Project Nevada - world hand-cycling speed record

A futuristic handcycle designed and created at Plymouth University will be embarking on a quest to enter the record books later this year.

We did it!

On 19th Aug 2016 we successfully raised £1,585 with 40 supporters in 56 days

Hello, I'm Sarah!  

I'm a former winner of the London Marathon working with Plymouth University to attempt to break a world record and we need your help to get us to Nevada in September 2016.  

History of Project Nevada 

About four years ago Plymouth University first set Mechanical Engineering students the exciting and demanding challenge to design and build a handcycle with the long term aim of breaking world speed records.  

The project itself has been the subject of many coursework and dissertation projects for the students providing engaging challenges in areas such as aerodynamics, engineering, design, composites, manufacturing and computational fluid dynamics.   

The team tested the handcycle in Nevada for the first time in September 2015 – and proved that it is very fast indeed! 57699-623730ef5ca80f1cdd52b2b311c81a31.p

Record breaking 

Together with a team of students and academics, I will be heading out to Nevada at the end of the summer to make record breaking attempts from the 13th -16th September 2016.  Making use of the lower winds and cooler temperatures in the morning and evening, I will have two opportunities a day to attempt to break the existing women's human powered speed record in Nevada, on the long flat roads.  

Before I can even attempt to break the record I must complete a 2.5 mile qualifying run on day one. Each attempt then includes a 2.5 mile run up before the speed is measured – no mean feat! 

And this is the speed that I need to beat...  

I will be aiming to break the current women’s handcycle record of 24.76mph, I'm feeling confident as I'm already exceeding 20mph in training.  

A bit more about me, the athletes 


My life has been a series of challenges, born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition which can lead to a contracting of the joints, I have always relied on a wheelchair but never let that stop me from following my dreams.  

Inspired by the exploits of Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and David Holding, I became a member of the British Wheelchair Racing Association and began taking part in track events and 10k races and in 2000 I won the London Marathon!  

I am so excited to be involved in this challenge not just to break a world record and to support the Plymouth University students with their project, but also to inspire others with a disability. I want to show others that there are opportunities to get involved with sport and hopefully inspire them to follow their dreams too.  

Training and medical support 

I am well underway with my challenging and demanding training plan, conditioning my body to enable me to get the handcycle going really fast. Plymouth University students studying podiatry, physiotherapy and dietetics have stepped in to help and are devising a plan to prepare me for the attempt. 

Here I am enjoying views of Exeter's canal where I train daily along the tow path in my own handcycle, mainly practicing speed. I also use my local gym for strength training. 

The support team 

As part of their year two engineering and design module on our BSc (Hons) Mechanical Engineering course at Plymouth University these students are lucky enough to get the opportunity to not only design and build the handcycle, but also take it to Nevada with me (a very eager athlete) to see if it’s as fast as we think it is! 

Together, we want to put Plymouth University on the map for mechanical engineering, giving the course world-class recognition!  


The handcycle you see today is a result of four years of research and development by students and academics at Plymouth University.  

They are working with us athletes to find the perfect riding position for us, and modifying the handcycle to make it even faster.  

Handcycle design  

When designing a fast handcycle the key is getting the aerodynamics right – their expertise has enabled them to develop a shell that they believe has significantly lower drag than those of previous record holders.  

They also need to ensure that the packaging of the rider and all the components within the shell enable us as athletes to produce the maximum power possible. Their innovative design and thinking has led to the layout of the steering system being operated by small movements of our heads.  

How their design evolved   

For the past four years Engineering Students at Plymouth University have worked on many aspects of handcycle design, including:  

  • the mechanism for steering and power transmission
  • the structural design of the frame
  • the shape and manufacturing methods for the shell

They’ve done wind tunnel testing and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations to optimise the aerodynamics, and built various prototypes to test steering and optimise riding position.  

Their current design draws on aspects of the work of all those students– a real team effort.  

How your funding will help us 

Our team of students and academics will be up against other similar teams from across the globe, and I want to help them put mechanical engineering in our institution on the map and gain international recognition for their talents and expertise.  

As a disabled athletes, I am honoured to be invited to get involved in an attempt to break a world record and want to inspire other disabled athletes to follow their dreams.   

I want to show others that anyone can take up a sport, and not only that but that it’s possible to make the record books – dream big, win big!  

So, after years of research and development by Plymouth University students and academics it’s over to me, the athlete, to get us a record…  

Who is already supporting us

We already have support from Plymouth University, Vospers, Bensons for Beds, Staples and Riverside Leisure Centre, both we and the handcycle are ready to go - all we need now is the money for the flights to get myself, the handcycle and the technical team to Nevada to attempt this record.  

Please pledge your support

Together we can do this. We can put an outstanding athlete in the best environment on earth for setting a land speed record. We can give Sarah the best technical equipment imaginable, and we can go faster than anyone has ever gone before using a hand-cycle. This is a unique opportunity for you to be a part of something great.   

Please join us and be part of this unique project, help us get our athlete and students the recognition they deserve as they bring home a world record!  

A huge thank you, from Sarah and our team of students & academics. 

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