A few weeks ago I was contacted by a woman from the US who is attempting to break a land speed record later this year. The story had me really intrigued so I read more and here’s some Q&A which I found on her website – Project Speed.
In September 2016, Denise Mueller will be the first woman in cycling history to attempt a paced bicycle land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
What is the appeal of the Land Speed Record?
It is uncharted territory. Something no woman has done before, yet men have been setting these records starting with Charlie “Mike a minute” Murphy in 1899. The record has been broken about a half dozen times since. My coach and friend John Howard set the record in 1985 at 152 miles per hour (that’s nearly 245 km/h). I want to give women a voice on my bike at Bonneville. I want to be the fastest woman on a bicycle.
How did this idea come up?
My coach, John Howard brought the idea up to me over lunch in late 2012. Since he had broken the record in 1985, he knows what is physically and mentally required in someone to go after this record. Having been my coach since 1987, John knew I had what it took to go after this record. I hadn’t thought about going after a Land Speed Record until John brought up the concept. Once he did, I immediately wondered why I hadn’t thought about it before. I was completely on board from the first mention of it!
What sort of speed are you looking to do?
The current record for Men is 167 mph (269 km/h). I am looking to go 140 mph (225 km/h) or better, although the final speed will have a lot to do with the condition of the salt on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
What sort of bike will you ride?
The bike I will be using is custom designed with 18 inch wheels to reduce the centre of gravity. The frame is elongated for stability and utilises a “short travel” suspension to dampen high-speed vibration.
The drive train will be similar to the bikes used by both John and Fred, the previous two record holders. The reduction gear system will allow me to pedal smoothly at speeds over 100 mph.
How are you training for this?
Bicycle racing, fitness training & speed workouts on the Velodrome. We will be doing more motor pacing behind a motorcycle to help simulate the high speed in-draft element.
What type of gearing is necessary to do this?
The gearing will be similar to what John Howard used for his record, which was around 130 feet per revolution of the pedals. It will be a double reduction single gear set up. The final gearing will be customised to optimise my particular physical pedal power efficiency.
What will you wear?
I will be wearing a custom made Leather & Lycra racing suit designed to allow the movement of my legs and to allow me to pedal fast while having protection in all the necessary areas.
I hear you are towed, why is that?
In the same way previous men’s records have been done, I will be towed to allow my legs to turn the enormous gear over under my own power. Since the bike has only a single gear, it is impossible to have one gear that is used at 10 mph all the way up to 140 mph. The gearing has to be setup so that it is most efficient at the highest speed. Think of it as a racecar that only has 4th gear to create a record. That car could not start in 4th gear, so as is customary in setting speed records, there is assistance in getting it to a point that it can run under its own power in that high gear. It is the same theory.
How far do you have to go & how long will it take?
The official distance for the timing trap is one mile after approximately a 3 mile lead up distance to get up to speed and under my own power. It will take approximately 25 seconds to go the one mile at my target speed of 140 mph!