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Scientists from Liverpool Hope in bid to train world’s fastest human

ARION 1, Sports and Exercise Science Thursday 6 November 2014

Scientists from Liverpool Hope University are set to work with the University of Liverpool and John Moores University this week, by helping to select riders to take on the World Human Power Speed Challenge.

Dr Simon Marwood, Senior Lecturer in Physiology, and Dr Peter Angell, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science, will help to select and train the riders of the ARION1 velocipede - an entirely pedal-powered aerodynamic bike.

30 people applied to take on ten months of intensive training to reach the physical peak needed to ride the ARION1 Velocipede, which is being built by the University of Liverpool Velocipede Team (ULV Team). On the 5th and 6th of November, applicants from across the country will be tested for strength, stamina and endurance in special tests devised by Dr Marwood, Dr Angell and Patrick Harper, Lead Ergonomics Engineer with the ULV Team. 

When manufactured, the ARION1 Velocipede should be able to reach a top speed of 90mph and could generate enough power to light the average UK home. It weighs less than 25 kilos, is 98.4% efficient and will travel at almost double the current sprint cycling record. It will be 35 times more aerodynamic than a standard upright bicycle and the wheels will spin at over 1500 RPM.

The ULV team hopes to break the World Human Power Speed Challenge (WHPSC), held in Battle Mountain, Nevada in September 2015. The team will be the first university team from the United Kingdom to attempt the land speed record. They aim to smash the 83.13 mph record set in September 2013 by TU Delft and VU Amsterdam universities – but to do that they need the best possible riders.

To test their endurance, participants will undergo a ramp test, which will indicate the maximal minute power (average power during final minute of a ramp). However, Dr Marwood and Dr Angell are adding an extra element to the test.

Dr Marwood said: “Once the limit of tolerance is reached on the ramp, we will be asking the subjects to complete a three-minute bout of all-out exercise. Whilst we did not invent this test, we have extended its use to cyclists and are one of only two research groups in the world using it. It provides us with an estimate of critical power - a measure of the maximal sustainable power, and another key marker of endurance performance.”

Dr Marwood will also simulate the attempt using mathematical modelling, to determine the physical requirements to break the record.  From this, he will be able to predict what power – and where on the track – the rider needs to put in the maximum exertion. The aim is to formulate a strategy that sees the rider hit their peak at the point on the track where speed is measured for the record.

He added: “The speed is measured over a 200-metre section of the entire track, so we have been challenged with devising a pacing strategy that minimizes fatigue whilst maximizing speed at an exact point of measurement. This type of mathematical modelling has never been applied to a recumbent bicycle before, so we will be running extensive tests to determine how position impacts on power and speed.”

Dr Angell said: “We will combine the use of a normal, upright cycle and a recumbent bicycle during the training, gradually moving towards using the recumbent cycle more, until we're able to use the ARION 1 for parts of the training and testing. This is where the rider will begin to reach the record-breaking speeds required. We could potentially be training the fastest human on earth – to do that we need to help plan for every eventuality and ensure that the chosen athlete is at the optimum performance level."

The lecturers also hope to involve Liverpool Hope University students by allowing them to carry out their own research as part of the project.  

Patrick Harper, Lead Ergonomics Engineer with the ULV Team said: "There are some really talented sports men and women being tested on Wednesday and Thursday. I am looking forward to seeing the athletes being put through their paces by the sports scientists from Hope and JMU. After these tests we will be left with a difficult decision: who will ride our speed bike - the ARION1?"

Photograph: ARION1 velocipede c/o University of Liverpool Velocipede Team (ULV Team). 

Sports and Exercise Science at Liverpool Hope University

Sport Psychology at Liverpool Hope University


0137 Dr Simon Marwood Profile



  Dr Simon Marwood is a Senior Lecturer in Physiology. View his full profile.


Peter Angell Dr Peter Angell is a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Sciences. View his full profile.


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