Wednesday, February 25, 2015

End of February Update

End of February Update
In the middle of winter, manufacturers are still working on their latest designs.  There is a lot of interesting stuff to appear on the market.

Cycle JV Fenioux

For those looking for a hood for their velomobile, CycleJV offers a hood for the Quest/Strada/Mango It is offered in two versions, the first is made of fiberglass, weights 880g  (31oz) and costs €450 for white and an extra €40 for colors.  the second is made of carbon fiber, weights 750g  (26oz) and costs €550 for white and an extra €40 for colors.  Shipping is an extra €20.

The company is offering a new hatch cover for the Quest/Strada/Mango and Quest XS equipped with two sizes of windscreen.  The hatch is a bit more open than the original foam hatch cover, it is equipped with a NACA duct and is made of fiberglass but a carbon version is in the plans.  The hatch cover is currently only available in white.  The price is set at €259 (not sure if it includes the VAT and delivery timeframe is 3 weeks.  This may be a good option for those riders who need to wear an approved helmet for competitions as most if not all hoods on the market significantly restrict movement of the head with a helmet.

The Mulsanne velomobile is finally going into production, the first shell is expected to weight 9.5kg and is expected at the beginning of April.  Meanwhile, the LeMans 002 is about to get on the road.  The newest version will see some improvements with a new boom


Katanga is now offering a fully enclosed chain for the WAW.  The new feature will certainly improve chain life and reduce the need for maintenance and cleaning.


Daniel Fenn is very active these days making the DF faster.  After working on the new hood, Daniel did more testing of the new wheel pants and provided more information and pictures.  We learned that the pants are taped-on with hockey tape but it is not clear how long it will take to install and remove.  The current version is very efficient but probably not suited for daily use; it is probably something to take to the track or special race events.  Daniel also indicated that he is working on a tail extension for the DF to further improve the aerodynamic performance, I guess his development lab is very active. Go Daniel!

Daniel is also looking for a female rider to challenge the 12/24hr records in the new and improved DF… anyone interested?  Maybe he is looking at challenging the men’s record himself.

A lot of riders are currently trying to determine if the modified DF will be more efficient than the new Milan SL MK3.  I guess we’ll really find out when the race season starts; as they say “When the green flag drops, the bullshit stops!”.

Velomobile Club Of Great Britain

Following on the steps of the French group, UK riders have formed the Velomobile Club Of Great Britain on Facebook.  Probably not as structured as the French group who have legal status, we see the idea of velomobile clubs moving ahead.

Meanwhile in France, in the French forum people are discussing the impact of the new association on the current recumbent cycling association and on the relationship and potential influence of local velomobile vendors may have.  I’m sure things will settle down but some see it as desertion!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mid-February Update

Mid-February Update

It may be February and riding for a large portion of riders is fairly limited or on hold but development is continuing.  Manufacturers are busy in their shop to come out with new products.

A few sporting events took place already this month, the HPRA Florida Challenge and the Sebring long distance events.  March appears to be a quiet month with no events on the calendar.


Daniel Fenn has been very active in his new development shop.  First he presented a set of wheel pants for DF that he claims will significantly improve performance.  Possibly requiring only110W at 50km/h, it could be a major aerodynamic improvement.  The wheel pants may be more limited to the track than the road as the front suspension appears to be limited to 1cm travel.  While designed for the DF, it will also fit other open wheel velomobiles in particular the DF-XL and Go-One Evo-K

Intercitybike Wheel Pants (velomobile shown with no wheel)

Daniel has also started the development of a hood for the DF, something people have been waiting for.  I hope we will see something soon and that Daniel will look at incorporating the best features of other hoods on the market.  You can watch Daniel sculpt the basic shape in this YouTube video (I can't seem to be able to embed successfully.

My new DF velomobile was also shipped this week you can see the picture below (the white one).  In a few weeks hopefully I will be picking it up at Bluevelo.


Velomobiel also announced that their velomobile shells will also be painted instead of using Gelcoat.  This is not surprising since their velomobile shells are made in the same Romanian factory as the DF.  Again, the company expects that the new system will increase yield as defects in gelcoat can result in wasted parts.  There will also be improvement in the quality of the finish providing a more shinny surface.  Unfortunately, the new finish may add a bit of weight especially for white shells.

Allert has not reported his progress on the Q4W in recent weeks.

After a few silent weeks Steve posted an update on his blog.  He came up with a new name for the large Milan he is currently developing.  The new model will be named the MX or Max.  He is making progress and we hope to see the pictures of the new velomobiles in the coming months.

Steve also raised interest in two new improvements that will be available for all existing Milan, including those made in Europe.  First a new rear carbon swingarm that will be a replacement for the current one and will be a bolt-on modification, as it will use the same mount.  The swingarm is still in development but should be available soon.  Steve is also offering a NACA duct for the hatch that can be retrofitted.  Several European riders already expressed interest in these two products.


New heated visor for the Sinner Hood is available in limited quantity.  Harry is working with a company to manufacture heated visors for the Sinner Hood.  The new visor will address fogging and freezing issues especially common with winter riding.  The visor has a double lens and consumes 5W at 12V so a secondary battery is recommended.  I expect that it does not need to be powered at all times or even at full power to increase battery life.  Unfortunately the €400 price tag for the visor and battery is a bit too steep for the average user. While the concept looks promising, maybe collaboration between manufacturers could help drive the cost down; the high price may be due to the limited number that would be produced but other hoods have the same problem and having a common solution adaptable to all hoods could reduce the price.


While the heated visor may be out of reach, Frans has developed a new system to evacuate condensation from the cockpit if you don’t mind riding with a mouthpiece.  The new system has been 3d printed and replaces the old fighter mask.  I don’t know if he will make it available commercially.

Velomobile France

New association was created for velonauts in France

The Velomobile Club de France, wants to organize velomobile rallies and rides, races and sporting events, access where members will get privileged access. But above all it is to provide a comfortable and ideal place for those involved in velomobiles.

The goals of this association are to:

·      Bring together companies and individuals involved in the practice of the Velomobile.
·      To represent velomobiles with public authorities, official federations and organizations.
·      Facilitate and encourage the development and the practice of riding velomobiles in France in all its forms, utilitarian, touring and competitive.
·      To increase velomobile participation in existing cycling gatherings and sporting events.
·      To promote and develop the velomobile use in response to environmental and public health issues.

The association wants to work with other associations like the French Recumbent association AFV (Association Française de Vélocouché) and the French HPV association (France HPV) and will work with them.  It is probably the first velomobile specific association in the world.

If this is successful, maybe other countries will follow suit or an international association will be created.  There may also be opportunities for an association to offer services like group insurance for velomobiles, promotion, and probably others.

Friday, February 13, 2015

First industry update of the year

First industry update of the year

Sorry for taking so long between posts.  I will try to provide a synopsis of the velomobile industry news from the previous month.  I realize that sometimes it takes a long time to make sense of information found on the Internet in different languages where I am using Google and Bing Translate to understand.  The Googlish or Binglish as I like to call the translations are often very difficult to comprehend. 


The biggest new this month is the launch of the Milan SL MK3 announced by Jens Buckbesch of Raderwerk.  This is the third generation of the record setting Milan SL.

The new velomobile will be a lighter and stiffer version of the Milan SL.  There are no major changes from an aerodynamic perspective.   The new model also addresses issues with water leaks around the lid with a redesigned gutter that discharges the water in the wheel well and a new seal for the hatch cover.  Specifically here are the 10 improvements over the MK2.

1-    Addressing rain leaks issues around the hatch cover and hood.
Improved water tank in the hinge region. The water is discharged into the wheel well below.
The hatch cover has an improved seal with 4 levers that is completely waterproof.
The new hood is also upgraded to provide a rain-tight connection to the hatch cover.
2-    Stiffness of the drivetrain
The new design of the front and rear wheel arch provides new very rigid mounts for the two pulleys. Removing any deflection movement of the rollers thus improving drive efficiency.
3-    Weight-stiffness ratio of body
The shell is now built with an optimized power flow rail system to increase the strength and rigidity while reducing weight. This includes a central main spar Center under the entire bow, connects to the fastening of the standard aluminum mast or the optional custom-made carbon mast. This will reduce torsion and bending of the drive mast.  Other modifications will also increase stiffness of the drivetrain and minimize deflection of the roller bearing and will also provide a channel to evacuate the water from the hatch.
4-    Safety
An improved vertical support of the central frame will significantly increase the crumple zone available during a frontal collision preventing the frame to move towards the driver. By rail system, the passenger compartment is considerably more stable.
5-    A new hatch and one-piece hood based on the race version was developed for everyday use.
6-    The new central spar offers new ventilation options that can be used in conjunction with NACA air intakes.
7-    The front wheel wells have been redesigned to enable the use of wider tires than was possible with the earlier model and provides room for a much longer suspension travel. This means that the SL can be equipped with longer and much softer springs.
8-    The chain channel is now made with glued cover for added rigidity.
9-    The rear seat adjustment unit is replaced by one made of a carbon fiber.  The unit not only accommodates the seat spring but it is also used to hold the rear idler, and also supports the floor of the velomobile while keeping the pulley against the rear wheel arch.
10- You can now order as an option the new elastomer sprung struts for the front with very low weight.


I came across this new velomobile from Sweden.  HVM stands for Henry’s VeloMobile.  The new monocoque velomobile was designed by Nadim Khemir and built with partner Jan-Inge Ljungberg  owner of Crazy Trike Builders in Skåne is now in pre-production for 2 velomobiles.  The two will decide later if commercial production will follow.  The new velomobile appears to be heavily inspired by the WAW but specs and or price have not been released publicly… stay tuned!

Update: I received a note from Nadim Khemir to inform me that I made a couple of errors in my February 13th update. First, Nadim did not design the HVM Henry Ridiel designed the velomobile about 10 years ago. Nadim Khemir and partner Jan-Inge Ljungberg will indeed build the two new velomobiles.  He also informs me that the Crazy Trike Builders in Skåne is group of friends who enjoy trikes and velomobiles.  It is also very early to  decide if this will become a commercial project, as he says, there are a number of good velomobiles currently being produced.  He also tells me that from up close, the HVM is fairly different from the WAW.  The group has more projects planned for next year.


Ymte and Daniel reported the production of only 4 DF in January; these include the first three to be sent to North America.  The low production numbers can be explained as the last week of January was spent to set-up the production of the DF-XL in Romania.  Incidentally the company reported that the new units will not get gelcoat but instead the shells will be painted.  They expect that this change will improve yield since minor molding defects in the shell can be easily be repaired prior to finish and paint is more forgiving.  Finally, Intercitybike is also in the process setting-up a small shop for Daniel in Dronten to build prototypes, small production runs or contract work.  On the return trip from Romania, Daniel and Ymte brought my new baby, it is the white one in this picture.


In January, Allert and Theo delivered  8 velomobiles in January including 4 Carbon Quest, 1 Carbon Quest  XS, 1 Quest XS and 2  Quest.  Two of these Carbon Quest were shipped to North-America.  On the development side, Allert reported more development on the Quest 4 wheels and the shell looks closer to being ready so we may see the prototype on the road soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is a Velomobile?

What is a Velomobile?

Over the past few years, I have often taken a position of on-line forums over what constitutes a velomobile and some people may not like that stand.  I think that a crop of small vehicles is falsely being referred to as velomobiles so let me state my case.  Personally, I like the definition of velomobiles found in Wikipedia.

Quest Velomobile

A velomobile, or bicycle car, is a human-powered vehicle (HPV) enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions. Nearly all velomobiles are single-passenger vehicles. They are derived from recumbent bicycles and tricycles, with the addition of a full fairing (aerodynamic shell). Most Velomobiles have three or four wheels. Fully faired two wheel roadgoing machines are included within the more general category "human powered vehicle" (HPV). Pedal powered faired vehicles intended primarily for racing are usually called streamliners. Streamliners have set many speed and distance records.
There are few manufacturers of velomobiles; some are home-built. Some models have the operator's head exposed; this has the advantage of giving the operator unobstructed vision, hearing, and some cooling, with the disadvantage of being more exposed to weather and less aerodynamic. Similar vehicles that are not human-powered are called microcars. Hybrid vehicles exist which can use both human power and assistance by an electric motor.

So what is wrong with saying that ELF or the new Veloschmitt Tiger 4-Wheeler are velomobiles.  For one, these were never intended to be used without electric assist.  A Velomobile is a Human Powered Vehicle first and foremost.  When the Veloschmitt Tiger 4-Wheeler is introduced, it will apparently weight 120kg, it will not be particularly aerodynamic and have a 15kW electric motor to propel it to 25km/h (15mph).  The ELF is also a bit weighty at 150lb (68kg) and not very aerodynamic, has a 600W electric motor and a speed of 20mph (30km/h) and has only a 15mi  (24km) range.  When you need to get such strong motors to reach these very sedate performances, you can only guess that you would very strong legs to move these beasts for any distance and on very level ground.

Compare this with an average velomobile that weight-in at approximately 25kg to 30kg and require slightly more than 150W to travel at 40km/h.  This is not the state of the art velomobile, just a good average velomobile.  A regular rider will also be able to climb hills without electric assist. 

Organic Transit ELF

I think it may be to the advantage of these companies to identify themselves as velomobiles for marketing and regulatory reasons but these in my opinion are only microcars.  In the process, I think they overstate the ability  for the user to operate the vehicle using the pedals, the aerodynamic advantage, etc.  Again lets look at the definition for Microcar and also cyclecar and in Wikipedia.

A microcar is the smallest automobile classification, usually applied to very small cars (smaller than city cars). Such small cars were generally referred to as cyclecars until the 1940s. More recent models are also called bubble cars due to their bubble-shaped appearance.

The definition of a microcar has varied considerably in different countries. Since there are usually tax and/or licensing advantages to the classification, multiple restrictions are often imposed, starting with engine size. The Register of Unusual Microcars[1] in the UK says: "economy vehicles with either three or four wheels, powered by petrol engines of no more than 700cc or battery electric propulsion, and manufactured since 1945". The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum (the world's largest collection of Microcars) says "Engine sizes of 700cc and less and 2 doors or less" and the US-based Vintage Microcar Club simply defines it as 1000cc or less.

A cyclecar was a type of small, lightweight and inexpensive car manufactured mainly between 1910 and the late 1920s. Cyclecars were characterised by their use of basic materials and sometimes fragile engineering and were largely contrived to fill a gap in the market between the motorcycle and the car. Their demise was largely the result of production economies in the manufacture of more substantial economy cars such as the Austin 7 and the consequent affordability of such vehicles. Vehicles with similar qualities produced after World War II, are generally categorized as microcars.

Cyclecars were propelled by single-cylinder, V-twin or more rarely four-cylinder engines, often air-cooled. Sometimes these had been originally used in motorcycles and other components from this source such as gearboxes were also employed. Cyclecars were halfway between motorcycles and cars and were fitted with lightweight bodies, sometimes in a tandem two-seater configuration and could be primitive with minimal comfort and weather protection. They used various layouts and means of transmitting the engine power to the wheels, such as belt drive or chain drive often to one rear wheel only to avoid having to provide a differential.

If you look at these definitions, you notice that they very well describe todays offering except that they now offer pedal assist to increase range and performance.

E-Scooter with pedals
Few people would consider an E-Scooter as a bike but they sport pedals to be considered as bikes providing them access to MUPs, no-licensing requirement, etc.   While this may be intent, very few people ever use the pedal.  In addition, several cities have reacted by banning them from the cycling infrastructure.

The fact that a vehicle has some of the characteristics of a velomobile does not automatically make them velomobiles.  I must be clear that an electric e-assist would not make a regular velomobile a microcar because as the name states, the system is to assist the rider in certain situations like hill climbing where the rider may not have the strength required to make it all the way up on his own.  The e-assist should not turn the velomobile into a vehicle that cannot be easily pedaled by an average rider over long distances. 

If you want to purchase a velomobile, be ready to pedal most of the time, otherwise purchase a Microcar that may be equipped with pedals.  Let’s call a spade, a spade!