If you’ve landed on this page, you probably spotted the QR code or URL on one of my velomobiles. I’ll try to answer the basic questions you may have about these interesting machines.
What is this thing?
It’s called a velomobile. The brand name of the blue one is an IntercityBike DF from the Netherlands. The white one is a Milan SL from Canada. The red one is a DFXL which is a slightly larger version of the blue DF. These velomobiles are considered to be bicycles according to California law. They’re actually tricycles with 2 wheels up front and 1 in the back. They’re made of carbon fiber and use bicycle components for the drive train. They have a monocoque chassis with full suspension. They have no motor.
How many are there in Santa Barbara?
There are 3. I have 2 – the white velomobile (Milan SL) and the blue one (DF). I originally owned the red one (DFXL) but it now belongs to a friend in Goleta.
Where do I ride them?
I ride (at bicycle speeds) on the bike path on my way to Cathedral Oaks or Goleta Beach. My favorite place to ride is PCH from Rincon down to Ventura and back. Velomobiles like to be ridden on flat or rolling terrain with few intersections or signals. You won’t see me climbing Gibraltar in one. Velomobiles can weigh anywhere from 45 to 75 lbs so they are not great for climbing.
How fast do they go?
These are quite fast. A friend of mine clocked 57mph in his IntercityBike DF at the last Battle Mountain Human Powered Speed Challenge. I’m not nearly that fast. On the open flat road, such as PCH, I can maintain high 20s to low 30s (mph) speeds. I’ve gone over 50mph on Hollister where there is a slight grade. On the bike path, I keep it down to normal bike speeds in order to respect the safety of kids, other riders, joggers and dog walkers.
Are they safe?
With the side windows and rear view mirrors, the outward visibility is actually quite good. As for being seen… Judging by their reactions and cell phone cameras pointing at me, drivers don’t seem to have a problem spotting these unusual vehicles on the open road. Where it does get dangerous is riding in parking lots and in congested traffic where drivers in their tall SUVs may not spot me next to them down low. I either try to avoid those situations or if I can’t, I assume that I am not seen and stay out of the way until it’s safe to proceed.
Where do you get a velomobile serviced?
Even though the drive train is composed of standard bicycle components, most bike shops don’t have the experience nor interest in working on velomobiles’ unusual suspension, steering and carbon fiber parts. A velomobile owner ends up being his own mechanic. I’ve taken it a step further. I also design and make my own enhanced carbon fiber and 3D printed body parts.
Where can I get one?
Most brands of velomobiles originate in Europe. It’s interesting that most are manufactured for these different companies by one company in Romania called velomobileworld. There is no longer a dependable velomobile dealer in the US, so you can deal directly with the manufacturers. I have personally or friends of mine have purchased directly from all of the following without any problems. These are reliable companies.
For the Quest, Snoek, Quatrevelo and Strada velomobiles, contact www.velomobiel.nl
For the DF and DFXL velomobiles, contact www.intercitybike.nl
For the Milan, Alpha 7, Alpha 9, M9 and Bulk velomobiles, contact www.velomobileworld.com
For the WAW velomobile, contact www.katanga.eu
Depending on the strength of the US dollar against the Euro, expect to pay around $15,000 for a new velomobile. Used velomobiles turn up on the web site http://www.bentrideronline.com/messageboard/ in the classifieds, Trikes for Sale section. Used ones can be bought anywhere from $6000 to $12000, depending on model and condition etc.