Plymouth's World Speed Record - how we did it!
  • Upper Lecture Theatre, Sherwell Centre, University of Plymouth

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Come along to hear how athlete Sarah Piercy and a team from University of Plymouth broke the world speed record for a Human Powered Vehicle under arm-power alone during a once in a lifetime trip to Nevada, USA in September.

This will also be your chance to find out how you might be able to get involved in future projects like this. And don’t think this is just something for mechanical engineers – people from all sorts of subject areas can help: business, media, electrical engineering, sports science, medicine, nutrition, physiotherapy, mathematics, computing, film and photography, and lots more!

The session will be jointly presented by the University of Plymouth Handcycle Team and the Royal Air Force who provided invaluable support for the project, both in transporting the handcycle to and from Nevada, and also providing a training facility for us in the UK.

The presentation will include footage of the handcycle record itself – along with many of the highs and lows that marked the long journey to this achievement. 

You will hear about:

  • how we got involved with handcycle racing
  • our paraplegic athletes and how they prepared for this challenge
  • how students have worked on the design of the handcycle over the last four years
  • some of the engineering science that went into designing and manufacturing the handcycle
  • how we raised the money to fund the project
  • the week of racing in Nevada that led up to the record breaking ride
  • how to get involved in future projects like this.

Squadron Leader Justin Blackie from the Royal Air Force will then talk about how and why they get involved in this type of challenge, the range of exciting engineering career opportunities within the RAF, and how you can find out more.

This presentation is open to all. Please contact Adam Kyte ( for further information.

About the Handcycle Challenge

During the week of 12-19 September 2016, cyclists from around the world gathered on State Route 305 outside of Battle Mountain, Nevada in a quest to break the human-powered land speed record. Organised by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA), this was the 17th consecutive year of competition at this site, home of one of the straightest, flattest and smoothest roads in the world.

This was the second year that University staff and students from the Faculty of Science and Engineering had participated in the competition and Sarah triumphed by powering the University-designed handcycle to a speed of 24.85mph – beating the previous record by just 0.1mph. 

Read the news release on our world record success

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