Why a velomobile?

Well, let me explain…

What a Drag

When a bicyclist goes through the air, all of their separate body parts and bike parts are each creating a chaotic mass of turbulence behind the rider.  This is called drag and it becomes dramatically worse with each increase in speed.  The faster the biker goes,  more and more of their energy is going toward pulling away from this drag.

The innovative, low and compact design of the recumbent bike helped to reduce this drag.  In fact it was so effective that recumbents were banned from traditional bike races because they consistently won over their upright competitors.  Talk about your sore losers!  Now the upright bikers have only themselves to beat.

The velomobile simply takes that low, compact design of the recumbent and wraps it in an aerodynamic cocoon.  This lets the air slip smoothly around the vehicle and, most importantly, join together smoothly once the vehicle has passed.  The loss of drag allows the velomobile to go faster, with less effort.  And on the downhills, truly frightening speeds can build up quickly.

Relax

There is a lot of pain associated with riding upright bicycles.  If you’re an avid rider, you’re probably well acquainted with them.  And the older you get, the more you feel them!  There is neck pain from holding the head up, sore hands and wrists from taking all of that road shock through the handlebars, and the dreaded butt pain from those skinny seats!

In the velomobile, you sit as you would in your living-room, reclined with your feet resting on the ottoman.  The upper body is relaxed, the head balances naturally, and you can easily steer using only one hand if you wish.  The same hand has control of the brakes which are always right at the fingertips.  Your other hand is free to grab that water or coffee container at your side or take pictures of the passing scenery.  Ah!

Give me shelter

I received my velomobile just after Christmas.  The weather was cold – hovering between 15  and 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  I’d heard that you didn’t need much clothing in the velomobile to keep you warm so I put on what I thought was a “reasonable” amount.  OK, I looked like a fleecy arctic explorer.  Anyway, fifteen minutes into the ride, I noticed that my shirt felt damp, my head felt hot, and that my hands were starting to sweat inside my winter bike gloves.  The layers started coming off until I wore only a pair of stretchy winter sports pants, a thin t-shirt, a thin athletic jacket, and a fleece cap.  That’s it.  No gloves.  No coat.

I was quite toasty and comfortable.  What a strange feeling it was to be out on my “bike”, slipping through the windy, wide open spaces of the Illinois countryside with snow and ice under the wheels, while being cozy and relaxed inside my cocoon!  There was also the peace of mind that, if something unforeseen happened and I actually needed to be “out” in the weather, my winter coat, a fleece jacket, another hat, and mittens were tucked right behind my seat.  Just in case…

Luggage Space

Speaking of storing stuff, the velomobile is absolutely great for taking stuff with you when you ride.  Its body is a smooth, beautiful, aerodynamic shape.  Whatever you cram into it won’t change that beautiful shape or alter its ability to slip through the air with ease.  The body is almost completely enclosed so there’s no need to strap everything down – just place your stuff strategically to keep things from rolling around.

I have a couple of small duffle bags on either side of my seat, under my elbows.  In these I store an assortment of glasses and goggles (so I can be fashionable in any weather), gloves, mittens, hats, tools, pump, spare tubes, tissues, phone, camera, reading glasses, maps, and anything else I may need to get to while I ride.  Behind me, under the seat and on either side of the rear wheel enclosure, there is a lot of space to be had!  Its winter here and I haven’t been able to fill all that space with all of my warm emergency clothes.  I’ve read that you can actually pack enough to go on a self-sufficient cross-country tour and now I believe it.

Visability

When you look at an upright bike, you see a lot of thin lines with a lot of air space between them.  The most imposing mass on a bike is the biker himself, and we have an interesting habit of adorning him with fashionably black spandex so that bike and rider virtually disappear into the background.

Now if you take a bike and put a big bubble around it and paint that bubble neon yellow, now you can see it!!!  Add some headlights, tail-lights, turn signals, and running lights, and you really can’t miss it – day or night.

The only real problem with a velomobile is its low stature.  It can be obscured from view by low hedges, fences or other vehicles.  This can be dealt with by mounting flags or light poles on the velomobile when you want to go play with the autos.  But remember, drivers can be inattentive and run into each other all the time, so when it comes to the height factor, I believe it’s mostly about learning to constantly search for the dangerous situations and taking care of yourself.

14 thoughts on “Why a velomobile?

    • Hey Jimm! Congratulations! You are the first person worldwide to give feedback (positive) to my new blog, which qualifies you for one bright, cheap plastic prize which you must collect in person (identification required) in Chicago. I visited your website recumbent.greenvalues.net and you are my new hero. Ten years without a car! That’s exactly the direction I wish to go. Thanks so much for your support!

      • I’ll pass on the prize for now, since I “escaped” the U.S. in 2000 and have no plans to go back anytime soon. But if you ever visit Copenhagen, Denmark you are welcome to bring the prize with you, and I’ll even give you a recumbent tour of the city. 🙂

  1. Hi there!

    Greetings from another (yellow) Strada rider (from Holland).
    Your blog makes an interesting read. And I like the layout. Will follow it in the future.

    With kind regards
    Paul van Roekel (Strada 94)
    mooigeelisnietlelijk.blogspot.com

    • Hey, Mr. Six Million Meter Man!

      Congratulations on your milestone and thanks for your support. I enjoy your blog as well! And if you ever decide to make the jump from Strada to Quest I’ll be very interested in your insights. I definitely think I made the right choice for my area – too many pedestrian-style right angle turns. Anyway, here’s to your next six million Paul!

      Stuart

    • Hello Larry, very nice to meet you. I like your blog and especially your Godspoke Cyclists group looks like a blast. I’ll be keeping my eyes on you. Thanks for dropping by!

    • Hurrah and welcome Greg!

      It’s always wonderful to hear that our numbers are steadily swelling. If you have even half the fun I’ve had, you’ll be very happy indeed. You just need to get through the awkward ‘sticking out like I’m from another planet’ stage. After that, you just wonder why everyone isn’t driving one. Here’s to your future adventures!

      Stuart

  2. Hi here, stumbled across your site and like it very much. Especially the humorous style of writing and the psositive attitude. Your description of the mouse in the steering mechanism was wonderful. Hope to join you as a Velomobile rider in the near future (Am actually designing one myself right now). Look forward to sharing my experiences in the future. Ride on!

    • Hello Birgir,

      Always great to hear yet another velonaut joining our massive numbers. I am starting to think, however, that our aspirations for world domination may take some time…

      Glad you found the articles entertaining and thanks for your nice comments. But WOW! – designing your own velomobile is pretty darned cool! If you get your own blog up and running, let me know. I’d love to follow your progress. The best of luck to you!

      Stuart

  3. Hey there!
    This is Lars from Germany. As a fairly new velomobile rider, I got mine just last month, I came across your blog. I ride Strada #212 which I have christened to the name of ‘Intrepid’. In your blog I find so much feelings that I myself am experiencing right now.
    Great and entertaining read. I’ll add your blog to my blogroll on http://www.streetmachinist.de. It’s written in german but Google translator is available. In case you’re strong enough to bear with the bloopers it creates 😉
    I’m going to follow your adventures with your ‘spaceship’ 🙂

    Greetings … Lars

    • Hello and congratulations Lars!

      I’m glad you’re finding some entertainment among my silly adventures. And I’m honored that you listed me on your site. Your blog brings back all the emotions of angst and excitement that come with taking the velomobile plunge. Thrilling and scary! I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never been sorry and never looked back. I hope your experience is the same. All the best to you and your family Lars. I’ll be stalking your blog as you get acquainted with your beautiful new Intrepid. Cheers!

      Stuart

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