Canadian Sam Whittingham Shatters Speed Record
Of the 100 billion or so humans that have ever existed there is only one that has travelled faster than 130 km per hour using only his muscles. Canadian Sam Whittingham of Quadra Island, BC has propelled himself faster than any Olympic athlete or Tour de France hero in his custom-made bullet-shaped recumbent bicycle. His success is attributed to a combination of athletic prowess and the design genius of Georgi Georgiev, creator of Whittingham’s bicycle.
Whittingham first took title for fastest human in 2000, clocking a speed of 117 km/hr over a 200-metre course in Nevada. Since then he has broken his own record numerous times while competitors have remained far behind.
Being the fastest in the world became secondary to an even more formidable challenge that Whittingham and Georgiev began preparing for: to break the renowned deciMach barrier, a speed one-tenth that of sound (stated to be 132 km/hr at the elevation of the course). The team began preparing for this quest and hoped to achieve their goal at the Battle Mountain World Human Powered Speed Challenge in Nevada in September 2008.
This event attracts a collection of eccentrics, athletes and world-class designers striving to reach speeds far greater than what evolution has graced our species. The human powered vehicles look more like wheeled spacecraft than bicycles, and chances of success weigh heavily upon the shape and design of the vehicle’s streamlined shell. Georgi Georgiev is a sculptor from Gabriola Island, BC (originally from Bulgaria) who has transferred his skills with spatiality and design to HPV construction.
Whittingham was 2 km/hr away reaching 132 km/hr in his first attempt. After resting for three days he gave it another attempt. The vehicle’s speed is measured over a 200-metre course, with more than a six km lead up. With only a few very-high gears, it takes a long distance for the vehicle to reach maximum velocity. On his second attempt Whittingham achieved his goal and clocked an astounding 132.5 km/hr, breaking the deciMach barrier and winning a $26,000 prize.
Whittingham and Geogiev’s combined achievement is something for all Canadians to be proud of. Their record-breaking feat represents what we can achieve when combining cutting-edge technology with top-notch athletes.