An Austrian man has set a new world speed record for cycling downhill on a standard mountain bike, reaching 167.7 kilometres an hour – equivalent to 104 miles an hour.
Markus 'Max' Stöckl set the astonishing speed on 13 December 2016 in the Andes mountains, where he rode down a 1,200-metre gravel slope in the Andes mountains in Chile’s Atacama region.
Until 2011 the 42-year-old focused on downhill mountain biking on snow, but in that year turned his attention to gravel, hitting a speed of 164.95 kilometres an hour on the Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua.
“The run wasn’t fun enough,” he said of that ride. “it wasn’t a real challenge. When I came back home from Nicaragua, I started right away to look for a new mountain to ride down. We found that here in Chile.”
Stöckl, who was accompanied by a six-person support crew, said: “I wanted to have the chance to ride my bike really quickly again.”
The start of the 1,200-metre course he chose had a slope of 45 degrees, ideal for building up speed. He wore a special suit as well as an airbag of the type ski racers ace and a two-part helmet he had made himself.
The bike though was a standard mountain bike, not the kind of custom-made, aerodynamic bike that the daddy of downhill speed freaks, Frencman Eric Barone, rode to a speed of 223 kilometres an hour in 2015.
“My idea of downhill mountain biking is that you should be able buy everything in a shop. That means I don’t want any special parts on my bike. It should be a bike – not a motorbike without an engine.”
Speaking about what it’s like to ride at such speeds, he said: “As soon as I feel safe, I ride right from the top. When you’re cycling above 160 km/h, each and every extra kilometre per hour requires an enormous effort.
“If you want to get an idea of the air resistance, you only have to stick your hand out of the car window when you’re driving at 150 or 160 km/h. This force has an impact on the bike and the entire body. Even though I’m no weakling, physically it is something that I have to contend with too!”
Reflecting on his record-breaking ride, he added: “We were working for two years to be on the mountain on this day. We had tears in our eyes even at the start. It was really emotional. Now I want to go home to see my family and see my daughter grow up!”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.