Students win world championship with high-tech recumbent bike

News - 16 September 2018 - Communication

Cyclist Lieke de Cock won the world championship for cycling in the Nevada desert in the US with a speed of 120 km/h. She was riding the VeloX 8 from the Human Power Team, a high-tech aerodynamic recumbent bike designed and built by a group of students from TU Delft and VU Amsterdam.

World Human Powered Speed Challenge

The student team participated in the World Human Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain, USA. An international competition in which fast aerodynamic bikes and top athletes compete for the highest speed. Athletes Lieke de Cock and Jennifer Breet raced for the Human Power Team in the category women and won the World Championship by becoming first and second!

Lieke de Cock and Jennifer Breet (photo credit: Bas de Meijer)

120 k/h
“It’s pretty cool to ride that fast”, says Lieke de Cock. “It’s like you’re flying over the road. The conditions here in the Nevada desert are ideal for high speeds. We race on a 10 km-long straight road and there is little air resistance against the bike because of the low air density in the desert at an altitude of 1300 metres. The average speed over the last 200 metres is what counts. Then you give everything you’ve got and focus purely on speed. Before I knew it, I was cycling faster than ever before.” Also her teammate Jennifer Breet cycled extremely hard, and won with a speed of 117 km/h the 2nd place. With these speeds the team came very close to the world record for women, which is currently held by the Française Barbara Buatois with 121.8 km/h.

On the recumbent bike (photo credit: Bas de Meijer)

Man and technology
It’s the combination of man and technology makes these speeds possible. “Our athletes Lieke de Cock and Jennifer Breet have been trained by VU Amsterdam students like real Olympic athletes with individual training schedules, special food and even virtual reality experiences. But just getting the riders in top condition wasn’t enough”, says Stephanie Wiechers, TU Delft student and team leader of the Human Power Team Delft and Amsterdam. Air resistance is the biggest challenge for speed. So the students of TU Delft did everything they could this year to make the recumbent bike as aerodynamic and as small as possible. They did this by developing an extremely aerodynamic hood for the bike, which is designed to fit around the body of the athlete. For this, the athletes were extensively scanned in 3D in a TU Delft lab.

Virtual Reality Experience VeloX8

Moving gears
A lot of space has been saved in the bike due to a newly designed gear-shifting system. “In a normal bike, your chain moves when you shift to a different gear, but in our bike the gears move. This ensures that the chain always remains in a straight line, so there is less friction in the chain than in the case of a normal racing bike”, explains Thijs Bon, Chief Engineer of the Human Power Team.

Tense times

Due to customs-related issues, the shipment was stopped. Eventually, the bike arrived too late to be able to make the most of a final high-altitude training in California. Next, on arriving at Battle Mountain, the team was surprised to see that the team defending the current men’s record was competing in the women’s category this year. In addition, the team discovered a technical error during the qualifying rounds. The communication system did not function properly in the Nevada desert, as a result of which the coaches were unable to pass on instructions to the athletes. Despite these setbacks, the team remained focused and determined.

About the Human Power Team

Since 2010, the Human Power Team Delft, consisting of students from TU Delft and VU Amsterdam, has been designing and building high-speed recumbent bikes. In 2013, the team broke the men’s world record with a speed of 133.8 km/h. In 2017, the student team became world champions, but unfortunately missed the world record by a narrow margin. At 121.5 km/h, Aniek Rooderkerken was just not fast enough to break the world record of 121.8 km/h. Next year, a new team of students will compete once again with a new recumbent bike.

Visual material

Press photos can be found on the Bas de Meijer website. The password is HPT-VeloX8. This material may be used royalty-free, with a mention of the name of the photographer Bas de Meijer. Photos subject to royalties can be found here (Bas’ agency is De Beeldunie). Click here for video material.

Contact information

Midas Becker (currently at the race location but may be contacted by phone at any time despite the time difference)
Press Contact Human Power Team
T: +1 57 08 66 99 59

Bas de Meijer
Photographer Human Power Team

Claire Hallewas
TU Delft Public Relations Office
T: +31 6 40953085

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