“Its not a safe endeavor at all.” -John Howard
Excellent piece by the Wall Street Journal documenting Denise Mueller-Korenek journey to becoming the fastest human on a bicycle on earth. Denise hit 184mph during a paced bike land speed run on The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah back in 2018, breaking a record that had existed for 23 years. Fascinating look into a niche sport where air pockets are the name of the game and speed is king. Set aside 20 minutes if you can, this is a quality watch:
What is the Paced Bicycle Land Speed Record?
Bicycle records set when the cyclist drafts (rides) behind a motor vehicle to minimize wind resistance. The vehicle is usually modified slightly by adding a tail fairing (an exterior structure) to keep the wind off the cyclist who is riding behind it.
This type of record was invented by Charles “Mile-a-Minute Murphy” who drafted a train to set a 60 mph record at end of the 19th century. In order to accomplish this feat, a mile of plywood sheets was attached to the railroad ties ensuring that Charles would have a smooth surface riding behind the train.
In 1938, Alfred Letourneur reached 91mph at a velodrome in France riding behind a motorbike.
In 1985, Denise’s coach and 3 time Olympian, John Howard, set the record at 152 mph riding behind a dragster car at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
In three separate centuries, less than a dozen people have set a bicycle land speed record.
In 2016 Denise Korenek (Mueller) was successful at setting the first ever Women’s paced bicycle land speed record of 147.7mph. Then on September 16, 2018 Denise shattered the overall (men’s) record of 167mph with 183.9mph.