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Experiments in Speed: The 100mph Bicycle

“It started out with an idea… to simply build a bike and see how fast we could go.”

Written By
Dan Partridge

These are the words of British engineer and framebuilder Tom Donhou. His custom road bicycle has recently hit top speeds of 80mph on the road and 102mph during indoor testing, but it is not simply the statistics which are impressive. Donhou’s Experiments in Speed project is a wonderful demonstration of the ingenuity of British design.

Whilst the world record for a pedal-powered bicycle is an eye-watering 167mph, set by the gloriously named Fred Rompelberg, Donhou’s project is very much ongoing. That he built the bike himself – and set his record by drafting behind a 50-year old Ford Zephyr with a “shed” attached to its rear – speaks volumes of Donhou’s spirit, and indeed obsessive attention to detail.

We love this video for a variety of reasons. It’s beautifully shot and captures the elegance and purity of engineering. It’s understated, low-key, ordinary, serving as a reminder that sometimes success isn’t all about volume. It’s thoroughly and wonderfully British.

It is also, from a web designer’s perspective, a piece de resistance for iterative design.

Iterative design is what underpins every website design project. It is the process whereby we take something which is good and find a way to improve it. Applied over a period of time this approach enables us to maximise the effectiveness of a particular model, and sometimes even create a new one.

The landspeed record attempts of the 1960s are a classic example of iterative design. At a time when records tumbled by the week, teams of engineers worked themselves into the ground in order to find the slightest of advantages over their rivals. It was this approach which resulted in the landspeed record being taken from 407mph on the 5th August 1963 to a staggering 600mph by the 15th November 1965.

It’s hard not to feel inspired by Donhou’s project. His enthusiasm and devotion drips from every word. It is hard not to be caught up in the inevitability of it all – “you can’t help by think about such things… using imagination… being resourceful”. He is a designer of the truest colours, irrespective of his impact upon the record books.

Iterative Web Design

We aspire to apply these principles in our website design. Like Tom Donhou, we want to be designers who daydream about our work goals and find ways to achieve them. We aspire to be those who think about things that aren’t currently possible.

The iterative web design approach will, of course, help us to make significant improvements, both as an industry and within individual projects. Involving clients in a project is something that some agencies try and shy away from, but it’s simply unthinkable to achieve mutual goals without this kind of approach.

If you’re feeling short of inspiration today, we heartily recommend a 9-minute ‘Experiments in Speed’ journey with Tom Donhou and his wonderful bike.

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