Sunday, October 6, 2019

Personal best and oh-so-close at Battle Mountain

My thanks to Prof. Jun Nogami of the University of Toronto Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering , adviser to its HPV team and head timer at the Battle Mountain event for allowing me to use photos and some information for this report from his blog, “Biking in a Big City.” To see his extensive reporting on and photos of the event, go to
There’s also a report there by Evan Bennewies, who was the back half of the University of Toronto’s Titan, which set a tandem record.

By Mike Eliasohn

The 20th annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge outside of Battle Mountain, Nev., held Sept. 8-14, drew a record number of entrants, with 17 vehicles, and 29 riders, compared to 13 vehicles and 20 riders last year.
Among them were Mike Mowett of Detroit, who shared (not at the same time) his Velox X-S streamliner with Ishtey Amminger of Memphis, Tenn., who has competed at the Michigan HPV Rally every year since 2015.

Ishtey Amminger in the Velox X-S gets closer to the junior record on this 63.7 mph run.

Mike bought the streamliner, constructed by Hans van Vugt of the Netherlands, in January 2018 from Garrie Hill of Granville, Ohio. Since then came many changes, improvements and modifications, which continued at the event. Peter Amminger (Ishtey's father) and Mike worked on average about six hours a day on the Velox – in between and after the two sessions of races in the morning and evening.  Mike said the amount of work, little sleep, and the long 2,000 mile drive to get to Battle Mountain in two days really sapped his energy from racing during the week.

The Velox X-S team consisted of, from left, brothers Willam and Ishtey Amminger, their father, Peter Amminger, and Mike Mowett.

Competitors have a 5-mile run-up on State Road 305 before entering the 200-meter timing zone. The elevation is 4,619 feet, so the resulting thin air reduces air resistance.
Mike’s goal, after competing at Battle Mountain three previous times, was to finally go 60 mph. He made four runs, finally hitting 60.53 mph on Saturday morning and earning a 60 mph hat.
Ishtey’s goal was to exceed the junior men’s (age 15-17) record of 65.93 mph/106.10kph, set by Florian Kowalik of Deerfield, Ill. (a past Michigan HPV Rally competitor) at Battle Mountain in 2016, riding the same Velox X-S (then owned by Garrie).
Ishtey made 11 runs during the week and exceeded Florian’s record on Friday evening at 66.67 mph and Saturday evening at 66.6 mph. but both were classified as wind "non-legal', so were not official. (Under International HPV Association rules, to be legal, the wind cannot exceed 6 kph/[1.67] meters per second in any direction.) And he’s 17, his last year of eligibility for the junior record.

Mike Mowett made one run without the top half of the fairing, which gives an idea of the interior layout. He and Ishtey are both about 5’10”, so both could ride the Velox X-S without seat or crank adjustments.

Incidentally, the fastest the Velox X-S has gone is 70.27 mph, piloted by Ellen van Vugt (Hans’ wife) at Battle Mountain in 2012.
That leads to the question, if the X-S “peaked” in 2012, why did Mike and Peter have to do so much work to prepare the bike for Battle Mountain this year. Here’s Mike’s much abbreviated (and edited) answer: When Ellen rode the Velox X-S, it was set up very well by Hans. Then it was stripped apart and sold to Garrie in 2013, with just basically then body, no wheels, no drivetrain and no seat.
Garrie requested it that way from Hans, so he could just get it cheap, and Garrie had this plan to change the bike from a rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive with twisting chain.

Mike Mowett is inside, pedaling furiously, during this qualifying run.

Garrie did start making parts for the Velo X-S, but he got behind in his plans and Florian really wanted to ride it for the junior record. In 2016, as it was Florian’s last year as a Junior.
Garrie started putting the X-S back together as it was originally designed. Garrie had to cut and narrow the front and rear wheel. Unbeknownst to him, both of these wheels had major issues not discovered until this year by Pete, Hans and I. Hans pounded the heck out of Garrie’s wheel to shift it about 5 mm sideways to take care of the high speed shake we were having.
Garrie built a seat which put pur heads too high, wedged against the top to the point of being unsafe to ride. After I talked with Garrie he quickly sent me another seat with a more lower and laidback design that solved this.
Fran Kowalik (Florian’s father) and others at Battle Mountain made a huge effort in a very short time to get something together for Florian to make those runs and set the record in 2016. It was all cobbled together and only like four gears worked, when nine gears should have worked. 
All that got torn out and I started over in July and had something working after trying six different derailleurs, then grinding a derailleur, the body and the derailleur mount to finally get one derailleur to shift across 10 of 11 gears. At Battle Mountain we had to manually put the chain on the 11th gear (the lowest and easiest gear) before we started. This worked.
Beyond that, Pete and I, along with Hans, added a front wheel shroud that Hans originally designed, and his lower rolling resistance tires. BUT the biggest thing the bike still lacked was a set of $500 each super low rolling resistance Michelin radial tires that Ellen probably used to go 70 mph back in 2012.

There was one other competitor from Michigan, Andrew Sourk of Detroit in his homebuilt Triage three-wheeler (above).

After first competing with his machine in 2016 and completing only one run at 18.6 mph, Andrew made many improvements, his goal this year being to make it to the end of the course. He succeeded in one of three runs, reaching a speed of 28.72 mph. 
On the following run, his wheels developed an oscillation, which caused him to crash in the speed trap.  He finished the run by carrying his vehicle across the finish line. Jun Nogami reported Andrew "knows now that his trike has a tendency to shake itself to pieces around 30 mph," so hopefully he will keep working to improve it. 

Andrew Sourk (left) of Detroit, with his father, who helped him during the Speed Challenge, at the awards banquet.

During the week, three riders exceeded the women’s record of 75.69 mph, set by Barbara Buatois of France in 2010. Coming out on top, on Friday evening, was Ilona Peltier at 78.61 mph in Altair 6 from the Annecy University Institute of Technology in Annecy, France.

Mike Mowett, wearing his 60 mph hat and the 2019 World Human Powered Speed Challenge T-shirt (artwork by C. Michael Lewis).

Here’s some of Mike’s comments after he got home to Detroit, emailed to Mike Eliasohn:
Basically after the 2,000 mile drive for me and 1,800 miles for The Ammingers, Pete (Ishtey’s dad) and I spent the next six days and nights working on the Velo X-S. All told I think our days ran from about 6:30 a.m. wakeup to get out to the course until up to about 2:30 a.m. the next day, still working on the bike.
From the time we arrived, the Velo X-S got new tires (donated to us by Hans van Vugt), a front wheel alignment, also by Hans as he knows the bike so well, having built it. This he did with a hammer and screwdriver.
Side note: it took me four hours and having to cut off a tire to change it because our high performance tires were not compatible with the rear wheel rim. We added a speedometer, GPS, video camera, walkie talkie radio with headphones and push-to- talk button.
We added front wheel enclosure for improved aerodynamics, along with taping wheel openings closed with a flexible skirt made of neoprene. We visited the local NAPA, CarQuest and hardware store for fasteners, Bondo, paint, tape etc.
A big problem we had to overcome during the week was having our toes and heels hitting within the fairing. Pete brilliantly moved our cleats around well outside the normal for a cycling shoe by drilling new holes in the bottom of the shoes, Then finally we had to cut off the toes on my shoes.
Later in the week, on Friday, we upgraded the gearing, making it about 20 percent higher for more speed and that helped Ishtey and I go our fastest speeds.
Examples of the behind the scenes helpfulness and borrowing of parts: . Hans set this “deal” up. I got tires from Hans and he got one of the special $500 Michelin tires from the Italians and Ellen went her fastest ever 72 mph and was very very pleased. The team of the second fastest woman, from Italy, borrowed a 12 tooth gear cog off my cross bike to allow her to go that fast.

Ishtey Amminger during the awards banquet.  He's 17, so we will assume what's in the bottle is non-alcoholic.

And here’s Peter Amminger’s report:
With Battle Mountain 2019, I think frustrating is the best summary I can offer.. Given the immense effort and sacrifice expended toward reaching a goal, and then not quite delivering, can be nothing, but frustration.
Even though Ishtey on numerous occasions reach above records speeds, and raced in every a.m. and p.m. session throughout the week, the goal was just not to be had; whether because of divine intervention or merely bad luck.
It is especially irksome that on at least two of his fastest runs he had by the end of the week, there was “legal” wind for the racers running in front and behind Ishtey .....what else can I say?
I guess I shouldn't be so hard on our efforts; it is rather remarkable that given the multiple modifications and untested state of the bike by Waterford 2019 (Aug. 10-11) and upon reaching Battle Mountain, and the real lack of seat time anyone had in the bike by the start, we had a over 95 percent launch success rate; no race “scratches,” no crashes; had 100 percent successful runs at each and every a.m. and p.m. racing session during the entire week; and finally that routinely we saw speeds up to 96 percent of what this bike ever achieved in its prime.
In fact during one of Ishtey's runs, the session was so windy that the officials initially wanted to, but could only technically recommend it be cancelled. A few brave ones, including Ishtey went on to race; here the little junior achieved by far the fastest run at 58 mph in that pm race session, over some of the adult heavy hitters also competing. Ishtey was literally being blown from one side of the road way to the other while going down the track; it was terrifying for me to watch from the following chase vehicle!
If nothing else, the racer, the team exhibited an extraordinary degree of determination, but alas the record was just not to be had: only the bitter fruit of frustration....
Just to clarify, by the time you include the short drive to and from getting Ishtey's brother Will back to school, our travels this year exceeded 2,000 miles each way to Battle Mountain.
This was by far the best year with respect to the drive, as Ishtey and Will together did at least half the driving combined, while I peacefully slept and rested, exhausted from my expenditure of energy during the week. We got home by 6 a.m. Monday morning, just in time for Ishtey to make his first class of the week.

Our friends at the University of Toronto weren't at this year's Michigan HPV Rally (after nine straight years) because they were busy creating the Titan tandem.  They arrived at Battle Mountain on the Wednesday prior to the start of the World Human Powered Speed Challenge with a lot of work to do yet, didn't get it running on its wheels until Saturday and made their first complete run on the course on Wednesday.  But their efforts succeeded.  On Friday evening, they set then tandem men's record at 74.73 mph, breaking the old mark set in 2012 of 73.08 mph. Calvin Moes (fourth from left) was the pilot; the stoker (facing backward) was Evan Bennewies (fifth from left).  At left is faculty team adviser Jun Nogami. (Thank you Jun for use of the photos and information from your blog.)

All the speeds recorded during the week and other information can be seen at, then at the upper right, click on "WHPSC."  
The 2020 World Human Powered Speed Challenge will be Sept. 13-19 at Battle Mountain.

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