World Human Powered Speed Challenge
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The 2013 World Human Powered Speed Challenge is the 14th consecutive year of this prestigious event. This competition pits man, technology, and sheer determination against the seemingly insurmountable forces of air resistance and friction to determine the absolute boundaries of man powered speed over a 200-meter distance. The use of high-level aerodynamics and maximum athletic power results in shockingly fast speeds. 

The road surface on which this race is run was resurfaced in 2009 by the Nevada Department of Transportation, offering racers the smoothest and safest racing surface to date.

In September of 2013 racers will gather on SR305 outside of Battle Mountain, Nevada to race on one of the straightest, flattest, and smoothest surfaces in the world. The 4,619ft (1,408m) altitude road allows riders an acceleration zone of over 4 miles, enabling them  to reach their maximum velocity.

World Human Powered Speed Challenge
Media Release by Mike Mowett
For immediate release

Event Dates: September 9 to September 14, 2013
Location: Battle Mountain, Nevada, USA
Short Headline: Bicycles to speed over 80 mph at Speed Challenge!

Short Description:
This September, the world’s fastest bicycles (and tricycles) will compete on a highway in Nevada for the chance to challenge world cycling speed records. Their goal is to break the current top speed records of 82.8 mph by Sam Whittingham of Canada and 75.7 mph by Barbara Buatois of France. About a dozen vehicles are expected to attend including university entries from the US, Canada, France and the Netherlands.

This annual week-long competition is in its 14th year of existence. The vehicles competing are entirely human powered. Most vehicles consist of a streamlined recumbent design. The racing cyclist sits reclined inside a thin aerodynamic shells made of carbon fiber, Kevlar or fiberglass. This shell surrounds and protects the racer in case of a crash, which have happened. Each vehicle is equipped with large bicycle gears that the rider pedals to achieve high speeds. Most vehicles use standard components like chains, brakes, tires, shifters found on ordinary bicycles, but they have been rearranged in a new or creative manner.

It is the aerodynamic shape of the shell that is the key to the remarkable speeds these cyclists can achieve on the flat road. The vehicles have been considered some of the most aerodynamically efficient machines ever built. The cyclist pedaling inside them may be using only a 1/3 horsepower to go 60 mph, which is in the range of some strong amateur cyclists. The best cyclists might output a little less than one horsepower during a top speed run.

There is not a drop of gas (petro), nor any electric motors or batteries in sight at the competition. Anything goes, as long as it's human powered. The designs can have two or three wheels (tricycle). Single rider vehicles or tandems, with the power of two riders are allowed.

Human powered vehicle (HPV) speed records are sanctioned under the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA). There are competitions world-wide including attempts for how far a human can pedal in One Hour (currently 56 miles by Sam and 52 miles by Barbara) or even 24 hours (an amazing 760 miles currently), but the annual Speed Challenge in Nevada is where the fastest speeds have been achieved. When the IHPVA was first formed in 1975, the fastest anyone went on a bicycle was about 43 mph by an Olympic cyclist. In five years, the record increased to 63 mph by 1980. Now with the Battle Mountain competition, Whittingham has taken the record to almost 83 mph. Today's cyclists are traveling at speeds though inconceivable even 15 years ago.

Racers gather each morning and evening on State Highway 305, about 15 miles outside the town of Battle Mountain. This road is closed by local officials for about one hour giving the racers the opportunity to race down it. The event is so valued in Nevada that repaving the stretch of road was successfully lobbied for to help keep the event going. The road was in need of repair due to heavy mining traffic in the region. It now is one of the smoothest stretches of highway around. One by one, racers set off down a 5.5 mile stretch, accelerating to top speed then they are individually timed over a 1/8 mile (200-meter) portion of the highway. The road is flat and level, at a relatively high altitude location with thin air to help the racers go faster. The rules say the wind can’t be blowing over a certain speed in order for a record to count. No motorized vehicles can be on the road to provide a “draft” to the racers. All of these rules exist to make the speeds achieved are entirely human powered. This is in contrast to many videos on the Internet of bicycles descending down mountains and sometimes crashing at 60 to 100 mph.

The small nearby town of Battle Mountain, Nevada is the gracious host for the competition. Racers gather each day at the Super8 motel in town to work on their vehicles for the races. Battle Mountain has a American "Old West" feel to it. It has an active mining community and a major stop for trucks traveling through on Interstate 80 across the US. Racers come to town from around the world to test their hand-crafted designs against each other, but it is a friendly competition. There is usually a strong willingness to help each other amongst the racers. Most vehicles lack a functioning door for the riders to get in and out. There are often two halves to the vehicles' body that are taped closed sealing the racer inside for the duration of the speed run. Thus volunteers help in starting and stopping the vehicles. Spectating is free. There will be no large monetary cash prizes awarded at this year's competition. Several years ago, Whittingham won a $26,000 prize put up by a private sponsor and race organizer for being the first to exceed 82 mph. For racers and volunteers, the competition is all about the thrill of going fast.

The great thing about this event is that junior-aged high school kids can compete equally with former Olympic athletes. Of more than maybe 10 million people who ride a bicycle every day, these cyclists surely represent the fastest cyclists in the world. Many of the competitors will leave the event saying they are in the Top 100 fastest in the world. Just like at the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, racers can earn the right to wear a Club Hat saying they achieved 55 mph, 60 mph, 65 mph, etc – but here it is on a bicycle not a car – that is something to brag about!

So who will win this year? Veteran racer Larry Lem of California is bringing a new machine, and hoping for 90 mph. Like other racers, he once raced during his college days in this sport. A separate college-only competition exists for students sponsored by ASME - the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
 

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