San Diego cyclist Denise Mueller-Korenek is officially the fastest bike rider on earth: On September 16th, she broke the paced bike speed record during an attempt at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. She pedaled at an average speed of 183.9 miles per hour over a distance of one mile, smashing the previous record of 167 miles per hour.
A “paced bike” record attempt involves a lot more than just hopping on a bike and pedaling. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, this means that the cyclist rides behind a pacing vehicle in order to reduce wind resistance and increase speed—a cyclist pedaling on their own can only go about 40 miles per hour. The first record of this type was set in 1899, when a rider drafted behind a train, but the technology has progressed quite a bit since then. For her attempt, Mueller-Korenek used a specially designed bike and rode behind a souped up pace vehicle with a large hood at the back, called a fairing, which was built to conceal her from the wind as she rode.
According to Bicycling, the car towed Mueller-Korenek until the pair reached a speed of around 100 miles per hour, then released her. From this point onward, she had to pedal to keep up with the car and stay within its slipstream. It’s a high-risk endeavor, and many riders have been seriously injured or killed when they got too close to their pace car or fell at high speed. Mueller-Korenek told the Union-Tribune that riding with the pace vehicle requires a careful balance—get too close, and you’ll hit the fairing; fall behind, and you get sucked out of the pocket of still air and into the full blast of wind resistance.
Despite the dangers, Mueller-Korenek powered through the five mile course and beat the previous record by 16 miles per hour.
“I was literally stunned,” she told the Union-Tribune. “I was hoping to land somewhere in the 170s and we just blew right through them. It’s amazing to have this record.”
Check out the impressive ride in the video below: