stuck in contact with the wheel. The result of 87.6 mph, which would have been unbelievable only two years prior, didn’t quite get the same standing ovation.

Unusual weather for this time of year, bringing rain, colder air and lots of bugs.

Unusual weather for this time of year, bringing rain, colder air and lots of bugs.

Friday the weather was getting hotter. The anticipation of faster speeds could be felt in every team, and we were warming up with 90 mph on the mind. Eta started off the evening run performing reasonably well, but with about 2 miles to go in the course the on-screen display indicate that something was wrong. The onboard computer receives power measurements from the pedals and calculates in real time how fast the bike should be going. It compares this to the bike’s actual speed and displays the percentage on the screen. Over the course of 0.5 miles, the speed of the bike dropped by 2% compared to the prediction and it was obvious that is wasn’t going to be worth wearing out the rider with a final sprint. Eta coasted through just below 80 mph and we started looking for answers. It wasn’t too long before we found a bug smashed against the front of the shell, sacrificing itself to try to prevent a record run. Eta is incredibly fast because it is designed to maintain an extended laminar boundary layer, but even the smallest bug or imperfection can cause a large turbulent transition wedge, bringing down the bike’s top speed.

Cameron preparing to launch Todd on the final run, with Tomek and Alex standing by.

Cameron preparing to launch Todd on the final run, with Tomek and Alex standing by.

With one day to go, knowing that the bike could go faster still, we pulled out all the stops. The team spent the day polishing the shell, trying to gain every last bit of laminar flow. We re-oiled the wheel bearings, coated the bike in a bug-resistance wax, and took time to mentally rehearse the upcoming run. The wind was down, the air was warm, and within the first two miles the bike was registering performance numbers 1.5% higher than we had ever seen. In the end, Friday’s bug incident may have been a blessing: being forced to take it easy on Friday after all-out efforts on Wednesday and Thursday meant that Todd still had a bit left in the tank for a solid final sprint. Eta accelerated to a final speed of 89.59 mph (144.17 km/hr), smashing last year’s top speed of 86.65 mph (139.45 km/hr). This was another massive leap in an event that had been fighting for 0.1 mph gains over the last decade. Breaking into this new range of speeds, Eta has truly earned its name and its title as the world’s most efficient vehicle.

Todd and Eta after coming through the timing trap on the record setting run. Courtesy of Bas de Meijer.

Todd and Eta after coming through the timing trap on the record setting run. Courtesy of Bas de Meijer.

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. These days we assume our ideas have a 50% chance of being wrong until they’re actually proven on the road. Second, is the importance of being absolutely prepared, consistent and mentally focused 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.

Looking forward to the challenges ahead and to taking Eta through to the next level!

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86.65 mph and a new human-powered speed record!

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86.65 mph and a new human-powered speed record!

On September 19th, 2015, the Eta speed bike blasted down highway SR305 outside of Battle Mountain, Nevada, reaching a top speed of 139.45 km/hr (86.65 mph) and setting a new world record for the third time that week. The effort represents the culmination of a massive amount of work from an incredibly bright and dedicated team of young engineers. For many of the team members it is the fulfillment of a dream that we have been pursuing since early 2009.

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Eta proves itself at the GM Proving Grounds

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Eta proves itself at the GM Proving Grounds

AeroVelo is excited to announce a new sponsorship with GMC.  GMC generously offered us access to GM’s Milford Proving Ground in Michigan for testing and further development of Eta. It is an amazing facility that covers over 4000 acres and has a seemingly endless variety of tracks, road conditions and specialty surfaces. As engineers, being able to visit and test in facilities like this is a great privilege.

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AeroVelo honoured by the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame

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AeroVelo honoured by the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame

On June 4th, 215 AeroVelo was awarded the Belt of Orion Award for Excellence from Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame. On June 4th, 2015, the 42nd annual gala dinner and ceremony that celebrates achievements in Canadian aviation took place at Toronto's Pearson Airport, and was attended by 375 industry professionals, honoured guests, and aviation enthusiasts from across Canada, including astronaut Chris Hadfield. It was an honour to be recognized along side such noteworthy Canadians, and an incredible experience to be able to share with team members and family.

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Reinventing the Wheel

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Reinventing the Wheel

At last year’s World Human-Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain  we proved that our bike Eta  is as efficient as we predicted.  We finished third overall and reached speeds of 126.3 km/hr, making Todd the 7th fastest human being in the world.  We could have done even better had a series of mechanical issues, including broken spokes, blown tires, and a tight squeeze inside the bike-shell, prevented Eta from reaching full potential.

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Atlas Installed at the Ontario Science Centre

Atlas Installed at the Ontario Science Centre

It was a great thrill for us to have Atlas - half of it at least -  find a permanent home at the Ontario Science Centre.  The Atlas helicopter is far to big for any museum in North America to house it all, so we're still looking for a home for the other half.  Read more about the story behind this one of a kind exhibit. After concluding the Atlas project in 2013, we started looking for a permanent home for the helicopter. Early on we found that the Ontario Science Centre has been following our work for several years: they had been interested in acquiring the Snowbird (which was ultimately committed to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa), and were equally-excited about the Atlas. However, after some initial discussion and layouts it seemed impossible to accommodate the entire helicopter in the OSC, and any installation concept would include only half the aircraft. Given that the most breathtaking aspect of Atlas is its size, we had hoped to display the entire helicopter in one piece. Unsurprisingly, after a survey of nearly every aerospace and science museum in North America, it became clear this would not be possible. The OSC is nonetheless an incredible home for the helicopter, given its proximity to Toronto and the staggering number of annual visitors, more than 1 million each year.

Battle Mountain 2014: Broken Spokes, not Broken Dreams

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Battle Mountain 2014: Broken Spokes, not Broken Dreams

We return this week from the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain, exhausted, but excited. A series of mechanical issues throughout the week, such as broken spokes, blown tires, and rubbing knees, held us back from showing the true potential of the Eta, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near calling it a failure.  

 

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Battle Mountain Time

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Battle Mountain Time

Its that time of the year again. Teams from around the world flock to a small town in Nevada (near the salt flats) to try their vehicle in a challenge to set the human-powered speed record. This is the final test for the vehicle we have built this summer. Upon arriving, the vehicle was nearly complete. Saturday and Sunday, we have been testing out the stability of the vehicle to make sure it is rideable (with only 4 degrees of steering, this was questionable). Sure enough, our design was sound and Todd, Calvin and Trefor quickly got the hang of the tiny amount of steering.

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ETA: A First Look at the New Design

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ETA: A First Look at the New Design

After years of dreaming about the ultimate bicycle, AeroVelo is excited to finally present Eta: a two wheeled-speed demon designed to significantly surpass highway speed limits on less than one horse power and to break the current land-speed record of 133.8 km/hr. Eta builds off of last year’s Bluenose design (which reached 125.0 km/hr) with several similarities and many key differences.

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Eta Q&A with Victor

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Eta Q&A with Victor

Welcome to Q&A with me - Victor Ragusila.  I am the captain and mechanical lead for the Eta team. We get a lot of questions about our speed bikes, so below are four videos answers to our four most commonly asked questions.

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Eta's aerodynamic design

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Eta's aerodynamic design

A lot of what it takes to go break the world record at Battle Mountain is the efficiency of the external aerodynamic shape. A huge amount of work had been done to design and optimize the shape of Eta prior to the start of summer to ensure we get the least drag on the vehicle. In this post we will outline the steps we went through in the design process.

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Todd and Cameron are Doing an AMA tomorrow!

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Todd and Cameron are Doing an AMA tomorrow!

Ever had a question you wanted to ask the guys who built the Atlas Human-Powered Helicopter and Snowbird Human-Powered Helicopter? Head over to Reddit on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7:30 pm and post away! Todd and Cameron will be doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) where they will be answering your questions about the Atlas, Snowbird, our new project Eta, and other interesting stuff.

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