High-End Encasement Cycles
Soap Box: a go-one3 fully-enclosed tadpole velomobile equipped with touring cases (Photo: via ecofriend.org)
A velomobile is a narrow-track three-wheeled human powered vehicles in a delta or tadpole configuration. The term was coined in 1986 by Professor Vytautas Dovydenas, instructor at the Engineering School in Vilnius, Lithuania, in the initial Lithuanian edition book of the same name, later published in Russian and German.
Velomobiles provide, as one manufacturer's website nicely summarizes;
..safety in normal traffic, cycle comfort in cold, windy and wet weather, sufficient payload for touring and shopping, reliability in daily operation - also in wintertime.
Two-wheeled completely enclosed velomobiles are called streamliners and are used almost exclusively for human-powered speed record attempts. Streamliners without foot slits (enabling you to use your legs to balance the vehicle while stopped) are completely impractical for use on public roads because they require an additional person or set of wheels to hold the vehicle upright while at rest and are therefore not considered here.
Three-wheeled human powered vehicles were popularized in Europe, with several long-time manufacturers in the Netherlands and Germany. Due to the relatively high acquisition cost of European-made vehicles, most velomobiles in North America were traditionally DIY designs, often based on existing recumbent trike models. In recent years, the trend has been moving away from the domain of home builders and hobbyists with full-fledged commercial production models being distributed, manufactured and even designed in North America.
Both DIY and commerical velomobiles are increasingly being equipped with electric motor kits providing power assist which is appropriate given the greater weight of such vehicles, especially when ascending hills and/or loaded with cargo.
With the exception of professional racing bicycles, fully-enclosed velomobiles are probably the most expensive 'bikes' on the market. Aerodynamic design, high-tech materials, hand-built quality, high-end componentry and limited production and availability all contribute to the hard top velomobile's high acquisition price.
A recent approach by a Canadian manufacturer is to market the velomobile as an after-market accessory for a 3rd-party recumbent trike, providing adding flexibility. The Borealis is based on the QNT trike made by ICE. The trike can be purchased as the first step towards acquiring a velomobile.
Softops / Cabriovelo
At Speed: the Dutch-made Flevo Versatile velomobile with removable soft-top (Photo: the manufacturer)
Some velomobiles are not fully enclosed but provide a targa design for better ventilation. Often these designs can then be covered with a weatherproof hi-tech fabric for additional protection from the elements.
Build It: the Alleweder was an early and still popular commercially-available kit (Photo: bentrideronline.com)
The Dutch-designed Alleweder, simply meaning 'all weather', has been licensed for manufacturing in Texas for the North American market.
Kid Kustom: an Alleweder kit modified for a child seat and a 20" rear wheel (Photo: leichtfahrzeuge.de)
There are an increasing number of building plans for DIY velomobile shells that one can download for free or low cost. Such plans usually include a parts listing to help source materials locally.
Both hardtop and cabriovelo designs are often available in kit form or are used as inspiration by DIY builders who make use of coroplast for shells.
Cut & Paste: a home-built velomobile shell constructed by glueing coroplast (Photo: bentrideronline.com)
Some velomobile home builders have used professional prototyping techniques to create truly innovative designs including David Buchwaldek, the Czech Republic-based designer/inventor who designed and built an amphibious velomobile. The HEPAV 1.1 is a Human-Electric Powered Amphibious Velomobile.
Amphibious Velomobile: the HEPAV 1.1 is a home-built design for land and water (Photo: David Buchwaldek)
Other human powered or powered assisted vehicles providing protection from the elements are semi-enclosed bicycles and tricycles and are explored on the cabin cycles page.
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