The Cutting Edge II
Photo Illustration by Peter Samuels

Land Shark

The Cutting Edge II

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What do you get when you combine an obscure speed contest, some scrap aerospace material, and one very obsessed California engineer? A bike that can push 80 miles per hour. Behold the Cutting Edge II, a nine-foot, 42-pound recumbent ride that may be the most efficient human-powered machine ever built.

Developed over the past nine years by UC Berkeley engineering grad Matt Weaver, 35, the superbike combines a shell molded from carbon fiber intended for use on a fighter jet (defense contractor Hexcel donated the material), hand-lathed wheels, and componentry Weaver machined himself. A digital periscope gives a view of the road, while a liquid-cooled helmet and seat keep things chill.

Weaver set the U.S. speed-cycling record in 2001, when he pedaled another visionary contraption 78 miles per hour.

Next up? He expects to be the first person ever to crank 56 miles in a single hour, laying claim to the $25,000 Dempsey-MacCready prize, established in 1999 for anyone able to accomplish the feat. (The purse would cover less than 10 percent of his development costs.) All it will take, he says, is an “immaculate, unfettered hour.”