Many of us have done it as children – as we pored over the latest edition of the Guinness Book of Records or 'world’s strangest facts' – we have wondered what it would be like to walk in the world’s tallest shoes, grow the longest beard or live in the house with the world’s longest address.
That same spirit of adventure and wonder has driven a partnership between UniSA and Santos to create the world’s longest bike – to imagine it and then to make it happen.
The work to design and create the world’s longest bike has taken nine months and has given UniSA engineering students a proving ground for theoretical ideas.
The huge bike, just shy of 42 metres in length and weighing 2.5 tonnes, may not be the sleekest of cycles, but it had to meet some important set criteria and come in under a fairly tight budget.
The aim of the venture was to design and construct a bike that could carry the weight of all the riders, had only two wheels, and could be powered by a traditional chain and pedal mechanism. It also needed to travel 100 metres or more to snatch the world record.
The student design team's challenge was to beat the previous record holders, a group of engineering students from The Netherlands who constructed a bike of 28.4 metres.
When the big day came, on the eve of the start of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under (TDU) in Adelaide, the record attempt was not without some drama.
Because of the camber in road surface, the massive bike tipped over just a few seconds after the first pedal rotation.
All 20 riders managed to jump clear and were relatively unscathed, and the decision was made to give it one more go.
“We had already done the ride before on campus and we knew that it could be achieved but we needed to have the officials present to secure the record,” one student said, “so there is no way we wanted to give up.”
Forklifts were called in and the delicate process of righting and repositioning the bike began.
As a precaution the cycling team was whittled down from 20 riders to just seven, and with local TV cameras rolling and now a larger and more enthusiastic audience – they made it.
UniSA took the record for the world’s longest bike, smashing the previous record by some 16 metres.
As one of the record-breaking crew, UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd said the project had been a bit nerve wracking, but exhilarating.
“Everyone did a great job today and picked themselves up after the false start with real determination to get the record,” Prof Lloyd said.
“The whole project has been a fantastic example of great teaching and great partnership (with Santos) and I’m really thrilled for all involved that it has been a success – we ‘got back on the bike’, tried again and we were successful.
“Engineering is about imagining what is possible and then bringing together the best technical expertise to make it so – it is creative, challenging, reflective and incredibly rewarding. I feel quite lucky to have shared this experience with our engineering students.”
The world’s longest bike may not win a beauty contest, and it certainly can’t break any land speed records, but it proved a draw card for hundreds of visitors to the TDU Village, who were keen to hop on, have their photos taken and get that quirky thrill from having been up close to something truly unique in the world.
With the TDU over for 2015 the bike will be on display at UniSA’s Mawson Lakes campus, and you can look out for a record of the ride in the next edition of the Guinness World Records.
You can watch the world record ride on YouTube.
The 2015 Santos Tour Down Under (TDU) has been one of Team UniSA-Australia’s most successful ever.
Team UniSA was the only team in this year’s race to secure two stage wins, with Jack Bobridge winning Stage 1 in Campbelltown and Steele von Hoff taking out Stage 4 in Mount Barker.
South Australian rider Bobridge wore the leader’s ochre jersey for two days, and won the King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey classification after putting in an incredible performance for his hometown across the week.
Team UniSA ambassador Pat Jonker, who won the Tour for Team UniSA in 2004, was thrilled with the team’s performance.
“It’s the most successful UniSA team we’ve had ever in my opinion,” Jonker said.
Team Manager Dave Sanders echoed Jonker’s sentiments, saying he was extremely pleased with the team’s performance.
“We came here with Plan A: to win a jersey and Plan B: to win a stage. To win two stages and a jersey and in the dramatic way we did it – it was fantastic. It was a really good week,” Sanders said.
In recent years, Sanders has ensured that Team UniSA was always represented in breakaways and has had success in individual classifications, such as the Young Rider classification. But stage wins are harder to come by, with the last stage win being Will Clarke’s solo effort to victory in Stirling in 2012. At the time, that win was the first in five years for a team that has ridden the TDU since 2001.
For all the highlights from this year’s TDU, go to the Team UniSA-Australia Supporters’ Club website.