Why I bought a velomobile


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.

Comments (3)

Hi Mike,

I saw your bike on the multi-use path on Platt Rd this summer and I see it parked downtown sometimes. I was wondering how it is on hills and what your long term assessment of it is.


Hi Paul,

On rolling hills I have more than enough momentum to get over the next hill. At 35mph I have twice as much kinetic energy than 25mph.

Long uphill climbs are the Achilles heel of a velomobile. When you are going slow you have no aerodynamic advantage and the extra weight is more difficult to get up the hill. I usually go up hills at around 10 mph. There are plenty of low gears on the quest, so that it is not too much effort. On the way down those same hills I am going 40-47mph, and I can sustain that high speed for miles.

You can check out Tony Eastwood’s article on his commute in the hilly North Wales. http://bluevelo.com/uploads/VV25_quest.pdf

Long term assessment is good.


Hi Mike,
Saw your website on your ROAM photo. Very nice.
Glad to see you are joining the trip. I like what you say about the Achilles heel, that is so true. I am having a tough time to get my avg above 19mph. Not very high I know but I dont think its the velos fault. Planning to get much fitter soon.


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