I contacted Wim Schermer at Velomobielonderdelen.nl before I even had a velomobile to ensure a spot in line for one of his beautiful Racekaps. I wanted to make sure I had a top for our Spring rainy season. He was very nice but informed me that he couldn’t start work until he knew how much my fat head would stick out above the top of the Strada. He said it nicer but I got the point. Unfortunately, my head was in Chicago and the Strada was in Toronto – so he promised to make one as soon as I knew, and I promised to contact him 30 minutes after the arrival of my new Strada. Then… I waited.
And waited. And pushed my nose to the front window – watching. And waited. And did my best zombie moan as I stared blankly out at the street. It seems that somebody’s Quest had taken forever and held up the production line. Anyway, I’ll spare you the gruelling, groaning, moaning, whiny details but finally… it arrived!
I adjusted the seating and pedals to neanderthal settings, had Kathy measure the protruding hairy mass, inserted the number in my pre-drafted email, and sent it off to Wim. I promptly got an apologetic response from him saying that he’d just closed shop to move to larger quarters and would need several weeks for the move and installation of new machinery. Gah! I’ll bet that darned Kevin had something to do with that too!! What was I to do but ride my sorrows away.
As you saw from my tastefully subtle previous post, it did finally arrive. It missed all the cold weather but, as Wim promised, just in time for the rain.
So what’s it like?
First – it’s fast! It does what it’s supposed to do – increases your speed and makes it easier to go fast.
Second – it’s thoughtfully designed and constructed.
It fits the cockpit opening of my Strada perfectly and the Velcro attachment system ensures trouble-free alignment every time. There’s even an extra set of straps toward the front which I suppose are for holding down the kap in extraordinary conditions like going downhill in the mountains with 20 mph headwinds.
I was a bit concerned about visibility through the visor opening but I can see everything to the front and sides – no problem! And there’s even enough room in the Racekap to twist my head around to check traffic at those odd intersections which are less than 90 degrees.
The large visor is held in position by two semi-rigid plastic levers on either side. These Velcro attachments are easily adjustable while riding and hold very well. I was worried that they’d be in the way visually or physically but that hasn’t been the case. I don’t know how Da Hood compares on this but I’ve been in some strong headwinds which certainly want to rip the visor open if I have it cracked for ventilation. I’m very thankful for the levers’ firm grip in those situations!
Airflow through the Racekap is terrific. There’s this wonderful stream coming off the front of the velomobile, under the primary visor, over the top of that tiny secondary visor, around the top of the cap, and out the back in one, un-impeded flow. It’s like having your head in an air-conditioner duct. Don’t ask me how I know.
In colder weather, a slight adjustment in visor height will fine tune the velomobile’s interior temperature to perfection. For anti-fogging, I’m using a product from my old motorcycle days called Zooke. It makes the visor sparkly clean and fog free.
Thirdly – it looks cooool!
And… slightly intimidating. It seems to have an amplifying effect on everyone’s response to the velomobile. If they liked it before, they really like it now. If they were afraid of this strange machine before, they are almost terrified now. If they thought it didn’t belong on the bike path before, they are even more put out now.
Also, it inserts this thin, protective layer between the rider and the rest of humanity – much like a car. You are encapsulated and enjoy a certain amount of privacy, but onlookers now view the velomobile as an “it” as opposed to a rider and machine. This mental shift allows them to think, say, and do things that they’d probably never do to your face – even though it’s right there looking back at them. Quite an astounding shift to witness firsthand.
Random thoughts –
I love it. It is fast and provides all-weather protection.
It gives off more of a don’t-touch-me-I’m-a-car – rather than a – play-on-me-I’m-a-toy vibe. I feel more comfortable parking it in shopping areas while I get supplies. It also appears more secure to the morally stunted among us.
I probably won’t wear a helmet under it. A helmet fits under there but I can’t turn my head sideways very much and there’s quite a racket as the helmet rattles against the Racekap – not pleasant.
I got some thick rubber stripping from Wim to install on the interior of the Racekap to give it more helmet-like protection. As far as the shell, I suspect that the carbon fiber may be a bit stronger than the plastic of normal helmets.
In general, the Racekap is for protection and going fast, not socializing. You can’t look up to talk to your buddies on their upright bikes and can’t hear very well in there anyway. Organized social rides invariably require helmets so the choice for these rides is pretty simple for me.
I did find one thing to nitpick about – There is a certain amount of vibration which goes on between the top edge of the visor and the Racekap which causes tiny scratches to both. You can see that I’ve added some electrical tape to the visor hoping to decrease the problem.
To sum it up in a sentence, I’m very proud to own this well designed piece of equipment and believe that it greatly expands my travel possibilities in the velomobile. It has earned the highly prestigious YellowMobile Seal of Approval. I just know Wim will get all choked up about that!
** A note about the extra Velcro straps – Quezzzt has enlightened me in the comments section that these are to help hold the kap in place if an accident occurs. You wouldn’t want your helmet flying off in a rollover – same with the Racekap. Thanks for sharing your knowledge Quezzzt!