May 26

May 26, 2006

CriticalPower speedbike on the track in Eureka, CA

A high bandwidth version of this video is available here

The road trip to Eureka, CA was a blast! My good friend John Mackay kept me laughing for most of the 20 hour drive we did in two days.

We left Calgary on Saturday morning and made it all the way to Portland, Oregon that evening. It was an easy 6 hour drive the next day into Eureka, CA.

On Monday morning we headed out to Redwood Acres race track and I met with Diane who manages the track. I did about an hour on the track with the CriticalPower frame only (no streamliner shells), and it was far too windy to risk putting the shells on.

I was fairly pleased with the track. There is a small elevation change from one side of the track to the other, but I thing this can be almost completely eliminated by running a tape line around the track taking advantage of the sloped road to remove the elevation change. The pavement is in almost perfect condition - I think mostly because a paving company owns the track.

The wind was blowing at 30 kph by 11:00 am and I was being blown around quite a bit. The frame-only is more effected by the wind than the full streamliner shells are, so this was good practice trying to handle the bike in the gusty conditions. We were going to have to postpone the streamliner test until tomorrow.

I had booked the track for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday hoping to find at least one day where we could get some decent runs in without the wind or rain putting the damper on my tests. Diane was extremely accommodating and she offered me the use of the locked storage room near the track to store the streamliner and all my supplies while we waited for the weather to cooperate

John was in charge of mission control station in the back of the suburban. The communications two-way radio system worked great and he spent most of his time watching "ask a Ninja" video pod casts on his new 17" Mac Book pro.

Tuesday was pouring rain, so we got together with HPVA official and good friend Rob Hitchcock for a great hike around Trinidad Head and a 3 hour trek through Redwood National Park.

We met Al Krause at the track at 7:00 pm when the rain and wind was forecasted to stop and waited until about 8:00 pm in the pouring rain. The good news was that the winds had died to almost calm, so we made the decision to go for it. I climbed into CriticalPower and John fastened on the fairing shells and the canopy top and off I went. Because it was still raining, the canopy bubble immediately fogged up and I had to pull over. I did a couple of laps without the canopy top on while Rob and John found my motorcycle visor de-fogging solution and applied it to the PETG bubble. I stopped back again, we put the canopy top on, and off I went in the pouring rain.

From left to right: Greg (me), Rob Hitchcock, Al Krause

I was really happy to be running in the streamliner - it felt great! I was cruising around the track at about 110 watts and 42.73 kph (26.5 mph) which was disappointing because my speed should have been much faster than that. However, I knew the rain and wet track was slowing me down quite a bit - just how much, I didn't know.

The canopy windshield was getting very wet, but I could still see the track. The de-fogging solution was working great, except when I tested out my windshield lifter which actually had the opposite effect on de-fogging. For some reason, the air that was deflected back onto the inside of the front of my windshield was causing that small area to fog up. It was better without the canopy lifter.

The 45 to 50 kph speed going around the track felt a little fast for the semi-banked corners. Upon watching the video after, it's obvious that I am not really going all that fast for a race track, and my lean into the corners wasn't even perceptible However, it felt very fast inside the streamliner and I felt like I was really leaning into the corners. I think this is just a matter of getting used to the track. Al told me that Sam Whittingham crashed doing 96 kph (60 mph) going around a corner on that very same track in the Varna Diablo streamliner. Also, the 24 hour record previous to the current record was achieved on this track. There appears to be a history of faster streamliner trips around this oval, so I shouldn't be too concerned about going too fast for the corners.

Surprisingly, I didn't get very wet inside the streamliner at all. My legs were a bit wet from the spinning front disc wheel throwing water out to my legs, but other than that, I was completely dry as was the inside of the streamliner.

On Wednesday morning, John and I checked out of the hotel and headed directly to the track to take advantage of the windless and sunny conditions. I was able to put in a good 30 minutes in ideal conditions. My speeds were much better than in the rain. It seems to be about 2 kph faster than the old CriticalPower at 100 watts, and 4 kph faster than in the rain on the wet track.

It is very difficult to say exactly where the increase in efficiency is coming from - better rolling resistance, better aerodynamics or some combination of both. Since the Eureka track is banked and more corners than Alabama, I am probably seeing a slight increase in Crr (rolling resistance) due to fighting the centrifugal force when cornering, the slope of the track on the tires (both straight sections and corners), and losses cause from almost constantly turning the front wheel. On the other hand, my new clincher tires feature better rolling resistance than the narrow high pressure tubulars I used in Alabama. My newly painted fairing shells have GOT to be more aerodynamic than my old one, and my new longer canopy top and rear wheel fairing are both way better than what I had before. Considering EQUAL Crr (rolling resistance), then here is how both the new versions of CriticalPower and the old Alabama record attempt version work out as far as power and speed goes:

Vehicle Power (watts) Speed (kph) Crr (roll resist) CdA (aero drag) Speed at 120 watts Speed at 150 watts
NEW at Eureka track 108 47.64 .0050 .28 50.5 kph 57.1 kph
OLD at Alabama track 133.8 52.3 .0050 .31 49 kph 55.4 kph

I would really love to see how fast CriticalPower would be on a FLAT and straight and long track like the Alabama Pavetrack.

I am feeling confident that I can set a new 24 hour human powered distance record on the track in Eureka. As you may recall, I was forced to quit at 20 hours, 20 minutes in Alabama due to a broken steering arm that was weakened by so many crashes which were caused by random chain derailments. I had travelled 828.4 km with over 3 hours of down time due to the unplanned stops. My average watts for the 20 hours was around 120, and in training prior to the Alabama attempt I had averaged 120 watts for a 15 hour training ride. 120 watts doesn't sound like much, but I need to point out that it includes 0's for coasting and resting. Also, my watts output is lower in the recumbent position compared to a road bike. I average around 200 watts for a 5 hour Ironman road bike race.

Using the John Tetz's PDG calculator and 120 watts of average power, if I took a total of 2 hours worth of pit stop breaks over the 24 hour period, I could still average 50 kph with a total of over 1100 km travelled. The current 24 hour distance record stands at 1021.44 km.

Playing a pessimistic 'what if' game, what if I find that averaging over 50 kph on that short oval track is too fast? I really don't think it is too fast, but what if I just can't get used to the speed for some reason - perhaps the wind picks up and I am forced to slow down. Or perhaps it starts raining, or my window fogs up and I can't see properly. Let's say my ending averaging is only 100 watts which would result in an average speed of 45.5 kph. Over 22 hours of actual riding time, that would work out to a total distance of 1001 km which would be about 21 km short of a new record. If I could limit my planned stops to only 1 hour, 100 watts of average power over 23 hours would work out to 1046.5 km which would be a new record.

If I do set a new 24 hour distance record in Eureka, I really feel that it will be far below what is potentially possible. Let's play a new what-if game and use some really ideal circumstances:

1. A super long and smooth and level oval track like Alabama pave-track possibly, but with better asphalt smoothness and without the 20 foot elevation change. I'm not sure a track like this exists anywhere in the world to be honest. If it does, it is probably a car company test track that is closed to the public (like the Nissan proving grounds). Perhaps a long and flat 10 to 20 km stretch of closed highway somewhere with a route to loop around and return at both ends. If the straight stretch was long enough, then a reduction in speed to negotiate a tight turn-around at both ends would probably be minimal. A 20 km straight road at 50 kph would require only 2 to 3 turn arounds in one hour. According to HPVA rules and obvious safety precautions, the road would have to be closed to other traffic.

2. I think my ultra endurance watts average could be as high as 150 watts with perhaps another year of training under my belt.

3. On a long, flat, smooth road, I feel that the total rolling resistance could be substantially lower due to not having to turn nearly as many corners and fight the centrifugal force rounding the corners. I would think that with a CdA of .28 then a Crr of .0048 would be possible on a straight and flat course.

150 watts for 23 hours total at CdA of .28 and Crr of .0048 would work out to 57.8 kph and 1329 km.

As long as we are playing the what-if game, I believe the total CdA of CriticalPower could be lowered to something like .23 (sq ft) if I could figure out a way to safely steer and balance and navigate without the canopy bubble. Back to the camera bike concept (see the video here)- or something like that. That would be an average of 61 kph at 150 watts and 1400 km in 23 hours.

Is 1000 miles possible (1600 km)? What would it take? It would take a whopping average power output of 183 watts in a Varna diablo which has a CdA of .21 ! The Varna was certainly not designed for a 24 hour endurance event and to average 183 watts in a 24 hour period would be pretty tough.

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