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Human-Powered Vehicle Speed Competition 102

Posted by kdawson
from the faster-than-common-sense dept.
nsasch writes "Over at Battle Mountain, NV on SR-305, for the 2008 Battle Mountain World Human Powered Speed Challenge (mirror), some of the best cyclists will be competing in human-powered vehicles to break speed records. The current world record was set in 2002 at the same location with a speed of 129.6 km/h (81 mph) by Sam Whittingham in a custom-made recumbent bike. A lot of advanced aerospace engineering goes into these machines to reach highway speeds on less than one horsepower. Take a look around their site for pictures of the event and this year's records. It ends 20 September, so more pictures and results will be coming."
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Human-Powered Vehicle Speed Competition

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  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:00PM (#25045033) Homepage Journal
    This [wikipedia.org] is the pinnacle of human-powered vehicle evolution. Here are some features:

    - Compact, lightweight frame cuts down on weight and complexity while adding strength.
    - Unique wheel placement and design ensures maximum power transwer to drive wheel while reducing drag caused by friction stemming from contact surface area.
    - Portability - it's like owning a segway that you can hand-carry into the store!
    - Ability to self-balance while occupied, without the use of a kickstand, leg, or tripod.
    - It's like walking on a wheel and it makes the Segway its bitch.
    • Ok, you had me for a minute. I really thought that your link was gonna take me to the "It" from that South Park episode where Mr. Garrison had invented his alternative, self-powered alternative vehicle. Props for posting the unicycle link!
  • ""Over at Battle Mountain, NV on SR-305, for the 2008 Battle Mountain World Human Powered Speed Challenge (mirror), some of the best cyclists will be competing in human-powered vehicles to break speed records. The current world record was set in 2002 at the same location with a speed of 129.6 km/h (81 mph) by Sam Whittingham in a custom-made recumbent bike."

    Good. Now I can finally see a high speed bicycle chase on Cops.

  • Human-Powered, eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:06PM (#25045145) Homepage

    I see they're pretty much all recumbent bikes, and that's pretty cool and all, and 81 mph is impressive and stuff, but I think maybe they're perhaps suffering from a lack of imagination. Based off the common usages of "Solar-Powered" and "Diesel-Powered", would it be safe to assume that Human-Powered could also mean Human-Fueled?

    Or should I read the fine print before entering the contest?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by OldMiner (589872)

      ...would it be safe to assume that Human-Powered could also mean Human-Fueled?

      Killing people to use their corpses as fuel for your Roadster of Doom may run awry of the "no necromancy or angering the spirits of the dead" rule.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Killing people to use their corpses as fuel for your Roadster of Doom may run awry of the "no necromancy or angering the spirits of the dead" rule.

        Well since I got married and had kids, I had to sell the roadster and get a Sedan of Doom instead. It'll still do more than 81 mph though especially with fresh bodies of the innocent.

        Thanks for the heads up about the rules. I wish they'd make these kinds of things more explicit, but I guess that's just what I'll have to expect in these anti-necromantic times.

    • would it be safe to assume that Human-Powered could also mean Human-Fueled?

      All you have to do is find a way of mounting a combination liposuction and biodiesel plant on a bicycle and you're a winner.

      Millions of Americans have been stockpiling fuel in anticipation of your invention. Go for it!

    • Hair burns very nicely, particularly if it's oily. No need for death, to fuel a human-combustion engine.
    • by catchblue22 (1004569) on Thursday September 18, 2008 @12:33AM (#25050265) Homepage

      I didn't see it mentioned in the summary, but world speed record holder Sam Whittingham's bike [thetyee.ca] was designed by a Bulgarian sculptor, Georgi Georgiev, who is not an engineer. The bike was not designed from computational fluid dynamics, or other modern engineering techniques. The design emerged from the brain of Mr. Georgiev; he designed the bike to "hide from the air", while providing Sam Whittingham with just enough space to pedal comfortably.

      I have always been amazed that Sam Whittington and Georgi Georgiev have been able to consistently beat teams with engineers and batteries of computers with advanced aerodynamics software. Mr. Georgiev is something of a genius.

    • I knew it, damn those athletes! So that is how they get those human hormones for their dope scandals!

  • by longacre (1090157) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:15PM (#25045255) Homepage
    This is the mountain bike speed record being broken [youtube.com]. Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well for the vehicle or the human.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And this is what happens [youtube.com] when you do the same thing on a speedbike. Fortunately Rob walked away with nothing worse than cuts and bruises.

  • Damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:17PM (#25045283) Journal

    There goes my plan for a hamster powered car entering the race.

  • Not at sea level? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by schwit1 (797399) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:19PM (#25045295)
    What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this at 1,408m instead of at sea level?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Advantages: Thinner air, less air resistance. Disadvantages: Thinner air, less oxygen for the engines (the person pedaling),
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by smellsofbikes (890263)

        Since power required to overcome air resistance rises as the cube of the speed (force rises as the square, as a function of the cross-sectional area) there's a big advantage to high elevation. Since power produced drops off roughly linearly(*) with elevation because of reduced oxygen for the rider, you gain more by going to higher elevations than you lose. Many long-standing Olympic cycling (and other speed-related sports) records were set at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, at 3200 meters elevation.

        * as

    • by dmatos (232892)

      Thinner air = less wind resistance?

      Probably the only place they could find a road that was flat and straight for > 4 miles, and had little enough traffic that the HPV's wouldn't be endangered.

    • Re:Not at sea level? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Somegeek (624100) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:29PM (#25045397)

      This is the longest, paved, straight, flat stretch of road that the organizers are aware of, in the US. Also, Nevada lets them shut it down for certain time windows for the race.

      If you do the race on a banked racetrack you can get an advantage from the wind where you use the bike fairing as a sail. That wind assist is hard to calculate and factor out of the final time, while a small headwind or tailwind on a straight course is easily mathematically removed to be able to equalize the results.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you do the race on a banked racetrack you can get an advantage from the wind where you use the bike fairing as a sail. That wind assist is hard to calculate and factor out of the final time, while a small headwind or tailwind on a straight course is easily mathematically removed to be able to equalize the results.

        "Legal" runs through the 200 meter speed traps must be made when the wind is below a certain speed (defined in the IHPVA rules, along with allowable downgrade for the road and various other conditions). There is no correction done for head or tail wind.

      • Plus Nevada makes lots of money on the tickets that they write on people going over 65!

      • by taj (32429)

        >> This is the longest, paved, straight, flat stretch of road that the organizers are aware of, in the US.

        I'm guessing this could be the tourist attraction North Dakota has been looking for.

        The Red River Valley is a prime place for long flat paved roads. Think "curve of the earth" flat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)

      Availability. My suspicion is that there aren't many places that
      - have a long, perfectly straight and flat road
      - little traffic
      - residents that don't mind having their roads closed for 30 minutes at a time

    • Long-ass, straight road, in the absolute middle of NOWHERE. No crossroads, virtually no traffic, and probably the city was cooperative in organizing the event. There isn't much going on in town, just the Owl Cafe, the casino, and the cathouse. Probably outweighed the advantages or disadvantages of the altitude.

  • What makes Battle Mountain the place to do this kind of thing is it's the smoothest, flatest road that the local community is willing to close.

    Putting a UCI-class rider in one of those things would be great to see. The speeds would be off the charts. That would be the quickest end to your pro career. Much worse than getting caught for doping.

    Recumbents are without a doubt much more comfortable to ride for most people than the traditional bicycle. Their costs continue to come down too. It's the fact tha

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:13PM (#25045839)

      Putting a UCI-class rider in one of those things would be great to see. The speeds would be off the charts. That would be the quickest end to your pro career. Much worse than getting caught for doping.

      There are articles of agreement between IHPVA and UCI and, over the years, many UCI-class riders have ridden in hpv's (at HPV events)--so there is no "political" problem.

      The problem is teaching a rider how to do a flying 200 meter speed run--it is not like a normal bicycle because the gearing is so much higher. Acceleration is very slow at higher speeds and the rider has to learn to accelerate carefully over several minutes. The goal is to pick a pace so that you exhaust yourself (run out of breath!) just as you enter the timing traps. Bottom line--just putting a strong rider into an hpv will not guarantee record speeds, it takes practice and thought.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What makes Battle Mountain the place to do this kind of thing is it's the smoothest, flatest road that the local community is willing to close.

      Actually, it is not flat and has the steepest slope permitted under the ihpva rules for the 200m record. Unlike other forms of land speed record you don't have to do both directions, as in general the riders are only able to do one good run each day.

      This is a bit of a cop-out though, as even the miniscule slope permitted under the rules becomes significant at high sp

      • Actually, that's not exactly true - the faster you go, the slope represents less of your total energy output - for example, a rider going 50 mph will burn roughly a cubed amount of additional energy per additional speed, whereas your energy gained due to slope is, at that point, negligible and increasing linearly.

        Slope adds sin(atan(slope))*w as a parallel force to your vehicle, so for a slope of .01, you're talking about roughly 17 lbs of force for an average rider+machine. Compare that to the drag force
      • by Retric (704075)

        Wind resistance is based on you speed cubed so it takes a lot more energy (~88%) than you might think to go from 70 to 82MPH. I don't know what the other forms of drag are but chances are 2mph of wind is far more important than the slope.

  • Recumbents (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:27PM (#25045381) Journal
    I think recumbents are incredibly cool, especially the Windcheetah three-wheeler. I could use one of those for winter training when the surface is too greasy for the conventional bike. It's just a pity that recumbents aren't so good on the hills where you can't get to produce power from the muscles in your arms the same way you can on an upright, although in fairness I tend to do most of my climbing sitting in the saddle these days except for when I'm near the top.

    These faired HPVs are amazing, I think they're a great illustration of how much power a human can translate into motion if he has an efficient enough machine under him.

    As for this speed challenge, it'd bring a lot of publicity to the even if they could persuade big name pro cyclists or at least high profile ex-pros to take part.

    • Re:Recumbents (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EaglemanBSA (950534) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:40PM (#25045529)
      Actually, recumbents are just fine on hills, they just use different, rather untrained muscles - it takes time to get these into shape. Human power production and biomechanics are my area of study, and I've just finished a project developing a human-powered utility vehicle. It is truly amazing what you can do with 150 watts of power and some creative design.

      I'd really like to see recumbents become more mainstream here in the US. They can make riding a lot more pleasant, and can make trips of up to 20-30 miles feasible for many people who thought otherwise. With the small market penetration though, they're in a vicious circle of high cost (typically >$1.5k). You can see my HPUV in action here. [blogspot.com]
      • by GeckoX (259575)

        Part of the problem with recumbent uptake is that they are extremely unsafe on roadways where there is vehicular traffic due to their much lower visibility. It's basically suicidal to ride one in the city on roadways, as unfortunate as that may be.

        • They are no less safe than uprights, so long as the rider is wary to wear reflective clothing, and to make sure to have proper reflection/lighting equipment on his/her vehicle...but you're right, we really need a good bike lane system for our city roadways.

          Here in Athens, OH, they've just installed bike lanes on most of the city streets, and the number of cyclists around town has nearly tripled.
        • Probably true for some of the lower designs, like a low racer, but absolutely not true for more practical designs. In fact, recumbents have two advantages in traffic:

          1. The rider is naturally looking forward, not down at his front wheel, so he can more easily spot the enemy.

          2. Recumbents are still odd enough to stand out.

          I ride both 'bents and uprights. I put probably 10 times more miles on the 'bents, but I have just as many close calls on the uprights as I do on the 'bents.

    • I remember reading somewhere that recumbent bicycles were banned from regular bicycle races. Is this true? If so, it seems a bit silly. Imagine the Tour de France with recumbent superbikes...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Yes, that it true. UCI races have very particular specifications as to how your bicycle must be set up. Lots of little details, such as exactly how far forward or back your seat must be, how the handlebars are shaped, specific characteristics of the wheels, etc. The idea is to make the race about the athletes, not about their bikes. Think of it in terms of auto racing. Do you think that F1 cars should be allowed in a NASCAR race?
        • You do have a point. But it does run contrary to innovation. But I guess that's what races like this one are for.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by fiannaFailMan (702447)
            Ever hear the story of Graham Obree? He was a track rider who built his own bikes. He invented this low-tuck position that was subsequently banned. So then he invented the 'superman' position, everyone else copied it, and then it was banned too. I'm surprised a movie hasn't been made about him. He was a high profile rider at the same time as Chris Boardman was riding on the track with the famous (and expensive) Lotus bike.
    • I agree with the sibling post that recumbents are fine on hills - at least, anecdotally. I've only tried them briefly, but I biked across the US about 11 years ago (with an organized group), and one of the faster riders rode a recumbent. This included more than a few hills, such as the Rockies (which, incidentally, aren't too bad, since they're not nearly as steep as shorter hills tend to be). Of course, two of the slower riders also rode recumbents, and did have a lot of trouble on hills, so it does take s

    • Modern recumbents do fine in the hills, as long as you are doing more than one hill. Using your arms is not very efficient, and after a short sprint the energy in the muscles is gone and needs to be replenished. In the long run, your power is limited by your heart-lung system, and in the really-long-run, by the digestion system. Not by your muscles. So you'd better get as much of your energy as possible directly into the pedals, and let the rest of your body rest as much as possible. My experience in the Ti
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The records will probably be set using much more than one horsepower - Cyclists are easily able to exceed 1kW peak power.

    • by tygt (792974)
      "Easily" is an interesting word to use there.
      • by ahaile (147873)

        Actually, 1kw really isn't that hard. I'm just an amateur racer, and Ican hit 1.5kw. It helps that I'm a little bigger than your average racer, as power scales roughly with lean body mass. For this reason, experts usually talk about w/kg, not total watts. World class track sprinters can do about 24 w/kg, which puts their total wattage around 2kw. This is for very short durations, though, like 5 to 10 seconds.

  • Holy *$&! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ahoehn (301327) <andrew@noSpAM.hoe.hn> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:44PM (#25045567) Homepage

    Am I the only one that thought, "Holy Shit!" at 81mph?! On flat ground? On a bike?

    I've never broken 40 letting my fat ass drag me downhill on a roadbike - I can't imagine what it's like to be able to propel yourself at 80mph with your feet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nadaka (224565)

      I've done over 35 on a crappy wal-mart bike on a strait level road. Unfortunately there was a pile of wet leaves I didn't notice till it was too late. Time really does seem to slow down when it feels like you are about to die. It felt like forever for the bike to flip over and land on my head while I used my face to brake in the gravel and dirt on the side of the road. It didn't really hurt until they started sewing my ear back on.

    • Wow, I'm surprised you haven't gone over 40. It's quite an experience - I have yet to break 50, but I'm very close. It's more fun going down mountains, where twists and turns could kill you at any turn :-D

      I would love to do a flying run in one of these faired recumbants. I doubt I'd make it even near 50, but it would be fun nontheless
    • You could find out!
      Well, maybe not 80, but Atomic Zombie [atomiczombie.com] has lots of plans for how to build your own recumbent bikes using cut-up old bikes and a MIG welder, and some of his are very, very fast. My recumbent does in the 30's on flat ground without even pushing very hard and on downhills it's just terrifying.
      Building your own bikes is a great DIY hardware project, and it's an area of active innovation: not all the problems have been solved and there is still room for people throwing stuff together in their

    • Tried downhill in-line skates?

      --
      kinda like rollerblades, but with 5-6 wheels minimum.

  • Was I the only one thinking the article was about making Bio-diesel from Liposuction Clinic's waste?
    • by Abreu (173023)

      Not a bad idea in these times... But I think I'll stick to boutique soap bars, for the moment.

  • by rrohbeck (944847)

    There's no way they're going to go faster than a BASE jump, which is human powered if you climb up by yourself.

  • I checked... against the rules.

    • I am looking into this flywheel idea, as well as a number of alternative energy storage methods. Probably the major point of detraction for a flywheel is that it would tend to stabilize the bicycle and that would not always be desirable, i.e. when turning.

      I am also considering that energy storage isn't really all that useful. You're not going to get more energy out of the system than what you put in; the only thing that might be useful for a bike would be regenerative braking. Also, if you start talking abo

      • by belloc1 (1118477)

        Not really what I was thinking. My thought was to basically drift down the course at let's say 5 mph, all the while you are spinning a flywheel to a very high rpm. At a designated point you release all the built up kinetic energy and propel the cycle through the checkpoints. I would think some very high speed could be achieved for a short time.

        If stability is an issue you could use two smaller flywheels going in opposite directions.

        • by conureman (748753)

          Actually it's twisting the axis that will be challenging. About 100 kph on a motorcycle, try riding with one hand. The wheels act as gyroscopes and the tilt of the bike corresponds very nicely with the curve of the road. (And you push the handle in the opposite direction of the turn you want to initiate!) If you had the flywheel inside of the front (steering) wheel (same axis), maybe that would be a solution.

  • why not wind up? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937)

    Seems unfair that I can't just wind up a spring over a couple of weeks and then discharge it all in a single race.

    • Or you can turn a dynamo and store the energy in batteries which you can then use to crank out kilowatts of electrical power to drive an electric motor?

      As long as you can crank up the spring during the time the race is run, I don't see a problem with it.

  • I was doing a 100 mile bike tour and came up the backside of a large hill to see a massive downhill run. Being young and stupid, I cranked it up as fast as I could. About 1/2 way down the hill, I saw the stop sign. Since I didn't see any cars coming, I literally said "SCREW IT" and pedaled my ass off. I had a speedometer on the bike that registered 51MPH at top speed.

    Scared the crap out of me.
  • The Scrapheap Challenge (i.e. junkyard wars) spin off did a human powered drag race.

    There was a very nice device that used a rowing action. Seems like a clever idea. Allowed the whole body to be used for powering it rather than just the legs.
    • Like this [rowingbike.com]? The Thys rowing bike is great technology, but it's not fast. It's heavier and less aerodynamic than a legs-only HPV. Using more muscles does not give you more power for more than a short sprint, because your power is limited by the heart-lung system.

  • If falling over is a hazard, why not fit the bike with more gears? Surely the weight of a derailleur and 2 extra gears is insignificant, top speed being bounded by drag rather than weight.

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