Thursday, February 18, 2010

Velomobiles, a Real 21st Century Eco-Solution

I'm on the topic of Velomobile's some feedback has come in from out west. I was contacted by my good friend John Tetz from Succasanna N.J
John and I go back to the early days of the Metro Area Recumbent Society (MARS). Back then we had  our special MARS rides to Nyack starting at the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge.Getting a group of bents together of up to 25 was so exciting at times I didn't think we'd get to ride.The first half hour all we did was marvel at each others machines especially John's! 

All his own engineering, design and building from scratch!
 Believe me his designs work.

 I rode the seagull Century with him.I was in my extremely fast Lightning F-40 Streamliner, John was in his little homemade Zote Mobile.Me and the F-40 just could not keep up, man was I Impressed!
Since those great days John has added a Third Wheel and a more practical approach to a great design!

A vehicle that is designed for the average cyclist!

The VeloMobile

John wrote:
Hey I've been looking over your Blog and thought there needs to be a article on 

So I have attached a possible article.

The classic bicycle has proven itself over the last 120 years as being efficient and practical machine. But it use has been mainly relegated to sport and exercise. We are in the 21st century where the environment is in need for a more viable human powered vehicle. For one the conventional bike is seasonally and weather limited.


 The Velomobile 
  ATrike with a shell.

The shell of course extends the riding season for the entire year and can provide some aerodynamic advantages.  I use one layer of heavy socks, light long johns, fleece pants, sweater, a light jacket, glove liners (gloves at 20 degrees), a skull cap (I'm bald) and a helmet. Certainly not overdressed with many layers of bulky clothing.

But the most important feature of a trike based VM is no need to balance. Balance may appear to be no big deal but after running a VM for 4 plus years I feel this to be number one on my list. 

As a transportation vehicle you're coming into many intersections. You're looking for pot holes, traffic patterns, etc and you see a car coming. In a two wheeled vehicle you have to quickly un-clip at least one foot and get that foot quickly down. Often I un-clip one foot before the intersection - hopefully it’s the correct foot.  The tension is high. In a VM you simply put on the brakes and come to a stop. You can spend more of your time and energy sizing up the intersection situation - relaxed - no tension.  On the take off you simply push on the pedals, no tension from a slow speed wobble as you get up to speed. You can even be in the wrong gear.  

This situation will occur over and over and over.  And it happens in mall parking lot intersections and   when a car is backing out of a parking spot. I have had to jamb on the brakes a few times. No big deal in a VM. It surprised me as to how important this simple appearing thing could be until I ran my VM for a few months.  

If I run a VM for several weeks and then get on a two wheeler I wiggle a bit for the first half hour or so until my muscle memory takes over. It’s not much but it’s there all the time.
I ride at night quite a bit and have gone down in a two wheeled vehicle because of black ice. No such problem in a VM. Again much more relaxed. Having to get the feet down does not make a viable alternate transportation vehicle.

Other features of a VM

Pleasurable and comfortable seating position  (thanks to the recumbent position).
Plenty of seat area for support better than sitting on a tiny bicycle seat 
More forgiving to the back - hands arms and neck are relaxed   
Head up relaxed position - easy to look around.

GOOD VISIBILITY  to other Vehicles 
Receive more respect in traffic as a ‘real’ vehicle
More easily seen by autos  at night.

 Built in, including directional signals.

Needed on a three wheeled vehicle.

Crash protection that a up right rider has none.

Most of the gear train is protected.

Suitable for everyday shopping
Rewarding to use as a shopping vehicle
No gasoline no pollution
Rider gets needed exercise
and does usefull work at the same time. Efficiency of the kind needed for the 21st century.

Just about every time I go up town someone stops to ask about my VM. The public sees it’s a trike and realize no need to balance. They also say they like my little car. The connection to car is good because car equals transportation.  The word bike equals recreation - sport - toy,  and stops a critically important  change in consciousness.  

I also feel VMs work better in suburbia. VMs are a bit wider than a two wheeler. Parking and security in cities would be more difficult. And because Suburbia is far from being green it needs help. Running a 3,000 pound vehicle for a typical 2 to 5 miles for shopping is not environmentally intelligent. 

The thing is we have the technology right now - we don’t have to wait for things like battery improvements and better electric vehicles - we have the vehicle - and the much needed exercise could lower heath care costs. 

I live in a town of 20,000. I am the only one riding just about every day to shop and run various errands. If 1 % were to ride that 200 people would be enough to convince the local government to start putting in bike lanes, and car drivers would be more accustomed to HPVs.  If 10% were to ride this would be enough to help the struggling environment. Who knows what else this could lead to?

I have been waiting for 25 years for an appropriate change in activity.
 I wonder if I will live long enough to see thousands of VMs darting around communities.









  1. To John Tetz.

    Great article. Crystal clear. We are the future. The future is ours.

    Hey Shelly.

    Thanks for creating and running this blog of yours.

    Next time you come to the Island bring John and his Velomobile with you. John, Lucinda, you and I, we will cause a thought provoking, jaw dropping,step stopping, mind opening stir that may add yet another to our growing ranks.

    Island Dave

  2. Great article Shelly! As a member of MARS I have seen a lot of nice machines, but never had the pleasure to see Johns Velomobile.