Building the world’s fastest bikes
By Srdjan Zivulovic
When streamlined bicycle designer Damjan Zabovnik brought me to the garage of his family home, in the Slovenian village of Skale close to Velenje, I thought there would be a hall or small workshop nearby where he could work on and test his masterpieces.
I was wrong. Damjan proudly opened the door leading to the garage, where a mid-sized car could hardly fit. Once inside, he patted his new bike and told me that it was ready for this year.
The garage was filled with bike-related parts, including various gear wheels, tools, his training bike and the bike itself. Damjan is used to facing challenges when building his 19 kilogram (41 pound) pearl among bikes, and had constructed this one from scratch. As usual, putting together the special transmission gear that he designed and manufactured himself in his father’s metalworking workshop was his major difficulty.
Damjan is both a bike designer and a cyclist. While studying the problems of mechanics and aerodynamics, he took a break, lay down on his practice bike and completed a training session. Immediately afterwards, he returned, with incredible ease, to his technical challenges: gear wheels, and the problem of power transmission to the rear wheel.
While on his bike, Damjan remained lying down and drove backwards. He could only see the track in the small rearview mirror fixed to the interior of his streamlined machine. Through his passion for these strange vehicles, this young man with a great heart has achieved his childhood dream, both in his small garage, and on tracks all over the world. He is the current low-altitude world record holder for the 200 meters (yards) flying start, having achieved an average speed of 107.2 kilometers per hour (67 mph) on the Dekra Test Oval in Germany.
He is the former record holder of the one-hour standing start, after covering over 87 km (54 miles) in just 60 minutes. In the past, he also set four European records over the distance of 200 meters with a flying start. Damjan wants to build on these achievements, and plans to set a new world speed record among exclusively human-powered vehicles.
The current record of 133.284 kph (82.82mph) seems to be unbeatable. Remember this number next time you are speeding on a highway at the pace of a young man in a bike just half a meter above the ground.
Damjan will compete at the Speed Record Competition for exclusively human-powered vehicles, due to be held for the 14th year in a row. It will take place between September 9 and 14 in the United States, close to the town of Battle Mountain, Nevada.
During the last few days, Damjan, impatient and excited, has been reassembling his bike and rechecking that everything functions as it should. He is wondering if the results will be as planned.
Going from his undersized workshop out into the world to set a new record – that is the dream of Damjan, a young man with a great heart.