In September 2015, a team of undergraduates from Liverpool University attempted to break the world land speed record for the fastest human-powered vehicle. Ken Buckley from the Rathbones-sponsored team broke the British record reaching 75.6mph. The team are now setting their sights on the world record in Nevada this September and Rathbones is proud to be supporting them once again in their endeavour.

The University of Liverpool Velocipede (ULV) Team was formed in September 2013. As the third year Mechanical Engineering students were deciding what to do for their two-year degree project, a team of Dutch university students from Delft and Amsterdam set a new world record for a human-powered vehicle at 83.13 miles per hour. The challenge was on.

In reality the initial eight-man team had no expectations of ever reaching Nevada. The project was theoretical and only computer models would test the aerodynamics of the design. But enthusiasm and determination took them a lot further than they expected.

Now the next wave of third year students are taking what they have learnt from ARION1 to build an even better bike. The shell structure, steering mechanism and wheel placement are just a few of the improvements the team is focusing on with the ultimate aim to break even more records this year. And this is not even to mention the work that is going in to the training and coaching of the riders themselves. The team comprises fifteen engineering students, two sports scientists from Liverpool’s Hope University and four  cyclists, two male and two female.

ARION2 team

Setting a world record

The record is governed by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA), which holds the World Human Powered Speed Challenge each September in Battle Mountain, Nevada. This is the location of the world’s flattest and smoothest road, Route 305, which even though it is a public highway it is treated before the event to make it even smoother.

For seven days, the road is closed morning and evening for just 20 minutes while the teams use the five-mile run-up to build up speed for the flagship event, the 200-metre flying start speed trial. Unusually for a land speed record, it isn’t necessary to compete in both directions to cancel out wind speed (although it must be below 3.7mph for any record to count). For this reason, all the teams compete in the direction of the slope, although it’s only 1° for the whole five miles.

Making it happen – Rathbones’ sponsorship

We are delighted to be the principal sponsor of the University of Liverpool Velocipede Team for the ARION1 and the new ARION2. Liverpool is Rathbones’ home city and the Rathbone family was closely involved with the foundation of the university, eventually donating the family’s house, Greenbank, to serve as student accommodation.

The ARION project embodies several elements that are important to us. It extends the support for young people that we give through our financial awareness programme, English Lacrosse and Lacrosse Scotland, and the Chalke Valley History Festival for Schools.

Participants in the World Human Powered Speed Challenge are also at the cutting edge of engineering and materials technology, looking forward to a zero emissions, environmentally-friendly future.

The ARION project is a triumph of British education, industry and sport. As investment managers, we seek to invest in future technology and it is therefore a privilege for us to make possible the team’s world record attempt.

For more information visit the ULV team's website.