Welcome to the Plymouth University Handcycle Blog!


In September 2015 Plymouth University aimed to break the women’s handcycling world speed record. Watch the trip video below to see how we got on!

We’re aiming to return so if you want to get involved, contact us here, or for more info. click here.

Watch our 2015 trip video here!


Day 6 – The finale…

The last day. Waking up we were welcomed with great conditions, no clouds, no winds, perfect. Adam went for it heeding the lessons learnt in the previous runs and managed an awesome 30.45 MPH!!!!! In legal wind conditions!

In other news, Todd broke his own record AGAIN, with a epic 86.65mph!!

Next challenge: Getting the bike through customs part II….

Day 5 – Legal winds at last!

Adam’s second competitive appearance was not quite as quick as the previous day but still a respectable effort at 28.5 mph. Too high a cadence setting on the automatic gearshift and too much energy spent early in the run meant nothing left in the tank by the timing gates. Oh well, its a learning curve! The good news is that winds were low enough to be considered ‘legal’ so this was classified as a valid run!

Oh and Todd beat his own record going 86.5 mph on Friday evening!

Day 4 – New rider, new challenge…

With the injury concerns, Liz has decided not to continue riding Beluga and stick to her own recumbent (unfaired) handcycle, Red Lightning. A bit of a blow for Beluga’s record hopes.

And so to plan B…after a total of 5 minutes of handcycling experience Adam will start his competitive handcycling career at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge! With a few modifications to the rider position (does my bum look big in this?) Adam set a very respectable speed of 30.7 mph in is first run. Frustratingly the wind was just slightly too high to be classified as a valid run. But this has certainly proved the metal of Beluga. Well done Adam!!!

The main excitement of the day however was in the incredible effort by Canadian Todd Reichert from the Aerovelo team, smashing the world HPV speed record in his leg powered bike, ‘ETA’ at a speed of 85.7 mph. The local police force issued a speeding ticket in honour of his achievement!

Day 3 – Did you say this was a desert?

After the positives of yesterday, spirits were damped, quite literally, by an overnight rainstorm (in a desert?!). Too much standing water and mud so running is cancelled.

Oh well, here’s to tomorrow!

We did get to test in the afternoon and Liz has become concerned that the kneeling riding position in beluga might aggravate a shoulder injury that she sustained in an event just before leaving the UK.

Day 1 of the World Human Powered Speed Challenge

So here we are, Day 1 of the WHPSC. After our first night in the RV we made our first attempts on route 305.


First challenge: qualification. In order to compete further all bikes must complete a 2.5 mile qualifying run. To make use of the low winds and cooler temperatures the runs are held in the morning and evening. The first days runs contained highs and lows with Liz breaking the women’s handcycling speed record on her own competition bike, Red lightning (unfaired). Congratulations Liz!!

Liz unfortunately did not get on so well with Beluga – a cable tie was left attached to a brake lever and in the frantic nature of the first run it was unnoticed. This was certainly unwanted drag that we had not accounted for in our performance predictions! Oops.

Lesson number 1: the importance of pre-flight checks!

Very frustrating but there’s always tomorrow!

Welcome to Nevada!

After a grueling journey (you try getting a 2m long crate that looks like a fibreglass whale through airport security) we arrived in Battle Mountain, Nevada.  We spent the day on modifications to Beluga (as our handcycle had now become affectionately named), to try and get Liz’s riding position as comfortable as we could.

Our Sponsors…

Here’s to all the companies and sponsors that have helped us build the handcycle and get to the competition:

School of Marine Science and Engineering, Plymouth University – Have provided substantial funding and a huge number of technician’s hours without which the project would not have been possible. A huge thanks to all the technicians and staff that have contributed to the project. Learn more HERE

XMA – have generously funded all flights and transportation. XMA are a provider of IT equipment and software to Plymouth University and a huge range of other customers. In fact the handcycle was designed (using the latest computer aided design and simulation software) on high spec computers provided by XMA. Learn more about XMA HERE

Ipeco Composites – The complex design of the shell required the use of precise machining technology. Ipeco, with their extensive manufacturing capability allowed us to use their 5-axis CNC machine to shape the shell’s plugs. Their expertise in composite manufacture and design was invaluable and their input, efficiency and support has been critical to the success of the project. Learn more about Ipeco HERE

Certini Bicycle Co. – The handcycle provided many challenges in packing the drivetrain and finding the best ways to get the power down. Certini in Saltash, Cornwall kindly provided all of the bicycle components at cost price and their vast knowledge in cycling components and bicycle design proved instrumental in the innovative design of the handcycle. Learn more about Certini HERE

ACMC – The shell of the handcycle was made from a range of composite materials and manufacturing techniques. The Advanced Composites Manufacturing Centre based in Plymouth University was the main driving force in the manufacture of the handcycle’s shell aiding with the build as well as teaching the team and supporting the work throughout. Learn more about the ACMC HERE

DesignFlow – DesignFlow is an engineering design and computational fluid dynamics consultancy based in Plymouth University. They provided help and expertise in virtually all aspects of the handcycle design. Visit DesignFlow HERE

Baron Controls – The handcycle’s gearing is an automatic system enabling Liz to concentrate on getting the power down. The ProShift system, designed by baron controls has been designed for Liz taking into account her riding style, power output and the requirements of the course. Learn more about the pro shift system HERE

University of Lincoln – Liz’s local university in Lincoln has been of great help to the team in testing her abilities for use in the ProShift system. Lincoln, and their sports science knowledge and expertise have helped develop the race strategy and prepare Liz for the challenge. Learn more HERE

Sunrise – A donation from Sunrise has funded the composite materials used in the shell manufacture. Sunrise provide IT services for Plymouth University and have been supporters of the handcycle project. Find out more about Sunrise HERE

ICE Trikes – Experts in trike and HPV design and manufacture, based in Falmouth, Cornwall. Their expertise was invaluable and we only wish that we’d met them earlier in the project! They also kindly donated a range of specialist cycle parts such as tyres and chain guides. Visit ICE Trikes HERE

Cycle Power Meters.com – Cycle power have supplied the handcycle’s power meter at cost price this is used to log and optimise rider performance. It will provide invaluable data for future analysis and handcycle development. Learn more HERE