General Question

andrew's avatar

What's the fastest, human-powered way to travel 1000 M on a flat surface?

Asked by andrew (15771 points ) February 14th, 2010

I was thinking about this as I watched speed skating last night and looked at their splits—and how significantly faster the times are than, say, running.

What’s the fastest method of human-powered travel? Cycling? Speed skating? (This is ignoring things like luge or downhill skiing, where gravity plays such a large factor).

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14 Answers

ucme's avatar

Usain Bolt with dynamite stuck up his ass? That’s got to come pretty damn close to being unbeatable.

Harp's avatar

Looks like it’s probably a recumbent bicycle. The current record for cycling speed on a flat surface, unshielded from the wind, was set in 2009 by a recumbent bike that clocked 133.28 km/hr. (source)

The 500m speed record on skates is “only” 51.84 km/hr. (source)

dpworkin's avatar

And here I always thought it had been a fart-propelled Radio Flyer™

Sarcasm's avatar

Let me introduce you to my friend Fred. I think he’s got the method you’re looking for.

gasman's avatar

I agree with Harp that BICYCLES are probably fastest over 1 km. An article in Scientific American many years ago showed how bicycles are the most energy-efficient mode of transportation.

njnyjobs's avatar

The bicycles may be human-powered but they are actually mechanically enhanced by gears, so really there is no comparison between biking and skating or running.

gasman's avatar

Skating enhances the human body with sharp steel blades under the feet and aerodynamic suits. Where do you draw the line on technology? In both cycling and skating, however, kinetic energy is derived from muscles only.

andrew's avatar

@njnyjobs That’s actually a good point. I wonder if that recumbant record is made with only one gear? 5 seconds, I can’t imagine you’d have time to shift.

njnyjobs's avatar

@gasman additionally, a biker’s feet doesn’t even touch the ground, so I say it’s a no contest.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Iceboat. This probably fails your exclusion clause, but… it wasn’t specifically excluded. And if we can include bicycles, well… why not?

From Wikipedia:
The stern-steerer Debutaunte, recently rebuilt, was timed over a measured mile at 124 knots (230 km/h; 143 mph) on the ice of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin in 1938.

gasman's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Iceboats are powered by wind.

AstroChuck's avatar

Operating a bicycle through a vacuum should give you the best results.

rovdog's avatar

I think we have to qualify the friction of the surface as well if we are going to discount gravity- even the medium. Bicycles wouldn’t be much use on ice, skates wouldn’t be much use on land.

grumpyfish's avatar

@AstroChuck The air tanks will weigh you down!

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