Creative Engineering Underlies Fastest Bicycles In the World

By: | July 7th, 2013

Fastest Incumbent Bicycles

The fastest bicycles in the world are of the recumbent type and have been clocked at just over 80 mph. These bicycles are human powered and have a variety of designs, mostly recumbent, and aerodynamic. Riders pedal at a rate of 90-120 revolutions per minute  and bring their approximately 1/2 hosepower of energy to the equation. According to the World Recumbent Racing Association the road must be level though a very slight tilt is permitted and low tailwind limits must be met in order for records to be broken.

Incumbent bike riders cover 5 miles progressively increasing their speed over the distance in hopes of reaching 80 mph plus. Recumbent racing bicycles cost anywhere from $2,000 and up and weigh as little as 20 pounds.

Fastest Upright Bicycles

Upright bicycles have not until recently begun to compete with incumbent bicycles in terms of fastest speeds. In May 2013 a company named “Donhou” Has developed a bike of oval Columbus Max tubing for stability at high speeds. A “dog legged” drive side chain wraps around a 104 two custom machined chain ring made by Royce which is in perfect alignment to prevent breaking at high speeds. The bike has custom bars to perfectly position the rider to tuck. The frame of the bike has a low center of gravity. The wheels are built by August Wheelworks and are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible.

Base price for the cheapest Donhou bicycle is $1,500.

Specialized S-Works McLaren Venge

Another interesting manufacturer of upright bicycles is a team from S-Specialized, a bicycle manufacturer and McLaren Venge, a Formula One race team. The bicycle uses lightweight but strong materials including a variety of carbons.

Specification Description
Frame Specialized S-Works FACT Aero Race Design 12r-carbon
Fork Specialized S-Works FACT 12r-carbon
Rims/Wheels Zipp Firecrest 404 carbon tubular
Hubs See Rims/Wheels
Spokes See Rims/Wheels
Tires Specialized S-Works Turbo tubular, 700 x 23c w/BlackBelt puncture protection
Crankset Specialized S-Works FACT-carbon
Chainrings 53/39
Bottom Bracket OS integrated, ceramic bearings
Front Derailleur Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Rear Derailleur Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Rear Cogs Shimano Dura-Ace, 10-speed: 11-25
Shifters Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Handlebars Zipp SL2
Tape/Grips Specialized S-Works
Stem Zipp SL Speed
Brake Levers Shimano Dura-Ace
Brakes EE Cycleworks
Saddle Specialized S-Works Toupé w/carbon rails
Seatpost Specialized S-Works Venge FACT-carbon w/adjustable offset

Common Bicycling Terms & Abbreviations From Recombent Bicycle and Human Powered Information Center (IBHPI)

  • HPV = Human Powered Vehicle
  • ASS = above seat steering – also a bad word if used by itself.
  • USS = under seat steering
  • LWB = long wheel base = crankset between front and rear wheels
  • CLWB = compact long wheelbase = crankset just behind front wheel
  • SWB = short wheel base = crankset forward of front wheel
  • RWD = rear wheel drive
  • FWD = front wheel drive
  • BB = bottom bracket
  • T = tooth (example: 53t gear)
  • CF = carbon fiber
  • Q-factor = width between pedals – important when building a fairing
  • OD = outer diameter of tube
  • ID = Inner diameter of tube
  • BMX = a type of childrens dirt bicycle with 20″ wheel size
  • CAD = computer aided design (drafting or drawing on computer)
  • CNC = computer numeric controlled (programmable milling machine to cut metal or shapes)
  • CFD = computational fluid dynamics (making better aerodynamic shape on computer)
  • LBS = Local Bike Store
  • MTB = mountain bike
  • RR = road racing bike
  • DF = diamond frame (road bike)
  • IHPVA = International Human Powered Vehicle Association
  • HPVA = Human Powered Vehicle Association – now the IHPVA in North America
  • HPRA = Human Powered Race America – a group formed to host and foster HPV racing in the USA.
  • WRRA = World Recumbent Racing Association – a group formed to recognize recumbent records
  • WISIL = Wisconsin Illinois HPV group, one of the most active in North America
  • WHPSC = World Human Powered Speed Challenge held each year in Battle Mountain


David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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