New record set on fastest recumbent bicycle: 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships 2021

Cliff Federspiel smashes the 12-hour recumbent bicycle course record at the World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, CA riding his Cruzbike V20.

Cliff Federspiel recently set the 12-hour recumbent bicycle record at the World Time Trial Championship (WTTC) in Borrego Springs, California, riding an astonishing 272.4 miles in 12 hours (that's an average of 22.7 mph for 12 hours). This is a major achievement. Before we get to Cliff's race report, I sat down on a Zoom call with Cliff and gathered some information that should be of interest.

Cliff Federspiel

Cliff beat the existing 12-hour record set in 2016 by Kevin Gambill, by a whopping 24 miles. Kevin, who also rides a Cruzbike V20, holds the Bike Sebring 12-hour recumbent record, and was part of the record setting 4-person Cruzbike team in Race Across America in 2017. Only one person finished ahead of Cliff at the WTTC, and that was 26-year old phenom Ryan Collins on a  time trial (TT) bike.

Cliff got interested in recumbent road bikes while looking for a solution to his wife's carpal tunnel syndrome in 2016, when he picked up a Cruzbike Sofrider. They both learned to love their Cruzbike and the next Cruzbike was an S30. In a few years, Cliff was riding a V20 and his wife an S40.

Cliff has an athletic background, from competitive swimming to rugby and many other sports, but not bicycle racing until recently. Cliff also rides a mountain bike. He loves indoor training with Zwift and other apps. He got a coach in May 2021 to get more serious about training and that has really helped his performance.

Details about his Cruzbike V20 recumbent road bike: he trains with a power meter, specifically the pedal-based Favero Assioma. He likes the Rotor QXL elliptical rings (50/34) and 145 mm short cranks. He changed out the stock V20 seat for a large Thor seat, but he had to cut the top edge off of it to make it comfortable (Cliff is 5 ft 10 inches). When he rides on a hilly course, he uses a 10-42 cassette, with a Wolf Tooth RoadLink Derailleur Hanger Extension to make it possible to shift such a large cassette. For the WTTC, he ran with an 11-28 cassette because it is a mostly flat course. He locked out the front derailleur so that it was only used to keep the chain on the big ring during the race. For his indoor training, he uses his old Cruzbike S30 on a TACX Neo trainer.

I am very excited to see what Cliff does next. He lives in California, but he is thinking of making the long trip to Bike Sebring in Florida coming up (just around the corner) in February 2022. Whether or not we see him there, I am sure there are great performances in Cliff's future. Now on to Cliff's report.

-Jim Parker

6-12-24 World Time Trial Championship Race Report:

Two years ago I entered the 6-hour race at the 6-12-24 World Time Trial Championship in Borrego Springs (see Cliff's report from that race here). This year I decided to up the ante, so I entered the 12-hour race.

I started serious training in mid-May. In 2019 I used a low-carb, high-fat diet to get my weight down. This year my coach convinced me to use a conventional high-carb diet, and I think that helped me get quite a bit stronger. My average power for the first 8 laps (144 miles) was slightly higher than my average power for the 145 miles I did in the 6-hour race two years ago, and then I did six more hours on a day when the temperature got three degrees higher, the UV index got 2 points higher, and the winds speeds were twice as high.

I was feeling very nervous the day before the race and the morning of the race. The tape on my wheel covers had been coming loose during shakedown rides, so I re-taped the entire rear wheel with Gorilla tape and did some tactical re-taping with Gorilla tape on the front wheel. I was planning to ride with a covered front wheel, which is a high-risk, high-reward configuration that requires low winds. But on Friday the winds were gusting up to 35 mph. I figured I would have to remove the front wheel covers if they didn’t die down. The forecast showed they would, but you never know.

I woke up early figuring I might need extra time to remove the front wheel covers. I got up at 2:10am, ate a banana and two slices of bread with peanut butter, got a cup of coffee, then went out to the parking lot to check the wind. It was calm and cool, so I decided to go with the wheel covers. The winds turned out to be gustier than the parking lot check indicated, especially at the north and south ends of the course. Twice when descending from the southern incline at high speed I had to grab the frame with my legs and lean hard into a sustained gust to keep from getting blown off the road. And on the first lap while heading east on Henderson Canyon Road a huge gust blew a giant dust cloud right in front of me, making me think “geez, nature just rolled coal on me”.

I started in Wave #3. To conserve battery power, I have a short timer configured on the backlight of my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. I figured I would mostly ride by feel until sunrise, just checking my power occasionally. When we launched, I hit the start button on my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, but it didn’t seem like it started so I hit it again. I quickly pulled away from the others in Wave #3. Heading up Borrego Springs Road I hit one of the side buttons to turn on the backlight so I could check my power, and to my horror it was reading “N/A”! I overtook Wave #2 before I reached the first turn onto Henderson Canyon Road. By then I was starting to calm down about the power meters, figuring I could use speed and heart rate to control my pace. I overtook at least half of Wave #1 before the stop sign on Borrego Valley Road. After making the turn onto Borrego Springs Road and heading up the incline, I took another look at the computer and saw that it had only recorded 1 second of data. That’s when I realized my error. I took a closer look and saw that it was paused. I pushed the resume button and there was my power number!

The plan was to pit twice, once at 6 hours and once at 10 hours. I carried a 3.75L hydration bladder loaded with Roctane mix in my Bacchetta Brain Box, and a 0.5L TT bottle with lightly salted water up front. I depleted the bladder early, just after finishing Lap 6, so I rode Lap 7 with just the 0.5L TT bottle. I came into the pit stop about 5:15 into the race. At that point I was the overall leader in the 12-hour race by three minutes and 20 seconds. Unfortunately, I had to take a bio break at the pit stop, and this resulted in an eternally long 7-minute pit stop. When I got back to the bike Elisa handed me a banana and a Clif bar. I inhaled the banana and ate the Clif Bar as I got on the bike and started heading up Borrego Springs Road. That 7-minute pit stop dropped me back to third position.

The last bit of the Clif Bar really didn’t want to go down, and I considered spitting it out, but instead I forced it down figuring the carbs would help. That was a mistake. As I got onto Henderson Canyon Road my stomach was starting to feel queasy, and by the time I made the turn onto Borrego Valley Road I was feeling pretty lousy and my power was down significantly. I drank some of the water from the TT bottle hoping that would dilute the sugar in my gut. It helped a little, but I feel like I never really recovered from dropping all of that sugar into my gut.

After the sun came out from behind the early morning clouds, it got hot quickly and I got into a state where I was a little nauseous and didn’t have a drive to drink even though my mouth was getting dry and I clearly needed hydration. Realizing this I decided to drink at each corner of the course and at the midpoint of each long stretch. After making a turn from Henderson Canyon Road onto Borrego Valley Road I reached for my drink tube right when a big gust hit me. It nearly knocked me over, but I got my hand back on the bar and recovered. This is a consequence of the front wheel cover I didn’t anticipate; interference with hydration. After that incident I thought about where it was less gusty, and tried to drink in those locations. But with that constraint and no real desire to drink I wasn’t getting enough water or electrolytes.

Racing through the pit at Borrego Springs World Time Trial Championships

After several more laps, I was heading up the incline and decided to spray some of the water from the TT bottle onto my chest. It felt pretty good, so I stopped at the pit and got an entire bottle poured on me. I did that a few more times to deal with the heat and the nausea.

As the day got hotter, I started getting hot foot. So I loosened my shoes when I made pit stops. I had to do this three times to deal with hot foot. Each time it helped for a lap or two, but then the hot foot would come back. The second half of the final finish lap I had particularly painful hot foot.

I depleted the second hydration bladder coming up the incline and came into the pit for the second bladder+bottle swap at about 10 hours into the race. The wind had picked up in the latter part of the race, and there were only two non-gusty spots to drink on the finish loop. At one spot on the finish loop I got sand-blasted by a strong gust. Thankfully the shield on my helmet protected my eyes.

Fastest Recumbent Road Bike Records - 12 Hour World Time Trial Championship

At the end of the race I nearly had a Pheidippides moment. After passing through the timing chute, I pulled over to the side of the road. A huge wave of nausea hit me and I had a dry heave. My son Conrad came over and offered me a beer and some food, and I couldn’t even think of taking it. I started feeling faint. My wife Elisa and Conrad’s girlfriend Shannon came over and the three of them realized I was in trouble. They had me remove my helmet, and the light was intensely, painfully bright. I started seeing spots and passed out for a moment. Shannon went over to let the race director know I was in trouble, and he had his medic come over to check me out, and they called 911. A paramedic team arrived and found my blood pressure was 95/59, way too low for me. They inserted an IV and started giving me a saline solution. I got extremely cold, with uncontrollable shivering until they wrapped me in a sleeping bag provided by a Good Samaritan. After a whole bag of saline solution, my systolic got back up to about 105, so I got up and walked to the car, went back to the hotel, rehydrated and got some food.

Despite all the issues after the first pit stop, I performed pretty well. Like 2019, I finished second overall, set a new recumbent road bike category record, and did so in a much more difficult race. Thanks to my coach Nathaniel English at English Endurance for helping me get ready for this challenging event. Also thanks to the race organizers for putting on an excellent event under epically challenging conditions for event organizers. Congratulations to all of the other competitors, and especially to Ryan Collins who finished first overall with a really well executed race. And finally, thanks to Elisa, Conrad, and Shannon for crewing. They did a great job keeping me going, cheering me on, and rescuing me at the end.




  • David Plantenga

    Record Breaker Mister Cliff
    Congratulations on dreaming and finishing BIG.
    Records are to be attacked, but personal bests are forever …
    Very happy for you.

  • Martin

    Thanks for sharing – including the low points! Must have been really bad if even beer won’t help. I wonder if these races shouldn’t include a time allowance for bathroom brakes rather than give advantage to the lucky ones and the masochists.

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