A high speed cycle record which remained unbeaten for more than 20 years has been beaten by American cyclist Denise Mueller-Korenek.

Since 1995, the Fastest bicycle speed in slipstream was 167.044 mph (268.831 km/h), set by Dutch cyclist and multiple record holder Fred Rompelberg.

However his 23-year record has now been beaten at Utah's legendary Bonneville Salt Flats by Denise who achieved 183.931 mph (296.009 km/h) on Sunday 16 September.

Clipping her bike to the back of a dragster driven by racing driver Shea Holbrook, Denise set off across the Bonneville Salt Flats; she had to be towed for the first section of the run because the gearing on her bike was so high that pedalling from a standing start wouldn't have been possible.

Denise Mueller-Korenek-6

At around 100 mph (160 km/h), Denise unclipped from the pace car and started accelerating.

Although the dragster was taking care of the wind resistance, reaching and maintaining such high speeds requires an amazing amount of strength and endurance. Denise had to maintain power levels similar to those reached in elite-level velodrome races for more than a minute, covering around 3.5 miles (5.6 km) and racing-car speeds while wearing heavy motorcycle leathers in the desert sun.

Denise Mueller-Korenek, right, and Shea Holbook

Needless to say, the stakes in a record attempt like this are high. The dragster provides only a small pocket of clear air for the rider to travel through. If Denise had drifted too far to the left or right, or been unable to maintain the pace, she would have dropped out of that pocket of safety straight into a hurricane-force headwind that would have thrown her off her bike.

When asked about her achievement, Denise said: "It was a crazy wild ride to 183.9 mph, but so worth the sacrifice and years of focus on becoming the fastest human on a bicycle in the world... We weren't supposed to go more than 175!"

Denise Mueller-Koronek 5

Ever increasing speeds

The history of this record goes back more than 100 years as daredevil cyclists find ways to achieve ever higher speeds.

1899

The first attempt was in when Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy (USA) became the first person to exceed 60-mph (96.5 km/h) on a bicycle.

He did this by slipstreaming a train along a track of rough wooden boards laid on the sleepers. He rode into the record books on what he called "a maelstrom of swirling dust, hot cinders, paper and other particles of matter".

1941

Charles’ record stood for a long time because no-one else had the necessary combination of fitness, fearlessness and a friend with access to steam locomotives (the only things that could go fast enough at the time). By the 1920s, however, other riders started to push the record ever faster, drafting behind motorcycles and cars.

Then in 1941, the record passed the 100-mph (160-km/h) milestone when Alfred Letourneur (USA, b. FRA) reached 108.92 mph (175.29 km/h) while slipstreaming behind a racing car on Highway 99 near Bakersfield California.

Alfred-Letourneur

1985

By the 1970s the speed record had moved (as all good speed records do) to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Dr Alan Abbott managed to reach 140 mph (225 km/h) behind a dragster in 1973 and in 1985 John Howard (USA) hit 152.2 mph (244.9 km/h) tailing a racing car.

1995

Finally Fred Rompelberg took the record to an astounding 167.044 on 3 October 1995, where it remained until last week.

He set the record at Bonneville drafting behind a dragster fitted with a garden-shed-like wind shield. Fred was involved with Denise's training program, alongside another former drafting speed record holder, John Howard, and provided her with the custom 1,000-hp (745-kW) dragster he had used.

He does retain the Fastest bicycle speed in slipstream (male) title.