Denise Mueller Sets Guinness World Book Record as the Fastest Paced Woman on a Bicycle
Big things happened at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah this weekend, when the Project Speed Team powered by Cylance and cyclist Denise Mueller, set a Guinness World Book Record as the Fastest Paced Woman on a Bicycle. At the time of this writing, Denise has already set a record run of 147.75 mph, with more runs ahead of her!
Watch the record-setting run here at on the Team Fire Cycle page at Facebook.
Denise, a self-acclaimed "adrenaline junkie," has been coached by three-time Olympian and member of the US Cycling Hall of Fame, John Howard, who set a record of 152 mph in 1985, riding behind a dragster car at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The current record is 167 mph, set by Fred Rompleberg of the Netherlands in 1995. In three separate centuries, fewer than a dozen people have set a bicycle land speed record, and this is the first attempt to ever be made by a woman.
Denise is paced by driver Shea Holbrook, who is already no stranger to high speeds. A long-time friend of AskPatty, Shea races regularly in the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Championships, and most recently took fourth place in the IHRA Nitro Jam Jet Drag Racing Class, piloting her jet car to speeds above 275 mph.
"The severity of risk involved is very, very high," says Shea. "Everything I've been taught is supposed to be fast-paced, fast movement, step on the gas and go, and everything I am going to have to do for Denise is the exact opposite."
Both women love to go fast, dream big, and tackle the seemingly impossible. It's a very trusting relationship between these two women: Denise and Shea must carefully communicate during their four-mile run using head signals and blinkers to help Denise achieve her goal to break the men’s record of 167 mph. Shea explains, "It's so important for us to be on the same wavelength: Denise is doing the unthinkable, and I'm responsible for her safety during the runs." According to Denise, "it took a couple of runs for the us to get synced up and learn how to read each other's cues, but we've finally gotten into each other's heads."
What Did it Take For Denise Mueller to Set the Guinness World Book Record as the Fastest Paced Woman on a Bicycle?
In the Paced Bicycle event, the cyclist starts the attempt by drafting behind a pace car that's been modified slightly with a tail fairing to keep the wind off the cyclist while riding behind it. The fairing behind the vehicle helps create a Von Karman effect that protects her from the buffeting effects of the air in front of the vehicle and also creates a slight pushing effect from the vortex behind her. The driver must first tow the cyclist to a speed of about 90 mph, when she is then released from the vehicle to peddle under her own power to reach record-breaking speeds.
The trick, however, is for the pace car driver to accelerate smoothly enough to allow the cyclist to remain safely within the vortex. Accelerate too quickly, and cyclist will fall out of the vortex; at speeds between 100 and 130 mph this will end the run, but if the cyclist falls out of the draft at speeds of 140 mph the buffeting effects of the air can actually knock the rider off her bike. Accelerate too slowly, and the cyclist will bump into the pace car -- which can be extremely dangerous at speeds above 100 mph. The official distance for the timing run is about four miles: It takes about two miles to reach the release speed, then about another two miles to get up to record speeds under the rider's own power. According to Denise, "It takes approximately 25 seconds to go one mile to get to my target speed of 140 mph!"
Denise has been preparing for this weekend's record attempts for four years with a variety of training exercises: In addition to physical strength and endurance training on streets and velodromes, Denise has also utilized hypnotherapy and neurofeedback to mentally prepare for the event. The pair's first test run ended at about 125 mph, when Denise fell out of the vortex. Nonetheless, the pair were giddy after the first attempts, with Denise describing it as "Magical, exactly as I had visualized it. I physically accomplished what I had already done hundreds of times mentally."
Over the weekend, the Range Rover had to take an unexpected spa day at a local Salt Lake City Land Rover dealership to repair electronic sensors that were being affected by salt contamination kicked up from the runs. The dealership opened up on Sunday just for the #ProjectSpeed team to address the issue, resetting the sensor codes and completely cleaning the vehicle of salt dust, preparing the vehicle for additional runs early Monday morning.
The bicycle Denise rode for this weekend's record was sponsored by KHS Bicycles and custom designed and fabricated out of carbon fiber by Len Lochmiller in conjunction with SD Wheelworks in San Diego. It features 17-inch high-speed-rated motorcycle wheels and tires to help reduce the center of gravity. The frame is elongated for stability and utilizes a short travel suspension to dampen high-speed vibration and has been fitted with a steering stabilizer to eliminate wobble at high speeds. The double-reduction gearing and drivetrain is custom made by Todd Schusterman of DaVinci Designs to allow Denise to pedal the bicycle at a rpm that allows her to provide the necessary power to achieve her goal of 168 mph.
The pace car is a 2016 Range Rover SVR, donated by Jaguar Land Rover of Carlsbad, modified by Hoehn Motors, and powered by Cylance. Under its hood is a stock 550-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 engine capable of pushing the utility vehicle from zero to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds and a top speed that's electronically limited to 175 mph. The vehicle itself has received very few modifications, only what's required to make it able to safely help Denise reach her record speeds, and includes gutting the interior to add the roll cage, adding a front air dam and side and rear air skirts, and rerouting the exhaust to the sides of the vehicle instead of out the rear. For additional safety, the Range Rover is also equipped with a Life Line Zero 2000 fire suppression system.
For her personal safety, Denise wears a Troy Lee Designs helmet and a protective leather and Lycra riding suit by Primal Wear, Inc., as well as goggles and glasses by Ryders Eyewear.
A Record-Setting Mindset
Denise hopes her journey will be an inspiration to other woman and men to follow their dreams no matter what life path they have traveled. "There is a fine line between living as if this is your last day on earth, and planning for your future. I choose to dance, sing and play on that fine line and live without regrets," says Denise.
Keep your eyes peeled at Team Fire Cycle to see what else happens!