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.
- 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!
(Image: "Ice Velocipede, 1869" by Peacay on Flickr)
2. Fastest speedWe 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
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 bikeThe 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
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
*At least one of these may be untrue.