Amazing Bikes: Velomobiles
All about velomobiles: eyecatching, streamlined, weatherproof and fun!
Posted by Peter Eland on Thursday 31 Mar 2011
Imagine a comfortable recumbent trike, weatherproof and streamlined, with the road presence of a small car, guaranteed to attract attention. That's a Velomobile!
Perhaps the most 'futuristic' pedal powered transport there is, velomobiles are still quite a rarity, but gradually accumulating a following. So what's the attraction?
Mainly, aerodynamics. With a full streamlined bodyshell, the rider may be able to achieve a certain speed for half the effort - allowing them to ride at greater speed, or for longer periods. And apart from the actual physical benefit, the psychological boost of being protected from wind and rain is huge. Get into a Velomobile on a blustery, wet day, and the weather disappears. It's not just the rider who benefits - the drive train, and any luggage, will also be protected, allowing for low maintenance and improved lifetime.
Of course, that bodyshell adds to the weight - and uphill, all the streamlining in the world won't take away the extra load, so some low gearing is a must. But you'll make up for it on the downhills and flats, and you could always opt for electric assist for the climbs. It's not surprising perhaps that many velomobile makers and owners are based in the flatter parts of Europe such as the Netherlands.
The other downsides are the sheer size, and cost. You'll need a garage to park it in - after all, it's almost the size of a small sports car, but that bodyshell will be hugely visible, and provide a degree of protection in an accident. And it'll cost upwards of £3000, so it's no light investment.
There are numerous velomobile builders around the world, each with subtly different shapes of fairing - search online for "velomobile" to see the variety, from the perky Danish Leitra to the sweeping lines of the WAW, reminiscent of a wingless figher plane. You could even build your own, with the Alleweder kit - everything you need, down to the rivets.
At the moment, the velomobile remains perhaps a toy for the enthusiast, although owners often take full advantage of the machine's weatherproofing and stability to commute all year round. But as with all recumbents, as numbers increase, and production becomes more efficient, we may see far more of them on our roads.
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