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Extreme cyclist looks to science in speed record bid

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 02:51

April 17 - French downhill cyclist Eric Barone says aerodynamics will be key to the success of his next attempt at breaking his own world cycling speed record. Last week, Barone tried but failed to break his record of more than 220 kmh (118 mph) on a bicycle on the slopes of the Les Arcs ski resort in the Alps, but says he is not deterred and will soon try again. Jim Drury has the story.

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Extreme cyclist Eric Barone attempts to break his own high-speed world snow cycling record. UPSOT: SOUND OF BARONE'S BIKE POWERING THROUGH SNOW The conditions were ideal and the Frenchman was confident as he sped down the mountain. Barone had worked with a team of technicians to give himself the best chance of success. They created a skin-tight outfit consisting of two layers, one made of Mylar, a stretched polyester resin. Mylar can withstand high tension, helping reduce the effects of drag force. It also helps minimise the risk of suffering severe skin burns in the event of a high-speed fall. Barone knows all about falls. A decade ago he was thrown from a bike travelling at 170 kilometres an hour during a record bid in Nicaragua. His helmet saved his life, so this time round Barone took no chances, wearing not one, but two items of headgear. Over a conventional helmet he wore a protecter made of fibreglass and kevlar and sculpted from a plaster cast. This helped to further reduce drag. Blocks of foam, shaped by technicians, were attached to his limbs to make him more aerodynamic. Barone has held the world snow speed record since 2000 when he cycled at more than 222 kilometres per hour. Now aged 52 he's just come out of a decade away from high-speed cycling. But why? SOUNDBITE) (French) CYCLIST ERIC BARONE SAYING: "The aim is above all to satisfy a desire, a desire to get back on a bike and to go at high speeds again, with two objectives. Firstly to break a record held by an Austrian for a speed of 210 km/h on a standard bike on snow, and with this standard bike which we're going to adapt I'm going to try to beat my record of 222.22 km/h which I set twelve years ago. " Preparations for the record bid were intense. Baron spent four days testing his outfit and the bike in a wind tunnel in St Cyr. Simulating the 76 percent incline Barone would encounter at the top of the slope in Les Arcs, technicians calculated his effective frontal surface area during the descent. SOUNDBITE (French) TECHNICIAN SAYING: "After 900 metres he'll be going at 212 kilometres an hour on the slopes of Les Arcs, with a drag coefficient of 0.276." April 10 was the day he'd been waiting for. He was dropped on to the mountaintop by helicopter before making his bid for history. UPSOT: SOUND OF BARONE'S BIKE POWERING THROUGH SNOW As it turned out, the scientific assistance was not enough. Barone failed in his mission. But he wasn't downhearted. UPSOT: BARONE AND SUPPORTERS LAUGHING Armed with his new technical toolkit Barone believes he'll break the record soon. Then he can finally ride off to a well-earned retirement. Jim Drury, Reuters

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Extreme cyclist looks to science in speed record bid

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 02:51