human powered vehicles in Northbrook

So this last Saturday, I went with my friend Todd and some folks from the Chicago Cycling Club up to the Northbrook velodorome to see the human powered vehicles race. It was a great trip, though it was challenging.

First we biked up to Northbrook, from the lakefront in Chicago. Which is 25 miles one way. I don’t think I’ve ridden that far since high school. Not to mention that these CCC types were very serious cyclists. The spandex, the fancy bikes, the 25-mile-a-day bike commute to work…on my city clunker backup bike I was having trouble keeping up. I’m not in bad shape, but I’m more strength-fit than endurance-fit. So it was a trial.

But it was worth it. The velodrome in Northbrook is kinda cool, but the HPVs were awesome. The Barracuda was a big banana-yellow full-fairing machine, that got up to 42 miles/hour. In a 100 lap race it lapped the next fastest competitor five times. You could only see a little bit of the rider’s head sticking up in the canopy, and he was riding hard. I think he averaged in the high thirties. I kept thinking of the old Heart song: “Dum-da-da-Dum-da-da-Dum-da-da-Dum-da-da-Dum-da-da-Da-Da…”

I got to check out some of the bikes up close. Some of the coolest ones were “stock,” or non-fairing bikes. There were a number of Velokraft bikes. Velokraft is a Polish company that makes these carbon-fiber frames that are ridiculously light and super low. The frames on the site are in the 5 1/2 pound range. Some were also front-wheel drive, which was interesting. Some also had solid carbon-fiber wheels. Feel the techo-lust.

It was also interesting to hear about the development of the technology. It’s very much an ad-hoc competitive field, with people of varying degrees of engineering professionalism. There was the guy in a crash last year: he had mounted a camera on top of his bike, and the wire between the cam and the screen got caught in one of his wheels. He was blinded, and he slammed into a post. I think they banned camera bikes after that.

Aso, it seems that trikes are out, too. Three wheeled low racers were big until they started losing races.

The world record stands right now at 81 miles/hour. It’s increased about 20 miles/hour in the last few years. They seem to think 100 is possible soon. imagine doing 100 miles an hour under your own power.

I wish we had gotten to stay for the stock race. It would have been cool to see those Velokraft bikes in action.


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