To travel very quickly on Earth, you need to push a lot of air out of your way. This takes a lot of power. It’s why the Bugatti Chiron needs 16 cylinders and four turbos, and why jet airliners have engines the size of buses.
If you want to go quickly on a bicycle, you’d ideally need a big object to follow that’s pushing all the air out of the way for you, so you can concentrate on the pedaling. Say, a two-tonne Porsche Cayenne towing a giant windbreak?
Yep, that’s the tactic successfully used by 44-year old British cyclist Neil Campbell, who’s ridden his custom Moss Cycles bike to 149mph (239.7kph) on RAF Elvington’s 3.2km runway, behind a 542bhp Cayenne Turbo. The feat beat his own record of 135mph (217kph), set back in June of this year.
The bicycle needed is no ordinary commuter – it’s a custom job with a long, stable wheelbase, special gearing and tyres rated for autobahn speeds. It’s also outfitted with a tow-rope and buffer system to get Neil up to 169kph, and stop him clattering into the rear of the Cayenne’s windbreak.
The Porsche, by contrast, is pretty much off-the-shelf. It runs a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 that usually hauls it from 0-100kph in 4.1 seconds and on to a 285kph top speed. It’s less quick when effectively towing a rigid parachute, but driven by famed British drag racer Andy Frost, it was quick enough to reach 241kph and brake before the end of the runway, helping break a record Porsche’s got some history with.
Neil Campbell said: “We’ve got so little space that it was essential that we got up to speed as quickly as possible. The acceleration of the Cayenne was incredible – it was like being strapped to a rocket. I was pedalling throughout, harder and harder, before I released from the car at just over 160kph and got my head down and gave it all I could.
“All the time the Cayenne was right ahead of me, clearing the air – it was so stable. I look back on the pictures and think ‘what was I thinking?’ but I was so focused I didn’t really take it all in. It’s an incredible feeling – to get 240kph on such a short runway is beyond anything I expected. We’re within touching distance of the world record. I can’t thank my team and supporters enough for the help and confidence they’ve given me.”
Porsche’s heritage in assisting cyclists at massive speed goes back to 1978, when a modified 935 racecar driven by Henri Pescarolo attempted to help French cyclist Jean-Claude Rude reach 150mph (241kph) using the same follow-the-fast-car principle. That was ultimately unsuccessful, but it’s fair to say this Cayenne’s picked up where it left off rather nicely, no?