First over 55 mph!

Speed barriers broken

At the International Human Powered Speed Championships in Ontario, California, Many New Records Were Set, Including the Hour Mark which Has Stood for 40 Years

by Mark Wall
Bicycling, 1979, pg. 50

Human capability is expanding. This year three entrants in the International Human Powered Speed Chamionships (IHPSC) exceeded 55 mph, which is more than ten miles per hour faster than speeds achieved five years ago. These vehicles required no gasoline, make almost no noise in operation, and weight less than 100 pounds, yet they can go from zero to 55 mph in 60 seconds.

Honorary “speeding tickets” were given by the Califonia Highway Patrol to the three streamlined bicycles that exceeded the 55 mph speed limit.

Northrop University’s White Lightning opened the competition with a 55.85 mph sprint to win the $3,000 Abbott prize. Winners in last year’s championships, the White Lightning team agreed to wait until the 1979 contest before challenging the 55 mph barrier. For this reason they were offered the first crack at it. Had they failed the first run at the Abbott prise, the other competitors were ready to take the high speed award.

Allan Abbott currently holds the World Motorpaced Bicycling Record of 140 mph, which he set in 1972. Last year Abbott offered a prize of $2,500 to the first multiple-rider vehicle to exceed the current highway speed limit of 55 mph (or the first single-rider vehicle to exceed 54 mph). This year the prize was increased to $3,000. Abbott foresees a bright future for the IHPSC with “drastically refined” vehicles which will feature ever-faster times and more practical designs.


55mph barrier broken
55mph barrier broken