Breaking a land speed record on a bicycle is a unique challenge. It's a brilliant combination of both athletic and engineering prowess. This means that it needs a slightly different approach to your run of the mill cycling event.
One of the biggest performance indicators for a more 'normal' cycling race is the sustainable power output of the athlete expressed in watts per kilogram. It doesn't take into account bike skill, race tactics and form but it will serve as a pretty reliable indicator of how well somebody will perform.
Our event involves an unusual power profile for a cycling event, it's ~6 minutes of supra-threshold work with a sustained sprint at the end lasting 45-60seconds. It's more like a typical Rowing effort in that respect. Also the weight of the rider has less of a detrimental effect on speed because we run on the flat and the aerodynamics are taken care of. For this reason, raw horsepower is a huge piece of the puzzle rather than watts per kilogram.
But just like rowing, you can have all the horsepower in the world and find that it's completely useless if you can't deliver it in the right manner. ''Ergs don't float'' as they say. I guess for us that would make it ''turbo's don't float'' !??
Racing such an unusual and unstable recumbent bicycle should be approached in the same way as a rowing event. There should be a heady mix of hard fitness training and skill/technique work. These bikes are so difficult to ride that if you can't keep it upright, or if you wobble your way down the runway in panic mode then you're unlikely to deliver a huge power output.
At last year's human powered speed challenge we were first timers and i'd spent very little time inside the Arion1 bike. We probably only had 7 seperate days that we were able to sit inside the Arion1 and try to ride it. Consequently there was a lot of time spent riding in panic mode and even more time spent wobbling down the road.
This year we've had far more opportunities to sit inside the Arion2, getting more comfortable and confident than ever before. Fingers crossed this time that the stress comes from putting out big efforts, rather than just fearing for my life!
However because this event combines both athletic and engineering performance it means that whilst the riders are learning to ride, the engineers are also learning about the bike.
So on top of all the stress of being wedged inside a camera bike and rattled around like a pair of legs with no feelings, we also have to deal with bike issues being ironed out on the fly.
Many of the components we're testing, the camera system, the wheel fairings, the forks and headset are all being ridden for the first time. So of course, testing is riddled with unforeseen problems and challenges to overcome. So all being well, and if i don't throw my toys out of the pram too often, i'm hopeful that the combined brainpower of the Liverpool university engineering department will help us reach lightning fast speeds in 13 days time.
OMG it's in 13 days time!!!!!