Thursday, April 23, 2015

Time off but not for all

Time off but not for all
This week I am in NC where I have a chance to ride the new DF where the weather is better at this time of the year.  I am starting to get my bent legs back, a few more weeks and I should be able to get closer to the full potential of this machine.  It was also the first time I introduced the velomobile to the area’s finest when not one but two police cars stopped me; the officers were very polite and after a couple of minutes answering questions like does it have a motor I was on my way.

This weekend, is the 20th SPEZI bike show and conference taking place in the town of Germersheim in the south of Germany near Heidelberg.  This annual show is usually well attended and several velomobile manufacturers show their products but this year is an anniversary and it may attract more people to attend.  We hope to see some new velomobiles, participants have an opportunity to try some of them and possibly there may be some new product announcements taking place.

Wind Tunnel for Velomobiles

Ostfalia University in northern Germany claims to have the first wind tunnel designed for smaller objects like velomobiles. The wind tunnel named after Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Meier was built by student of the institution.   The unit was specifically designed for small vehicles, Velomobiles, bicycles or small wind turbines, it has a test section has a cross-section of two meters by two meters.  It is not clear if the facility will be accessible for manufacturers.


Velomobiel is displaying the shell of the Quatrovelo at SPEZI but it is not be rideable. The internal components are still being built.  It will take a few more weeks before the velomobile will travel on the road. As a teaser, this week the company posted several pictures of the retro-looking velomobile on Facebook.  


Daniel Fenn is looking at setting a one-hour world record of more than 80km in the DF.  I asked Mike Mowet who keeps track of cycling records; he is a living encyclopedia of cycling records.  It is interesting because, in looking at the record book, multi-track faired bikes appear as an annotation in the list of the best times for faired bicycles.

Going down that list, the fastest multi-track faired is the Vector Tandem in 1980 with a distance of 74.10 km.  Gareth Hanks holds the single rider, best two marks 73.8 km and previously 71.376 km in the Completely Overzealous.  Daniel in his Evo-K is the next fastest with 67.481 km, the distance he completed in the Cyclevision one-hour race set in 2012.  It is not clear if this is recognized by the WHPVA as a record attempt since it was a mass start event.

While velomobiles have set the 6, 12 and 24hr records, currently all the top distances for one-hour set by faired bike belong to Streamliners.  The current overall one-hour record belongs to Francesco Russo; it was set in 2011 on the 5.8 km oval at Dekra-Lausitzring, Germany where he rode a distance of 91.556.


Things are moving at the new Marvelo factory.  Jon has been busy organizing the legal aspects of his company and setting the production at his new facility.  This week he posted pictures of the Marvelo on the road and the production of the molds.  I expect the first production Marvelos will be coming out of the shop soon.   Stay tuned.


The new website scheduled to be launched with the start of SPEZI has been delayed.  In an e-mail message, the company announced the delay.  The new banner on the website indicates that the launch is now scheduled for mid-May.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mid April Update

Mid April Update
Next weekend, the 20th SPEZI bike show and conference will take place in the town of Germersheim in the south of Germany near Heidelberg.  This annual show is well attended and several velomobile manufacturers show their products.  We hope to see some new velomobiles, participants have an opportunity to try some of them and possibly there may be some new product announcements taking place.


Trisled will sell the Rotovelo through importer Eurovelo situated in the city of Alphen aan den Rijn in the Netherlands. You can check it out at


Velomobiel published a paper on the advantages and comparisons between the Quatrovelo and three-wheel velomobiles.  The paper presents some interesting points. 

Velomobiel expects to be displaying the shell of the Quatrovelo at SPEZI but it will not be rideable.


Pictures of the DF with the short or every day wheel pants were published this week.  Daniel also posted video of fast runs with the modified DF.  He is set on trying to set several records this summer and apparently found someone to attempt the female 12/24hr records.  The short wheel pants provide almost the same aerodynamic advantage as the full competition wheel pants shown below.

In a blog post, Ymte reported that he sold one of his remaining Quest and now has only one that he will keep as a souvenir.
New "short pants" appear to be approximately the same height as the Quest, here you see the ability to ride on uneven surfaces without touching.

Competition Wheel Pants almost touching the ground


The first Milan SL MK3 has been delivered. (Picture)
Made of fiberglass, it is equipped with155mm cranks, 36/61 and an 11-34 cassette it has lights and turning signals and 2,5cm risers.  The baby weights 28,9Kg.

Monday, April 13, 2015

First brevet of the season

First brevet of the season
I rode my first brevet last Saturday; it was a 200km ride through eastern Ontario.  The ride started at 7AM on the other side of the city so I had to drive for 45 minutes.  While driving, I encountered rain, then a snow squall that stopped just as we were getting ready to ride.  It was also windy and gusty, overall not the ideal conditions for a long ride.

I think we were 12 brave souls at the start, some old faces and several new ones.  Of course I was the only one in a velomobile, in fact the only bent this time around.  Several noticed that the new velomobile was much smaller than my previous Carbon Quest.  I decided to ride not very aggressively as it is very early in the season and I am not fully comfortable in the DF yet.  We started together and I followed the faster riders, I would pass them on straightaways and they would pass me on the hills.

Unfortunately I still have the 160mm cranks and my knees touched the top of the shell several times a minute so after several hours, the knees were sore.  I managed to finish relatively well but it was my slowest time on this course.  When my bent legs return and I have shorter cranks, I hope that I will do much better.  Generally the DF performed well, shifting was crisp, climbing works well too, the stiffness of the shell is noticeable, I climbed many of the hills using the large ring.  I have to get used to the tight space inside trying to find items like food or my cue sheet can be challenging at times.  I have to get used to the new ride.


Velomobiel has decided to change the name of the Quattro to Quattrovelo to ensure the name does not infringe on the Audi trademark.  I think this was the right move for Velomobiel who would have had to face a big team of lawyers to defend their choice.  In addition, the font is similar to Audi’s Wordmark but different enough as to ensure it is also in the clear.  These issues were extensively discussed on the German forum and discussed with Velomobiel.

The molds were completed from the original plug and the first body is curing in the mold and will be painted and shipped to Dronten.  Other parts like the wheel wells, turtledeck, hood and chain guards still need to be produced but it will give Allert and Theo something to work with to install the mechanical components.

Incidentally, it appears that the staff at the Romania factory refers to the Quattrovelo as the Batmobile!

Steve has published pictures of his Milan MX for larger riders.  The new model provides extra room for big feet and broad shoulders.  The large shoulders are accommodated with side bulges. But there is more room overall without compromising too much on aerodynamics.

Milan MX (right) with Milan GT (left) notice the shoulder buldges on the MX.


The price for the new hood for the DF appears to have been set at €650.  No mention of the delivery timeframe.

Short pants coming soon?  It looks like Daniel’s latest project is the design of short or every day wheel pants.  He claims that he can ride at 50km/h on 105W and 80km/h at 300W and somewhere around 550W to get to 100km/h
DF with wheel pants could travel at 80 km/h average for one hour.  This would set a world record. is faster than the standard production by 15 to 20km/h.
Unfortunately Daniel does not like the look of the everyday pants, but they are a bit slower than the racing version.


The first prototype of the Tourtop was modified using foam to change the shape.  The shape raised slightly should improve aerodynamics.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April showers

April showers
The weather is still sub-par, this week we had snow, rain and strong winds but things are expected to improve next week.  I’m still in the process of setting-up my new DF velomobile and I am riding my first brevet in the DF this weekend.  I hope that things will go well, I’m still waiting for shorter cranks so this weekend I will not be able to push too hard because the knees are still touching the top of the shell from time to time.


Major announcement from Intercitybike: DT Swiss the manufacturer of the rear shock for the DF is unable to deliver the product; the company is months behind in delivery.  Daniel is looking at alternatives but it may be difficult to adapt another shock. Unfortunately with less than 100 shocks purchased a year, Intercitybike may not have enough purchasing power to put pressure on DT Swiss.

As a result, this may have an impact on deliveries for a while until an alternative is found or deliveries can be secured or the rider willing to ride with a fixed tail. 


During my visit to Bluevelo last week, I had a chance to chat about the business with Randy, the face of Bluevelo.  

The shop is full of velomobiles, some no longer produced like the Team and others cannibalized for parts as well as demo velomobiles and new arrivals.  Randy confirms that while they still have molds for several velomobiles, since started production, Bluevelo no longer produces composite velomobiles in Canada, even the venerable Cab-bike is out of production.  However, last year, Bluevelo started offering the aluminum Alleweder AAW4 velomobile that Randy assembles in his shop.

Bluevelo is probably the busiest importer of velomobiles in North America but the operation is still relatively small in size, probably a reflection on the still limited market.  Most of the sales are through the Internet and by phone.  This means that I am one of the few who actually pick-up their velomobile at the shop.  Randy confesses that helping a rider with a technical issue at a distance can be challenging at times.  It is difficult especially since you can’t see the problem first hand but with the help of pictures and a bit of patience, issues get resolved.

The DF is a learning curve for Randy too, I have the 5th DF velomobile and he has to familiarize himself with the different components and setup. 

For those who have been wondering, Ray who still lives in Toronto, 2 hours away, is still involved in the business even though he’s passed-on the day to day stuff to Randy when the shop moved to Collingwood two years ago.


I've learned this week that Velomobiel is apparently planning a new velomobile project following the launch of the Quattro.  The plan is to build a new velomobile that would be lighter, leaner, with a smaller frontal area that would be launched in early 2016.  I can’t wait to see the new fast and light design!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

April brings a new arrival

April brings a new arrival
I was fairly busy this week; I went to Collingwood Ontario to pick-up my new DF velomobile.  It took about 5 hours of work to set-up. While I physically fit in the velomobile, crank size is an issue, my feet and knees touch the shell.  The 165mm cranks were way too big and I could not even turn the crank, we changed to 160mm and I was able to ride the velomobile but the feet and knees were touching a bit. t Randy did not have 155mm in stock and has ordered some, he should get them in about two weeks.  It is clear that this is a velomobile that requires very close attention to the fit.  A big thanks to Randy for being there during a holiday.

When I returned home, I went for a longer ride and found it was impossible to ride for very long so I started making a few changes.  First I removed the ventisit cover and my knees were not touching anymore but my toes were still touching, in fact a bit more.  When I came back home, I changed my cleat position and I finally don’t touch the shell but even minuscule movements sideways result in touching the shell.  I hope the 155mm cranks will address this issue.  Without the ventisit in my back, my helmet rests against the turtledeck and moves my neck forward and this restricts my breathing so I have to make a few more adjustments.  There is a bit of a creak when I pedal, I will have to open the hatch to see what is going on.

On the positive side, I am impressed with the suspension, the crisp steering, and the stiffness of the shell that transfers power to the wheel.  The finish is very good, I like the access hatches providing room to access the components.  The turning radius is such a change from the Quest and while it is very agile, I have found that it is possible to lift the wheels!

The weather is hardly cooperating, these days, we have cold and windy conditions with several days of snow and this is continuing this week.  I have to find my bent legs since I have not been riding a recumbent for the past six months, it will take a bit of time and better weather to improve my performance.


The guys in Romania are still working on the Quattro plug.  The top part will be laminated on the bottom part in the production process of the body.

In order to have access to the components there will be a hatch where the foot holes are, big enough to cut the footholes in the hatch. It can easily be replaced if the footholes need to be relocated to fit a new owner or replaced by a hatch with closed holes in winter.

The middle section of the body is accessible through the manhole and the tail through the luggage hatch, every part of the body can be repaired from the inside in case of damage.

Velomobiel produced a video on the difference between an elastomer front shock and the regular front shock.  The regular had a maximum travel of 35mm while the elastomer has 11mm travel.  

March Production
Production at Velomobiel is sustained with 11 velomobiles were produced this months; 4 Quests, 1 Carbon Quest, 2 Carbon Quest XS, 3 Strada, and 1 Carbon Strada.  The backlog is also shrinking at Velomobiel there are now 22 velomobiles on the waiting list or approximately 2 months production at current rate.


So there was no 5 wheel DF Cargo, just an April fool’s prank from the guys in Dronten… who went to the presentation on April 1st?  BTW, Intercitybike is closed on Wednesdays!

On a more serious note, Daniel Fenn presented pictures of the new hood for the DF.  The hood is apparently roomy enough to wear a helmet.

Teething issues: Some riders have reported that the Zefal mirrors used on the DF have nickel plated screws that may be prone to rust in wet and salty conditions.  A stainless steel or nickel over brass solution is being investigated by riders.

There has also been some discussion regarding shifting issues of the front derailleur.  DF are equipped with two chainrings at the front and most riders have installed rings that have significant difference between the small and the large e.g.: 34-56 or 42-61.  Several riders reported chain drop while shifting and some riders have installed chain guides or chain guards to address this issue.  Apparently the standard front derailleur is Shimano Tiagra and some but not all Tiagra can handle a maximum 22-tooth difference therefore in some configurations, the front derailleur is at maximum capacity.  It appears that no Shimano front derailleur has more than 22-tooth maximum.

When my front derailleur was adjusted, the limit screw had to be finely adjusted by Randy, the difference between dropping the chain and being able to shift was approximately 1/8 of a turn.  With such close tolerance, it is not surprising that riders are having issues.  Another interesting fact is that the front derailleur will not shift when on rollers, you need to test on the road. 

March Production
Intercitybike produced 8 velomobiles this month; four DF and four DF-XL.  The wait list is slowly coming down, it is now at 74 or approximately 9 months at the current rate down from approximately 84 a few months ago.


The Milan website is still under construction, it is surprising that a company’s window is shut for so long.  Websites, in my opinion is the principal way riders and potential clients learn about velomobiles, I find it difficult to understand why the company would not place a higher priority on having a continuous web presence which is usually the way riders find information on velomobiles.