Velomobile for sale in the UK

Ben Cooper of Kinetics in Glasgow is advertising the sale of a velomobile, a green Rotovelo.  Those who were at SPEZI in 2011 will recognise this as the velomobile Trisled brought over which subsequently went with Peter Eland to York for a review in Velovision Magazine. I saw the machine myself at the 2011 York CTC Cycle Show before it was then sold on to a purchaser in Scotland.

The Rotovelo received a lot of attention at it’s launch in 2011, both because of the novel (at least in velomobile terms) construction method, and the realistic potential of this construction method to significantly reduce the cost of a velomobile.  Rather than using the time-consuming method of laying up a glass or carbon fibre body, the Rotovelo uses the same rotating moulding method used to form a kayak.  This is both cheaper, quicker and more easily scaled to support large production volumes.  Unfortunately, as Peter in the Velovision Review (Issue 41 Jun 2011) highlighted, while the production cost in Australia is low, once you added shipping and European import duties the cost was comparable to a much better equipped European built machine.

Photo of a Rotovelo outside Kinetics in Glasgow

Seen here outside Kinetics in Glasgow, upgraded with a Rolhof hub, and asking for offers around £3,500 it certainly looks like a good deal.

Velomobile Seminar 2012 – Secondhand Reportage

7th Velomobile Seminar

By all accounts the seminar and tour went very well.

Photo of Dronten Mayor in DuoQuestThere was a favourable report in the Dutch press and, the Mayor of Dronten, after describing industry as, “These are people who look at life differently. They do not wait, but just do it,” himself joined the tour, riding for a short way in the DuoQuest.

The official 2012 Velomobile Seminar blog, among other things, concluded that:

  • Both the Location in Dronten and the Venue, der Meerpaal were ideal.
  • Organisation and support were excellent
  • The tour
    • had good weather
    • was a well chosen route
    • and was a good advert for the velomobile
  • The Mayor of Dronten gave an inspiring speech

Reading between the lines, and from comments on other sites, there are plans to do it again, and sooner rather than later!, a Dutch site dedicated to the promotion of cycles as a realistic alternative to motorised vehicles, have a page covering the Seminar including links to several photo galleries.

Photo of a row of velomobiles on tour

A pretty thorough report, courtesy of Google Translate, is on Theo van Goor’s blog.

The seminar itself had a mixture of presentations, something for everyone, ranging from practical reports through to social theory and in depth technical papers.  It is expected that the proceedings of the seminar will be made available on the Seminar Website.  A few papers and slides were already available for download via the program page and a couple of Power Point slide presentations of papers are also available from the presenter’s own websites.

First, Wim Schermer’s paper on the Velo Tilt concept velomobile, to be built on the Fast FWD Munzo tilting trike, is available as a series of images on his blog.  CAD generated photoreal image of Velo Tilt

Second, Titus van der Brink’s presentation on the development of his Plywood Velomobile, is available as a .ppt download from his original post.  He also has some brief comments on the Seminar.Photo of Plywood Velomobile Prototype 2

Alexander Vittouris and Mark Richardson from Australia, whose paper is already available, took the sustainability idea of the velomobile to the next level with a paper presenting ideas for bamboo construction.

The seminar concluded with what sounds like a very interesting presentation by Miles Kingsbury covering many of his projects of the last 40 years.  Naturally his Quattro four wheel velomobile which travelled across the US in the ROAM of 2011 was featured.CAD image of Quattro Velomobile

Battle Mountain – Speed Challenge Starts Today

World Human Powered Speed Championships 2012 PosterThe speed challenge at Battle Mountain starts today and the first piece of news is that Graeme Obree will not be competing.  As Recumbent Gallery reported late last week, there are still some outstanding issues with the fairing for Beastie so Mr Obree is now planing his speed attempt latter this year somewhere in the UK.

One interesting aspect, illustrated in an article on Humans Invent, is the transparent fairing.  True to form Mr Obree has decided that he can produce something better. Rather than hurtle down the road hidden inside an opaque bullet he plans to make the “engine” visible, so you can see just what is going on inside.

After his UK attempt, maybe he will continue to refine his design and have something to take to the US next year?

Photo of Beastie with transparent fairing

York Festival of Cycling


Visited the York Festival of Cycling put on by York City Council. For a free event it was fantastic! Equipment and support were provided by Get Cycling, also based in York, so there was plenty of pedal powered equipment to play with, a mini-mini SPEZI you might say, but no velomobiles. None-the-less there were plenty of smiling faces. I hope to update this post with a couple of photos next week.

Velomobile Seminar


Unanticipated personal circumstances have prevented me from flying and as a result I will not be attending the Velomobile Seminar as I had stated I would be in a previous article.  Naturally I am disappointed, and I apologize to any readers who were expecting “live” coverage here.  However I should be able to travel to Holland later in the month at which point I plan on test riding as many velomobiles as possible, which will hopefully make up for it.  Meanwhile I will attempt to cover the seminar from a distance and report what can be gleaned from others.

The velomobile: neither bicycle nor car

Kris De Decker of Low-Tech Magazine kindly allowed me to republish an article from 2010 – The velomobile: high-tech bike or low-tech car?  It gives and an excellent, but slightly dated, overview of the velomobile with a somewhat American flavour.  As such the opinions expressed, especially those in the conclusion, are those of the original author.  It is none-the-less well worth reading.  Here it is largely unedited.


Picture: the Versatile.

Recumbent bikes with bodywork evoke a curious effect. They look as fast as a racing car or a jet fighter, but of course, they’re not.

Nevertheless, thanks to the recumbent position, the minimal weight and the outstanding aerodynamics, pedalling a “velomobile” requires three to four times less energy than pedalling a normal bicycle.

This higher energy efficiency can be converted felt in terms of comfort, but can also be utilised to attain higher speeds and longer distances – regular cyclists can easily maintain a cruising speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) or more. The velomobile thus becomes an excellent alternative to the automobile for medium distances, especially in bad weather.

Basically, a velomobile is a recumbent bike with the addition of a bodywork. Recumbent bikes are considered a bit weird, but they have some interesting advantages over normal bicycles. For example, a recumbent bike has no saddle but a comfortable seat with back support, so that you sit or lie more comfortably and can keep pedalling for longer. Because of their superior aerodynamic capabilities, pedalling on a recumbent takes less effort, allowing you to travel more quickly and further than on a normal bicycle. Recumbent bikes can have two, three or four wheels. Trikes (3 wheels) and quads (4 wheels) offer the additional benefit of stability.


Picture: the Scorpion.

A velomobile – almost always a trike – offers two extra advantages over normal recumbent tricycles. The bodywork protects the rider (and mechanical parts) from the weather, so that the vehicle can be used in any season or climate. Furthermore, the aerodynamic shape of the bodywork further improves the efficiency of the vehicle, with spectacular results.

Velomobile versus bicycle

From the table below (source.pdf) one can observe that the power output required to achieve a speed of 30 kilometres per hour (18.6 mph) in a state-of-the-art velomobile (the Quest) is only 79 watts, compared to 271 watts on a normal bicycle and 444 watts on a neglected bicycle. Pedalling at a speed of 30 km/h thus requires 3.5 times less energy with a velomobile than with a normal bicycle. Going flat out (a power output of 250 watts) gives you a speed of 29 km/h (18 mph) on a normal bicycle and 50 km/h (31 mph) on a velomobile.

Speed compàrison bikes

Source: “The velomobile as a vehicle for more sustainable transportation” (pdf).

NASA rates the average long-term power output for a male adult at 75 watts, while fit individuals might easily sustain more than 100 watts for several hours, from 200 to 300 watts for one hour, and between 300 and 400 watts for at least 10 minutes. Lance Armstrong is said to have averaged between 475 and 500 watts for 38 minutes during an uphill climb in the 2001 Tour de France. (Source: The human powered home).

If you normally commute by bicycle, you can do two things with a velomobile: Retain the same speed as you normally do, but use 3.5 times less energy, or arrive at your destination twice as quickly with the same effort. This high efficiency greatly enlarges the range of a pedal powered vehicle. The bicycle is generally being viewed as a transport means for short distances, mostly below 5 kilometres or 3 miles (= cycling 15 minutes at a speed of 20km/h or 12.4 mph). However, the average distance of a car trip in Europe and in the US amounts to between 13 and 15 kilometres (8 and 9.3 miles).

Sinner mango red

Picture: the Sinner Mango Red Edition.

A velomobile reaches a constant cruising speed of 35 km/h (21.7 mph) with the same energy output, so that the distance covered in 15 minutes becomes 9 kilometres (5.5 miles) instead of 5 kilometres (3 miles). At a speed of 45 km/h (not unusual for a regular cyclist) the distance covered in 15 minutes becomes more than 11 kilometres (6.8 miles). Thus, twenty minutes of pedalling on a velomobile sufficiently covers an average automobile trip. The velomobile could replace a substantial portion of car miles, especially because the vehicles also protect their occupants from wind, rain and cold.


Picture: the Quest.

By definition, velomobiles are built for speed. The bodywork offers a distinct advantage at higher speeds, starting at 20 to 25 km/h (12.4 to 15.5 mph). Above those speeds, almost all energy produced by a cyclist is channelled toward combating air resistance. Because of the upright position, the aerodynamics of a cyclist on a normal bicycle are disappointing. A velomobile, on the other hand, suffers less air resistance than even the most aerodynamic sports car.

At lower speeds, however, the relatively heavy (25 to 40 kilograms) velomobile becomes a disadvantage. It accelerates slower than a normal bicycle, and has considerably more difficulty climbing a hill. An electric assist motor can solve this problem in hilly regions. The motor can help the velomobile climb, while energy can be recovered from the brakes during the descent. Of course, an electric assist can also be considered on flat terrain, an option that is gaining a lot of popularity these days.


Picture: the Leiba x-stream.

By definition, the velomobile is essentially built for longer distances. For shorter city trips the traditional bicycle is unbeatable. It accelerates faster, it is more manoeuvrable, and it is very easy to hop on and off.

Velomobile versus electric car

Dries Callebaut and Brecht Vandeputte, the Belgian designers of the WAW-velomobile, calculated how the efficiency of a velomobile relates to the efficiency of an electric automobile (using their own data and this source). During an eco-marathon earlier this year they equipped their velomobile with an electric motor, a complete substitution for pedal power. This is not really what the vehicle is intended for, but the advantage of the experiment is that it allows for an unequivocal comparison.

The energy consumption of the WAW was measured at 0.7 kWh per 100 kms (62 miles). This makes the velomobile in excess of 20 times more efficient than electric cars currently on the market. For example, the Nissan Leaf requires 15 kWh per 100 kms. The enormous difference is of course due to the enormous difference in weight. Without the battery, the Nissan weighs just over a ton, while the WAW weighs less than 30 kgs.

Versatile zijkant

Picture: the Versatile.

For a human powered velomobile the comparison is a bit more complicated and open to interpretation, because a human does not run (primarily) on electricity, but on biomass. The efficiency of a human powered velomobile thus depends on what the cyclist eats (the efficiency of an electric car also depends on how the electricity is generated). Callebaut and Vandeputte set the primary energy use to 0.6 kWh/100 km for a vegetarian diet from your own garden, to 2.4 kWh per 100 km for the average diet of the western non-vegetarian.


Picture: the Versatile.

A human powered velomobile is thus 15 to 62 times more energy efficient than a Nissan Leaf. Not just 6 to 25 times, because we are comparing primary energy here. The 15 kWh that is consumed by the Nissan equates to around 37.5 kWh primary energy since electricity plants (in Europe) have an efficiency of 40 percent.

You can also argue that burning fat is a positive thing regardless of where food comes from, since obesity and a lack of exercise are endemic throughout the western world. The energy that is now being wasted in fitness centres, or the fat that is hanging in front of the television, could be put to good use as an oil substitute in transportation. In this view, the velomobile consumes (just as the cyclist and the pedestrian) 0,00 kWh per 100 kilometres.


The origins of the velomobile can be traced back to the beginnings of the twentieth century, but the modern, streamlined velomobile only appeared in the 1980s. The first commercially available velomobile was the Danish Leitra. In 1993, the Dutch Alleweder appeared on the market. About 500 of them were were sold in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany throughout the 1990s.

Alleweder 5

Picture: the Alleweder.

The Alleweder introduced an important technological innovation: the self-supporting, monocoque coach work, similar in construction to that of a car – though much lighter. This gave the velomobile a sturdier construction without weighing it down. The suspension system introduced by the Alleweder was also inspired by automobiles. The bodywork of the original Alleweder is made from aluminum plates riveted together, a technique inspired by airplane builders.

With or without a roof

All velomobiles produced since then are based on the construction principles of the Alleweder. The only difference is that the bodywork no longer consists of aluminum but is made up of composites (like Kevlar). These materials are more expensive, but offer more freedom in designing the fairing, allowing for better aerodynamics.

Go one 3

Picture: the Go One 3.

A modern velomobile weighs between 24 and 40 kilograms, is about 250 centimetres long, 80 centimetres wide and 95 centimetres high. The three wheels have suspension and the bodywork has integrated rear view mirrors, head lights, indicators and (sometimes) brake lights. A velomobile also has a luggage compartment comparable to that of a sports car.

The present-day velomobile comes in two varieties: vehicles in which the head of the driver sticks out (like the Quest, the WAW, the Versatile, the Mango, the Velayo, and the Alleweder) and vehicles in which the driver is fully enclosed (like the Go-One, the Leiba, the Leitra, the Pannonrider and the Cab-Bike). In the case of a fully enclosed vehicle, part of the bodywork can be opened to get in and out. In a half-open velomobile, the driver enters and leaves via the hole where the head sticks through.

Velomobiles can have open or closed wheel arches. Closed wheel arches give better aerodynamics but they make the turning cycle larger and hamper the changing of a tyre.


Picture: the Pannonrider (picture credit) has solar panels on the bodywork (wind power is another option!).

Fully enclosed velomobiles give the best protection against bad weather, of course, but they do carry a few disadvantages. The main problem has to do with ventilation. Even in cold weather, the driver may “overheat”. A body that delivers 200 watts, produces around 1000 watts of waste heat, which mostly escapes via the head. In a fully enclosed velomobile hearing and sight are also affected. The windshield can steam up or it can become opaque because of rain or snow (windscreen wipers are not an option on any velomobile, probably because of the extra weight that would be added by motor and battery).


Picture: the Velayo.

A fully enclosed velomobile thus needs an efficient natural ventilation system (which can happen via air intake in the nose of the vehicle). Some manufacturers have come up with a compromise. The WAW has a small optional roof with a ventilation system that can be manipulated from the inside of the vehicle. It can be quickly installed and it fits in the trunk when folded up. The Versatile also has a smart roof, bypassing the heat and ventilation problem while still protecting the rider from the rain.


Picture: the Hase Klimax.

The German manufacturer Hase recently presented a recumbent tricycle with a foldable fairing (and an electric assist motor). This is not a compromise between a fully or a semi-enclosed velomobile but between the latter and a normal recumbent trike – the most comfortable and aerodynamic option in warm weather.


Recently, some two-seater velomobiles have appeared, such as the Bakmobiel (a cargo bike) and the DuoQuest. The essential idea is that occupants sit next to each other. It’s good to see that cosiness still beats aerodynamics.


Another recent trend are velomobiles that have been especially designed to easily hop in and out of. The adapted design lowers weather protection and aerodynamics, but the result is still a more efficient bicycle at higher speeds, which comes in handy for shorter distances.

Are velomobiles too expensive?

The high purchase price is often mentioned as one of the largest obstacles for a breakthrough of the velomobile in the mainstream market. A fully equipped machine will cost you at least 5,000 euro (6,700 dollar) – considerably more than what you pay for a good quality bicycle. In the US prices have come down from a level twice as high, since now some of the popular Northern European brands are also produced in the States. Shipping a velomobile across the Atlantic is not cheap.


Picture: the Quest.

The high price stems partly from the surcharge of a recumbent, but mainly from bodywork. Each velomobile is hand-crafted, with the fairing requiring the most work. It would of course be cheaper to produce velomobiles on an assembly line, especially when this would happen in a low-wage country. But even then – including social exploitation and extra environmental costs – nobody expects to see a velomobile sold for less than half the current price. Lightweight materials, crucial to make the technology work, just happen to be expensive.


Picture: the Quest.

You can look at it differently, of course. A velomobile is more expensive than a bicycle, but it is cheaper than an automobile. Since the performance and the comfort are also in between that of a car and a bicycle, the price starts to look more reasonable. Moreover, a car requires fuel, and a velomobile doesn’t. Maintenance is limited to changing the tyres. Whoever changes his or her automobile for a velomobile is definitely making a economical decision. Governments could help overcome the purchase price by financially supporting velomobiles instead of electric cars and biofuels – at least their ecological gain is clear and they don’t need a completely new charging infrastructure.

Alternative to the automobile?

The most important obstacle for the velomobile is not the purchase price. It is the competition of the automobile. Although a velomobile can ride on a wide enough bicycle path, because of its larger dimension and higher speeds the vehicle is more suited for the road. The concept of the velomobile is sound as long as the vehicle does not have to share the road with automobiles. On current roads, piloting a velomobile would be relatively dangerous. Car drivers don’t always see you, and in spite of the many strengthenings in the bodywork you are very vulnerable against, say, a Jeep Cherokee.

Alleweder a6

Picture: the Alleweder.

A breakthrough in the velomobile thus requires either a completely new infrastructure for pedal power, or the substitution of velomobiles (and other human powered vehicles) for automobiles on the existing local and regional road system. The latter option, which I prefer, would not be conducive to car sales, but there is nothing or nobody that stops car manufacturers from producing velomobiles.

© Kris De Decker (edited by Shameez Joubert)

B’Twin – A Corporate Velomobile Future?

A couple of weeks ago I saw my first B’Twin branded bicycle.  It was a fairly typical and non-descript hybrid MTB style cycle being used on a British Seafront.  It likely would have gone unnoticed altogether, as just another Bike Shaped Object moving in the shadow of the ICE recumbent Trike and the elegant Pashley step through I also saw, had it not been for some news I should have reported on earlier this year.

This may be a bit stale by now, but I became aware of B’Twin through a report on Recumbent Journal (RJ): a US based blog covering all things recumbent, including velomobiles.  RJ reported on a design competition posted at the opensource automotive design community The Forge. The stated object was to design a velomobile that could be built for less than $2000 for a given set of criteria, and a winner was announced at the end of May 2012.

The particular merits of the RJ report was not the comment on the various designs, from which they largely refrained, but rather the nature of the company sponsoring the competition and what the implications might be for the future of velomobiles.

A collection of 4 Velomobile Concept Designs

From top to bottom:
Torkel Dohmers’ “ThisWay”
Adam Lazenby’s “Skua”
Tim Turrini-Rochford’s “NoVelo”
Speed Studio Design’s “Trik-e”

Design competitions and velomobile concepts are not new. Various individuals with industrial design skills or academic interest have produced concept designs, several of which are included in the upcoming Velomobile Database. In 2009 the excellent Bicycle Design Blog, with an interest in tapping the huge “blue ocean” of potential utility cyclists, organized a design competition which was won by a design with many velomobile features. Last year, 2011, Bicycle Design was mooting another similar competition.  The difference here is, that this is the first time a commercial organization has done so, putting up a prize of $7500. This is significant as commercial organizations exist to make money, and do so by selling products to a market that is willing to buy them. As RJ points out, the group behind the competition sponsor, B’Twin, is the french based Oxylane group. Oxylane produces a large range of, often innovative, sporting goods and is considered to be the largest sporting goods retailer in the world. The implication being, they see a market, and one sufficiently large enough form them to swim in, ready to be tapped.

The designs (see the winner and some finalists shown below) have many things that could be criticized not least the failure to achieve the desired price point. However as RJ points out the motive behind sponsoring such competitions is to help stimulate the internal design team that is working on the project in a place where there are the resources to refine the design to the desired level.

The apparent convergence of the designs on the same configuration adopted by the recently re-launched Drymer, (upright, head-covered, tilting, tadpole trike) is a fruit of the competition specification but it does offer clues on the corporate mindset  which tends to be constrained by focus groups and ideas largely confined to an existing paradigm.  Something not quite so far removed from a recognisable upright cycle with a bit of automotive protection and styling would probably be easier to sell from that perspective.

Photos of Feetz tilting Trike and Veltop weather covering on a cargo TrikeHaving said that, one can already put together a machine with many of the desired characteristics by combining the Feetz tilting trike (Their Old Website), now supplied by the Belgian velomobile manufacturer Fietser, with one of the weather coverings by the french manufacturer Veltop. All for less than €1954 (349.00 + 1500.00 + 105.00) including VAT which works out at something like $2400 or £1600 plus delivery to your chosen destination. I had a short test-ride on a Feetz from Cyclesense in Tadcaster few years back, and left with a positive impression. It would be somewhat of a Kludge compared to the entries below but if you exclude the VAT and shipping it would certainly come close to the $2000 target of the competition. The item I find the most challenging is the requirement for eAssist as this currently adds a significant amount of both weight and cost.

Winning Entry first:

Velocity Concept VelomobileUrban Velo Concept VelomobileUrban Trike Concept VelomobilevElomobile Concept DesignStride Concept Velomobile

Battle Mountain a week to go!

World Human Powered Speed Challenge 2012 PosterIn a weeks time an elite collection of racers, engineers and their supporters will be assembled in Battle Mountain, Nevada, USA.  Each will be attempting to break various current human powered speed records, even if only their own personal best from previous years.

This year is set to be of more interest than usual.  Not only will Sam Whittingham be defending his current 2009 record of 82.819 mph.  There is a very serious contender in the Dutch Universities of Deft and Amsterdam and their Human Power Team with VeloX 2, a significantly revised design of the the original VeloX they raced last year, and packed full of technology.  To round off the competition, outsider and celebrity Scotsman, Graeme Obree is attempting to not only break the current record but aspires to smash it!  In an echo of his 1993/94 hour records on an upright bike he is attempting to pass 100 mph on a prone, head first, bike he has designed and built himself.  It should be obvious that it is Graeme and his Beastie who are featured on this year’s Battle Mountain Poster.

There are some who are quite skeptical that 100 mph will be passed, especially on a first attempt, but none-the-less there are many who are rooting for the “Flying Scotsman” to do well.  A couple of articles give more detail, one from the Daily Telegraph and one from Road.CC.

A short video showing Sam’s record setting run from 2008 is shown below.

Below is a montage of clips from 2009 which should give an idea what SR305 will be like next week.

There is also a documentary being produced based covering the last three years at Battle Mountain called Human Power.  Production is expected to be finished sometime in 2013.  Mean time there are more videos available on Georgi Georgiev’s Varna Website, the designer and builder of the record breaking bikes.

The current list of race entrants is given on this page. And result will be published here.

Alligt, Jouta and the Sunrider Velomobile

Since taking over Sunrider Alligt has been busy developing and refining the design and build method.  Despite an external similarity there has been much changed “under the hood”. has a brief article outlining the principal differences between the new and old versions and according to the comment by Jos Sluijsmans the new Sunrider 2.0 will be on display at the Velomobile Seminar later this week.

Jouta, whose own velomobile was covered in this year’s SPEZI report, now have their new website online.  In addition to their original front wheel drive delta trike and fairing they also report that they are very busy building sunrider velomobiles.  They say they are working hard developing a new type of sunrider.  It is unclear whether this is an independent effort or if it is being done in collaboration with Alligt.