Friday, May 29, 2015

Velomobile definition revisited

Velomobile definition revisited
In the past few weeks, the velomobile group on Facebook has been discussing what constitutes a velomobile.  The group page describes a velomobile as:
A Velomobile is a human powered vehicle for daily use with a shell for comfort, weather protection and luggage space.
Wikipedia defines the velomobile like this:   
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 road going machines are included within the more general category "human powered vehicle" (HPV).

A number of aggressive posters seem to think that any 3 wheel vehicle with a shell pedals seems to fit the bill even if it requires a motor.   Some are designed that way from the beginning and some regular velomobiles are converted. So the question is: when does a velomobile stop being a velomobile?  Does an ELF with a 750W electric motor meet this requirement?

In the eyes of lawmakers, a velomobile is considered a bike and there are restrictions in many jurisdictions to be considered a bike, these restrictions include the size of the motor usually under 350W, the maximum speed under motor power, the size of the vehicle, the weight of the vehicle.

Including micro cars with pedal assist a velomobile is analogeous to calling a moped or e-scooters with mini pedals are a bike.  Mopeds are used by a different group of people, not cyclists and they have caused issues and as a result moped require plates and drivers license in many jurisdictions and there are moves to restrict e-bikes too.  I’ve never heard of a moped rider who converted to a regular bike unless it was by necessity.

In my opinion, a velomobile needs to be identified as a bike otherwise we may be subject to undue scrutiny and regulations.  This is very important because if these micro-cars with pedal assist are identified as velomobiles, riders of human powered velomobiles will be subject of more scrutiny to see if we have motors and we may find ourselves cut-off from MUP and bridges that are built for active modes of transportation.

As such, here are my criteria:

·      First, a velomobile is a human powered so an average rider should be able to operate a velomobile in human powered mode for significant distances aver varied terrain. 
·      Second, the assist should not be more powerful than an average human and there are very few average riders who can sustain 250W of power.  If it is larger, it means that it is not an assist but the primary more of propulsion. 
·      Third, it should have a shell that provides a significant aerodynamic advantage over trikes and other pedal powered vehicles;
·      Fourth, they have three or four wheel whereby they do not need to be balanced when riding or at a standstill.

On the other side of the argument, proponents say that having more velomobiles on the road makes velomobiles better known and more popular.  They also claim that powered velomobiles may be a way to get people into human powered velomobiles. 
Personally, I think they want their micro cars to be seen as a bike like a velomobile because it removes scrutiny.  Just like a moped, I doubt that people buying an ELF would ever consider switching to a regular velomobile and considering those as velomobiles will create more issues for human powered velomobiles than it solves.  When I ride my velomobile, I get asked if I have a motor and when I tell them no they say: no way, you’re kidding!  If they knew an ELF was considered a velomobile, I would have more problems getting them to believe me. 

Human powered velomobile users, please make your views known.  Until I radically change opinion, I will be reporting on human powered velomobiles in this blog.


The Left Coast Velomobile Gathering, one of the largest velomobile gathering in North-America recently took place in Oregon.  Approximately 10 velomobile took part in the event that lasted several days with rides of the Willemette Valley and HPV competitions.  By European standards this is a very small gathering but with the very large distances it is quite a large event. Participants had to drive several hundreds if not thousand miles go get there.  The winner of the HPV race was a home made Coroplast velomobile on an ICE trike other participants rode a DF, a Milan SL, a Milan GT and several Quest and even a Varna streamliner.

Australian Pedal Prix

A very exciting video report was produced from the 6hr Loxton race part of the Australian Pedal Prix series.  The video is posted on You Tube  It appears that other races in the series may also receive video coverage.


Daniel Fenn is currently working on a smaller and lighter DF for a small female rider.  This DF is narrower, lower and shorter and lighter than the regular DF.  The smaller velomobile may be used by a female rider to participate in long distance record attempt.  Maybe this will become a product available to other riders, that would be for very small riders.  .  The name of the new model has not yet been set.  There are a few names being mentioned like DFN (DF narrow) or DFs (like the small Evo-K).  I would prefer DFs since DFN could be misread as DNF or Did Not Finish, a term used in racing.

There is no mention yet of the make and model of the new rear shock for the DF.  Some people have indicated that they may switch their DT Swiss for the new shock if improvements are noted.


Work on the QuatroVelo is continuing at the Romanian factory, the wheel wells were installed in the shell along with the seat.  The next item on the work list is the trunk lid.

Velomobiel announced that the Quattrovelo will only come in a carbon version.  The order form was changed to reflect this.  The Quattrovelo will only come in a carbon version.  Standard items include 1x10 derailleur drive-system, one colour, full lighting set with turning signals & and double headlight, rear air/oil suspension.  The available options include : The Schlumpf MountainDrive in front (2,5 ratio), child seat with appropriate luggage hatch. double colour and metallic paint.  Now the question is: Will it be ready for test rides at Velo Vision in a few weeks? 

Wim Schermer is testing an aftermarket a support leg for the boom in his Quest.  The support made of carbon fiber, increases the stiffness of the boom, which results in less energy wasted due to flex of the boom and/or shell.  The support leg is made to fit the Quest/Strada/Mango.  If the test is successful, maybe the part will be made available through his e-store (

Italian Dream Cycle

The new manufacturer Italian Dream Cycle showed on their Facebook page their second velomobile produced.  The photo with caption shows number one and number two on a tour of Tuscany.


We expected that the Marvelo would be making an official appearance at the LCVMG last week but unfortunately this was not the case.  I know Jon is working hard to finish the first production model and he probably ran out of time.  Let’s hope the new velomobile will make its appearance very soon.


  1. Luc- I thoroughly agree with your comments about the definition of a velomobile. If these higher powered machines (with only token pedal assistance) try to be classified as "velomobiles" then that could be detrimental to the "real velomobile" community. One other comment- Theo at has confirmed that rear disk brakes will be a further option on the new QV. For potential long-distance tourers like me this will be worth the extra weight- based on my experiences of overheating brakes on previous tours through hilly country.

    1. Thank you for your comment and I take note of the change in the options for the QuatroVelo, I reported what had posted but I'm sure thaere are other things like disk brakes that will make it to the list over time.