In the summer of 1962, nine miles of the autobahn in Freiberg, Germany were closed for Frenchman Jose Meiffret to set a new cycling speed record. His bicycle was setup with a 130-tooth chainring (and 15t cog to equal 225 gear inches), equipped with wooden rims so they won’t overheat and weighed a hefty 44lbs (20 kg). A Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was to be in front of him to act as his windshield. They needed quite a sporty Mercedes because well, he had intentions of breaking 120mph and in the 1960’s, that was very fast even for a car.
A motorcycle helped him to get going on that gigantic gear. At 20mph, he struggled to keep his balance and his legs were barely moving. At around 40mph he was starting to get in some sort of stride. His job then was to stay glued to the windscreen of the back of the Mercedes. If he fell back more than a foot behind, the air turbulence would be the end of him.
Eventually, he somehow made it to 127mph, potentially faster than free fall in space. His legs were spinning at 3.1 revolutions per second and each second carried him 190 feet! Meiffret had survived his date with death. There’s a french documentary about it here if you’re interested (sorry no subtitles).
In his pocket, Meiffret carried a note:
In 1985, John Howard beat Meiffret’s record at a crazy 152mph. Then in 1995, Fred Rompelberg beat Howards record at a whopping 167mph and that remains the world cycling record.