On Sunday, the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah were witness to yet another land speed record being shattered. Extreme cyclist Denise Mueller-Korenek hopped on her two-wheeled ride, and with the assistance of a streamlined pace vehicle, hit an average speed of 296km/h over a distance of 5.6km.
The bike that Mueller-Korenek rode to shatter the previous land speed record of 269km/h wasn’t your typical off-the-rack Schwinn. It featured 43cm motorcycle rims and high-speed tyres to help lower its centre of gravity; a custom, hand-made elongated frame to improve stability; short-travel shocks to help dissipate high-speed vibrations; and a steering stabiliser to minimise wobble, which could potentially be deadly at these speeds.
There’s little doubt that Mueller-Korenek had trained hard to ensure her body was up to the challenge, but the laws of physics, aerodynamics and biology prevent a human from reaching speeds such as this without a little assistance. So for the first 2.4km of her record-setting run, she was towed behind a dragster that had been outfitted with a windshield on the back to eliminate any wind resistance once the tether connecting the bike and vehicle was released.
The smooth, featureless surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats, and the gearing setup on her bike giving the impression of a slow, leisurely pedal, makes it hard to get a feeling for just how fast Mueller-Korenek was actually riding. Hopefully, they’ll post additional videos on her YouTube channel showing the run from other perspectives.
But the next time you’re cruising down the highway at 100km/h, remember that’s a third of the speed she was cruising at — and without the peace of mind of a seatbelt or being surrounded with airbags were something to go wrong.