This 163 MPH Rocket Bike Just Set a Land Speed Record

There's a surprising amount of energy locked away in the fizzing bubbles of hydrogen peroxide. Enough, in fact, to propel one daredevil and his modified bicycle into the record books at nearly triple the speed limit of your local interstate. Eat your heart out, Wile E. Coyote.

Cyclist François Gissy reached a top speed of 263 kilometres per hour (163mph) along an open runway in Munchhouse, France using a bicycle outfitted with a hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket engine. His record setting attempt beat out the previous mark of 242.6 KPH set in 2002.

Gissy outfitted the bike with a powerful monopropellant rocket. Concentrated liquid hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)—about 90-percent concentrate, compared to the 3-percent stuff sold in drug stores—is fed from a storage tank into secondary chamber filled with a catalyst, typically silver. This causes the chemical bonds to break down and the hydrogen peroxide to decompose into heat, water (H2O) in the form of 650 degree F steam, and oxygen (O). The steam is then forced through a rocket nozzle to provide thrust. Swiss company Exotic Thermo Engineering built the one-off rocket used in Gissy's attempt.

What's really impressive was that Gissy only missed the overall powered bike speed record—268.8 KPH set in 1995 by the Slipstream—by about 5 KPH on a completely stripped bike; no aerodynamic superstructure or trailing arms for stability. Just watch him wobble at the take off.

[LiveLeak - Swiss Rocket Man - CNet - Connexion France - DNA - Peroxide Propulsion]