Racekap Thoughts

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.

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Underside of the Racekap

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.

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Visor Lever

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!

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Primary and secondary visors

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.

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Air exits through this generous opening at the rear

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!

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YellowMobile

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.

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Rubber head protection

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.

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No more scratches please

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!

6 thoughts on “Racekap Thoughts

  1. Great report. I hear your Strada was held up because they got tired of building Yellow Velomobiles.
    The Cap looks Great. Is your cap one piece or two? Can you stow it inside the Strada? (Da Hood can’t) Is there room to drink out of a water bottle? Maybe it won’t rattle so much if you turn down the music.
    Also I can send you some of our snow so you can do some winter testing.
    Kevin

    • Ah, my nemesis Kevin!
      I really like the idea of the two piece kap but got the one piece version for three reasons…
      a. I’m cheap
      b. I wanted to make sure it was waterproof
      c. I couldn’t see stowing a beautiful piece of art like the Racekap inside a vibrating, scratch inducing velomobile.
      I couldn’t stow this kap if I wanted to – unless I want to give up my seat.

      I had to go out to test for your water bottle query. Yes, if I lean my head back, I can just get the water bottle above horizontal. I’ve actually been using a soft sided water bottle from Platypus because I can drink from it in the vertical position. If I give it a slight squeeze, the water will magically levitate right into my mouth – and right out my nose if I squeeze too much.

      I guess I really should turn down the music if you can hear it all the way in Canada!

  2. It does look nice on your Strada without the ”hump” wich many hoods including mine have, wich would likely cause the same drag anyway. I see also your hood is a very good fit right out of the box.

    I expect the same benefits of the rubbers strips as you do, and put them in there also. I even think the claim they reduce some resonance noise is true, the hood seems somewhat quiter with the rubber strips. I think they act as a mass dampener and sound trap at the same time, to some extend ofcourse.

    With the strips i see no reason to wear a helmet under the hood. Both Wim ( hood seller ) and Ymte ( Strada manufacturer ) say that this type hood will stay put when you roll over ( at speed ) if attached to all 5 straps, and they have experience with this….I especially trust Ymte in this as he rode a Quest with its wheel well cover held together with tape at the CV race…obviously he rolls over regularly ;-)))

    Maybe a fun thing to share for Strada riders : in de workshop Ymte told me in the very beginning of the model they had high expectations of the Strada stability for a certain race that was all bends and corners. I cant recall if they even said ( or joked ) they designed it for this purpose, as it is also the 26 inch rear wheel successor of the earlier Mango model. His first ride to test the Strada suitability for his purposes he already rolled it over going too fast over a roundabout. Now, i have driven a Strada quite rough in general and it will turn over when really mishandled, but not so very easily. ( as a Quest ) So when it comes to experience in turning over velomobiles, it must be Ymte ;-)))

    Alternatively, you can equip that hood with even more straps. Some riders use 7 straps.

    • Hello Quezzzt,

      Thanks for cluing me in on the extra straps – that makes perfect sense. I’ll get some more Velcro in the Strada to connect them to. I read your article passing along Twilwel’s Velcro idea to silence the noise a few days ago and spent some time taping mine last night. I’m looking forward to a quiet test ride today.

      I really love the stability of the Strada! The thrill of fast curves is part of what makes cycling exciting for me and the Strada definitely delivers on that. I have’t had the YellowMobile up on two wheels yet (that I know of) and would rather keep it that way. It would be comforting to know the absolute limits of stability but then there’s only one way to know for sure…

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience and stories.

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