By strapping a hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket to his bike, daredevil cyclist Francois Gissy broke a land speed record this past Sunday, reaching a top speed of 163 MPH. Gissy set his mark along a vacant stretch of highway in Munchhouse, France, besting the previous rocket-powered bicycle record of 150 MPH set in 2002.
Gissy’s monopropellant rocket, built by Swiss company Exotic Thermo Engineering, was full of concentrated liquid hydrogen peroxide, about 30 times more concentrated than stuff you can pick up at your local Walgreens.
The concentration is fed from the tank into a secondary chamber that houses a catalyst — usually silver. When the reaction takes place, the hydrogen peroxide breaks down into heat, water and oxygen to create steam that’s 650 degrees Fahrenheit. That steam is then pushed through a rocket nozzle, giving the bike its thrust.
While Gissy broke the record for rocket-powered bikes, he was still 4 MPH off the fastest cycling speed of 167 MPH that Dutch cyclist Fred Rompelberg set in 1995 while riding in a slipstream, sans rocket.