I grew up thinking that it was normal to own a car and use it every day, no matter where you were going. Family cars were a permanent part of life, almost part of our identity. I'm sure this had something to do with the fact that we lived in the country, in a small farming community, and there was no bus stop for miles. But the older I got, the more I questioned this self-evident fact of car ownership. At the same time, an irrepressible desire for independence arose in me at a young age, and so the subject of cycling became more and more important to me. At the age of 12, I finally went on a bike tour through the Netherlands with my best friend and it felt like boundless freedom. The subject of muscle-powered mobility fascinated me even then and has remained with me ever since.
Amir and Max on their M5 Carbon Highracers on their way from Germany to Lisbon (Portugal)
Max in the DF and his best friend Amir in a Mango
Starting with a simple trekking bike for children, a cyclocross road bike finally found its way into my everyday life for my birthday, which accompanied me every day from then on. The way to school, to friends or to the sports club was much faster than before and gave me a lot of fun. While cycling, I forgot the world around me and felt free, at least in the summer. As the days got colder and wetter, the daily commute became increasingly tedious.
In those moments, I imagined what it would be like to be able to ride a protected bicycle - a bicycle with a body, so to speak. Until then, I knew nothing about the existence of a velomobile. At a time when one had to actively dial into the Internet every time, I began to do research and came across the velomobile for the first time. Cycling without an engine, using only muscle power, but still faster than a racing bike and protected from the weather. The thought of having my own velomobile did not let me sleep calmly any more and I began to save diligently already in school time. When I was 16, the time had finally come. I threw all my savings together to buy a used velomobile. An old Mango, still built by velomobiel.nl, with glass fiber body and 3x8 gears.
Even though I already had a certain preference for cycling and the Mango would certainly be classified as an aerodynamically outdated model by today's standards, a new world opened up for me with this vehicle. Suddenly, distances were possible that were previously unthinkable. In addition, I was protected from the cold and wet, no longer had to put on rain gear, and could simply throw my luggage in the back.
Velomobile tour to Rügen and back (Max on the right)**
Max in second place at the race in Rütenbrock (2014)*
Today, I would describe the Mango as my gateway drug into the velomobile world. I was hooked and wanted to switch to a lighter and more efficient vehicle. Over the years, I tried out just about every velomobile on the market. From the Mango to several Quests, a Milan SL, a Quattrovelo (Quatrevelo), an Evo R, an Evo Ks, a Velayo, a DF XL, to the Alpha 7, an Alpha 9 and a Milan GT. So after tens of thousands of miles in a wide variety of models, I was able to gain an enormous amount of experience. Some velomobiles were very fast, but for me with almost 1.90m and over 90kg I had to realize after longer rides that they were too tight for me with my body dimensions to be able to keep the performance up. Or I would have had to switch to such short cranks that would have led to unergonomic pedaling. In any case, for me it is clear that the most aerodynamically sophisticated velomobile is of no use if the rider does not feel comfortable in it. Therefore, it also depends on whether the seat presses at any point, how visually pleasing the design is, whether the entrance is large enough, how susceptible the vehicle is to wind, whether the luggage compartment is easily accessible, and so on. Which velomobile has excited me the most in my 12 years of cycling with them, I will report on in another article. But there is one thing I can say in advance: Over all these years, there has been an incredible evolution in velomobile design. The vehicles have become faster, safer and lighter with more luxurious equipment.
Evo R velomobile
Many riders use the velomobile for the daily commute to work, some up to 60 km each way. I myself use it mainly in my free time, for fun and now and then for travel or longer tours. A few years ago, however, I also regularly commuted between Münster and Osnabrück with it. If you complain about back pain after a short time when riding a conventional bicycle, you will be happy about the high comfort of the velomobile. One adopts a very comfortable reclining position, where no pain occurs even after many hours of cycling. To find the perfect position, you should take your time. Once this is found, however, one gets off after many hours of riding merely with exhausted muscles.
Max cycling with a friend
People often ask me how it feels to ride a bike in a velomobile. I find it difficult to answer this question. For me, it's cycling in a new league. I'm excited by the incredible efficiency and speed that today's velomobiles achieve. Flying down the road at 50 or 60 km/h, and yes these are speeds that can be sustained for a long time, while watching nature just pass by, fills me with a sense of freedom that cannot be paid for. And even after more than 12 years of experience, I still sometimes sit stunned in the velomobile and can enjoy the speeds that can be achieved from pure muscle power and completely without emissions. In my view, the velomobile is clearly the most efficient vehicle money can buy. This is particularly impressive when you consider that all mass-produced velomobiles are completely suitable for everyday use. I could therefore never quite understand the hype about electric mobility and it annoys me that politicians subsidize e-cars while "our" special bikes are not given any consideration.
How to make your baby fall asleep in a Quest velomobile
Max with his son
I am not alone in my passion for velomobiles. My best friend, with whom I once took a bike trip through the Netherlands in my childhood, also rides a DF XL today. We are connected by numerous joint touring and travel experiences, in the velomobile and on the recumbent. I hope to be able to infect more people with my experiences from 12 years of velomobiles and recommend everyone a test ride at the nearest velomobile dealer (view here). To understand the fascination, you have to try a velomobile yourself.
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