Monash team breaks record for human powered bicycle

October 16, 2023

Monash team reaches speeds of 116kmh to officially become Australia’s fastest human powered bicycle.

Image: Monash Human Power’s 2023 vehicle ‘Bilby’ on location in Nevada.Supplied by Monash University

Two engineering students from Monash University have officially broken the Australian single track speed record for a human powered vehicle, achieving speeds of 116 kilometres per hour(kmh) on a flat desert track at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge held in Nevada, United States.

Monash Human Power (MHP) is a student-led engineering team from Monash University. Since 2015 they have been designing, manufacturing and racing fully enclosed human-powered vehicles (HPV) to push the limits of human speed.

HPV use reclining bicycles in an aerodynamically engineered vehicle. This engineering approach takes into account the sustainable and eco-friendly aspects of possible future travel options.

Students Kit Kirby and Alastair Haslam were two of four riders in this year’s team. They finished second and third respectively in the men’s single-track competition, behind former world professional track cycling champion François Pervis of France. The Monash team’s other two riders, Oscar Varney and Chris Hall, also achieved speeds greater than 110 kmh in runs during the week-long competition.

“Having the chance to go highway speeds under my own power creates a feeling I have been chasing since I rode at the OzHPV Speed Trials last year. The team and I have worked tirelessly to get to where we are and it has been amazing to be able to perform in an event this special with them,” Kit Kirby said.

“The test location is on State Route 305 with a speed limit of 70 mph so after the speed trials this year, powered solely by my own two legs, I had the rare thrill of being ceremoniously delivered a speeding ticket!”

“For me, the simple joy of cycling is being able to do what a car can, using nothing but my legs and my Weet-bix,” Chris Hall said.

“Everyone knows going fast is fun, and riding Bilby at 110kmh is the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a bike.”

Their 2023 bike, named Bilby, is the third they have built and features extensive modifications and improvements to the frame and drivetrain and to the aerodynamics of the external shell, which have been extensively tested in the Monash wind tunnel.

MHP Chief Operating Officer Jessica Mark said over the next year the team will be working through all the insights gathered from the World Human Powered Speed Challenge. 

“We’re designing and engineering our Version 4 bike so we move straight into analysing our results and how we can improve the next model,” Ms Mark said. 

“We’re also in the process of developing a tricycle with the aim of being able to enter more local HPV competitions and try something new as a team.”

Team CEO Sydney Buntine started out as a materials team member in 2019, and says MHP has its sights set on breaking a new world speed record.

“My involvement with MHP has been an extremely enriching and fulfilling journey, being able to work with such a talented and passionate group of students and faculty all working towards achieving excellence in engineering performance and design,” said Mr Buntine. 

“I am so proud of the whole team, but reaching speeds of 116.39 kmh is just the beginning of what we are capable of!”

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