Oliebollentocht – Record Number of Velomobiles

Oliebollentocht Logo157 velomobiles participated in the 2012 Oliebollentocht, upping the record from 149 in 2011.  The day was clear and relatively warm for the time of year, which made for some good photography, and photos and videos from riders and others, are now appearing online.  Several are linked to from the Ligfiets page.

The ride commenced in Zwolle and, after counting for the record, the velomobiles left in groups of about 50.  Looking at the videos it is fair to say that the Quest and Strada velomobiles represented the largest group.  However there is a surprisingly large selection of machines to be seen, these included: Flevobike Orca/Versatile; various iterations of Alligt and Flevo Alleweders; WAW; Milan; a couple of Go-One Evo Ks; Velayo; and even a Leiba Classic.  The following video takes you on a wander round the parked velomobiles assembling for the ride.  The Duo Quest with a trailer also participated and is featured early in the video.  It is clear from what is shown, that at least three children could be transported in this way, though I read a report on the Strada 112 A blog that there were four children carried!

The following video also takes you around the assembling velomobiles but also includes some of the ride itself with a mixture of cockpit views and stills which all help to give a flavour of the day.

The next video is quite long at 24 minutes, but features an extensive cockpit eye view taken from a Quest equipped with a carbon race-cap.  The view is not all from the cockpit as the rider gets out several times including after rolling onto the ferry at Genemuiden.  It is amusing to see the small ferry overwhelmed by the number of velomobiles all trying to cross at the same time.  I believe Andre Vrielink can be seen on the ferry with a similar, if not the same, Orca that I test-rode last September.

The following is a much shorter video but with rather flashy production including quite a number of shots in fast-play, which create their own effect and impression.

To conclude there follows a compilation of well-shot video of one group en-route and obviously enjoying themselves.  David Hembrow of A View From the Cycle Path is featured smiling at the camera as he passes in his Mango.

Final Visit to Dronten

I am back in the UK and have been busy with work on the website back-end, including dealing with a security breach in which the site was hacked and “malicious” code and links were injected into most pages. It is believed the “damage” has been cleaned up but if you notice any suspicious behaviour on the site please let us know.

I have several articles to post and I will shortly be writing up both my test rides and manufacturer visits in more detail. Meanwhile here is a report of my last day in Flevoland.

Photo of a Sunrider on Harderdijk FlevolandThe last day was marred by an accident in the Sunrider. As I returned from Putten I performed an inadvertent Elk Test on a cycle-path-roundabout in Harderwijk, and overturned.

Google Maps view of Harderwijk JunctionThis was the third time I had passed through this particular cycle junction. The first day in the Alleweder, I had passed very slowly, giving more attention to reading the fietspad direction signs and following the map on my iPhone, to be able to properly observe the path. The evening before I had passed through at some speed, and felt comfortable with how the velomobile handled, albeit in the opposite direction. This was the second time in the Sunrider, and I had assumed that the flow of the junction would be the same in the opposite direction. As I entered the junction I experienced a sharp turn to the right followed by a sharp turn to the left, at just enough speed to loose control and then roll over. I became aware things were going wrong in the middle of the maneuver and had that feeling of helplessness as I tried to slow and correct the steering. Instead I felt myself slowly falling over and found myself on my side with a grazed hand and elbow and significant damage to the Sunrider upper body.

Being an engineer I have a strong urge to analyise the accident and learn the why. However I currently have no opportunity to investigate the site as I would like. The accident may have been compounded by a number of factors: a tendency of the particular model I was riding at the time to pull to the left when braking, thus adding to the over turning force; the contribution of adverse camber; or I may have touched the centre curb, etc, etc. However, despite the accident, I beat my time of the previous day by about 30 minutes!

Photo of a Sunrider above the Canal at BiddinghuizenLaying aside the accident, my impression of the Sunrider was positive. The drenching which was avoided on the previous day was definitely part of that impression. Despite being very heavy (c. 43 Kg) it was not difficult to ride, and I was pleasantly surprised by the performance increase over the previous day. However to be fair, the performance comparison should really only be made after at least a couple of journeys in each machine over the same route, to average out any differences due to muscle training and route knowledge.

The design does need some refinement and I am pleased to report that Leo Vischer is doing excellent work developing the Mk 2 Sunrider which should go a long way to answering those criticisms. The Mk 2 is expected to be on the market by the summer of 2013.

After returning the Sunrider to Alligt, and sorting out how to pay for the damage*, I again visited Flevobike, where I had an arrangement to test ride an Orca. The machine I tested was one with the electric assist option, the “stealth black” model in the photo. Andre Vrielink went over the controls with me as well as making a minor adjustment to fit the Orca to my size.

Photo of 2 Orca Velomobiles outside FlevobikeI was not able to take the Orca back to Putten, however I was able to give it a good run round Dronten over some varied terrain, enough to revise my initially negative impression to a much more positive one, but more of that later.

After the ride I was able to spend some time with Andre discussing the Orca, Flevobike and velomobiles in general. I was particularly interested to learn the differences between the original Versatile and the Orca, as visually it is hard to distinguish one from the other. These may well be summarised as, a number of refinements to the details and build method, that significantly improve the build quality, and give an incremental improvement on the performance.

*Before doing any significant test-riding in Europe I would strongly recommend ensuring you have suitable cycle cover that includes coverage for cycles you ride that are loaned to you.

Dronten – Take-two

Today I took the Bus and visited Dronten for the second time.  On the previous occasion only Velomobiel were open, as the other velomobile manufacturers had decamped to the SPEZI in Germany, so this time I visited both Alligt and Flevobike.

Flevobike came first, where I had an appointment to meet with Johan Vrielink, one of the original founders of what is now Flevobike.  Here I also met with Jos Sluijsmans of Fietsdiensten.nl.  Both were part of the team that organised the recent Velomobile Seminar, which is currently planed to be repeated in 2014.

Johan Vrielink is now retired but for all that he is still full of energy with an active mind, and ideas to promote and further the velomobile concept and secure a greater knowledge and acceptance of the velomobile as a very practical mode of transport.  Jos is quieter but similarly full of ideas and it is encouraging that both their minds, as well as others, are engaged on this problem.  I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and flow of ideas.

Johan also gave us both a tour of the Flevobike facility where the Orca velomobile and the Green Machine recumbent are manufactured. A professional facility.  Here we also met Andre Kjaersgaard, from Velomobil Center in Denmark, who is working a placement to gain skills to service the Orca velomobile in his home country.

Next I went round to Alligt where I was able to talk with Leo Vischer for a while.  Again more ideas, and reality checks too, a good conversation.  One is impressed with both the possibilities and also the fact, that at present, there is not enough time as resources to pursue them all.  Much material to write about another time.

I was then able to borrow an Alleweder A4 for my return trip to Putten.  Perhaps I was mad, some think I am, but I had to prove for myself what I already believed, that a 45 km (28 mile) trip was quit realistic when tackled with a velomobile.  First of all I am currently very unfit and secondly this was the farthest I had ever traveled in a recumbent position. To cut things short, I was slow, slower than I originally expected, but I made it with nothing worse than jelly-legs.  I plan to write more on the Alleweder later.  Now I must get some sleep and make the return journey tomorrow.

Photo taken from an Alleweder A4 on the Fietspad leaving DrontenLeaving Dronten

Photo taken from an Alleweder A4 on a farm road approaching HarderwijkBetween Dronten & Harderwijk

SPEZI 2012

For the first time I and a Dutch relative had the opportunity to attend the 17th International Special Bikes Show – Die Spezialradmesse or SPEZI for short. We left Holland early Saturday morning, traveling through lower Germany in pouring rain until we crossed the river Ahr near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler. At this point we were climbing through rolling hills on the West side of the Rhine. As we climbed the weather became drier. Then we encountered the Moselle. Here it passes through a spectacular gorge near Koblenz the main road passing over it on a high bridge with a spectacular view. By this point the road had climbed quite high and we began to travel over a rolling plateau in glorious sunshine, typical of many SPEZI photos from previous occasions.

Entrance to SPEZI Hall 1

Entrance to SPEZI Halle 1

We arrived in Germersheimshortly after 10:00 and already the area around and inside the venues was busy with attendees. We registered and received our armbands and a glossy show magazine together with a map and exhibitor list. Although this was the first time at SPEZI, and therefore there was no past to compare to, the event appeared to be very well attended, with a large number of exhibitors.

Mango Velomobile Outside Hall 1

Mango Velomobile Outside Hall 1

Exhibition space comprised: three indoor halls; a large outdoor enclosure; two test tracks; plus numerous corners where a mixture of official and unofficial exhibitors, owners and homebuilders had items on display. The town of Germersheim also takes SPEZI quite seriously with several streets between the various venues closed to traffic and the town bus station given over for use as one of the test tracks.

As one would expect from reports of previous occasions, there was a large selection of interesting specialist cycling products on display. However our purpose in attending was to get to know some of the velomobile manufacturers and to see and get some hands-on experience with at least some of the velomobiles on show. No matter how much study one might make of written, pictorial or video reports, there is nothing quite like being able to touch, walk round and get inside these vehicles.

While exhibitors had come from many parts including the UK, the show, being in Germany, is German dominated. This was apparent in the selection of products as these were mainly German and Dutch made models or were being presented by German speaking resellers. Most of the Velomobile Exhibitors had an outside presence; where there was a greater opportunity to sit inside various models and, in some cases, take a test ride.

Collection of Alleweders

Collection of Alligt and Akkurad Alleweders

Our first encounter in the outdoor enclosure was with Carbon Recumbentsfrom Hungary. As their name suggests they manufacture recumbents from Carbon Fibre and were exhibiting a nice collection of these together with a

Carbon Recumbents HPV

Carbon Recumbents’ HPV

large velomobile that they referred to simply as a HPV. They were evidently very keen to spread the word about their products and are actively looking for distributers in several countries. This velomobile was new to us and while it was only available as a static exhibit, sitting inside gave one a good sense of its potential. It is large giving it quite some road presence and has some ingenious rotating doors allowing access from either side. The front canopy was very open giving the rider good visibility.

Carbon Recumbents HPV Cockpit

Carbon Recumbents HPV Cockpit

At the time of writing there was very little detail about their velomobile on their website but it is available with an optional electric assist.

A few stands over we found Alligt, the Dutch manufacture of the Alleweder family of velomobiles, where they were exhibiting a comprehensive range of their products. Alleweder Models A4, A6, and A7 were available and kept busy with test rides. Of particular interest were a couple of examples of the new prototype A8 reported on by Bent Blogearlier this year.

Alleweder A8 Prototype

Alleweder A8 Prototype

Part built A8 Prototype

Part built Alleweder A8 Prototype

Alligt Sunrider insides

Alligt Sunrider insides

Also on display was the Sunrider velomobile, which has undergone a redesign incorporating many parts from the Alleweder and a simpler build method, and is now being built by Alligt.

Alligt’s partner, and the German builder of the Alleweder along with an electric cycle assist system, Akkurad (Lohmeyer Leichtfahrzeuge) had a stand indoors but several of their products were being demonstrated by Alligt outside.

Alligt Sunrider Velomobile

Alligt Sunrider

I had a brief opportunity to talk with Leo Visscher, who spoke about his thoughts toward producing a four-wheel velomobile. His particular interest seemed to be in the stability of a four wheeled vehicle as shown in the Moose or Elk Test and having a practical confirmation in Miles Kingsbury’s observations of the performance of his four wheeled Quatro velomobile during the ROAM last year.

Orca Velomobile

Flevobike Orca

Further round the enclosure Flevobike had a large stand and were exhibiting both their Green Machine recumbent and their Orca velomobile. They had three of these, two on static display and one available for test rides. There was a lot of interest from attendees and it was frustrating that the high demand meant I was only able to experience the inside of one of the static Orcas. This was compounded by what appeared to be a disappointingly poor forward and side visibility, which I found quite restricted when compared to other designs I sampled. That being said the styling is striking and at least for myself very aesthetically pleasing and in terms of product quality the finish both inside and out has to be among the best. The standard is approaching that you would expect to find in a mass produced vehicle such as a car. My negative impression may well have been influenced by the particular Orca not being adjusted for my size and it would have been helpful to experience just how limiting the visibility was, if at all, when riding.

The final manufacturer we were able to engage outdoors was Gessthe German producer of the Leiba family of velomobiles. Gess, like many producers, is a small family firm and despite limited English, and my even more limited German, the owner and his family did their best to be helpful.

Leiba X-Stream Velomobile

Leiba X-Stream with mounted head fairing

I was able to sample both an X-Stream and test ride a Classic. Here the experience was very positive. The X-Stream both with and without the faired head cover gave excellent visibility and the controls and seating felt very natural. I was not able to test ride the Classic till later in the day as the Leiba supplied model was taking part in a practical transport competition along side a number of other velomobiles and contraptions including a modified “stretched” Leiba Classic produced by Elmar Maierwith a child seat behind the rider. I would like to see Leiba take the hint and offer a similar design as part of their regular offerings.

Original and modified Leiba Classics

Original and modified Leiba Classics

Elmar was also displaying an original design, el Loco, with a high degree of styling and a built in sound system!

el Loco Velomobile

el Loco – Das Ding

The first impression after sitting down inside the Classic and latching the canopy closed and riding out toward the street was, “Wow! I feel fat!” In the few minutes that I was able to spend riding around the streets the Classic grew on me. I got used to the spacious interior and despite being enclosed on a very hot day (in UK terms) I found the inside to be well ventilated and cool. Rider Access also was excellent due to the forward opening fairing. The visibility is not as good as the X-Stream, which should be expected, but for my ride I found it quite adequate. My eye-level was on par with that of a typical sports car driver and, though there was next to no motorized traffic on the streets I used, I would feel quite comfortable at the prospect of using one in urban traffic. The only reservations would be a desire to test each velomobile more extensively in real world conditions, particularly the cold and the wet.

Velayos coming and going

Velayos coming and going

The final exhibitor we saw in the outdoor enclosure was Fortschritt Fahrzeugbaumakers of the front wheel drive rear wheel steering Velayo velomobile. They had a couple of Velayos and again they were kept busy giving test rides to others which prevented us from getting any hands on experience for ourselves. None-the-less I saw and heard them pass on the streets several times and had on opportunity toward the end of the day to make an external inspection. One was impressed by the bulk and low rumble as they passed and despite the unconventional configuration, even as velomobiles go, there was evidently a lot of interest.

Velayo and Go-One Evolution Velomobiles

Velayo and Go-One Evolution

When I photographed the Velayo I inspected, I also included a Go-One Evolution that was parked up alongside. It was unclear whether this was just a private owner’s vehicle or whether Fortschritt Fahrzeugbau were exhibiting the Go-One on behalf of the manufacturer Beyss Leichtfahrzeuge.

Veltop mounted on a recumbent trike

Veltop mounted on a recumbent

For those looking for elements of the velomobile experience while still using a regular bike or recumbent, there were also several vendors offering fairing solutions and french manufacturer Veltop had installed examples of their weather protection system.

Of the remaining velomobile exhibitors only Sinner and Raederwerkwere limited to indoor exhibition space but examples of their Mango and Milan velomobiles were parked up in various places outside giving ample opportunity for inspection.

Milan Velomobile

Milan Velomobile

Hase Bikesalso had an indoor stand where they were exhibiting their Klimax all weather delta trike. It was a disappointment that the indoor space was so limited and busy with other interested potential velomobilists that we did not get the opportunity we would have liked to talk with the exhibitors.

Hase Klimax

Hase Klimax

One significant omission on our part was Bike-Revolution, who had both an indoor and out door stand. Regrettably we were not aware they were representing Leitra, along with their own related offerings, the Interceptor , Thunderstorm, Leitra Avancee, till after the event. This is an omission we will try to avoid, if at all possible, next year.

Present in an unofficial capacity were Jouta, the Dutch manufacturer of an interesting: rear wheel steering, front wheel drive, leaning, recumbent trike for which they make a striking fairing. They had an example on display with rear-mounted panniers for luggage in a similar style to the original Go-One velomobile.

Jouta Velomobile

Jouta Velomobile

Jouta Front Wheel Drive trike

Jouta Front Wheel Drive Trike

Their website, only available in Dutch and currently undergoing a rebuild, claims that the fairing is also suitable for mounting to other trikes. While I was not able to test the trike with the fairing I was able to test ride a bare trike and despite the negative reputation of rear wheel steering I found the ride quite stable over the speeds I achieved and under the pedal loads I applied. I found the ride unusual but satisfactory and very enjoyable.

After the exhibition spaces there were the two test tracks. We did not have time to sample the electric test track; instead I went along to the bus station where the merely human powered vehicles were available.

SPEZI test track

SPEZI test track before the le Mans start

The tracks are sponsored by several of the biggest exhibitors as an opportunity to try before making a buying decision. As such there were machines provided by the likes of HP Velotechnik, Hase, AZUB, Toxy, Anthrotech, among others, but no velomobiles. Each tryout session was limited to 25 minutes and to gain entry you had to register and leave some photo ID in return for a coloured badge. At the end of the previous session the testers left the enclosure and were replaced by those who had the current badge. I took the opportunity to try out several of the offerings. While there were no actual velomobiles the time was not wasted as there are options to add fairings to existing trike and bike models and the Hase Klimax is based on the Kettwiesel delta trike.

Hase Klimax rear view

Hase Klimax

I have ridden both recumbent bikes and tadpole trikes before but this was my first time on a delta. It was a good experience and I was able to appreciate the potential of this configuration. Given the limited speed allowed and surface available the Kettwiesel handled very well and was a pleasure to ride. Based on that assessment I would say, that for those looking for the cabriolet velomobile experience, the Hase Klimax is certainly worth a closer look.

Looking back at the day one might contrast the value of the visit to velomobil.nl in Dronten with our trip to SPEZI the following day. The test experience, attention and interaction with the builder was far more in depth with the manufacturer visit whereas at SPEZI one was competing with numerous other attendees and one could sense the strain some of the exhibitors were under as they struggled to cope with the multi-lingual requests for information. That being said, while you don’t get as much time, you cannot beat SPEZI for the opportunity to sample so many different models within walking distance of each other. If nothing else: the mental stimulation of seeing so many innovative products; the memories of the smiling faces on the test track; and the experience of something different, make the euro 9.50 entrance fee excellent value for a day out.

In conclusion, like all engineering, each velomobile is a set of tradeoffs to obtain a particular solution. There is not necessarily one right answer or perfect velomobile and all the different designs are not necessarily in direct competition with one-another. What works well for one rider in one place may be quite unsuitable for another, who is say, a different size, or in a different environment. The importance must be stressed of gaining experience for one’s self with several designs and correctly identifying your own needs and priorities.

Finally I would like to express my own thanks not only in general to those who run SPEZI but also personally to all my family and friends who helped to make this trip possible.

A Question

A Question