June 20

June 20, 2004

The 2004 Race Across America started today. RAAM is a 2921.7 mile, coast-to-coast ultra marathon cycling race. First run in 1982, 2004 is the 23rd year of the race. For a week+, contending solo cyclists will pedal an average of 350 miles per day, while sleeping as little as 1 hour per night. Burning 8,000 to 10,000 or more calories per day, racers will have to contend with searing heat, frigid cold, gale-force winds, thunderstorms and sleep deprivation. For team riders, RAAM constitutes one of the most challenging competitions in cycling averaging 500+ miles a day. Two, four & eight person teams work to utilize each other’s strengths in completing this cross-country journey in record time.

I'm interested in following this because it very closely represents the kind of challenges I will face when I attempt the trans Canada speed record next summer. To give you a better idea of the magnitude of the kind of effort required to finish Raam, here is Pete Penseyres' 1986 solo RAAM statistics:

Day On Bike Time Mileage On Bike Ave Speed Actual Sleep
1 23:56:55 448.7 18.7 0
2 21:22:40 370.8 17.3 2:00
3 21:48:02 390.3 17.9 1:40
4 21:57:40 362.7 16.5 1:30
5 21:48:13 358.0 16.4 1:30
6 21:50:15 349.8 16.0 1:20
7 21:52:25 344.7 15.8 1:30
8 21:27:10 328.9 15.3 0:00

Here is a fantastic video about Raam. Take the time to check it out - it's only about 5 minutes and it dramatically portrays the kind of daily challenges a Raam rider and his crew must endure as they slowly make their way across almost 3000 miles of desert heat, mountain climbs, rain, wind... well - just watch the vid:

Raam Video

What makes this Raam race even more interesting and directly applicable to my project, is the HPV team. The teams lead rider is non other than Canadian Sam Whittingham - the current world HPV 200 meter speed record holder (81 mph!). They will be riding a Lightning R-84 recumbent bike with a 'body sock'. That's basically a hard nose cone with a spandex fairing that covers the rider. It's quite a bit less aerodynamic than a full hard shell fairing, but is very versatile for a long distance journey like Raam Some of the advantages of a soft fairing over a hard fairing are:

1. less weight than a hard fairing
2. less effected by a cross wind due to the flexibility of the material
3. Offers more ways to cool the rider

I still think there are ways to combine the benefits of BOTH approaches - the robustness of a body sock with the aerodynamic efficiency of a hard fairing.

The HPV team is trying to beat the all-time Raam team record of 5 days, 1 hour set in 1989 by an HPV team which rode the same R-84 Lightning recumbent bike with the spandex fairing.

Here is more info on the HPV Team

Click here for a progress report

Here is a map showing the daily progress of all Raam solo cyclists and teams



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