Earlier this week, we picked up on Sam Pearce's Loopwheel, which was unveiled at last month's Bespoked Bristol show (generally regarded as UK's response to NAHBS), for which Pearce is currently seeking fundingvia Kickstarter. Tom Donhou's booth was another standout from the third edition of the show—thoroughly documented in a photo gallery on Bike Radar—specifically, his head-turning fixed-gear, built expressly for speed.
Photo by Oli Woodman
Indeed, Donhou is stepping up to the plate, so to speak, in an attempt to break 100 mph on a relatively standard diamond-frame bicycle. The disc that vaguely resembles a chrome pizza is, in fact, a 104-tooth chainring—roughly twice the size of the standard 53T big ring on most cranksets—custom fabricated by Royce. (Assuming the cog is somewhere in the 12–15ish range, Donhou's contraption is geared at an astronomical 200+ gear-inches; for reference, Wikipedia notes that "a gearing in gear inches the same as a person's height in inches is a comfortable gear for riding on the flat." In other words, the obscene gearing would be comfortable from someone no less than 16’8”.)
Image via the Telegraph
Donhou admits that he was somewhat chagrined by early press that misrepresented his machine as a contender for a world record, he set the record straight in Road.cc
I'm really into land speed record stuff, in the 60s when the guys were battling it out down on the salt flats almost doubling the speed limits in a couple of years, I love all that stuff. I know a bit about cars but I could never afford to take a car over there...
So I built this with the intention to feel it out, I don't know how fast it can go, that's my best guess as to what I can do. I built the bike how I thought it should look. No wind tunnels involved, it's all grassroots, it's done in that spirit of those guys in the 60s testing jet engines in their sheds. It's that spirit. We'll see if we can stay on it if we get up to 100mph. We've tested it up to 60mph.
Photo by Oli Woodman
Donhou is confident that he can break triple digits, though he acknowledges that the effort is something of an ad hoc endeavor: although my fellow cycling enthusiasts know that Columbus MAX tubes are among the best available, Donhou has been booking a decommissioned airstrip as weather allows; a modified Ford Zephyr serves as the pacecar. As he told the Telegraph, "What started as just a bit of fun started to get a lot more serious pretty quick and now we're gunning for 100mph. It's just been really DIY, there's not been a load of money put into this."
We wish him the best of luck in his attempt, though I might suggest that Donhou should team up with fellow Londoner Death Spray Custom... because we all know that a sweet paint job will make you go faster.
Photos courtesy of Gold Seal Photography & Fred Rompelberg
And while few cyclists can boast triple-digits speeds, it's worth mentioning that mankind surpassed 100mph over fifty years ago: NPR reports that "Jose Meiffret passed that mark in 1962, paced by a car on Germany's Autobahn" (the article also cites Charles "Mile-a-Minute" Murphy, who reportedly reached 60mph in 1899, as a kindred spirit). The current world record was set 30 years later: in 1995, Fred Rompelberg hit a whopping 167mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats, riding a compound drivetrain—a 70×13 connected to a 60×15—that came in at 114.2 gear-feet. Full specs of the bicycle, designed and built by Dave Tesch, are available on Rompelberg's website, as is more information on the Dutch rider himself, who was 47 when he cruised past John Howard's 1985 record of 152mph (also at Bonneville).
If you're particularly curious, an "Insider's View" video depicts the full nine minutes of Whittingham's 2011 run from what must be the top of his steering column.
Of course, purists will scoff at these records, which were set with the help of a trusty pacecar. Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham is the reigning champion of the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, held annually in Battle Mountain, NV, clocking in at just under 83mph in his record-setting 2009 run. Particularly astute readers will remember that the inimitable Graeme Obree didn't make it to last September's event, but rest assured he's been working on it.
But wait, there's more—James Thomas of Bicycledesign.net recently tweeted about the archive of the International Human-Powered Vehicle Association, which contains PDFs of issues dating back to 1977.
I have yet to actually read any of the articles, but the images alone are pretty wild...