Record-breaking cyclist aims for great outdoors

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The Independent Online

Bruce Bursford, the professional cyclist who set a new world static speed record of 208mph on his revolutionary new pushbike, will go for a dangerous double early next year when he attempts to cycle for real at 250mph on salt flats in Australia.

If he makes a successful transition from simulated rolling road to outside conditions Mr Bursford will break the previous record by almost 100mph. For this next trick he will be towed behind a Formula One racing car with a rear protective shell and released at 100 mph.

Yesterday a spokesman for the team admitted it would be highly dangerous if he were to come off the bike during the stunt at Lake Eyre, where Donald Campbell set his land-speed record of 403.1mph for four-wheeled vehicles in 1964. "He likes to go fast but that is an incredible speed when you think that most cyclists travel to work at about 12mph," Nick Lanmer said .

The team surrounding Mr Bursford - including the British racing car firm Lola - describe him as "driven man" and a "genius". In the saddle since he was eight, Mr Bursford, now 37 and a father of two girls, has worked for five years on the design of his 11lb bike - one-third of the weight of a mountain bike. It is made primarily of carbon cloth, the material used to built fighter planes. Mr Bursford, who has no formal design or engineering training, was in the bath when he made his first sketches for the cycle.

Mr Bursford has increased his thigh measurement by 10 inches to 33 inches in the last year in preparation for the record attempts. His body building comes courtesy of Cefyn Lloyd, trainer of boxer Herbie Hide. "He is capable of incredible bursts of energy," said Mr Lanmer. This week Mr Bursford took just 30 seconds to reach the record 208mph. "We call it Bruce force."

Mr Bursford's team says the bike has huge commercial possibilities. Mr Bursford is negotiating with his local council to set up a factory to assemble cycles for everyday use based on the Lola prototype. While the record breaking bike cost $100,000 (pounds 64,000) to produce, its lower performance relations would sell initially for pounds 10,000. Cheaper models would eventually come on line. "It's selling point is its very low weight and the fact that it can last for one hundred years," said Mr Lanmer. "Also, it can be taken apart and carried around.''

Mr Lanmer described the Lola as a "quantum leap" in bike design. "It is like fibre-glass replacing wood in the pole vault. Bruce has come up with a vertical wing design with a drag co-efficient of just 0.5 per cent. Anything better than that is a void."

The bike's carbon frame is four times stronger than steel, its metal parts are made from titanium and its bearings are ceramic, producing 30 per cent less friction. The tyres are filled with helium, it has a chainwheel 2 feet in diameter, a rear cog the size of a 50p piece, and it travels 150 feet for every turn of the pedals.