The fastest bicycles in the world

Optum Time TrialistSpeed and competition seems to exist in some form in all of us. I’m willing to bet that even the most casual of casual cyclists has, at some time, felt the urge to go faster than someone or something in their vicinity. It seems to be a universal constant. For some, that urge is a lifelong passion, and those folks have come up with amazing ways to make the bicycle go faster and faster.

The bicycle, at certain speeds, is actually the most efficient form of travel known to man. Like all moving things on earth, aerodynamic drag changes that equation pretty quickly – requiring ever-increasing amounts of energy to go faster. For this reason, aerodynamic improvements are often a primary focus. This has the nasty side effect of making some of the fastest bicycles in the world not really look much like bicycles.

Taken to the extreme, this can result in 80+MPH speeds driven by human power alone of flat ground. But that doesn’t mean you have to take it to this extreme to gain an advantage in aerodynamics. Kids somehow instinctively know to duck down to go faster on a bike. Pros, like the Optum Pro rider pictured above, will spend hours in wind tunnels perfecting every detail – the position of the rider on the bike, seat height, head position – to shave precious fractional seconds off of their time trial speeds. And every-day cyclists can show gains too.

The Lightning F-40, marketed as the fastest bike available for sale, is such a thing. The F-40 applies the same world record setting concepts, but in a more approachable and rider friendly form.

But again, kids instinctively know how to go faster. When getting low isn’t enough and going as fast as possible is your goal, gravity is your best friend. You can take a regular bike, find the fastest, smoothest, steepest slope possible, and go faster yet. That will get you up to 138 MPH – the current downhill record.

Unfortunately the quest for speed – in any form – always seems to result in catastrophic failures and dramatic video. Luckily Eric Barone survived the horrific looking crash in the video at left. All the better, because another human instinct seems to be to love watching our heroes fail, and pick themselves up and carry on.

Fred_zoutvlakte_tijdens_record_achter_auto_kleinBut if you want to go really fast? Cheat. Or shall we say – enhance your performance. One way to do it is to almost completely eliminate the aerodynamics from the equation by having some vehicle drive directly in front of you. OK OK. So this is actually motor-pacing, and it isn’t cheating per se, as the records there are specific to the motor-pacing crowd. But still… you’re using fuel to power a car that is breaking the wind for you. But hey – it allowed Fred Rompelberg to get up to 167 MPH. Pedaling. On a bike.

And then there’s this guy: