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Steve's Velomobile Project

May 15, 2005 Results

Have now had a few weeks of riding to and from work with some longer rides on weekends. Probably have about 1000 km on the bike now. No real problems to report. The suspension on the rear wheels seems to work very well. It is a very simple system of a composite spring that controls the up and down motion of the wheels while a part the the shell with a few layers of graphite fiber keeps everything in alignment. This system with a bit of additonal refinement might only add a pound to the weight. It is now a bit difficult to go back to the Vision recumbent as the velomobile has a smoother ride over bumps and lousy road surfaces. The suspension also helps to keeps the shell from rattling and making a lot of noise. To check this out I rode to Pitt Lake, a unique fresh water tidal lake, which has about 15 km of a very rough surface having been cheaply paved about 25 years ago and not resurfaced since. Got a little vibration from the road but it was tolerable. I would normally avoid this road. You don't see many road bikes with skinny tires on it. The real surprise was when I hit the smooth pavement and the speed went up 5 km/hr with no extra effort.

Have also added electric assist to the velomobile. It is a Heinzmann hub motor added to the front wheel. The electric assist cuts out at about 22-24 km/hr so it is only really useful when climbing. It has shortened the ride home by about 10-15 minutes. I do notice that I am actually working harder using the assist to keep the speed up as the system seems to provide the most boost around 20 km/hr. On the couple of really steep bits it probably at least doubles the speed but I am still going pretty slow. Having the electric assist has removed the temptation to get a ride home after work when tired.

I have proceeded to change the plug/pattern one more time. It has become a bit longer and slimmer in the front to accomodate taller riders(should fit at least 200 cm) and have room for a headlight in the nose. There is now a bit more space inside the fairing to accomodate big feet. Wider at the top of the pedal stroke. The back end has been extended a bit and the storage volume increased a bit. Just looking at the space behind the seat I would guess about 60-70 liters of volume.There is quite a bit of storage room beside and just in front of the cyclist on the floor so you can balance loading of the velomobile. This seems a bit less critical than what I am used to doing in our touring kayaks. Will also add an easy way to adjust the seat so one can fine tune the fit and balance. At present it takes about ten minutes to adjust/remove the seat. Have just finished laying up the new mould and now need to finish sand and polish the inside surface. Once this is done to the bottom half of the mould I can start on the interior beam/spring assemble onto which all the bike parts bolt. This whole assemble will then be glued to the bottom half of the shell.

I am now on the fourth version of the seat and it is quite comfortable. The best compromise on the seat may be a hard back with a mesh or at least slighlty flexible bottom. I like the hard back as you can really push off of it. I have been experimenting with a softer pad for the butt as the seat is fairly upright and a fair bit of weight is concentrated there. I have noticed that when pushing hard most of the weight is transferred to the back. Reclining the seat more would also help take some of the weight off the seat but with the present verson I am limited by not being able to move the bottom bracket further foward. I just fit as it is and with a thick back pad the lenght is a bit short.

The door for getting in and out has been changed a bit. It is now not so tall for stepping out. Getting in should be possible by standing beside the velomobile and then flopping on the seat and lifting the legs in afterwards. Having watched a few people get in and out and this is a bit of an issue for a lot of folks. It was suggested making the door completely removeable for warm weather riding. I tried it out just leaving the door open and it is cooler and a much different experience. This idea is worth trying out of the next one. As are now using a composite hinge for the door this would only require that we make the hinge such that it is bolted on rather than bonded permanently in place.

Rode home today with the foam cover in place as it was raining a bit. Air vents out around the cover but it may be useful to have an openable vent at the back of the shell to increase air flow. The cover is reasonalbly effective at keeping you dry but does restrict ventilation. I have cut a couple of vent holes in the nose but would like to add a bigger vent that is easy to reach to open and close for use when climbing slowly. Once your speed is around 20 km the presently sized openings seem to be enough. The warmest it has been is about 24 degrees which was still quite tolerable.