Velomobiles – The Inside View

Some time ago I showed a distant relative the drawing of the Quest velomobile, the same which give to visitors and is also shown on the front page.  This relative, who has seen the Quest in the wild, expressed surprise to learn that it is essentially a pedal powered trike.    Since he had seen no visible wheels he had been under the impression that  there was just some kind of two wheeler under the smooth body.  This misperception got me thinking and impressed me that, to the uninitiated, it is not obvious what is hidden inside many a velomobile.

Similar to the short and humourous post about how velomobiles are perceived, one can take the view that hiding the contents can be both a good or a bad thing depending on where the external viewer is coming from.  In his video presentation, Steve Mosca asserts, that having the pedaling concealed inside the body has helped the acceptance of the velomobile on the US roads whereas a regular, and exposed, cycle would receive a more hostile response.  On the other hand, for the ignorant, not knowing, may well lead to a more negative view and perhaps prejudice a potential rider from learning more.  I therefore decided it would be a good idea to collect a series of images to illustrate the “inside view.” This collection is presented below.

Perhaps following a similar line of thought, Graeme Obree designed his Beastie speed bike with a transparent fairing expressly so the observer could see the human engine at work underneath.  Seethebeastie-MAIN-520x292However for most velomobiles this is not possible, as the fibres in the Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) body, render the material opaque.  So in the physical world, apart from what can be seen through the canopy, all else is destined to remain a mystery.  Leaving the physical world and turning to the illustrated and virtual worlds there is no such limitation, here artists, photo-manipulators and computer modellers are free to render what ever surface they like transparent.

The Quest shown at the top of the front page was not the first such image.  Prior to designing the Quest the good folks at Velomobiel worked at FlevoBike and were involved in the first FRP velomobile of this type, the Carbon or C-Alleweder later known as the Limit.  A similar artist’s cut-away was produced, as shown below.

C Alleweder Cut-away Drawing

Even earlier, the success of the fledgling HPV movement in the US, and the particular successes of the Vector racing trike, caught the interest of the mainstream media.  As a result the following see-through image of the Vector was produced, which graced the cover of the December 1983 issue of Scientific American.See-through drawing of the Vector

Going back even further it is possible to source drawings of machines from the pre-modern or first velomobile era.  The first of these is the Velo Velocar by Mochet.  The Velocar was the four-wheel HPV produced in France in some numbers during the inter-war years.  The Velo-Velocar was the bicycle produced when Velocar was split in two, and was the precursor to the modern recumbent.  Infamously banned by the UCI in 1934 because of its superior performance, Mochet went on to set unofficial records using a fully faired version as shown below.Velo Velocar cut-away profile view

Independent of the Mochet Velocars, but driven by similar need for practical transport and spurred on by the creative cycle developments of the time, a set of build-it-yourself plans for the Fantom were published in Sweden in the 1940s.  Other Scandinavian countries beside Sweden had many home-builders and a few thousand of these plans were sold, a number of which were built and some survive till today.  The arrangement drawing below gives an idea of the internal layout and proportions.Fantom velomobile general arrangement drawing

Returning to contemporary times, and to the power of photo editing software.  Here we have the Borealis.  Produced by Steve Schleicher in Canada, the Borialis is notable as being perhaps the first velomobile offered as an after-market kit to be fitted to a production trike.  Designed to fit a number of models produced in the UK by ICE.  Merging a couple of suitably aligned shots shows you just what it is like when body and trike are brought together.Borealis velomobile composite cut-away image

A similar composite image has been produced to illustrate the Rotovelo by Trisled.  Although the Rotovelo is sold as a complete velomobile it has a similar structure in that the plastic body does not have enough rigidity to carry load which instead is carried on a trike frame.Composite photo of a yellow Rotovelo velomobile

Returning to graphics and this time to the power of CAD.  Miles Kingsbury put some serious effort into the design, development and production of his four wheel Quatro velomobile which first saw action in the 2011 ROAM event in the US.  The CAD model was not only used for aerodynamic development but also to assess ergonomics and rider fitting.  The following is taken from his Kingcycle page documenting the design.


Finally we come full circle and return to a speed bike and its representation of both bike and rider as the product of the artist’s mind.  The following work of art by C Michel Lewis, an advert for a corporately sponsored HPV event in 2009, appears to depict a Varna speedbike riden by Sam Whittingham.  Mr Whittingham of course held the world HPV speed record for a number of years, a record established in a Varna speedbike at the annual Battle Mountain event, an event for which Mr Lewis regularly provides the poster art.



The above collection serves to illustrate a range of velomobiles, both in terms of design purpose and development in time.  It is not exhaustive.  If any readers are aware of other similar illustrations please make use of the comments below to let us all know.

Zampano – 4 Wheel Velomobile from Germany

The criticism of the rigid tricycle format, which most velomobiles are based on, comes from the limited stability when cornering sharply at speed.  The trike usually has the advantage of a mechanically elegant and simple steering or drive, comparable to a bicycle, with additional stability provided by the third wheel.  On snow, ice and loose ground the trike is very stable when compared to a bike, as it will slide rather than fall.  On hard ground however the bike has the advantage, being able to lean into curves.  As a result the industry is beginning serious exploration of alternative designs with the potential to overcome this limitation.

Photo of ZampanoSome designs and ideas were presented at the recent Velomobile Seminar.  One solution is to take the mechanically simple trike layout and “improve” it by adding some kind of tilting function to counter the overturning force.  For example the new VeloTilt design. There are arguments for and against, and challenges to over come but development work is moving ahead.  Another alternative is to add an extra wheel to gain the stability of a quadricycle as illustrated by the Quatro.Photo of Zampano

Four wheel velomobiles are not new.  Indeed many of the early “pedal cars” were four-wheelers.  Mochet’s Velocar was originally designed on the behest of his wife so that his son would have a stable machine, and therefore safe in her view, on which to go out riding with his friends.  The recumbent advantage was only discovered by accident as it were, once the Velocar was being used alongside other cycles.Photo of Zampano

An increasing number of modern quadricycles are starting to make an appearance some with velomobile features.  One-such is the Zampano by Designwerks from Germany.  At least one prototype has been produced and is illustrated here.  Designwerks website is professionally produced in German, but there is little information on the present status of the project, or what if any plans there are for manufacture and sale.

Based on Google Translate the Zampano website states:

This innovative vehicle combines the benefits of the bicycle, car and public transport in one product without being unnecessarily burdened by their disadvantages. It consists of aluminum and high-tech materials such as carbon fiber, Makrolon and Goretex, is powered completely emission-free, has no parking spaces, is all-weather-resistant and  also encloses its users. … Depending on the version an option for an electric motor will be available this fall. The time is ripe for a solution like this.

The German text also makes reference to a Manfred Klauda and Tretauto GmbH Munchen.  If anyone can add more information please do so in the comments below.