More low-tech madness

At the risk of provoking a similar kind of outburst as the post about humanure (poo) I am yet again inspired to link you – dear reader to the ineffable Low-Tech magazine, who this time have provided a lengthy treatment of the ‘Velomobile’.

There’s a velomobile user local to me, who rockets along the main road every day in his supercool recumbent. What worries me about him is that he is not very visible. As someone who has been hit by a car while riding a large, brightly coloured mountain bike, I am concerned that drivers are less likely to see the velomobile, and that they are at ‘crushing’ level – rather than bonnet ‘bashing’ level. In otherwords I’m concerned the car would actually go right over the velomobile, rather than sending the rider over the bonnet – the former seems to me to be a nastier way to go.

But that said, I’m very impressed by the energy saving stats, apparently it uses three to four times less energy- nice! Cruising speed of 25mph doesnt sound massively faster than my cruising speed, but I guess the issue is how long it can be sustained for.

On the other hand, one of the things I love about bikes is the ability to dodge traffic, to get round slow cars, to blast away at junctions and so on, I feel this would be less possible in a velomobile.

But if you are looking for a replacement to the car for a daily commute (I only have to commute to the spare room) then this looks like a good option.

Worth a read anyway, especially if you’re interested in bikes – my real burning question is not really answered: can you do stunts in them? Answers on a postcard please.


4 thoughts on “More low-tech madness

  1. Not convinced by this idea either. Climbing a steep hill in them would be a nightmare, the comparison they give on climbing a 2% hill is misleading, no-one riding a conventional bike climbs a hill in a “deep racing posture” quite the contrary in fact, you stand up and put your weight on the pedals, not something you could do on a recumbent. The solution they suggest is to add a motor, well you could add a motor to a conventional bike to, but you don’t cos its a bike. Their arguemnt seems based on very little understanding eg ” a recumbent bike has no saddle but a comfortable seat with back support, so that you sit or lie more comfortably and can keep pedalling for longer” the key factor limiting people’s ability to keep pedalling is not comfort it is fatigue, the article makes no mention of how efficiently a velomobile recruits diffferent muscle groups spreading the load and minimising fatigue. So what if it can go for a gazillion miles an hour for only 75 watts of energy if it relies exclusively on a small number of muscles it will tire them more rapidly than a bike requiring more energy but drawing it from more muscles. As to the comparison in descent, an important detail is missing; are they being pedalled and in which gear I rather suspect they are not as it is very easy to exceed 40KMPH downhill on a regular bike. As soon as you factor in pedalling and remember that the much bigger wheels of a road bike hugely increase its gearing, a road bike could be much faster in descent,the velomobile would spin out while a road bike continued to accelarate. Also they suggest that “Going flat out (a power output of 250 watts) gives you a speed of 29 km/h (18 mph) on a normal bicycle and 50km/h (31 mph) on a velomobile” this is laughable flat out on a bike is far faster than 18 mph. The comfort argument is a red herring, after a few weeks a bike becomes completely comfortable. Next, one of the brilliant things about a bike is the ease with which it can be picked up and moved about imagine finding a road was a dead end and having to pick one of those beasts up and turn it around, next think about seeing oncoming traffic at junctions. They are a stupid idea for people who want abit of eco bling and don’t want to get wet, they should just take the bus and save their money.

    1. Generally I wish you had been a bit less equivocal – do you like these beasts or not? And anyhow, I always recline when going uphill – it gives a wonderfully vertiginous feeling…

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