Dependable, Sustainable, Human Transport.
Gary B. Review
As promised here is a short review of the velocity velos velomobile I received last week. Honestly I have been too busy enjoying it to write about it until now! I have had it for two weeks and have logged on over 300 miles already!
Ok, first the large well built crate arrived in perfect shape and ah that new fiberglass and paint smell filled my garage as soon as I opened it! How awesome! The second production model velocity velos velomobile arrived in perfect shape, the beautiful shiny copper metallic paint shining! I had to kind of play around with the seat adjustment and crank position to get it fine tuned and dialed in to fit me perfectly but once I got it right, it was awesome! By the way I would highly recommend the new velogenesis seat strut clamps, they really do stiffen up the seat and allow for fine micro adjustments of the seat angle (I got them from the Hostel Shoppe).
My maiden voyage (Technically I took it out for several short 12 mile jaunts while getting the seat and boom set just right) turned out to be a 58 mile jaunt through some extremely hilly country. I hammered it out in less than 4 hours! It was 34 degrees F and the stout cover Taylor made to cover the cockpit opening performed flawlessly along with the nice new flevobike roof! I had to strip off everything but a T-shirt and a hoody sweatshirt! Everything fit in the huge cavernous storage space behind the seat. No gloves, no wool socks, just a lot of very pleasant warmth inside the velo! To call this velo slow is definitely false! I took it easy for my first real ride as I am still getting used to the handling of the modified terratrike under that gleaming shell. I did hit 53mph on one long downhill before slowly squeezing the super powerful BB7 disc brakes! I can compare this velo to the last two velos I owned and put serious mileage on (Mango and Strada). I am not describing this as a novice but as a pretty experienced velomobile driver having gotten my first velo (Mango) in 2005. The velocity velo is an amazingly smooth and supple ride. I was worried that the lack of suspension was going to give it a harsh ride, having owned two full suspension velomobiles in the past and currently owning a full suspension scorpion FS. I was very pleasantly surprised. This machine takes road vibrations and bumps in the road extremely, extremely well. It was not rough or harsh at all.
I took it down a 3 mile long section of rough gravel along an unpaved rail trail and it was not rough or harsh. Bumpy perhaps but not all to much different than my strada which I took down that same path several times. I am convinced that a lot of it has to do with the fact that the frame was cut and widened by welding in new sections of tubing to widen the trike so the wheels sit outside of the shell. Its actually such a simple concept that it’s a no-brainer. The width of the velo gives it a lot of passive or built in suspension which all but eliminated road vibration in much the same way as full suspension and gives it a whole lot more cushion on big bumps than the terratrike had before it was modified. I have owned two other terratrikes in the past and rode the very tour this velo is built on for two years and 6,500 miles before stripping it down to the frame, having the frame modified (Widened) and installing all new components for the velo build. I was very familiar with how that trike percieved the road and can say without hesitation that it is a lot more supple to ride now. Some of it may also actually be because the shell is on it as well as the 1.75” wide marathon plus tires. Whatever the reason the ride quality and comfort are excellent and after a 58 mile ride I was not uncomfortable in the least.
Now to the performace aspect. One of the great things I noticed right away was the fact that I could fly around very sharp turns at a much higher rate of speed than on any of my other trikes or velomobiles. The wide stance of this velo keeps it glued to the ground. I was not able to lift my inside wheel in any of the sharp turns I made and I purposely hit them hard to see if I could. Simply awesome! Next, I found hill climbing in this velo to be much easier than in my mango or my strada. Part of it has to do with the fact that this velo weighs in at a full 7 lbs lighter than my strada (According to my scale anyway) That 6 or 7 lbs makes a difference when spinning uphill at 3mph.
Also this velo allowed me to use the schlumpf high speed drive paired to a Shimano alfine 8 speed internal hub (I was not able to put an internal hub on my strada and never did put one on my mango). The much lower gear for climbing (Something like 12GI in the velocity velo compared to 23 or so in the Strada and mango) actually made my commute to work today faster in this velo than in my strada by exactly 7 minutes over a one hour ride. It was great to climb without watching the frame flex to the left and right and have to mash the gears in a relatively low cadence. My cadence was high and I was spinning much more easily. This velo also has 160mm cranks which helps a lot to when climbing. The other end of the spectrum, the high gear is also much higher with this setup so my downhill and flat times were very close if not negligible when compared to the strada which has a bit more of an aerodynamic advantage having the wheels , although exposed, inside the shell.
I think the velocity velo shell is actually as aerodynamic if not more than my strada and mango but the wheels being proud of the shell creates some drag (The stout fiberglass wheel discs on all three wheels helps with this however). I admit I am not an engineer but have ridden both velos on the same route and have noticed the times with each. The next two things I love about this veloare subjective in a way and I am sure are open to much debate so this is merely the educated opinion of one very experienced velonaught.
I had the 90mm drum brakes with the ripcord cables on my strada (My mango which I bought in 2005 had the stock 70mm drums) which performed a lot better than the 70mm drums that were on my mango. That being said I never felt that they were adequate for the very hilly terrain I ride in every day. I also did not care for both brakes being actuated by the single lever which was in an alkward position and was operated from the top with my index and middle finger. I adjusted, cleaned and maintained them flawlessly and they worked well enough but not as good as I would have liked. I know several other velonaughts who have the same opinion, especially those who ride in very hilly terrain. When I was flying down that huge hill the other day it was a relief to me to be able to grab my speedial 7 levers and pull on those reliable BB7 mechanical disc brakes and immediately start slowing down.
I also like to be able to squeeze the inside brake a little harder in a sharp turn and use the brakes to help me steer into a sharp turn. I never liked the feeling of both brakes being actuated by one lever. Again, that is subjective. Finally, the main issue I had with both my mango and my strada was the riding position for you upper body. I am not a huge man. I stand 5’11” tall and weigh in at 195lbs. In my mango and my strada, my arms and shoulders were crammed in against the sides of the shell to the point of being uncomfortable for me after a while. Again, I can only speak for me personally. I know that there are folks bigger and heavier than me who swear they have all the room they need for their shoulders and arms. I cant say what they are experiencing but I know in my case I adjusted the seat and bottom bracket several times in every way and could never find that sweet spot for my arms and shoulders. From the waist down I just fit and had no problem. I was not comfortable with the steering tiller between my legs and the tiny handlebars resting on my torso. It just didn’t work for me personally.
In my new velo on the other hand I have the nice wide super comfy under seat steering setup terratrike is well known for. I even installed small bar ends to act as handrests so I don’t even have to grab the handlebars too tightly! My hands rest comfortably on them and my arms and shoulders are not crammed in at all! There is not a ton of room around them but they are not touching. My shoulders are clear of the bottom of the shell and my forearms and upper arms are not pressed against the sides of the shell as they were in my two previous velomobiles. Simply put that was reason enough for me to buy this velo in and of itself!
To sum it all up, the velocity velo is velomobiling in its purest form in my opinion. I do have a 500 lumen rechargeable headlight mounted on the front and a vis 180 tailight from light and motion mounted on a custom made bracket on the rear which also holds my huge purple sky flag (Something else I couldn’t do to my mango or strada without drilling a hole in the shell) which offer more than edequate lighting for my dark early morning commutes. This velo is uncomplicated. There are not a lot of moving parts. No intricate switches or electronics, elaborate suspension systems, single side mounted axles etc. These things are cool but add to the maintenance, cost, weight and possibility of complicated mechanical failures.
With the speed drive and internal hub, the idler wheel is mounted above the frame (Thanks to Utah Trikes’ robust idler wheel mount clamp) which greatly reduces bending in the chainline. This decreases drag on the chain which more than makes up for any drag produced by the speed drives overdrive gear. It offers the same exact weather protection as my strada and mango did thanks to the brilliantly designed and extremely well made zotefoam cockpit cover that Taylor made (Its covered in automotive vinyl on the outside, soft velvet on the inside, folds in 1/2 for easy stowing behind the seat and even had grab handles sewn in to help pull it down tight once its on).
All of this was less than 1/2 of what I paid for my strada (Stock tour version) and less than 2/3 the cost with all the modifications I did to the trike before I shipped it out to velocity velos for the shell to be installed (Velocity aeroheat 36 spoke wheels, terracycle titanuim idlers, avid speed dial 7 brake levers, BB7 mechanical disc brakes, sclumpf speed drive, shimano alfine 8 speed hub, J tec bar end shifter, marathon plus 1.75” tires, new terratrike seat mesh, etc). This is Americas answer to the velomobile in my opinion and as always, that yankee ingenuity has come through again in style and comfort!
Thanks for an awesome machine!