Media Releases

Bicycle built by University of Toronto engineering students reaches 117 km/h

October 13, 2011

TORONTO, ON – The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Human-Pow­ered Vehi­cle Team placed third over­all at the 2011 World Human-Pow­ered Speed Chal­lenge, held in Bat­tle Moun­tain, Neva­da.

The com­pe­ti­tion took place from Sep­tem­ber 12 to 17 on a flat and almost per­fect­ly straight eight kilo­me­tre stretch of high­way in the Neva­da desert.

The U of T team had a top speed of 117 km/h, which was a per­son­al best for rac­er and PhD can­di­date Todd Reichert, who spent the last year cycling and speed skat­ing, work­ing with the Peak Cen­tre for Human Per­for­mance, in Ottawa. He now boasts the title of ninth fastest human of all time.

He was joined on the road by fel­low U of T rac­ers Vic­tor Ragusi­la, Tre­for Evans and Aidan Muller, who all reached speeds in excess of 97km/h through­out the week.

The bike, named Vor­tex, was con­struct­ed by a team that includ­ed both under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate engi­neer­ing stu­dents. The pri­ma­ry team mem­bers include Ragusi­la, Evans, Muller and Reichert, in addi­tion to Maris­sa Gold­smith, Kei­th Hui, Alfie Tham, Rose­mary Chiu and Vladislav Ter­novsky.

The project gives stu­dents a chance to get hands on expe­ri­ence in engi­neer­ing design as well as expos­ing them to lead­ing-edge con­struc­tion meth­ods with car­bon fibre and oth­er space-age mate­ri­als. To design a vehi­cle that can reach 117 km/hr on less than one horse­pow­er requires a nov­el design approach.

“With a car, you can always get it to go faster by putting in a big­ger engine,” says Reichert. “The start­ing point for a human-pow­ered vehi­cle is one of lim­it­ed resources in the form of a one horse­pow­er engine. If you want to go faster, you have to be smarter. It’s a design phi­los­o­phy that’s very impor­tant for today’s engi­neers.”

In addi­tion to being designed for top speed, the bike is capa­ble of car­ry­ing gro­ceries, nav­i­gat­ing tight turns and going over speed bumps. It was orig­i­nal­ly designed to race in the “Util­i­ty” class of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Mechan­i­cal Engi­neers Human-Pow­ered Vehi­cle Chal­lenge. The team scored first place out of a field of more than 30 uni­ver­si­ties in the 2011 Chal­lenge.

The team has already start­ed work on next year’s design, which they believe will be able to break the cur­rent land-speed record of 133.3 km/hr.

Video of U of T’s Vor­tex bike in com­pe­ti­tion is avail­able online at


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact: 

Aidan Muller
Chief Struc­tur­al Engi­neer
Tele­phone: 416–885-8063