Historical Writings Miles Kingsbury

A small selection of the many machines built by John and Miles Kingsbury over the years.

Like many people of my age, I mucked about with soap boxes when I was little. In my case they were made from tea chests, bits of wood and pram wheels. My mum used to leave out notes for the dustmen to leave any old prams or push chairs for me to scavenge the useful bits. We lived down a short private road shared by only a few houses and used to race up and down in a variety of machines. On one occasion, I remember a convoy of three soap boxes roped together with our petrol lawn mower at the front pulling the whole lot along. Slow but dangerous!

I built my first pedal powered recumbent when I was probably about 8. This was made from the back end of a kiddies Tri-ang tricycle, the front end of one of my soap boxes and the cranks of the trike mounted somewhere in the middle. I learnt an early lesson in mechanics at this stage as I thought the gearing was determined by the chain tension. My father soon put me right on that one and over the next couple of years he built me two very elegant pedal cars that I used to ride around the village.

I then got interested in motorbikes particularly ones with small engines and for a while I owned quite a collection including a 50cc Italian racer called an Itom. This had a nose and engine fairing and was capable of 80mph but I had grown too tall to fit on it.

In my late teens, I joined the local cycling club and took up cycle racing. I found that I had a very poor tactical brain but some reasonable legs so spent most of my time bashing up and down boring roads time trialling. I shouldn’t be too derogatory about this form of racing because I was hooked on it for quite a few years. During my addiction I did start experimenting with the engineering aspects of the sport and built my own wheels and frames. I made some of my own components including ball bearing jockey wheels and clipless pedals. Back in the late eighties cycling shoes were very low tech, the cleats were nailed to the bottom of the shoe with little tacks and toe clips and straps held your foot in place on the pedal. I applied for a provisional patent on my clipless pedal design but when I showed my engineering tutor (also cyclist) at university, he couldn’t see the point of it. Out on club runs, my idea was greeted with great laughter and scepticism.

Then in 1980, great joy!!
Along came the first Brighton event for human powered vehicles. I saw some coverage in the press and this really fired my imagination. By this time I also owned a copy of Bicycling Science (Whitt & Wilson) which gave me further inspiration. That autumn, I drew up and build a few bits and pieces of an arm and leg powered low slung bike which was based on some of the American designs of the time.

In 1981 I went as a spectator to the second Brighton Event. After this, I got busy with a couple of prototype Vector style trikes. My initial drawings pointed out a problem that would bug me for the next 20 years. With a feet forward design and conventional cranks, the front of any fairing has to be very large to enclose the rider’s feet. Slots in the floor help aesthetically but are not good aerodynamically. My initial solution to this problem was an elliptical motion that was created by putting the pedal about halfway along a bar that had the cranks one end and a linear bearing the other end. This reduces the height required by 170mm which can make the frontal area, surface area and overall length a lot smaller. It can also help aesthetics and forward vision.

In 1982 I had my first finished machine for the Brighton and Brands Hatch Event. The Trout incorporated my elliptical drive; it had a bubble screen and mirror image glass fibre bottom from the same mould with added wheel spats. It had two driven and steered 20” tubular tyre front wheels and a single 20” rear. It looked very fast, but the combination of a nervous driver (me) and not enough space inside (another problem to bug me for the next 20 years) meant that it didn’t live up to expectations. However, I did win the best design competition which was judged and presented by Alex Moulton.

Also in 1982, we entered the world of pedal car racing as the Well End Warriors with the Bacon Slicer (very large chainring) and later the Parrott (beak like fairing) both designed by John Kingsbury, winning the Vauxhall Motors 24hour race with a distance of 430 miles. In 1983 on the Isle of Wight we (Miles, wife June and Mick Bond) raced the Parrott pedal cars.
In December 1983 along came my next major inspiration. An article in Scientific American (Gross, Kyle &Malewicki) comparing many different HPV layouts got me thinking again. Also a large but very fast two wheeler (Bluebell) had appeared on the UK scene, which started me on a two wheel track that led to the Bean. I started the Bean in 1984 with the aim of racing at an international event in Hull Quebec but I couldn’t get the steering sorted in time so we (John, Miles and June) went as spectators. Mike Burrows and Peter Ross from the UK were there with their machines.

Slash in Original Bean at MK Bowl

Pat Launched at Start of Hour Record

Pat During Hour Record

BeanII in MIRA Wind Tunnel

I did manage to ride the Bean a few times in 1984 and 1985 but guess what; I had made it a bit too small again! What I needed was a 95% mini-me. Up steps Steve Slasher Slade, promoted from the pedal car team who fits like a glove even with his Green Flash Trainers! So at the Zapple festival at Milton Keynes Slash races and crashes the Bean and I race and crash my new creation; the Beanbag. The Beanbag was a simple recumbent bike with a pedal car nose fairing, a vertical pole at the back and a cloth fairing tensioned between the two. This was the first of its type and I won quite a few races with it and became the 1987 BHPC National Champion.

Bagged Bikes – Cycloid Kingcycle Prototype Beanbag Young Slash
In the spring of 1989, I turned up at Eastway with another new machine. This was the prototype Kingcycle recumbent it was designed to be a fast commuter and racer for myself but it proved very popular and before I knew it, I had a load of orders. It took a few months to turn a prototype into a production machine but over the next five years we sold nearly 500. The end of production came when there was a dip in demand and I needed to spend more time on the other side of the business (Portaprompt). In 1990 the European Championships were in Emmen where Slash Raced Fortuna a treadle powered four wheeler and vetinary surgeon Pat Kinch arrived on the scene to race a Kingcycle to great effect.
1990 September – Pat Kinch in an expanded Bean breaks the World Hour Record.

John Kingsbury
Mike Burrows, having discovered and inspected the 2 mile long banked circuit at Millbrook Proving Ground proposed that the British Human Power (along with great help from Millbrook’s Director Rod Calvert) Club should hold a European One Hour Record Attempt on August 18 1990.

So ten or so of the fastest H.P.V. teams in Europe were invited to make the attempt and Mike suggested that son Miles should get the “Bean” out of hibernation – that’s if beans hibernate!! However, the original Bean was too small to accommodate our powerful new rider Pat Kinch, so it was decided to build a new one using the original moulds, but this time, instead of a monocoque construction, for speed of construction we would produce a single skin shell and I would make a bike to fit. Meanwhile Miles “sprung” the mouldings to increase the width about 20mm and raised the roof by about 50mm. We also decided to use Moulton wheels instead of the original 14” ones used previously!

The new Bean was only finished on the Saturday morning of the attempt, and rider Pat Kinch was insinuated into it for the first time and was found to fit –just! For those of you who have done it, I have no need to describe the long hours of pain, anguish and panic which goes into producing a new vehicle to a deadline.
So it was that at 6.30 pm on Saturday August 18th, 12 HPVs set off at 5minute intervals on the Millbrook circuit to see how many miles they could cover in an hour from a standing start.

In a nutshell, Pat Kinch, a 25 year old veterinary surgeon whose best time for 25 miles was about 58 minutes, riding the Kingcycle Bean for the first time achieved just under 45 miles in the hour. The next man was Glenn Thompson in Bluebell at 40.2 miles. The distances are approximate because for the faster vehicles there was a lot of passing to be done.
We were sure he could do better than this!!
The distance of 45 miles was so close to the world Record held by Fast Freddie Markham in Goldrush at 45.36 miles that we just had to make another attempt.

To reduce the rolling resistance, Miles contacted Dr. Alex Moulton who generously supplied us with some of his special Wolber slicks, and I set about reducing the friction in the previously hastily assembled bearing housings. Modifications were also made to the seat to provide support to the top of Pat Kinch’s spine.

Colleagues Jim Keating and Steve Slade produced a computer program which would display on trackside monitors the number of seconds that Pat was in advance or arrears of a minimum target distance of the then current record plus half a mile (i.e. 45.86 miles). The trackside monitors could also be made to display the average speed from the start.

On September 8th, the team, Miles Kingsbury, Pat Kinch, John Kingsbury, Steve Slade and Jim Keating set off for Millbrook where we were met by Mike Burrows, Richard Ballantine, the Official Time Keeper Ivan Jeckell, and as many cheer leaders as we could muster for the occasion. Everything was set up by 7.15 pm (though we had hoped for 6.45) and off Pat went.
Imagine the excitement when after the first lap Pat was 11 seconds up on the target schedule. The 11 seconds built up and eventually reached over one minute.

After about 45 minutes the light began to fail and the timekeeper’s car set off in pursuit of Pat to light his path from the right using dipped headlamps. You can imagine the scene as the Bean emerged from the gloom every two and a half minutes or so only to disappear again seconds later.
At the count-down for the hour, a bag of chalk was dropped from the car and the distance measured by tape from the previous 0.1 mile marker. Pat slowed down for a lap in almost total darkness as his only source of light was making the measurement! He was caught, extracted from the Bean and given the glad tidings – 47 miles. This was later corrected to 46.96 miles when calculated to the inner line of the circuit.

The calculations were checked and confirmed, the claim forms filled in (out) and witnessed and a vote of thanks was given to Rod Calvert, the Director of Millbrook, who had made the whole enterprise possible.
There were a lot of smiling faces that night. Again!
English understatement
1991 May – Pat and Bean II Break 500m, 1000m and 1 mile world records at RAF Fairford.

Over the weekend of 9th/10th May 1991, THE BEAN TEAM added three new short distance world records and a British record to their existing world hour record.
A 2.6km long runway at R.A.F. Fairford was the venue, 24 year old veterinarian surgeon Pat Kinch was the driver.

Pat Kinch Driver
Miles & John Kingsbury Designers/Builders
Steve Slade Launcher/Catcher
Robin & Alec Hutton Timing

Terry S Simmonds Surveyor

Richard Ballantine )
Jonathan Woolrich ) IHPVA Members
John Lafford )
Also present:
Mike Burrows
Sgt James Baker USAF (RAF Fairford)

Bean II was developed as a replacement for The Bean that holds the world hour record. Yellow Bean as it is known, was made as a single skin fibreglass shell over a steel bike. The result of this was a rather heavy (55 lbs) and not very rigid structure.

The lack of rigidity in the fibreglass fairing made it impossible to have any sort of doors for getting in and out nor foot flaps for starting and stopping. This resulted in a not very driver friendly machine. Pat had to climb in through the screen aperture and was then taped in and pushed off.
On a few occasions when Pat had mechanical problems (chain falling off) he had to gesticulate madly inside The Bean and one of the helpers would rush over and catch him. If here were no helpers about he would have to try and find something to park up against and then wait patiently.

Bean II was made as a monocoque structure as was the original 1984 Bean. The strength and rigidity is provided by the shell into which the other components are bolted. The shell is a fibreglass/honeycomb/fibreglass sandwich which is vacuum formed into a fibreglass mould and cooked at 100°C in a thermostatically controlled oven.

The resulting structure is lighter and much more rigid and allows us to have a hinged lid and sprung foot flaps. This makes it vastly more user friendly and has reduced the weight to about 401bs. Wind tunnel tests on Bean II showed the drag had also been reduced by about 8% giving us a CD of 0.06.

The BHPC was invited by 220 Magazine to R.A.F. Fairford to put on some HPV races in support of a Duathalon. When we investigated the airfield runway we found it to be 2.6Km long with a very smooth tarmac surface, perfect for Short distance record attempts.

Over the next few weeks, we had the runway surveyed for flatness and marked out with positions for 200m, 500m, 1000m and 1 mile timing points. Official timing gear was booked for the weekend of 9th/10th May and this was supplied and operated by Robin and Alec Hutton who are R.A.C. approved and very used to this type of event. BBC Record Breakers were also notified and decided to come along with a film crew.

After two windswept trips out to RAF Fairford, we finally got a chance to try Bean II on the Monday before the attempt. Conditions were perfect. Pat was sent of down the runway and after a few practice runs he got up steam and I clocked him at about 61 mph over the last part of the runway. We were all delighted and went home feeling very confident. On Tuesday afternoon we went for another practice. The lid got blown off, I dropped Pat when sending him off and the front suspension fell apart on Pat’s only run of the day. We all went home feeling depressed.

We arrived mid afternoon Saturday 9th May at Fairford and were greeted by torrential rain and gale force winds. The car was almost hit by some falling scaffolding that was caught in the wind. All we could do was sit and wait.
By 6pm the wind had dropped from gale force to stiff breeze. The timing gear was set up for a late evening attempt on the 200m British record.
At 9pm we were all standing shivering at the end of the runway, the wind had dropped below the 6Km/hour maximum set out by the IHPVA. The light was failing fast and it had started to rain. But Pat wanted to have a go so we set him off from the finish line around the perimeter road to the start of the runway. He came down the runway at a very leisurely 40mph and we expected him to stop at the end and climb out. Instead, he turned around without stopping and set off again around the perimeter road. This time he came blasting down the runway in more or less pitch darkness at 55.64 mph for the 200m timed section and established a new British record.
At last the wind has dropped, everything is ready, the lid is put down but the tension rises. Will there be a gust of wind? Will the gear changes be smooth? Will the screen mist up? I head off up the perimeter road aiming to get round the top bend at 35 mph.

It is very bumpy as I come onto the runway, then suddenly it’s smooth. Up to 3rd gear (160″) and start pumping on the pedals. The noise gets louder; I slip it into fourth gear (177″) and up to 40 mph, then into 5th. With 300 yards to go for the middle marker I let rip and change up to 6th gear (204″). The Bean slides through the air despite my burning legs. Exhausted, I cross the finish line and ram on the brakes trying to avoid the runway end lights. I just make it between them, relief at last but did I get the record?

On, Sunday, due to the very changeable weather conditions we decided an early start was important. At 6.30am we were all standing shivering at the end of the runway. The wind speed was zero on the airfield anemometer.
Pat and Bean II were made ready for an attempt on the world 500M and 1000M records to be timed simultaneously and on his second run he beat them both handsomely.

By 7.30am the wind had picked up and was starting to gust above the 6Kph allowable so we went and had some breakfast. At 7.45am the press arrived to cover the world beating effort and were understandably a bit miffed when they couldn’t find us.

The rest of the day was spent either HPV racing or watching racing round the Criterium circuit. (Pat won the unfaired class on his Kingcycle).
We decided to stay until evening to wait for another period of still conditions to have a go for the 1 mile world record.
At 9pm we were all standing shivering at the end of the runway waiting for the wind to drop. By 9.15pm it had obliged and the runway lights were switched on which was a great advantage over the Saturday night.
It took Pat only one run to smash the old record by about 8 mph raising it to 54.11 mph.

200m 55,64mph 89.55kph 8.04s British Record
500m 56.94mph 91.64kph 19.64s World Record
1000m 55.68mph 89.61kph 40.17s World Record
1mile 54.12mph 87.08kph 1m 6.53s World Record

Other machines
I imagine that if we added up all the machines we have built over the years; it would probably average out at about one for every year that we have been members of the BHPC. One of these days I must continue the above scribbling and document the more significant ones. Obviously the Slash and Beano combination should get a mention, being dominant in the UK races over the last few years and current 2x world champion.

So why do we do it?
For me, the fascination is the design and development of a new machine to get the best of the ever diminishing fraction of a horse power available. At the end of each season, I start thinking of next year’s design and often I just want to try something different. The lack of rules associated with our type of racing allows the imagination to wander. The main constraint at the moment is the type of tracks we race on, which has shifted to mostly purpose built cycle racing circuits with bends! This is great and I am hoping it will make my new creation (Quattro) fast enough to give Mr Slade a run for his money. Think positive!
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