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Velomobiles and ‘bents

Commuter, Concept 8 516

Brecht Vandeputte sent me this photo of a WAW 045 velomobile racing a Dodge Viper. OK, it probably wasn’t a real race, but it is still a pretty cool image of a slick looking velomobile. For those of you not familiar with the WAW, it is a Belgian 3-wheeled velomobile with a Kevlar body. It is designed to be fast, but it also includes ample luggage space so that it can be used for commuting and errands (or touring). You can read more, and see the BeWAW, which was recently introduced at the Spezi fair in Germersheim, Germany, at Also, be sure to take a look at Brecht’s Picasa galleries for many more shots of interesting velomobile designs.

On the subject of velomobiles, Goblin Motors is a company that makes power assisted velomobiles as well as fairings and covers to fit standard recumbent bikes and trikes. Tying into my last post, I want to point out a question that Goblin Motors president Jeff Bales asked then UCI president Hein Verbruggen in a 1997 interview:

“Why doesn’t the UCI allow for classes of recumbent cyclists? The UCI is obviously interested in speed and racing… recumbents are the fastest bikes in the world. What’s the deal? Are UCI board members stockholders of major “conventional” bike manufacturers that fear their investments would be threatened if recumbents gained the popularity they deserve? I’ve never seen a “conventional” bicycle that could beat my recumbent in a race on the street or in a velodrome. “Conventional” bikes are antiques compared to recumbent technology. Isn’t the UCI also interested in progress?”

As someone who owns and rides conventional upright bikes, I would hesitate to call them antiques. I would certainly never challenge someone in a full fairing recumbent to a race on the velodrome, but I think there are plenty of situations on the road where an upright bike still has an advantage (mainly climbing). I won’t venture too much into that subject, but I do think it was an interesting question to ask the UCI president. You can read Mr. Verbruggen’s response if you scroll down a bit on the Goblin Motors website.

Those of you who are interested in velomobile racing, and more specifically electric assist velomobile racing, should check out the link that Duncan left in response to my last post. The event news page has details about the ePower Challenge, which will take place on May 22-24th at Portland International Raceway.

In keeping with the recumbent theme of this post, I will pass along a few more links that have recently come to my attention.

Treehugger recently posted the Flevobike Green Machine, a design that won the Eurobike Award 2007. They point out that the Green Machine, which features a fully enclosed drivetrain, is now available in the US as well.

Montana Transit Authority’s recumbent designs are quite a bit different than the sleek velomobiles mentioned earlier. Read about them on the Wired Autopia blog.

Finally, I will pass along a video sent to me by Steven Dorda, a recent graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Concordia University in Montreal Canada. He recently completed a team design project, a shape changing recumbent bicycle called the Altercycle. You can see the prototype, which has multiple riding positions, in action in a video on this page. Some of you might remember another upright/recumbent convertible design from the Bicycle Design commuter bike competition a few months ago. There were other entries along those lines as well; that reminds me that I still need to get more of entries those posted.

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  1. Duncan Watson May 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm -  Reply

    The engineer vs racer comments are quite the dodge. Recumbents, streamliners and velomobiles are all still human powered. They all need to be “fastest with the legs” as well.

    The current situation means UCI legal bikes are required for USCF events. This shuts out recumbents in the National Senior Games/Olympics even though there are numerous recumbent riders over 50 that would like to compete in a recumbent category.

    Pushing recumbents out of events entirely and making them hold their own events, rather than establishing a separate category to race under, has greatly impeded the recumbent industry.

    The crack in the door for recumbent riders has been Ultra events such as RAMROD, RAAM, Calvins 12-hr, Sebring 24hr, etc. In these events recumbents and HPV race under their own category.

    Back on topic, the ePower challenge will be at the same time and place as the 10th anniversary of the Oregon Human Power Challenge at PIR. The Left Coast Velomobile Gathering will also be there. So you can see, electrified Velos, human powered streamliners and lowracers along side human powered Velomobiles.

  2. Hapi May 8, 2009 at 7:30 pm -  Reply

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  3. dygituljunky May 9, 2009 at 5:18 am -  Reply

    In terms of climbing ability, I guess it depends whether you want to climb fast or climb heavy. Load-hauling competitions would probably be as interesting as speed competitions.

    For touring, I’m eyeballing a recumbent trike. I’m thinking recumbent so I can cut through the wind on the downhills. I’m thinking a trike so I don’t have to worry about balance as I spin a touring load on the slow uphills.

    For general non-touring duties, I would be using the same trike to move lawn mowers, furniture, or other Move-by-Bike like feats of human-powered engineering.

    The question is whether to get a delta or tadpole as each has benefits. I’m leaning towards the Greenspeed GTE so that I can carry standard front and rear panniers on a welded frame and so I don’t have to worry about custom drivetrain components like the differential found on Hase and Greenspeed deltas.

    Nice article. 🙂

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  5. jimmythefly May 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm -  Reply

    I’ve always wondered about the climbing ability thing. Mostly I’m curious how it pans out in terms of watts/work/ what the human body is capable of. Why is an upright faster? Is it actually faster, or just that the top-trained athletes tend to ride uprights?

  6. Roland Smith May 21, 2009 at 6:59 am -  Reply

    The stance of the UCI is that riders should win races, not engineers.

    If one is really interested in letting individual athlete performance determine the outcome of a race, one should take all technology out of the equation and switch to barefoot running.

    Since bicycle involves bicycles, I say let bicycle ingineering back into the race. I’d like to see recumbent streamliners compete.

    If cycling racing cannot be won by engineering of the bike, I fear it will be won by engineering of the rider. I suspect that all of the teams that are capable of winning major races currently use doping in one form or another. With the amounts of money at stake, there is simply no other outcome possible.

  7. Duncan Watson May 21, 2009 at 11:06 am -  Reply

    Well said Roland.

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