The Airdrie AirPark played host to a special moment in BMX history last summer.
On Aug. 27, 2020, Calgary BMX rider Max Ganakovsky, 17, set the Guinness World Record for the longest bicycle manual attempt, when he rode on his back wheel for a total distance of 648.3 metres – an effort that lasted just under two minutes.
“My legs were turning to lead and were very sore by the end, but I’m happy I was able to hold on and achieve the record,” said Ganakovsky, a Grade 12 student at Robert Thirsk High School in Calgary.
A manual, according to Ganakovsky, is similar to a wheelie, but does not allow for continuous pedalling for additional propulsion.
In order to gain enough speed to break the previous world record, Ganakovsky said he had to accelerate for about 100 metres before lifting up his front wheel. Data from video analysis of the stunt showed the teen was pedalling at 158 revolutions per minute during the run-up, and began the manual at a speed of 55.4 kilometres per hour.
“It’s very key to have a good run up to the line where I pick up the wheel and it’s important to pick up the front wheel centred, so I’m not swaying all over the place,” he said. “After that, when I’m stable, it’s just kind of autopilot. I make sure to keep my balance.”
In the end, the Calgary teen did not just beat the previous record of 339 metres, but nearly doubled it.
After setting the record, Ganakovsky said the verification process took roughly four months, meaning his record received official certification from Guinness World Records just before New Year’s Eve.
According to Ganakovsky, the almost perfect flatness of the Airdrie Air Park’s runway provided him the ideal setting for the record attempt.
“The Air Park obviously provided the best venue for the attempt, and thanks to them, they actually closed the airport down for two hours during the event to make sure everything was safe,” he said. “I know it was complicated to do that, so I’m appreciative they took the time to help me out.
“Without their help of supplying a nearly perfect runway, this record wouldn’t have been possible.”
Ganakovsky, who is a member of Calgary BMX, said he originally was going to attempt the world record in June 2020. Unfortunately, he broke his collarbone during a training session, delaying the attempt by two months.
“There was a lot of build-up to it because when I broke my collarbone, I thought my journey was done,” he said. “Thankfully, I was able to get on the bike earlier, keep training and was prepared for the record.”
The 17-year-old said he’s always been good at manualing, which is an important skill in BMX races. With the cancellation of the racing season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ganakovsky said the hiatus in competition presented the ideal opportunity to set his mind toward his world record attempt.
Having started BMX racing when he was nine years old, Ganakovsky said his long-term goal in the sport is to represent Canada at the Olympic Games.
“This world record was kind of a mini milestone to achieve that goal,” he said.