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Harper Adams University helps break men’s cycling land speed world record

Posted 29 August

A new men’s cycling land speed world record was set in August 2019 – with a little help from Harper Adams University.

British cyclist Neil Campbell reached 174.3mph at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire on Saturday, August 17 despite adverse weather conditions.

To achieve the record-breaking speed, Neil’s bike was tethered via bungee to a hybrid Porsche Cayenne, built to regular customer standards, which pulled him up to speed before he disconnected the tether and began to pedal. He was protected by an aerodynamic ‘slipstreaming’ shelter designed by Harper Adams University lecturer and aerodynamics engineer, James Croxford. Harper alumnus James also contributed state-of-the-art digital wind tunnel software that made Neil’s slipstreaming canopy possible.

On creating the shelter design, James Croxford said: “We got some 3D models of the car from Porsche before developing different shaped shelters and running the whole thing through the virtual wind tunnel. It had to be small enough not to affect the top speed of the car but large enough to flick the air around the cyclist.”

Following a disappointing test run the day before the world record attempt, Neil let the team know that some changes were needed before they tried again and so the shelter underwent some last minute redesigns under James’s watchful eye aided by the invaluable simulation software. When the time came to attempt to break the world record, the wind was unpredictable but, after discussions the James, Neil and the team decided to go ahead.

Neil said: “After discussions with James Croxford, the aerodynamics engineer from Harper Adams University, there was a theory that it wouldn’t get any worse if we went faster, so really it was a leap of faith.”

James agreed: “The redesign, made possible by key software simulations, took the shelter from being unstable to being really effective. In fact, the faster Neil went the more stable it was.”

Neil and his crew are now targeting the all-time world record of 220mph in 2020 using the same bike. The team may need to move to a larger location and are raising awareness using the hashtag 220in2020. Lecturer James is planning to hand some of his part in the race for 220mph to next year’s Harper Adams engineering students as a final year group project.

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