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American women aims to become fastest cyclist ever - at 168mph (+ video)

Denise Mueller targets Fred Rompelberg's record which has stood for more than 20 years...

An American woman will this weekend set out to become the world’s fastest ever cyclist – male or female – as she attempts to break the motor-paced world record.

Denise Mueller, aged 43, is aiming to beat the 167 mph (268 kph) set by Dutch rider Fred Rompelberg in 1995.

She will be making the attempt at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where her coach John Howard had himself set a world record of 152 mph (244 kph) a decade before Rompelberg took it off him.

It was Howard himself who persuaded Mueller, who is the reigning US women’s masters criterium champion, to have a crack at the record – and what’s more, as the first female cyclist ever to attempt it, she’s guaranteed to set a fastest motor-paced record for a woman.

The tilt at the record has been four years in the planning and asked by ESPN why she was attempting it, Mueller said: "I have been asked that by a couple of people over the years, and the first and easy answer is, why not, right?

"But really, how many chances do you get to be the first person ever to be able to do something as a female? Men have done this record since 1899, and a woman has never even tried to do this record.

“So, why not? I get to be the first ever."

The pace car, a Range Rover Sport SVR, will be driven by Shea Holbrook, one of the US’s leading female racing drivers, who will build up to a speed of 90mph before Mueller and her bike, inside the fairing on the back of the vehicle, are released.

Holbrook, who has herself driven a dragster at a speed of 278 mph, said of her role in the record attempt: "The importance of my job is to keep Denise alive, honestly.

"Everything that I have been taught, I have to reverse because we are going to be accelerating at a slow rate of speed.

“I'm used to fast inputs, fast thinking, fast reaction; whereas, with this, it's still fast thinking, but at a slower pace."

The bike Mueller will be using has been put together by San Diego-based SD Wheel Works specifically for the record attempt. According to the Project Speed website, it has “17″ high speed rated motorcycle wheels and tyres to help reduce the centre of gravity.

Denise Mueller bike (source Project Speed on Facebook).jpg

“The frame is elongated for stability and utilises a ‘short travel’ suspension to dampen high speed vibration,” and has “a steering stabiliser to eliminate any speed wobble at high speeds.”

It also has double reduction gearing and drivetrain “to allow Denise to pedal the bicycle at a rpm that allows her to provide the necessary power to achieve 168mph.”

Here’s footage of Mueller having a trial run. You can follow her progress on the record attempt, which runs from Saturday to Monday,  through the Project Speed Facebook page.

Earlier this year, Neil Campbell set a new British motor-paced record of 114.19 mph. The attempt was led by Dave LeGrys, whose own record of 110mph stood for 27 years until it was broken by Isle of Man TT rider Guy Martin in 2010 - an endeavour LeGrys was also involved in.

> Operation Pacemaker breaks Guy Martin's GB motor-paced speed record

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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18 comments

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RainbowSpirit | 7 years ago
0 likes

If I remember correctly when John Howard set his record he had some type of remote control so that he actually controlled the lead car's accelerator.

I hope she will be wearing full leathers.

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Nick Forster | 7 years ago
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I believe that they were going to do this during Speed Week, but the Scrutineers weren't happy that the Range Rover wasn't fully prepped with fire suppression, roll cage, plastic windows etc. Apparently they had no such reservations about the bike...

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Yorkshire wallet | 7 years ago
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Good luck. I never even got my motorbike up to that sort of speed!

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Tjuice | 7 years ago
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Amazing!  I hope she does it (but I won't be watching live... :-\ )

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flathunt | 7 years ago
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Had to do a double take there, I thought she was doing it on a Brompton. Mind you, on my commute they tend to max out at around 130mph in the quest to prove that "the wheels might be small but it's very highly geared".

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Christopher TR1 | 7 years ago
2 likes

"Everything that I have been taught, I have to reverse ...."

For God's sake Holbrook, do NOT reverse!!

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sizbut | 7 years ago
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Cheers. So the facebook video shows that that is a brake on the second chainring. They also mention that the brakes are only for feathering the speed if needed, not full on stopping. Not surprised, the stop-pedalling aero-brake effect is probably a lot safer and more effective as long as she can handle any turbulence after dropping back from the pace car. 

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OldRidgeback | 7 years ago
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Chapeau even for having the courage to even try it - good luck to her

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captain_slog | 7 years ago
2 likes

Very best of luck; would love to see a more detailed video.

I'm guessing the bike is so over-geared that a standing start is impossible - hence the release at 90mph.

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waldner71 | 7 years ago
1 like

Struggling to work out how she pedals from 90mph to 167+ after being released from the car. Must be one hell of a bike and lots of momentum. Looks risky to say the least...wish her the best.

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. . | 7 years ago
1 like
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barbarus | 7 years ago
2 likes

Jesus Christ this is mad. Good luck!

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StraelGuy | 7 years ago
1 like

I think you're right sizbut. That definitely looks like a cable actuated brake caliper on the second chain ring.

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sizbut | 7 years ago
1 like

May be my dodgy eyesight but there's also something that looks like a disc brake on the secondary chainring, ie. using it as the disc!? The drivetrain designers are promoters of tandem drives where each pedaller can freewheel separately, so they may have delivered a system where the primary ring can freewheel while the secondary is fixed and therefore useable for braking. Only guessing from one picture as I couldn't find anything more definitive. Either way good luck.

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Mantas | 7 years ago
1 like

Amazing, and the only brake I see is rear rim brake.

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Skylark replied to Mantas | 7 years ago
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Mantas wrote:

Amazing, and the only brake I see is rear rim brake.

 

Even that's too much braking.

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fukawitribe replied to Skylark | 7 years ago
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Skylark wrote:
Mantas wrote:

Amazing, and the only brake I see is rear rim brake.

 

Even that's too much braking.

Your suggestion would be what - fixie ?

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mike the bike | 7 years ago
3 likes

 

I wouldn't have the bottle for this ..... hope she survives.

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