First of all a great festival
First of all a great festival Print

The WHPVA Human Powered Vehicle World Championship will be hosted within the 36tth Festival dello Sport organized yearly by Unione delle Società Sportive Monzesi at the historical Monza race track. Expected participation is around 120 riders from all over the world, mostly from Europe. Riders will be sorted by age, sex and type of vehicle (faired, part-faired, unfaired, handbike, tandem, etc.).

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First of all a festival, a chance to meet and socialize in an atmosphere where competitiveness never gets the better of the fun side and the curiosity for technical solutions. A blast of innovation for the pedalling world: innovation that counts, innovation that serves.

Paraphrasing Mike Burrows, a visionary designer and a regular to World Championships, we will see

cycling but not as you know it”.

Welcome message by Richard Ballantine, Chair WHPVA

Welcome to the web site for Human Powered Vehicle World Championships 2011.

Human powered vehicles (HPVs) promote innovation and invention in cycle design. Although all human powered cycles are HPVs, the term refers to special cycles as distinguished from standard upright bikes, e.g. low-slung recumbents and cycles with more than two wheels or with aerodynamic fairings.

HPVs are barred from conventional cycle races. The Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI), the world governing body for conventional cycle sport, treats cycle competition as an athletic contest, and requires riders to use bicycles of a specific design which has hardly changed in over 100 years. Rider performance is what matters.

In contrast, with HPVs the emphasis is on improving performance through innovation in vehicle design and engineering. There are no restrictions. Anything goes — so long as power is only human. There can be no energy storage devices of any kind, nor any form of supplementary power. The rider or ‘engine’ is important, of course, but vehicle performance is what matters.

Success? Oh yes – the current HPV world record speed for the 200m sprint of 133.28 km/h (82.82 mph) is twice that of a UCI-legal bike. Likewise, the HPV hour record at 90.598 km/h (56.295 mph) is nearly double that of an upright bicycle at 49.70 km (30.88 mph).

HPVs are fast, but the big advantage is efficiency; less effort for a given speed. For an aerodynamically efficient HPV, the gain in performance is something like 50%. For ordinary cyclists that means a lot, because as HPV designer Mike Burrows says, the gain is more than you might inherit from wonderful genes, or be able to build through hard training.

HPVs also enjoy great advantages in comfort, braking power, and safety in the event of a collision or fall. Faired machines have weather protection, and extra cargo capacity. Hence, HPVs have become increasingly popular for touring and general use as well as racing and record attempts. In 1975, the first open design championship for HPVs in California, USA, had 14 entries; today, the world championships attract hundreds of riders, and thousands of visitors. In the early days, almost all HPVs were hand-built; today, scores of manufacturers are producing many thousands of HPVs.

The annual HPV World Championships bring together top HPVs and riders from many different countries, and as well, people who just plain enjoy HPVs. There is always plenty to see and do, the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, and it is often possible to try out different kinds of machines.

The HPV World Championships are sanctioned by the World Human Powered Vehicle Association (WHPVA), an association of national HPV groups from around the world. The venue for the Championships moves from country to country each year. For 2011 the hosts are the WHPVA’s newest member, Propulsione Umana - Human Powered Vehicles Italia, and the venue the famous track at Monza, Italy. We look forward to a wonderful event.

Richard Ballantine
Chair, WHPVA

HPVs picture gallery: past editions and WHPVA historical archive

A little bit about speed (by Richard Ballantine)

All-out record-speed HPV streamliners are highly specialised machines, limited to race tracks. The types of HPVs in use for sport and/or practical transport are unfaired, with a bare frame, and part-faired, with either a front or rear fairing. The latter type predominate, because in aerodynamics, exit shape is more important than entry shape. There are also full-faired bicycles, but these are difficult to handle in windy conditions, and vulnerable to turbulence generated by motor vehicles. More popular is the velomobile, a recumbent tricycle chassis with a full body shell. Velomobiles cannot compete with slim-profile bicycle HPV streamliners for record speeds, but are still very fast. More importantly, they are stable, and thus practical for use as everyday transport and open road racing. Velomobiles are popular in countries where cycling facilities are advanced, such as the Netherlands.

HPVs are about aerodynamic efficiency, and speed depends on design.  An upright ‘easy rider’ HPV for example, has a frontal profile just as large as a conventional bike, and hence no speed advantage. Reduce the profile by placing the rider in a more supine position, however, and aerodynamic efficiency improves by 5-20%, depending on the particular design. Add a part-fairing, and the gain can go to 25%. For a good full fairing, 50%. And for an all-out record speed streamliner, 80% and more! At 24 mph the rider of a conventional bike puts 80% of their effort into displacing over 1000 pounds of air per minute. Greater aerodynamic efficiency is why ultra-streamlined HPVs can do over 80 mph, double the top speed for a standard bike.

The differences in top speeds between HPVs and upright bikes are dramatic, but more significant is that for a given amount of effort, well-designed HPVs post higher average speeds than conventional bikes. The higher the speed, the greater the difference. Very approximately, 20 mph on a recumbent takes 25 per cent less power than on a standard upright bike. An HPV with a full fairing does considerably better; 20 mph takes about half the effort to propel an upright at the same rate.

Please take note: aerodynamic efficiency is not a magic carpet. As ever, weight is critical. A very heavy HPV may be efficient at speed, but starting up, and climbing, will be a lot of work. In stop-and-go traffic, and in hilly terrain, an HPV which is not so fast but is lightweight, will be a lot less work to ride.

Richard Ballantine
British Human Power Club

Background and development of HPVs (by Richard Ballantine)

The bicycle is a recent invention. In 1817, a German, Baron von Drais, created the first steerable two-wheel bicycle. In 1861, a Frenchman, Pierre Michaux, introduced a bicycle with pedals and cranks attached to the front wheel. By the 1870s, the majestic high wheel bicycle had emerged. And by 1885, with the landmark chain-drive, diamond-frame Rover Safety, the bicycle was in the form we know today.

Early on, there were plenty of experiments with recumbent designs. However, they were one-off machines which never saw commercial fruition. The performances which changed history came in the 1930s, when a Frenchman, Francis Faure, riding a recumbent cycle, the Velocar, designed by Charles Mochet, broke several speed records, including the hour record at 45.055 km (27.9 miles) on 7 July 1933. The response of the international governing body of cycle sport, the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI) was reactionary; in 1934 they changed the rules to specify that a UCI-legal bicycle could only be of the upright diamond-frame configuration, and stripped Faure of his record. This inhibited the development of recumbent cycles for several decades.

The modern era in HPVs had two seminal origins. The first was a design competition in 1967-69 conducted by David Gordon Wilson, sponsored by the British magazine Engineering. The competition sought designs for a ‘better bicycle’ with improved performance, greater load-carrying capacity, and increased weather protection. Although most entries were utilitarian in nature, the contest was the origin of a long wheelbase bicycle design which in 1979 evolved to become a production recumbent, the Avatar 2000. Modified with a full fairing and known as Bluebell, this machine later won the 200m sprint at the 1982 IHPVA Championships, and set a new world record speed for a bicycle.

The second seminal origin of the modern HPV movement was with Chester Kyle, a professor of mechanical engineering at California State University. Following the discovery that wind resistance accounted for over 80 per cent of the retarding force on a bicycle and rider at speeds above 20 mph, Kyle designed a full fairing for a bicycle. In 1974, Ron Skarin rode Kyle’s Teledyne Titan for a mile at 18.16 m/s (65.39 km/h, 40.63 mph), and 200m at 19.23 m/s (69.23 km/h, 43.02 mph).

In 1975, Chester Kyle and an aerodynamics consultant, Jack Lambie, founded the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA) to stimulate the development of land, water, and air vehicles. The first race took place on 5 April 1975, with a speed of 20.06 m/s (72.21 km/h, 44.87 mph) for the winner. Only 14 machines competed, but the human power movement never looked back.

There is something particularly fascinating and appealing about striving to find and develop a technological ‘edge’ for cycle performance. The human power movement attracted leading cycle designers and engineers, and plenty of extremely bright and able people. So while some early HPV designs were amateurish, many were genuinely advanced — and successful.

Human-powered flight became a reality. The flight of the human powered aircraft (HPA) Gossamer Albatross, pedalled by Bryan Allen, across the English Channel to scoop the £100,000 Kremer Prize, made news all over the world.

Human-powered marine vehicles are probably as old as humanity. However enthusiasts were always keen to improve speed and comfort over that of traditional rowed or paddled craft. Modern propellers and hydrofoils resulted in several breakthroughs and spectacular performances at regular human-powered boat races.

On land, speed records fell each year. The first consistently successful HPV was the Vector, a low-slung recumbent tricycle with a smooth body shell. It looked fast — and was. In 1980 it set a world speed record that stood for many years. By then, HPVs had spread across the Atlantic. The first major HPV races in Europe, the Aspro Clear Speed Trials, were held in Brighton, England, in 1980. The first European HPV organisation, the British Human Power Club, was formed in 1983. HPV organisations in the Netherlands, Germany, and other countries soon followed.

The growth of HPV groups around the world led, in 1998, to a restructuring of the IHPVA as an association of HPV organisations. The US-based IHPVA became the Human Powered Vehicle Association (HPVA) of North America, covering the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, due to conflicts regarding record keeping and copyrights of publications, the HPVA left the IHPVA in 2005. In 2008, the HPVA unilaterally renamed itself to IHPVA. To avoid the confusion of having two organisations with the same name, in 2009 the international IHPVA renamed itself to World Human Powered Vehicle Association (WHPVA).

WHPVA record attempts are administered and observed by a member organisation. Working with a nearby national group gives competitors direct and timely access to local knowledge and useful counsel. Competitors can communicate in their native language. Quite importantly, flexibility is enhanced. If plans for a record attempt change because of the weather, or because the rider has indigestion or another problem, re-scheduling is easier.

The WHPVA sanctions the annual Human Powered Vehicle World Championships (HPVWC). Nominally, organising a HPVWC is through a WHPVA member organisation, rotating to a different country each year. In practice, technical expertise and resources from several organisations will be employed to ensure a well-run and exciting event. Typically, a HPVWC will see hundreds of competitors and thousands of visitors. Often, the event will include large trade exhibitions with features such as try-out areas with a variety of HPVs for test rides, general (non-championship) events, and local area tours.

For many, the appeal of HPVs is being at the cutting edge of technology. At the levels of top records and championship wins, genuine expertise is required. Some years ago a top British vehicle design firm went to the annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge at Battle Mountain, Nevada, USA. They had funding in the hundreds of thousands, an impressive-looking machine, and the services of a champion sprint rider. They were not successful.

In contrast, a Slovakian rider and builder, Damjan Zabovnik, working with a shoestring budget, created a highly unusual machine (the rider lies on his or her back and moves head-first; to see where they are going, they use a mirror). There was a learning curve for such an usual arrangement, of course, but eventually Damjan set a 200m record, and for a while, held the hour record. One of the attractions of HPVs is that they are democratic: if you have good ideas, and are willing to work hard, you may be a winner, even a world champion!

With all the emphasis on setting record speeds and performance, it might seem as if HPV competition is a serious affair. Contests between top riders and machines at a championship can be hard-fought and utterly thrilling. But many competitors are anything but top-category riders. They race for fun, and hopefully to do better. Especially at the club and national level, there are races and events for all categories of riders.

And speed isn’t everything! For many enthusiasts, the appeal of HPVs lies in practical transport. HPVs are supreme green machines, the most efficient form of self-propelled transport on Earth, well-suited to commuting, especially over longer distances. HPVs embrace work and cargo cycles. As well as ably managing freight, groceries, and passengers, many of these machines are also fun to use for general transport.

The bicycle is often described as one of the most important inventions. HPVs are about making a good idea even better!

Richard Ballantine
British Human Power Club

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 May 2011 21:01