Wheelie Good Going - 7 Amazing Cycling Feats
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Sep 19, 2011

Wheelie Good Going - 7 Amazing Cycling Feats

The noble pursuit of cycling has many fans; from those who enjoy the exercise and convenience of their morning commute, to couples on a voyage of discovery on cycling holidays, to ultra-competitive racers who’ll shave anything in order to gain an extra tenth of a second.
Cycling is not only great fun, but relatively cheap, accessible to nearly everyone and hugely beneficial to your health (the BMA estimates cycling 20 miles per week cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%). It is a great way to start the day as a commuter, as it increases the heart rate naturally and helps you wake up and feel energised without the need for coffee, and a great way to see the countryside or experience a foreign country on adventure holidays.
But what about the people who’ve really pushed bike-riding to the limit? The one’s who’re fit, determined and possibly mad enough to attempt cycling feats that would have most of us retreating to the sofa for a nice sit down and cup of tea. Here’s a list of 7 amazing cycling records that have re-defined what’s possible on two wheels when your only power source is the human body, a shed-load of self-belief and possibly some Shredded Wheat.
Who knows, it may just inspire you to test your own two-wheeled limits.

  1. Distance travelled in an hour
Since the invention of the velocipede in 1865, people have been racing each other on bikes. Some raced side by side, some raced along specific pre-set courses, but the enduring challenge for any cyclist who wants to pit themselves against history’s best is that of distance travelled in an hour.
Obviously, the best way to test this is on a traditional bike track where you can be sure of the smoothest, fastest surface to race over, and are unlikely to be tripped up by stray dogs or children. The current record is held by Ondrej Sosenka who went for 49.700km before his 60 minutes was up in 2005. Chris Boardman, however, had got to an incredible 56.375km on a custom-made bike back in 1996 before the International Cycling Union banned the machine for being too good. Boooo!

Ice Velocipede, 1869
(Image: "Ice Velocipede, 1869" by Peacay on Flickr)

2.    Fastest speed

We all reckon we can get some serious speed up on a bike, especially when tearing down the nearest hill, but the record for fastest speed reached on a bike was actually achieved on the level playing field of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Fred Rompelberg set the record with an amazing 266.76km/h in 1995 while tucked in behind a specially designed pace vehicle that created no wind resistance.
In terms of downhill cycling, Eric Barone is the man to beat, setting a record of 222 km/h on the snowy downhill runs of the Les Arcs ski resort in France in April 2000. It’s not clear how he stopped, but maybe he just aimed his bike at a really thick bank of snow…

3. Biggest distance cycled in one year
I’ve no idea how this was verified, but apparently 1939 saw England’s Tommy Godwin cycle a scarcely believable 120,805 km in the space of one year. That’s an average of 330 km per day, every day for 12 months. Goodwin began life, fairly unsurprisingly, as a bike delivery boy and later progressed to time trial racing before setting off on January 1st 1939 to claim the World Endurance Cycling Record.
The timing of his record attempt wasn’t great. As World War II broke out in September, Goodwin rode through blackouts with the smallest glow emanating from his lights and had to substitute the usual chamois cycle short inserts for women’s knickers (or maybe he just preferred them, who knows). Having completed an amazing 120,805km by the end of the year, Godwin continued to cycle through the winter to secure the record for riding 100,000 miles in the shortest time possible before dismounting, teaching himself to walk again, and heading off for a stint in the RAF. What a guy!

4.    Most expensive bike

The most expensive bike ever created was this rather beautiful Trek Madone designed by British artist Damien Hirst and ridden by Lance Armstrong on the final leg of the 2009 Tour De France. Typically for Hirst, the bike was adorned with real butterfly wings that were lacquered onto the frame allowing it to ‘shimmer when the light catches it like only real butterflies do’ without adding any discernible weight to the bike.
 The bike was the culmination of a series of collaborations between designers and Trek to raise money for Armstrong’s Livestrong cancer foundation and fetched $500,000 at Sothebys.

5. Longest distance cycled backwards in 24 hours
Darl Bonnema cycled backwards for 180km in a 24 hour period at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Florida in 2004. The precarious ride was not made on an adapted bike, but rather with Bonnema sat on the handlebars, facing the back wheel and steering without looking. This would only be more impressive if he was dressed as a Disney character at the time.

6. Longest distance in one hour with no hands

Look… no hands! We’ve all enjoyed the thrill (and subsequent fall, cuts and tissue soaked in disinfectant) that comes with letting go of the handlebars while cycling, but who would’ve thought of turning it into a world record? The excellently named Erik Skramstad, that’s who. Strammers managed an amazing 37km hands-free in 2009, and kept himself occupied on the journey by talking on his phone, completing a Rubik’s cube and knitting a sweater for his nephew*.

7. Most people on a unicycle at one time
Anyone who’s tried riding a unicycle for any more than approximately 0.87 seconds will tell you it’s a bit tricky. So imagine how hard it is to get 1,142 people to stay upright at the same time. An event at Regensburg in Germany in 2005 saw this incredible feat achieved, and while it’s not technically a bicycle feat, it’s still pretty damn impressive. It’s not clear whether the event in question was a clown convention.

*At least one of these may be untrue.

Author Bio: Daniel has been travelling on cycling holidays for 4 years