What Is the Highest Speed Ever Recorded on a Bicycle?
Technically, the land speed record for a bicycle is held by Bruce Bursford, who pedaled to an astonishing 208 mph in August, 1995. Bursford's record carries a caveat, however: He was sitting on a specially designed, stationary bike with helium-filled tires and a two-foot chain ring, set on rollers. With every pedal stroke, Bursford covered a theoretical 150 feet, and he rode for just 30 seconds. Other cyclists have set speed records under a variety of circumstances.
Before Bursford there was Fred Rompelberg of the Netherlands, who blazed across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats at 167 mph in 1995. Rompelberg set his record while drafting behind a special pace vehicle that created a space with zero wind resistance. Rompelberg had posted several previous speeds of well over 100 mph on the salt flats.
John Howard, the record-holder who preceded Rompelberg, rode to 152.2 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1985. Like Rompelberg, Howard rode behind a pace vehicle. In an interview, he described the experience as "terrifying and exhilarating … like riding a pair of bumpy rollers as fast as you can possibly go where your margin of control is limited. I was turning about 120 revolutions per minute at 152 mph."
Guinness World Records recognizes Eric Barone of France for two speed records on off-road terrain. He set his first, on snow, on April 21, 2000, when he reached 138 mph while mountain biking downhill in the ski resort town of Les Arcs, France.
Two years after his snow speed record, Eric Barone also set the world record for riding on dirt, hitting 107 mph while cycling down the side of Nicaragua's Cerro Negro volcano. The achievement nearly cost Barone his life when his bicycle hit a rock and came apart during the descent, resulting in a spectacular crash; he spent nearly a week in the hospital.
Jose Meiffret of France set the world record for cycling on a paved surface in 1962 when he reached more than 127 mph on the German Autobahn. A pace driver in a Mercedes 300 SL assisted Meiffret in his feat by providing a drafting space of low wind resistance.
Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham holds the record for fastest speed on a flat, paved surface without using a pace vehicle; he reached 81 mph in Battle Mountain, Nevada in 2001. Whittingham's ride was a recumbent bicycle enclosed in a bullet-shaped, carbon fiber fairing, named the Varna Diablo.
- "The Independent"; Pounds 1M Bike Breaks Record by Going Nowhere; Jojo Moyes; August 1995
- PezCycling News; The Legendary John Howard; Dan Lee; August 2010
- "The Independent"; Eric Barone Hit 107 Mph on the Slopes of Cerro Negro...; Simon Usborne; November 2010
- "The Sun"; Cyclist's Horror Crash; May 2002
Bryn Bellamy has written professionally since 1999 and specializes in food & drink, travel, outdoor recreation, nutrition and general features. She has a background in restaurant management and hotel catering, was a features editor for Gannett, and was nominated for a James Beard Award for Food & Drink design and editing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Southern California.