The Vector HPV's

There's a couple photos posted on the Web that seem to attract a lot of attention- with good reason. The Vector HPV's were the fastest of the early '80's, setting several sprint and hour records.

The Vector HPV's were made in the early 1980's in order to compete in the IHPSC races. The Vector in the pictures belongs to the Versatron Corporation, which was the company started by the Vector builders. Here's their company history.

Vector at IHPSC 1983 at Cal State Dominguez Hills:


As far as I know, they were only intended for racing. I did see them offered for sale through the Early Winters mail order outfit ($10,000 apiece!), but I doubt any were sold. One weak point would be the huge clear canopy- it would broil the rider on a hot day and fog up immediately on a cool day. On a merely warm day, it'd probably do both! A large, clear canopy looks sexy- but everybody who's tried it ends up hating it.

I'd love to say more about the Vector vehicles- they're heartachingly beautiful. One day I'll find the time to research them a little more.

(click on the photo for a larger view).

Three wheels, fiberglass shell, Lexan canopy. 24" sew-up tires in front, 700C rear, drum brakes on front wheels. The frame is 2" diameter mild steel- commonly called "muffler pipe". Steering is by "V"-style handlebars directly in front of the rider's face. The object in front of the rider/driver/pilot is an original Pacer 2000 cycle computer. This particular Vector (there were several) has an additional crank bracket for hand cranking.

The pictures on the wall behind it show earlier versions- a single and the tandem. The primary difference in the shell is in the nose. The later version's nose drooped downward much further than the original.


(click on the photo for a larger view).

A top view of the Vector showing the seat setup, the hand crank boom, and the enormous chainring. The tires are extremely flat.

These images were taken at the Art Center College of Design Anthropropulsion exhibit in 1996. There are also patents on the Vector at the Patent Office database. Search for patent number 4410198.

(click on the photo for a larger view).

This is the cover from the December 1983 issue of Scientific American magazine with a wonderful cutaway view of the Vector. Several people have cited this article as their inspiration for becoming involved in human-powered vehicles.

June 2012 update:

The Vector lives! (In suspended animation.) Adam C on the forum visited the San Jose Tech Museum, and found that a Vector and the Dexter-Hysol Cheetah were on display, hanging from the ceiling. They are looking a little dusty, but still excellent examples of high-speed HPV's. Here's what the Vector looks like:



Here's a couple more photos from a race held at Milton Keynes in 1985 in England:

Vector at MK 1985

This one may be a Vector knock-off. There's a couple details that strike me as wrong, like the hole around the rear derailleur:

Pink Vector?


"Michigan Mike" Mowett compiled this list of Vector accomplishments:

1) An excellent top and side view diagram of the Vector Tandem first appeared in the 1983 Scientific American article and was reproduced elsewhere (above). I saw it in John Howard's "The Cyclist Companion" book. I couldn't quite figure how the chain from the front rider got under him.

2) I thought I read somewhere that the Vectors were one of the first fairing designs to pay attention to under-the-body flow of air which was maybe part of their successes. Its biggest competitor at the time - the White Lightning tandem had a ground hugging fairing less than an inch off the ground.

3) I saw the Vector going by during the CHiPs episode as well. It was probably part of some Energy Conversation group's 
effort to get a plug in for lower energy vehicles on a well-liked TV program. I don't think the characters said much when it passed. It was like they were just watching a race of HPVs on a closed-off road course. 

4) Interesting to note that the Vector Tandem's ONE HOUR record of 46.3 mph in 1980 would have been the 200-meter top speed record in 1975, only five years earlier. HPV's had come that far in only six IHPSC competitions (1975-1980).

5) The Vector Tandem's 200 meter speed record of 62.9 mph was first broken by the Allegro single rider Trike in May 1985 with a 63.0 mph run, then within the same week, Fast Freddy went 65.5 mph in the Gold Rush to win the Dupont prize. Fast Freddy and Sam Whittingham piloted the Double Gold Rush to 65.0 mph at the 1993 Colorado Speed Challenge to finally top the Vector's Tandem's mark. Then the tandem record was rewritten several times at Battle Mountain by the Double Gold Rush and UC's Bearacuda.

6) Here's a comparison of just how good the Vector Tandem was over any single-rider bikes back in 1980. In 1979, Fred Markham, on a prone, muscled the first single-rider bike to 50.8 mph for 200 meters. In 1980, he hopped in the Vector Tandem with Chris Springer as a stoker and pedaled at an average of 50.5 mph for 42 MILES, not just 200 meters, along California's I-5 Interstate freeway as part of an energy exhibition. In 1979, Ron Skarin goes 31.88 miles on a streamlined upright for a new hour record. In 1980, he hops in the Vector Tandem with Eric Hollander and pedals 46.30 miles to completely rewrite the Hour Record. 
As an aside: Dave Grylls had increased the single-rider mark with the Vector Single to 58.9 mph in November 1980 after the IHPSC. Fast Fred has gone only 49.99 mph, this time in a supine Easy racer at the 1980 IHPSC.

7) OK more stats for the geek obsessed to show just how remarkable was the Vector's One Hour record was in 1980: 
In 1933, Francis Faure goes 27.9 miles on an unfaired recumbent, later Maurice Richard goes 27.82 miles on an unfaired upright bicycle, then Marcel Berthet goes 30.20 and 31.06 miles on streamlined upright, all in one-hour. The bike racing world is plunged into chaos and HPVs are banned from UCI racing. Not to be kept from tinkering...
In 1939, Francis Faure goes 31.40 miles on a streamlined recumbent. 
In 1972, the great Eddy Merckx goes 30.72 miles on an unfaired bicycle, which would have made him third all-time between the two marks from the 1930's.
In 1979, Ron Skarin goes 31.88 miles on a streamlined upright. It was 40 years since a streamlined upright held the record, but this record was short-lived.
In 1980, Ron Skarin and Eric Hollander go 46.30 miles in a streamlined recumbent tandem, an amazing 14.5 mile increase for the hour record. No longer could any UCI bike even go as fast in a sprint as a HPV could go for an hour. Even today, the best UCI unfaired upright 200-meter mark is 45 mph at altitude. The Vector Tandem really ushered in a new era.

Its Hour record lasted ten years. In 1990, Pat Kinch went 46.96 miles with a streamlined recumbent to recapture the overall hour mark for single-rider vehicles. In between this time, Eric Edwards went 36.94 miles in 1980 and Fred Markham's 45.36 miles in 1989 to increase the single-rider mark.Lars Teutenberg goes 48.49 miles in 1996. In 1998 Sam Whittingham goes 49.17 miles. Then he battles with Lars Teutenberg and Bram Moens (along the way Matt Weaver puts in some remarkable 50+ mile runs) to increase the overall record. In 2006, the ageless Fast Fred Markham's tops them all with a remarkable 53.43 miles for a new overall mark. 

Summary: In 1933, their was a 3.24 mile descrepancy between what was the best Hour mark and Hour record, just within that year. Irregardless, it increased only a 1/3 mile in the next five years to 31.4 mph in 1939. It then took 40 years (1939-1979), for the overall hour record to increase a 1/2 mile. Then in one year (1979-1980), the Vector Tandem increased the hour record by 14-1/2 miles. In the 26 years since (1980-2006), the hour record has increased only another 7.1 miles.


Periodically I'm asked where you can buy a Vector. Let me make this clear: I DON'T KNOW!! If you want something like a Vector, here's a couple links:

The Go-One Evo comes the closest to a "production" Vector:
Greenspeed makes the "Glyde"
The Aerorider:
The Leitra is by far the most tested and sold:
If you're looking for a body shell to adapt to a HPV trike, a friend of mine sells these for Electrathon racers: It wouldn't be too tough to adapt one to an HPV.

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