Before we get started take a quick peek at our article on recumbent cycling if you haven’t already. Everything that’s unusual, practical and, ultimately, geeky about recumbents is pushed even further with velomobiles. Velomobiles are basically recumbents on steroids.
The earliest velomobiles such as the 1940s Swedish Fantom were never sold as a finished product, but rather as a set of instructions so you could build your own. Originally built with wooden frames they were intended as a way to keep the worst of the weather off the cyclist.
In the above video you see a traditionally crazy Swedish man who’s built his own Fantom, with a few modifications, including an electric motor to assist with power output. Looks like fun, right? Velomobile shells also keep rain, sun, and wind off you, meaning you can turn up to work as neat as when you left the house.
Be seen, be safe
One of the less appealing traits of recumbent cycling is lack of visibility – you’re closer to the ground and often relying on a flimsy triangular flag to alert motorists to your presence. The body of a velomobile solves that by tricking motorists into thinking you’re some kind of eccentric motor-vehicle.
Having a slightly larger road presence, and an eye-catching paint-job, means that other road users give you more space on the road. You can see the appeal for commuters – especially given that you can ditch the day-glo lycra. That said, your unusual vehicle might draw some unwanted attention.
Velomobiles are still very much a hobby-passion and, consequently, you don’t see many of them about. Understandably, some people are confused by the bizarre appearance, including a police officer who pulls over a velomaniac to learn more about his vehicle.
Although this cyclist makes a point in the video that the cops should educate themselves, he’s since written that he’ll take the initiative and speak with the local training officer instead – and educate the local police about these unusual vehicles.
The aerodynamic advantages of a reclining bike are augmented by the aerodynamic shell surrounding the cyclist and frame. It’s no wonder the police take an interest in velomobiles – they’re low to the ground, fast, and fun. On flat ground, they really shift.
Take a velomobile out on the velodrome and you’re really going to enjoy yourself, given that much less of your energy is going into pushing air out the way. Start riding in another velomobile’s slipstream and you’ve got a compelling competition.