My test drive at Bluevelo

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Posted by | Posted in Waiting list times | Posted on 22-11-2009

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After making the decision to get a velomobile, I wanted to take one for a test drive.  This was very important to me because I am 6’ 3” tall and weigh 250lbs.  Not exactly your typical skinny spandex wearing biker.  I wanted to make sure I would fit in one before I committed.  My internet searches confirmed my fear that some velomobile models do not fit bigger riders as well as others.  I decided I wanted to test drive a Quest velomobile.  In July of 2008 there was one place in North America that I could get a test drive – that would be Bluevelo in Toronto.  My wife and I were due for a little rest and relaxation, so we made a weekend of it to meet Ray at Bluevelo.

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I intended on capturing some video of the ride in action, but it rained during my entire trip, so I didn’t dare take any video much less very many pictures.  I actually didn’t mind the fact that it was raining.  If I intend to use this as a commuter vehicle, I better know what I am in for.  It stopped raining just as I pulled back into Ray’s garage.  Figures…  I stayed a lot drier than my wife and Ray who were riding on a regular bike (they were soaked to the bone).  My head and the front of my shirt was wet.

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How fast did I go pre-story. The Quest velomobile is not as easily adjustable for different height people as some are (meaning it takes about 15 minutes or more to adjust it properly).  Partly because the designers wanted all riders to have the optimal seat position to balance the weight.  Anyway Ray had to add 5 links of chain to accommodate my long legs.  As we found out part-way through the trip, he should have added more.  As soon as I shifted into the large chain ring, the derailleur locked up.  This limited me the mid-range gears for the rest of the trip.

How fast did I go? With the limitation above, I was able to go about 45 kph or 27mph – pedaling pretty fast on flat ground.  The rain hitting my eyes at that speed also kept me from really pushing it.  I am not sure if I could have sustained that speed for a long time (I am out of shape).  If I had the third range of gears, I could have gone faster.  Ray said that he has gone over 50kph or 31mph on flat ground .

Downsides.

  • There were no hills in Toronto to test out the hill climbing ability.
  • I felt a numbness in my toes and my calf was cramping up after an hour of riding.  My legs were not tired however.  Ray says that the numbness is a common complaint to new riders of recumbent bikes (usually called recumbutt) and that my body would adjust.  The numbness in the calf I attribute to the limited blood flow and me not stretching before riding.
  • At higher speeds, with the black cover on, the aerodynamics created an air pocket in front of my mouth, that made it difficult to get a good deep breath of air.  If I turned my head slightly it was not a problem.  I need a supercharger for my mouth.

All in all I was very pleased.  I put myself on a waiting list to get one.

Why I bought a velomobile

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Posted by | Posted in Waiting list times | Posted on 21-11-2009

I used to be a pretty active guy.  I grew up on a farm and I ran cross country in high school.  I could eat anything and still be skinny as a rail.  I started out with a physically active career, but for one reason or another I find myself today sitting in a desk all day.  See my work blog for a better explanation.   Age and lack of activity caught up with me, and I am about 50lbs overweight.  I had a gym membership, but exercising on a stationary bike was not for me.

scooter10Wind back the clock to July 2008.  Gas prices are at an all-time high at over $4 per gallon.  If only I could find a way to combine exercise with a more fuel efficient way to get to work.  My first thought was some sort of moped with bicycle pedals.   The problem with this type of vehicle is I would not get much exercise, the top speed is only 20 mph, and I would be exposed to the harsh elements we get here in the state of Michigan.

While searching the internet for a more enclosed bicycle I came across streamliners.  These are the super high speed bicycles that break human powered world records.  The current speed record is held by Sam Whittingham at over 82mph.  Wow that is pretty fast, but these bicycles are not very practical for a daily commute.  After some more searching, I found that streamliners have a more practical cousin called a velomobile.

Velo means bicycle and mobile is well… I’m not sure what mobile means exactly.  The bicycle car or velomobile has been around for a while.  It was created around the time of WWI in Europe.   fantom (Custom) It is the most popular in the Netherlands and Germany where they have an extensive bicycle infrastructure.  What makes a velomobile a velomobile?  The most important characteristic is a fairing to reduce wind resistance.  Wind resistance increases exponentially with faster speed, so to go faster than 15.5 mph (25 kmh) requires a lot more effort.  You have to be a pretty strong biker to get a normal bike above 25 mph (40.2 kmh).  A velomobile is extremely efficient – with very little wind resistance up to 30 mph.  resistancegraph

The velomobile seemed like the perfect thing for me.  It gives me a way to commute to work in all weather at faster speed than my road bike and gives me the all important exercise that I need.

In July of 2008 I put myself on a very long waiting list with Bluevelo to get a Quest velomobile.  I’ll have another post that explains why I chose that model.

Welcome to my blog

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Posted by | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 18-11-2009

Hello and welcome to MikesBike.net.  I’m just getting started.  Stay tuned for more posts, images, and video of my velomobile.