Eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt top speed of 12.27 meters per second would be fast enough for him to take off on Titan. The Jamaican sprinter could actually fly like the man of steel on one of Saturn’s moons while wearing a wingsuit.
Why you’re not as fast as Bolt yet
Over 100 meters, Bolt is estimated to accelerate to a top speed of 27.8 miles per hour. Fast enough to be pulled over for speeding in a school zone. And 25% faster than Tyreek Hill’s 40.
According to researchers in the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory, Bolt has a unique stride. With every single step, he generates a tremendous amount of force with his legs and flicks his feet into the air – critical for elite sprinters in order to achieve top speed as quickly as possible.
Bolt’s right foot generates a lot more impulse than his left. The force of the impact is more concentrated, strikes with greater speed and Bolt’s left foot hits the ground later than his right—all of which might lead to Bolt exerting greater force on his right leg than on his left.
This may have inspired a spring-heeled concept that could see Bolt (or you) rocket upwards of 50mph, after computer simulations showed it was possible to dramatically increase the amount of energy people put into each stride by improving performance while their feet are in the air.
“We wanted to see what physics allows and then explore it further by developing a device. This shows us how far we can push the boundaries and what key features we should focus on to develop the new technology.”David Braun
Breaking Down Amazing Power from an Unlikely Sprinter
The prototypical elite sprinter is typically a compact athlete, not a tall and lean one. At 6’5″, Bolt is often literally head and shoulders above the other competitors. He should be last out of the blocks and out of the race before it starts. Yet, he is the fastest man on this planet by a wide margin.
Usain Bolt’s athletic ability to produce power, speed, and endurance when running is determined by his muscle fibers make-up. Specifically, the dominance of one type of muscle fiber over another, specifically the ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscles, is in a sprinter’s DNA.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers produce no more energy than slow-twitch fibers when they contract. Still, they do so more rapidly through anaerobic metabolism. This allows for maximum speed in short bursts or over brief distances (like sprints), but at the cost of efficiency over long, sustained periods of use.
To put such power into perspective, the average human body has a nearly equal ratio of fast to slow-twitch muscle fibers. While the fastest sprinters possess as much as 80% fast-twitch fibers. And their counterparts, top long-distance runners, show upwards of 80% slow-twitch.
Usain Bolt top speed in a race is between 60-80 meters
Forgetting simulations and limitations for a moment, Bolt is faster than the estimated average traffic inside Boston, New York City, and San Francisco. Without traffic lights and stop signs, at peak acceleration, he hits a maximum speed three times greater than that of an average human.
Usain Bolt’s average speed throughout his record breaking 100 meter dash was 37.58 km/h or 23.35 mph.
So in 2011 Belgian scientists used lasers to measure his instantaneous speed at different stages of a 100-meter race held in September. They found that 67.13 meters into the race, Usain Bolt top speed reaches 27.78 mph.
Time for the ultimate speed showdowns
Now, lest we anoint him as some untouchable deity, it’s imperative to remember that Usain Bolt top speed is in the domain of Homo sapiens; he eats, breathes, and undergoes strenuous training regimes like any elite athlete. What is otherworldly about him isn’t his physiology so much as his ability to crystallize a universe of talent and hard work into the moment of perfect kinetic execution, his limbs articulating in harmony like a meticulously composed symphony.
Think of the sheer mechanical wonder that his muscles and ligaments must represent, each fiber contracting and releasing in a precise choreography that bests not only the limits of ordinary men but also those of extraordinary men.To best his record time the Pentagon, a Japanese game show, and a head start would have to get involved.
Then it’s only natural that the fastest human would lose his crown to a robot ‘Cheetah’. Modeled after the fastest land animal, not Tyreek Hill, the headless experiment of spinning legs and arms reached 28.3mph (45.5km/h) when tested on a treadmill. Then Justin Gatlin would break the record time in 9.45, but would also need the assistance of a 20 meter-per-second tail wind during a Japanese game show. Obviously invalidating the astonishing time. However, the fastest 100-meter time ever is still held by Bolt, who recorded an 8.65 second ‘anchor’ leg at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.