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Sun rays, factory tour and a velomobile in action

 

Sun rays, factory tour and a velomobile in action

These words were written and sent to us by László Balásházy from Hungary, after he visited our factory. Thank you for visiting us and for taking time to send us your thoughts!

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Hi there!

 

My name is László and I am a mechanical engineer who was always fascinated by the efficiency of the velomobiles. These are the vehicles which have the true potential to make part of the transportation indeed sustainable. Of course all vehicles have their purposes and areas where they excel, but for efficiency of moving a person with a lighter baggage they are on top. Not to mention the health benefits or simply the joy which comes with driving these vehicles. So I was considering a long time ago to visit the currently biggest producer of velomobiles, Velomobile World.

 

I contacted Jan if I can visit them in Breaza (Beresztelke), Romania and try out 1 or 2 velomobiles. He replied quite friendly and granted me that I can come basically whenever I want. I have arrived on a quite nice, sunny day to the "factory". Jan showed me all the manufacturing steps - though he left some things secret too… :) - and we also had a great chat about various potentials to improve and some plans. It was nice to see that the production facility is full of materials, moulds, machines, velos and employees. They make almost everything in house. Overall, they also seemed organized, however, Jan noted that there is room to improve here and there.

 

Jan offered me to try out his yellow M9 with tank steering. Fortunately I am similar in size to Jan, so there was not much required to change or adjust, only that I have used a ventisit to be slightly closer to the bottom bracket, but it also came handy for keeping myself cool, as it was 30+ C°.

 

Jan told me to set the pressure of the Schwalbe One tires to my liking, so I went with 7 bars, which I thought to be a good compromise between speed and comfort.

 

At first, I made a small trip to the next village to check if I could be comfortable this way for a longer trip. It has been a long time since I have been in a velomobile.

 

 

It is an unique feeling with recumbents, that you are able to push with your leg much harder than on an upright bicycle, because your back is supported by the seat. This however might not be perfect for your joints (knees), though sometimes it's also nice to give a big fat step on the "gas", even when the "engine" is cool.

 

*Click on images for Full Size

 

I didn’t really have to be accustomed to riding this velomobile, as it was quite natural at once. Going up felt normal compared to my bike experience, the quite low weight of 23kg of this bigger velo must have contributed to this feeling. Slight downhill and my speed just kept going up, so everything was quite fun. On the other hand making a U turn is not that fun, as you need a really big radius to turn completely with a closed wheel velomobile. Luckily there was enough space in the middle of that village, so it was no problem. On the longer slope going back the suspension did its job well and I felt quite safe to go over 60km/h. Strange feeling when the air is pressing your glasses into your face. The face can be considered as an aerodynamic stagnation point too, just like the very front of the velo, so no surprise of higher pressures. This caused no problems, rather just a better involvement with the surroundings.

 

I grabbed my gear at Velomobile World and drank some more water in advance. It’s really a good thing that you can just toss in your stuff in the velo and you don't have to care too much how it is secured. The armrest is made hollow and it is quite nice to hold a phone and other smaller things. I set up my phone to record the ride and also the GPS as I also planned to have lunch close to halfway as it was already lunchtime. So after this small preparation I started my first longer trip in a velomobile.

 

 

I didn’t know in advance how I would feel, so I have chosen a road where I can cut short the trip if I want to. Soon I crossed Reghin (Szászrégen) and reached a quite nice, almost completely flat and smooth road going south. The inside positioned mirrors are great, I was able to monitor the traffic behind me. To my surprise there were not many cars behind me, even though I knew this road is a main road, usually with more cars. I thought I wouldn’t be overtaken too often, as I might be an interesting sight, an unknown sporty looking vehicle. I surely was, but also when I checked my phone for my speed (the Garmin speedometer was low on battery) I smiled for a while that I was cruising between 50-55 km/h without any significant effort, as I wanted to spare my energy for later. So through villages I was just as fast as the cars. Purely with my leg power. Ok, with a very slight help of gravity (0,2%), but still. You can see this segment below.

 

*Click on images for Full Size

 

Roughly 11 km covered in 13 minutes. This is an average speed of above 50 km/h. Too bad I did not know that I could have connected to Jan's pedal power meter. It would have been interesting what my true wattage was. Poor Strava thinks I am an elite athlete, as it estimated the average power for this section to be 560 W. I can only sustain that for like half a minute with fresh muscles...

 

 

When I tell people that there is a special "bike" called velomobile, they often say that they don't really know where they would be able to use it. They would be too afraid to go among cars. I didn’t feel that I would be in any kind of danger. Most of the cars offered quite a big space when overtaking. Some passengers took pictures and they were smiling. When I crossed the smaller town of Reghin I had a little taste of what it is like to drive a velomobile in a city. It was also quite okay, drivers see you (even more when you pick a brighter, contrast causing color like yellow), though you have to keep in mind that you are low to the ground, so they can't always see you. This I think is the most important when you are moving along parking cars. In that case, ride a bit further from the side of the road and pay attention to the potential reversing and turning cars. In these cases good braking power and behaviour is also important. I felt the M9 responded quite well for uneven braking and stayed straight and stable. On the other hand I found the 70mm drum brakes are lighter, though not powerful enough.

 

*Click on images for Full Size

 

After 20 km I should have had my lunch at a local restaurant which was recommended by a helpful lady at Velomobile World, unfortunately it was temporarily closed. No big deal, I searched for another place where I could take my lunch. It turned out that they don't really update their status on Google here, it was also closed. That was a bit frustrating, however I had no choice but to move on. Drank some orange juice and was checking the following villages if they had food where I could stop. I saw some pub-like things, but they were not that attractive. So in the end I stopped at a calm shady place and only ate an apple, some cookies, drank the juice and rested a bit by taking a little look at the inside of the M9.

 

 

This access cover in my opinion looks quite good and also very practical if you would like to adjust something here. Magnetic fixation is neat too. On the other hand I was wondering how I would improve the bottom bracket fixation, as it seems to me that it could be further optimized. Other than that all the inside looks quite nice and very stiff.

 

My route after the first, almost flat 25 km with moderate traffic changed to a very calm, almost no cars at all type of road. There were like 3 cars who overtook me during the next 15 km, even though I was not that fast as there were some uphill and stronger curves where I braked, because I didn’t want to get close to the limit of the stability. The scene looked very nice, so everything was perfect, just to relax and enjoy the ride. Compared to an upright (normal) bike you are sitting in the shadow, in a very comfortable curved seat. Your bottom, back and also arms and even your head is supported. I found the head rest particularly comfortable. When you go over like 20 km/h there is a well perceptible airflow in front of your chest, inside the velo, which comes from the stagnation point through the rectangular beam, which helds the BB. Your head is also an area where you can get rid of the excess heat you are producing. Also it's the place where you can get a sunburn on a longer ride in the middle of the day. With the high airflow coming at my face I did not felt that at the time, I only saw that back at the hotel.

 

 

The last third of my trip was a slightly harder climb followed by a longer descent. I stopped a bit in the shade to drink water and rest a few minutes before the 6-7% climb, as I needed higher power output there, because the single front chainring is huge and I was afraid that the 52T at the back would still be a too fast gear. Also on this road there was some traffic and with sharp turns you need space like a car. When the sun shines well and you are working hard, then you can feel that the snail speed of 12 km/h is below the desirable speed for cooling you back. There is hardly any moving air inside. If one has to regularly overcome slopes like this in the heat then it makes sense to adapt the velomobile for it a bit. Active cooling of the back could help a lot, or if someone into that a little legal e-assist could help a lot too. I was over with this hard section in 12minutes, so it was bearable, though I sweated a lot and my pulse must have gone high. It is good that I can't recall any significant movement of the velo while I was pushing hard, the geometry and stiffness of the body seem to be well refined. Stiffness in this case is important as it affects how much energy is stored and lost due to body flexing every stroke.

 

*Click on images for Full Size

 

After the hard work there was a fast fun time towards Velomobile World. It felt good :) ... Too bad that there were more curves, I had to brake a lot. The first bigger descent did not last long...

 

*Click on images for Full Size

 

Before Breaza, the otherwise always good road surface, turned into a not that good, older, fractured concrete road. This didn’t affect the speed too much (at least I did not feel it), however as the suspension was constantly working, the noise level went up, but it was not that disturbing as my head was out in the open.

 

So to sum up my trip, I am happy I had the chance to be there. I wish I had space where I could store a velomobile. Gas prices nowadays make people think about what they shall use for transportation. Hopefully this will lead to a greatly increasing interest for pedal powered vehicles, especially helps to the spread of velomobiles.

 

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