Up until 2015, HPT Delft and Amsterdam had won the men’s category in the World Human Powered Speed Challenge for four years in a row, and held the world human powered speed record. Sadly, a series of setbacks led to bitter disappointment that year.
Staged each September in the Nevada Desert, the event pits teams against each other to produce the fastest performances using super-aerodynamic recumbent bicycles. The most obvious features of the competition bicycles are their recumbent (lying down) riding position and the lightweight aerodynamic shell that covers them, both of which reduce wind resistance.
Determined to return to the top – and to push the record beyond 140 km/h (about 87 mph) – the team is looking again to AkzoNobel and its Sikkens performance coatings for help with that all-important issue of drag reduction.
“In addition to financial support, Sikkens gives us products, advice and practical assistance which are essential in turning the ‘crude’ carbon structure of the shell into one with a perfectly smooth, aerodynamic surface,” said Team Manager Hugo Lambriex. “Even the slightest imperfection can greatly affect the bike’s top speed. A fly on the nose of the bike, for example, could cost us 10 km/h [about 6 mph]!”
VeloX 6, the team’s bike for this year, has undergone changes in external shape and internal mechanics for even greater efficiency. Meanwhile, two recently retired professional sportsmen have been brought in as riders: cyclist Rick Flens and ice skater Jan Bos. They are currently training and getting used to the initially frightening sensation of viewing the road only via digital displays. These are fed by a camera system, avoiding the need for a window, which would disrupt the air flow.
Each year, a new team of Delft University of Technology and VU University Amsterdam students from a variety of disciplines comes together to design, construct and test its own new bike. The 12-month project culminates in the challenge in Nevada.
“We are delighted to see 20 students of varying age, experience and knowledge collaborating in a team effort that mirrors our ‘winning together’ approach,” said Remco Maassen van den Brink, marketing director for AkzoNobel’s Vehicle Refinishes business. “Their shared spirit of innovation, and the way they rapidly learn to solve problems, make improvements and achieve everything within strict budgets and deadlines, is also very impressive. We hope our latest advances in lightweight, smooth and robust coatings will give them an extra competitive edge, and we wish them great success.”