Mountain biker speeds into record books at 167km/h
Austrian downhill biker Max Stöckl has broken the world record speed for standard mountain bikes on gravel by riding at 167kph (103.7mph) in the Atacama Desert in Chile.
The V-Max project, sponsored by red Bull, saw the 42-year-old downhill rider charged down a 1200m slope in his mission to achieve the fastest speed on a standard mountain bike. He broke the record in near perfect speed conditions in December.
It’s not his first speed record, however. In 1009 he first scored a record speed on a bike on snow in in Les Arcs in 1999. Then he beat his mark of 187 kph in the Chilean Andes in 2007 with a speed of more than 210 kph.
His next aim was gravel. In 2011, he bombed down the volcanic cone of Cerro Negro in Nicaragua at 164.95 kph. The downhill biking expert reveals that straight after setting this world record, he started to think about the V-Max project, saying: “The run wasn’t fun enough – it wasn’t a real challenge. When I came back home from Nicaragua, I started right away to look for a new mountain to ride down. We found that in Chile.”
Max breaks speed record: The photos
One man with a special suit and a mountain bike
The Atacama Desert on South America’s Pacific Coast is one of the driest regions on earth. No plants thrive and instead there are boulders and stones as far as the eye can see.
This kind of inhospitable environment provided the ideal conditions for Max in his mission to go even faster. To quench his thirst for speed, he chose a standard mountain without a name, with a summit at 3,972 metres altitude, ideal wind resistance in the surroundings, a 45-degree slope at the start area and a 1200m course.
For safety, he had a special suit, an airbag – like those ski racers use – and a self-made helmet in two parts.
Talking about the record, Max says: “It’s important that it feels like an adventure. We are travelling to another continent, heading into the desert for countless hours, sleeping in tents under the mountain with a good bunch of guys – it all makes for so much excitement.
“Then as soon as the route feels safe, I ride right from the top. When you’re cycling above 160 km/h, each and every extra kilometre per hour requires an enormous effort. If you want to get an idea of the air resistance, you only have to stick your hand out of the car window when you’re driving at 150 or 160 km/h.
“This force has an impact on the bike and the entire body. Even though I’m no weakling, physically it is something that I have to contend with too.”
After completing eight test runs, Max broke the record. It took him 11 seconds and 650 metres to reach his top speed. Afterwards, he said: “We were working for two years to be on the mountain on this day. We had tears in our eyes even at the start. It was really emotional.
“It was so exhausting, even though the ride only lasted for 20 seconds. I just can’t express the feeling in words. Even if you know it is only going to be 10 or 15 km/h quicker than the last training run – standing up on the summit of the mountain, looking down and feeling the adrenaline was a very moving moment.
“Now I want to go home to see my family and see my daughter grow up.”
Starting on April 20 a documentary about the V-Max project is available on www.redbull.tv.