Think this is mad? Czech freerider Richard “Gaspi” Gasperotti (32) doesn’t think so. The veteran of three Red Bull Rampage and Adidas Slopestyle events decided to set a world speed record on a bike towed on a rope by a motorbike. The role of the motorbike rider was readily taken up by Czech streetfighter and road motorbike stuntman Pepa “Srsen” Silar, the holder of the world speed record in front wheel ride (234km/h). He had already towed Gapsi with a quad onto a ramp, which Gaspi used to jump from at FMX exhibitions.
The attempt was preceded by only one trial ride to test the resistance of material and the reliability of the rope link. The 5-metre-long tow rope was equipped with a security release. “It’s an invention of my fathers’,” says Gaspi. “If I move away more than 15cm from the handlebar, it would disconnect me from Pepa.” However, the motorbike rider had the other end of the rope tied around his belt to feel precisely what was happening behind his back. “Looking back, my knees tremble when I think about what might have happened,” says biker Srsen. “If there was any problem, Gaspi would bring me down from the bike because he wouldn’t manage to disconnect.”
The fact that the road motorbike would easily handle speeds of over 200km/h was clear from the beginning. However, the question was how a production mountain bike would handle such speeds. Gaspi rides a Specialized Demo 7 equipped with Funn components and Fox 200/180 mm shocks. By how much is a bike less stable than a motor bike? “About a hundred times” Srsen compares the two machines.
Gaspi’s biggest concern was the resilience of wheel hubs, which are not designed for such high speeds. He was afraid that they may overheat and break, or that the ball bearings might seize. Likewise, brake rotors might warp and get stuck between the pads. Both scenarios would end up with a dramatic fall.
In case of falling, both riders wore PSI Hubik kangaroo skin racing bike overalls, which is highly wear-resistant. However, a fall would be nasty. “We’d slide about 200m at such a speed,” things Pepa Srsen. They would survive as there was no solid obstacle on the airport to crash against, but they would be badly grazed and broken.
To ensure better stability, a motorbike steering shock absorber was attached to the production bicycle. It mainly reduced rider's steering input and helped eliminated handlebar vibrations during gear change and the possibility of Gaspi being thrown out of saddle by an unexpected gust of wind. As for tyres, Gaspi opted for Defender, which he jointly designed and created with Czech company Rubena. “They are designed for slopestyle and dirt, but they nevertheless did a good job during the record attempt,” says Gaspi. They were not pumped with air, but with a special compound that does not expand and change pressure with rising temperature.
When the D-Day finally came, everyone’s fears materialized – a heavy rain started to fall all over the Czech Republic. It was raining almost everywhere, but the Tchořovice airport near Blatná, South Bohemia, was miraculously basking in the sun. Everyone was ready: both riders, the police squad with radars, and the official commissioner, who saw that all rules were complied with, and the TV crew. After a short discussion, the bikers decided to go at it. They allowed themselves only three attempts as they didn’t want to risk fatigue of material.
When the team first dashed across the tarmac, everyone was silent. None of those present had seen anyone riding a bike that fast before. Srsen and Gapsi just whizzed by. Police radars measured different values of 205 km/h (127,4 mph) and 218 km/h (135,5 mph). This corresponds to an average of 211,5 km/h (131,42 mph).
Gaspi himself expected a better result from his attempt at the record. He hoped he would manage to break the magical barrier of 250 km/h (155,34 mph). The speedo showed 248 km/h (154,1 mph) in the training, but it was an unofficial figure. “I expected we’d manage to squeeze more out of it,” Gaspi comments on the performance. It was the motorbike that had the biggest impact on the outcome. It didn’t pull as much as it was necessary for a higher speed. Switching motorbikes didn’t help much, either. “It was enough for today. I’m glad that we both survived and are sound and well,” the 32-year-old biker admitted.
However, he felt no fear. “Pepa is a motorbike professional, I am a bike professional. I’ve had 100% confidence in him and we discussed this record attempt a lot, talking about how and when to change gears and then, of course, how to disconnect and who should dodge where.”
Gaspi hasn’t been thinking about breaking his record yet. “I wanted to see how it feels to ride a bike at over 200 km/h (124.3 mph) and I am fine with that. I’d like to thank anyone who believes in me as that is why I believe in myself,” he said.