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AeroVelo aims to build world's fastest bike

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June 12, 2014

An early render of Eta's shape (Image: AeroVelo)

An early render of Eta's shape (Image: AeroVelo)

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Following its Sikorsky Prize-winning Atlas helicopter, Canada's AeroVelo now aims to set a new human-powered speed record during September's World Human-Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain, Nevada, with a high speed bicycle named Eta. The current record stands at 83.1 mph (133.8 km/h), and was set at the event last year by a Dutch team of students with the VeloX3 bike.

Drawing its name from the Greek letter often used in engineering as the symbol for efficiency, Eta is actually a refinement of AeroVelo's 2012 bike Bluenose, which reached an impressive 77.67 mph (125.0 km/h). The team reckons speeds in excess of 87 mph (140 km/h) are possible with Eta.

Details on the new bike are still thin on the ground at this stage, and we can expect more solid information to filter out over the coming weeks, but we do know the basics. Like Bluenose, Eta's pilot will sit in a recumbent position and have no windscreen, but will instead rely on a small video camera atop the bike to offer views of the outside.

Future plans for the interior on-screen display include pilot power, a comparison between target speed and actual speed, the distance traveled, and rpm.

Render showing Eta's general layout (Image: AeroVelo)

Eta sports handmade tires measuring approximately 66 cm (26 in) in diameter, which is a step-up from Bluenose's small 406 (about 50 cm/20 in) tires. It will also feature a very aerodynamic design, in order to make the most of the mere 1 hp that's estimated will be the maximum power output from the bike's pilot.

According to AeroVelo's preliminary calculations, which are based on computer simulations of a speed run at Battle Mountain, Eta should offer around 1 percent improved performance in drive chain, aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, and bike mass, when compared with its predecessor.

In order to help raise funds, AeroVelo has launched a Kickstarter campaign. Backers can pledge between CAD 5 to CAD 1,000, with rewards such as T-Shirts, scale models, and an hour long phone call with the team leaders offered. The campaign ends on July 9.

Sources: AeroVelo, Kickstarter

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road.

  All articles by Adam Williams
12 Comments

I think that is really neat. It has a - IMO - very futuristic look to it.

BigGoofyGuy
12th June, 2014 @ 06:42 am PDT

After making the first human-powered ornithopter and helicopter, this should be a slam dunk for the Aerovelo team.

Illini_Rob
12th June, 2014 @ 01:29 pm PDT

Hi Adam, thanks very much for the great article. Just wanted to say that our team has made much more than 1% improvement in each of these areas. We have done a "sensitivity analysis" to determine the impact (on top speed) of 1% improvement in each of these areas, but as I say the improvements we've realized with the new design are much greater. Thanks!

Cameron Robertson
12th June, 2014 @ 02:00 pm PDT

They should get Andrew Starykowicz to pilot this thing :p

Cameron: your team might benefit from looking into aero and crr tire data over on slowtwitch.com. Specifically, look for jackmott, TomA, and rruf. They've been testing commercially available tires for years and have troves of data. Not sure what sort of compound your tire has but, IMO, you'd be hard pressed to beat the Continental Supersonic in 700x22 for crr. If you desire a tad bit more durability look at the Continental Attack 700x22 or the Schwalbe Ironman 700x22.

As for a drivetrain, you'd be hard pressed to beat a fresh chain dura-ace chain from Friction Facts or Speedplay Zero pedals.

I know you guys build a lot of bespoke components for this sort of thing but you've got to keep in mind that there's been an industry chasing aero and crr improvements for a long time now.

Cornelius Carroll
12th June, 2014 @ 06:25 pm PDT

Not a bike, but a "rolling egg" (lol)

watersworm
13th June, 2014 @ 08:38 am PDT

I remember a MythBusters episode where a Ford Taurus was covered with clay and run a distance to check mileage. Then they cut out big dimples based on golf ball dimples and made the same run (with the dimples in a bucket in the back seat so weight was the same). Result: Better Mileage!! The crew was very suprised, but data is data. Since the aerovelo is running about golf ball speeds, I wonder if dimples would improve stability and decrease air resistance. Another option may be sharkskin like the swimmers use.

Bruce H. Anderson
13th June, 2014 @ 10:41 am PDT

Can't get excited about things like this as little use.

Now had they did an actual practical usable version we need I'd be more impressed.

Why is so much energy, money put in things like this vs actually supplying real products that never seem to get built.

How about assignment/thesis where they have to produce a profitable product we need that isn't being made?

Example is pedal or electric streamliners, home, building size solar CSP units. long lasting low cost wind generators, EV subcars, etc. All can be done with present tech but no one doing it.

jerryd
13th June, 2014 @ 10:50 am PDT

I wish AeroVelo all the luck, but besides it they will need the tech and feet they seem to not possess. I don’t doubt the sincerity of their effort, but before making all this noise have they checked www.hptdelft.nl or the history of previous records?

YuraG
13th June, 2014 @ 12:32 pm PDT

Not speaking on behalf of Cameron, but as a sponsor of a competing team and recumbent enthusiast.

@Cornelius Carroll : most standard components were not designed for extreme environments such as racing a bike at 90 miles per hour on flat roads. Most teams design specials because they have to. I know the current world record holder (HPTDelft team from the Netherlands) used special designed chains and tires designed for solar cars. The industry you described as chasing aero and speed is very limited by UCI rules.

@jerryd : the efforts of HPTDelft are being used in a real world bicycle currently under design. Google for Velotilt and you will find a recumbent tricycle based on the shape of the Velox.

@YuraG : have you checked Aerovelo? These guys build a ground breaking flapping wing human powered aero plane and last year topped that with an award and price winning human powered helicopter. Besides that they are long time contenders at Battlemountain and are very aware of what Delft and others are capable off. Why did they not win before you may ask. Good question! My hunch is focus or lack thereoff. Last years they were busy building planes and copters and have now decided to focus on a speedbike. I think they have a really good chance to win it.

lleto
13th June, 2014 @ 03:03 pm PDT

I am not sure what you have done and not done but consider this in the design. During different parts in turning the pedals, the optimal resistance for a human to make max power changes. Have you considered designing some type of unusual pedal that actually changes torque depending on where you are in the 360 pedal cycle. I am not sure if the added complexity will be worth the boost in your average horsepower though.

Chishiki
14th June, 2014 @ 10:08 pm PDT

@lleto, thanks for referring to your site, but its contents don't shorten the list of my doubts:

1. You haven't ever set this kind of record before

2. The equipment and technology you are using don't seem to be on par with the last year winners, who have already built their new version of the winning design

3. The design you are using is just so - it's completely new and few or none of its parts exists/being tested

4. The 4 months left is much too little time left to put everything together and smooth it out considering the previous points

5. The money you have got and likely to collect by the deadline doesn't match the gaps mentioned above and you don't seem to risk the $250,000 prize you've got

6. Who is the rider? If Sam Whittingham, your chances improve, but will you give him something to ride? Will it be what you are asking money for? Will it be safe enough?

Don't take me wrong, this kind of record is one of the best investments humanity can and should make instead of wasting zillions on killing each other. Were your campaign more realistic, say aiming for 2015, you would stand better chances. Well, try to prove me wrong.

YuraG
15th June, 2014 @ 02:20 pm PDT

If this record isn't under the UCI then I can see Lance making a comeback! Armstrong... the fastest man on two wheels... with pedals... on flat ground.... in an egg thing... and more gear to kill a horse!

Vote 1 for Lance!

aajay
15th June, 2014 @ 08:37 pm PDT
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