In 2009, a new world record was broken by the Canadian Sam Wittingham at Battle Mountain: 133 km/h in a human powered vehicle. This record was achieved by riding an aerodynamic recumbent bicycle. It gathered attention from people all around the world. When some students from Delft heard about this, they were impressed and intrigued, but also inspired. They thought about how much faster they could go if they were to build an even more technically advanced bike. The students came to a decision: to break the world record with their own bike within 3 years. Thus the Human Power Team was born. Made out of a carbon-fibre frame and a precisely engineered aerodynamic shell, the very first VeloX was born.
The goal for the first year was to design and produce a bike to participate in the yearly race for the fastest bikes in the world, the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC). Not only did Sebastiaan Bowier win the WHPSC 2011, he also broke the European speed record with 130 km/h. A fantastic result for our first year!
The road to the world record was continued by the VeloX 2. The second team designed and built a completely new VeloX with lots of innovations.
This is the first VeloX with a StuD-drive, which means that the cycling motion is elliptical instead of the usual circular shape. This made room for a sharper nose of the VeloX, which improved the aerodynamics. The window was also completely removed. The VeloX 1 showed that the connection between the shell and the window increased the turbulent airflow around the VeloX. Additionally, the vision through the often foggy window was poor. Instead, the cyclist solely depends on a camera-monitor system with live stream to gain vision. Finally, this is the first VeloX with a monocoque structure. This means it consists of one continuous shell. The only holes in the structure are for air-intake, the wheels and a hole at the top for the cyclist to get in and out. With this design, the Human Power Team won the WHPSC for the second time!
After the first prototype made in year 1 and the many innovations made in year 2, team 3 faced the daunting task to finally build a record-breaking bicycle. The plan of this team was to take the best aspects of the VeloX 1 & 2, and fuse them into a new VeloX.
A lot of design choices made in the VeloX 2 were also implemented in the VeloX 3. The monocoque construction, which ensures an almost seamless shell, and the camera/monitor system instead of a window, can also be found in the VeloX 3. However, there were also some changes. The StuD-drive, the drive mechanism with an elliptical driving motion, was replaced with a drive mechanism with a circular driving motion. Tests showed that the improvement in aerodynamic drag, was less than the increase in friction resulting from the StuD-drive. Finally, some new improvements were made. For example, the VeloX 3 uses a planetary gear in the hub of the wheel. This is a more efficient solution, in terms of space, than the one used in the VeloX 1 & 2. Additionally, this is the first and only VeloX with rear wheel drive.
In September 2013 the Human Power Team departed for America for the third time with one goal: to break the world record. The entire week, the team was struck by problems. Technical issues, bad weather, it just didn't work out the way they wanted to. Until the last day, on the 14th of September, conditions were just right. Sebastiaan Bowier raced through the Nevada desert at 134 km/h, and the world record was broken!
Despite the fact that the team already held the world record, the developments did not come to an end. The team was (and still is) convinced that the limits of human capability have not been reached. In an attempt to go even faster, the VeloX IV was developed. The design was characterized by a promising but risky new aerodynamic shape: a 'supercritical' design, with mixed results. Still, Rik Houwers reached a speed of 132 km/h in the VeloX IV, securing the 4th win of the World Human Powered Speed Challenge in a row (and only 1.5 km h under the WR)! Additionaly, Christien Veelenturf achieved 111 km/h and ranked third in the women's competition.
After four years of excellent results, the pressure was high for the fifth team. Having one of the smallest engineering teams in the history of HPT, the team still managed to come up with an excellent design. With lots of aerospace engineering students in the team, the aerodynamics of the VeloX 5 were made less risky than the year before, and looked very promising. This was also the first year vacuum infusion techniques were used in production. However, when the team got to Battle Mountain, there was one very big problem: it was extremely difficult to keep the bike stable. Because of this, the VeloX 5 crashed during the record attempt. Since safety of our athletes is a top priority, the team decided to resign.
After the performance of team 5, it was clear that all the hard work that is put into training, design and production, does not guarantee first place. In the field of engineering, the aerodynamics were improved even more this year, keeping in mind, for the first time, that some crosswinds occur instead of assuming all wind comes straight up to the VeloX. The team also used a new structure, which had a frame where the drivetrain was installed in the middle, instead of them being next to each other. In the field of athlete selection, two male athletes were selected instead of one male and one female. This turned out to be a wise choice, since one of the athletes got ill during the year and was not able to compete in battle mountain. The speed reached during the world championship went up, but unfortunately the team did not reach first place. It was up to team 7 to show that our team can still not only compete, but also win on the highest level.
The VeloX 7 was the first bike built by the Human Power Team to only attack the women's speed record. The team focussed on a perfect fit of the athletes, and since women are generally smaller than men, the shell could be made even smaller. In order to get a perfect match between athlete and VeloX, 3D scans were made of both women. In order to get the best results during competitions that we participated in, we had an extra shell without coating, so with a carbonfibre exterior, for training. Another advantage in competition was that the team's movement scientists put a lot of effort in mental coaching, which eventually caused that both athletes were able to turn all the power they had into speed when doing their world championship runs. Team 7 showed once again that the Human Power Team Delft & Amsterdam is a formidable competitor by getting 1st and 2nd place.