Monday, August 29, 2011

Velomobiles Visit Vienna

It's taken me a few days (okay almost a week) to write about this, but better late than never, right?

Last Wednesday, the Roll Over America cross-country velomobile tour paused in Vienna for snacks and lemonade on their final leg into DC. The group left Portland, OR, on July 29, and arrived in Washington on August 24th, averaging 125 miles a day.

So what's a velomobile? It's a human powered recumbent tricycle, with a "fairing" or shell which completely or almost completely encloses both rider and machine. Combining lightweight construction and high quality components with an aerodynamic shell produces a remarkably efficient vehicle capable of great speed.

The point of the ride was to raise awareness of alternative forms of transportation, specifically the bicycle. With fuel costs inevitably rising, concerns about our environment and climate change being discussed everywhere, and traffic congestion growing worse by the day, all manner of alternatives are going to be debated and explored. The folks who rode ROAM feel strongly that the bike is an important part of the picture, and their cross-country tour was meant to make folks think about it. I have to imagine the sight of these sleek, unusual vehicles zooming across America prompted some thought.

I've seen a few velomobiles before,  mostly at trade shows, but never have I been surrounded by a large group of them. Nor have I ever been amongst so many riders and fans of them before. They are pretty remarkable machines, ranging pretty widely in complexity and expense. Some were truly custom, one of a kind vehicles, while others were production models, most notably the Quest from BlueVelo. The riders were a genial bunch, and clearly have enjoyed themselves riding across the US. None of them looked at all ragged or tired from their travels, which at 125 miles a day is pretty remarkable.

Check out my Flickr album here:

Velomobiles in Vienna, VA 8/24/2010

And also follow these links below for more info:


bikelovejones said...

Saw these guys earlier this summer as they were about to begin their trip in Portland:

They stopped in at the pentultimate night of short-track racing, where I got to admire them after my race. Nice fellas. Amazing bikes. And if I could cruise along in a high-speed, totally-encased Barcalounger I would probably be feeling pretty fresh too.

Anonymous said...

These are brilliant machines. The longest day ridden for the ROAM riders was 160 miles across the prairies. They were banging out some rather easy, under 4 hour centuries.

I too have a Bluevelo Quest. I've had it for just about 21 months and passed the 12,000 mile mark a few days ago. I've not bought gas or driven my automobile since the beginning of June. Velomobiles are amazing vehicles that because of the aerodynamic design can cruise along on level ground at 25 to 30 mph. The drive train is fully enclosed and chain and cassette will last 25,000 miles before needing to be replaced. They come with brake lights, turn signals, head lights, tail lights, interior lights, bicycle computer and horn. They come with full suspension and there is a floor inside where you can stash your gear, your stuff, your groceries, what ever, all within the aerodynamic body of the velomobile.
I've even raced mine in a time trial with two 90º and one 180º turns against top local cyclists 20 to 30 years younger than me on a top of the line 12 to 15 lb carbon fiber Titainium Time Trial bikes such as, Merlin, Trek and Cervelo and won. In a 5.5 mile course the top rider was 28 seconds slower and 35 years younger. These things are an all around utilitarian, barcalounger on wheels capable of doing amazing things.