What is ROAM? A 24 day tour of Velomobiles Rolling Over America from Portland OR to Washington DC.
ROAM was a historical event that took place July/August of 2011. I was already interested in having a Velomobile - but when I spent nine days with them as a support member of the Tour – I knew it was the next project I was to build. After all – I have a spare Varna Streamliner shell and a Terra Trike that could be modified as a donor chassis. So why not? The project will help with the long dark winter hours that are ahead of me in the rainy Great Northwest region of the USA. Normally – I usually do not get into a “how to build” when I do my projects. It really takes valuable time away from the build setting up for proper photo’s etc. However – I have been requested to do this project, bearing my soul as a builder for others to learn by. So if the photo’s are not as step by step as other DYI web projects are – be patient. I am probably in a stage between Dream-gineering and Analyist/Paralist.
What did I learn on ROAM? WOW – it was like going to Velomobile University to acquire a basic degree but then coming home with a Doctorate Degree. I realized on day two I needed to start a Note book and learn to use both camera and laptop for recording related things that I knew would be pertinent with my Velomobile build. If it hadn’t been so exciting, I’m sure it would have been work to gather and record the data daily. As it turned out – I wanted more and more. Every model/brand of Velomobile had any number of beneficial features that I thought I might want to use with my velo build.
What I can’t do is to discuss everything I learned on this adventure. There would be too much time doing so. However – I will list a few categories that I think stand out as special. Well at least to me - after all – I am doing the build – not teach “wink”
What I intend to do is use a few velomobiles that I shot photo/video of as I watch them tour for the first nine days of the ROAM tour. As a builder of past, show cars, low racer recumbents and Streamliner recumbent bicycles – I feel that I can be objective with my observations. That is to recognize and determine different aspect reasons of what is happening under the conditions the vehicle is operating at the time. “Just think about it” - I have an average of 45 velomobiles riding with one another for days – it doesn’t take long for the differences to start showing up even with different rider capabilities. I had to pinch myself daily to believe I had this opportunity.
Number one -
The fast Velo’s were the Milan SL, Quest, EVO-R and Pterovelo. These race bred thoroughbreds were the super cruisers with space for hauling touring gear if need be. The Milan was the fastest best handling velomobile of all. When I rode it on a test ride – it was like a rocket sled on three wheels. Reminded me greatly of my Varna Streamliner. It was so free of air resistance. The Milan has been dialed in with a super efficient aerodynamic shape in addition to a suspension package that is rock solid laterally. As a result of every thing working in synergy – it holds world distance records in 12/24 hour meets.
I am also very familiar with Quest velomobiles which are the benchmark of Velomobiles. They are wonders of engineering having a design that is perfect for open road touring. Over ten years of R&D has refined the Quest into what it is today. It being aerodynamically efficient and a plush suspension smooth out those long miles making a pleasurable ride. Oh – and plenty of baggage room for self supported touring if that is your thing.
The Go-One EVO-R had the least amount of storage room – but hey – the EVO-R is a lean and mean little racer. After listening to the rider “Jorg” of this sleek little racer - it makes sense to pick a Velo for the preference of the owner/rider. He is a smaller sized rider that couldn’t fit into the larger Quest Velo. The EVO was a logical choice for him.
There was another fast Velomobile that stood out. This was the Pterovelo - meaning “feathers and wings plus bike” made in Oklahoma City USA. A lot of aircraft technology was used with in this Velomobile. It did look much like a Sail Plane pod without tail and wings. It was fast and very hitech with rear view cameras in lew of outside mirrors.
Below is a frontal view of a Evo – Mango – Milan and Quest.
Number two -
If I were to use a velomobile for inner city commuting where maneuverability is an important factor then Velomobiles like the Mango, Strada, Lieba would be logical choice’s. Their open wheel, short wheel base, wider track, weight and aerodynamics also exhibited they are refined enough to hold impressive cruise speeds while crossing America on ROAM.
Here you see a Blue Strada compared to a Mango.
Number three -
There were two do it yourself “DIY” kit versions on ROAM. This is a lesser expensive way to own a Velo if your handy with tools. The aluminum Allewelder and steel chassis/composite Velocity velomobiles both did fairly well on ROAM. For inner city commuting both are good choices. They also would do well across country under their own time-table. Note: the only reason these two velomobiles brands stand out as “not as fast” was because they are being compared to World Class racing velos. This is an apples to Oranges comparison and not to be taken that the Allewelder and Velocity Velo kits are substandard. They certainly are not. One just has to keep in mind for what these velo’s were designed for with in a budget cost factor. Both these kits are good values.
Number four -
Category impression. WOW! – who would have thought I would see a Velomobile cruising at 40 mph over the top of a roller hill up to well over 65 mph across the down hill flats of the eastern Montana terrain. It was unbelievable to see this right out in front of my wind shield. Here you see Josef securing the sun shade just before one of many 65 MPH +runs. Go to this link to see a few short video clips of the Quest and Milan making fast runs.
Sorry for the video quality – A digital snap shot camera makes a poor video cam.
I followed a Milan SL down hill off of McDonald Pass at 70 mph. Of course he had to use the brakes to keep from having a runaway. The way it handled through the high-speed curves was a joy to watch. Go to this link to see the Milan working the curves at 50 MPH. Also see another video following the Milan cruising at 70 MPH as he runs out on the flats from off of McDonald Pass MT. http://www.flickr.com/activity/photostream/
Simple flat land cruising is 28/30 mph. Any kind of modest down hill grade is cause for an increase speed of 32/35 mph. I watched as groups of two’s and three’s effortlessly travel at these speeds on level flat plains.
A word about E-assist :
There were four e-assist Velomobiles. My observation was the Stoke Monkey configuration seemed to work the best on this tour by way of simplicity and reliability. All systems were integrated into the chain lines utilizing the bikes transmission for the widest performance window for climbing and speed cruising. I may post more details on the topic later.
a. – Stability at high speed is paramont with these cruise missles. This requires a long wheel base – low center of gravity “cg” as well as a through researched aerodynamics.
b. – For exception of the holes for the feet to be used as a reverse gear - the refined velo’s have sealed the outside elements from inside the cabin for weather comfort. For the Quest, fresh air comes in through the top and slots in the floor. No wheel splash at all come into the cabin. I also noticed there is more room in these vehicles than meets the eye. One just has to be creative with packing skills. GPS, Smart Phone, vented seat, Hersey Bar – Highway 12 across America – all is good to Washington DC.
c. – Road space. Some roads are not very Velo friendly IE no marked shoulder to ride on. This doesn’t mean one cannot ride on the given road. It just means to be aware and continue with caution. Another element is the right tire is going to be in the road trash most of the time. Velomobile tires have to be selected carefully for the road conditions.
d. – Visibility wasn’t an issue that I saw on ROAM. 40 plus bright-colored easter eggs are hard to miss. However, visibility can be an issue if a Velo isn’t wearing a visual paint job. Bright flashing lights even in the day time is a good safety option. There was one velo that I recalled with a mute purple color. I noticed this TriSled Rotovelo while climbing from Three Rivers Resort to Lolo Pass ID. The purple Velomobile totally disappeared when it went into the shade. Even the blinky light wasn’t enough to really make it visible. This was the only Velo that could have been a brighter color. The use of a very bright red light would take care the issue. Even when out in the sun - it really didn’t have a eye catching contrast color. Ironically – I have the same problem when I wear a Stars and Strips body Sock on my Gold Rush Recumbent. It doesn’t take much distance for the colors to meld into a soft purple making it hard to be seen. Yes – I run lights full time when in that color. The RotoVelo is a really cool Velomobile with it’s poly injected body shell design. I thought of it as a durable Bumper Car when I test rode it. This Velo diffinitely has crashability built into it. For long term use it would be a durable low maintanence velomobile to own.
e. – Crash-ability - The Velomobile has a need to be durable though most are quite fragile machines. It was bound to happen – there were a few that experienced car/velo contact on the ROAM tour. Not only with automobiles - but with each other. Accidents happen, however the amount of bumping these Velo’s endured on tour was impressive. Many times it just required popping the shell out from the inside and continue riding bruised. However there were two incidents on tour that the velomobiles were damaged so they could not finish the tour. Never the less, the velo’s protected the riders to some degree. The accidents involved a Quest and a Stratus that were both made of carbon fiber. Something to be said for the design construction of these vehicles. There was a third incident “non car” related. One Quest hit a large chuck hole damaging the susppension mounts to the body. It finished the tour on a sag vehicle.
Cause – - Rumble Strips along the highway. The Rumble strips caused the rear wheel to float. This rider rolled in his Velo and tumbled down into the ditch as a result.
Yes – the Velomobile and Rider was out of commission to finish the trip. Such a shame.
f. – Durability – - there were numerous break-downs almost daily. My observation was the breakdowns was a result of well used velo’s that came on this tour. Many of these Velo’s are the main source of transportation for the Euro riders. So the Velo’s came to America with many kilometers on the clock. There were also domestic velo’s that required repair for same reasons. The velo’s that didn’t require anything but normal maintenance were either dialed in “new” Velomobiles or well maintained used velo’s.
OK - on the drive home from ROAM – I mentally put my Velo project on hold. I had a lot to think about before continuing the build. My concern, was I able to build a velomobile that would be in the same performance window of the Quest and Milan. I was using the Quest as a benchmark before ROAM – now I have a new level of performance to strive for “with the Milan” as a new benchmark. Can I achieve the goal – I believe I can – after all – the Milan is the templet so to speak.
Up-date – It is now three months later “Dec.” The game plan - start the project once again using the Terra Trike chassis. It is already cut and spliced to the track and wheel base it needs to be for the velo project. The down side is – the Center of Gravity “cg”. It is too high to handle the cornering cg’s of the Milan. So – the second phase is do what the Aussies do – build a rectangle frame to mount the seat down into. This brings the cg down as low as one would want it. I have decided I will not suspend this Velo and use it as a time trial racer. Some of the Velo’s on ROAM were not suspended – so I’m going the easier/quicker way to get this project under way. Hopefully I can stay the nose to the grindstone to have the steel chassis version rolling by the month of May. This is when our annual club event will take place for racing.
Enclosed is a link to my Flickr account recording the project in motion.
It hasn’t been updated recently because of analysis paralysis. However – I’ve decided to move forward with the project and take my time enjoying a rolling Velomobile in the mean time. My objective is to have a fast Velomobile that will be used for time trailing or to be used with sagged and or credit card touring. I’m really not interested in self-support touring anymore. I have nothing more to prove to myself after doing a Trans American in 2005 plus other week-long self supported tours.
Up-date – on the Velo project – - after much though, I have decided to get a Milan SL. It just makes sense for me to purchase a refined Velomobile for my use and get to riding it. My order is in the pipeline and should have delivery sometime early summer.
As for the Terra Trike that has been cut up ? ? It will cold bonded with PC-7 epoxy. Yes – that is right – it will bonded “not welded” – Why? ? I have always wanted to do a bonded project bike/trike. We have a club member who has a bonded Tour Easy that has lasted for years. Makes sense to me to not lose the hardness of the chromoly steel by welding. I will post the results as progress resumes. It should be ready to ride in March. The new configuration will be a hybird between a Cat Expedition and ICE Vortex. Wheel base will be somewhere in the 48″ range. The track 27″ wide. This should make a fun little sport trike. The rear chain stays have already been lengthen to accomodate a 26″ wheel for touring and or a 700c for sporting around.
On going updates will be posted as they come along.