Speed is the universally craved property of any moving mechanism. Since the first 1860’s velocipede by Karl von Draise, engineers have been doing their best design a bicycle which can ride faster while its rider tires less. It appears that Americans have surpassed all of them.
On September 17th, 2015 a new world record was set in Nevada, US. Enthusiasts from the University of Toronto working jointly with Aerovelo employees presented Eta bicycle, a result of an original engineering project. During the course of the World Human Powered Speed Challenge annual festival they tried to surpass the speed of 133.8 kmph. The attempt succeeded: 139,45 kmh. The rider (we should probably call him “pilot”) Todd Reichert beat the previous record and set a new one with a top speed of 139.45 kmph (89.59 mph).
Just to clarify, the mechanism used to set the record utilizes only muscle force to ride. Essentially, it is a classical bicycle layout which, however doesn’t look like a usual bike at all. Still, although heavily modified, the mechanism features no additional driving facilitators ― only conventional pedals.
Like most of the record-setting vehicles, Eta’s shape closely resembles that of a bullet and not by chance. The design is intended to negate the air drag as effectively as possible. According to the head of the Eta project, Kelvin Mose, the vehicles aerodynamic layout is 100 times more effective than of a modern sports car. The pilot’s position is unusual: the rider literally lies down into the capsule. Such a method was chosen by the designers to achieve even distribution of weight between the front and the rear wheels. As you can say by the look of it ― and be absolutely right ― this position inhibits the rider’s ability to start the movement, so the initial impulse is required.
The weight of the vehicle including the capsule is 25 kg (55 pound) and its creators extensively utilized carbon to construct it. This material was chosen due to durability and lightness, although certain downsides do exist. When the pilot reaches higher speeds, the capsule begins to resonate along with the road surface and the rider has to endure deafening noise, which can be compared to the sound made by a space rocket.
Materials and shape aren’t the only state-of-art things here. A great deal of engineering efforts was involved to improve the gear shifting mechanism to top the maximum speed. The mechanism is designed in a way that allows for only a tiny fraction of energy to get lost during the shifting. And that’s not all: the vehicle houses a dedicated instrument that notifies the pilot when the conditions for shifting the gear are ideal.
Another astounding feature is absence of windows. The pilot would be totally blind to his surroundings if not for the display installed inside the capsule. The video is fed from two cameras mounted outside the bike.
According to the designers, Eta is able to reach a top speed of 140 kmph. To do that, the pilot is required to produce the 1 horsepower on the pedals for 60 seconds. It seems that Aerovelo pilots haven’t been up to such feats yet.
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