The last time Fred Rompelberg rode his bike in Utah, he ended up with 24 broken bones. This time he hopes to leave the medical profession out of his biking escapade and simply leave with a land-speed record.
The record Rompelberg wants is for pedaling his two-wheel bicycle at 155 mph or better on the white beds of Bonneville Salt Flats, which sounds more like wishful thinking than a possibility.But, consider this: The record is 152.2 mph and Rompelberg has turned 144.2 mph.
And this time, he has the Strasberg racing family leading the way.
He'll make his first attempt on June 26. For insurance, he has reserved six other dates with the Bureau of Land Management as backup dates in case of bad weather or mechanical problems.
It is, after all, "a record I want very badly," the 49-year-old Dutchman is quick to point out.
In 1988, Rompelberg came to Bonneville for the first time to try for the record. On one of his first attempts, he crashed at a reported speed of 109 miles per hour. He suffered a broken finger. He then hit a number of speeds over 100 mph. On his final attempt, when his pace car began to "fishtail" at 144, he was thrown out of the "draft" and into the open air, which put him down before he could even get his hands off the bike grips.
He was airlifted to Salt Lake City where doctors carefully put what bones they could back together.
Undaunted, he returned to Maastricht, Holland, to begin training for another try.
"When I have a goal, I want to see it through from start to finish. To reach an impasse is not acceptable. Also, the ambition to do this is more since '88.
"It was exciting to see the race car, and it made me want to try even more," he said during a trip to Utah to visit the Strasbergs in Lindon .
Two things are necessary in this record attempt - the car and the bike.
Rompelberg says he's been in training and can certainly pedal long and fast enough to hit the record.
He must, however, have a vehicle that can "draft" for him. He can't fight inertia and the winds at 100-plus mph.
The car, built by the Strasbergs, is a converted dragster with a special faring in the rear that resembles the nose of a small train, complete with special viewing window. It is powered by a 476-inch big-block, fuel-injected Chevrolet. It will produce more than 800 horsepower and in test on the salt flats last year had little trouble hitting speeds up to 175 miles per hour.
According to Lindsay Strasberg, a lot of time and engineering went into building the car to proper specifications.
"The car will do what it's supposed to, and that is break the way for Fred to reach the speed he needs to. The difficulty will come in making sure that the car doesn't go off and leave him or that he falls back and gets out of the draft the faring will provide. If he gets out and the wind hits him, it's over," says Strasberg.
It helped that the Strasbergs are frequent visitors to the salt flats and have hit 17 world land-speed records. It also helped that Colani Ferrari, a world-renowned designer of aerodynamically designed vehicles, has had the Strasbergs test a number of his cars on the salt.
Driving the car will be another Dutchman, Arie Luyendyk, a former Indy 500 driver.
The bike was designed by John Howard of San Diego, Calif., the current world holder for a human-powered bicycle.
Through a series of sprockets, the bike will move forward at 114 feet of linear travel each time Rompelberg turns the pedals around once. The gear system is four times greater than the average 10-speed road bike.
It weighs 43 pounds and cost $12,000.
As for Rompelberg, he's confident he can spin the wheels fast enough to make the record. At 49, he is the oldest pro cyclist currently riding. Staying in the pro ranks, he says, keeps him in top riding condition.
But the question is whether or not he's shaken by his 1988 spin on the salt.
"Not at all. It only makes me want it more," he said.