Posted on October 20, 2012 by rodney
Tags: bike

I am quite interested by the Velomobiel concept. Velomobiels are basically recumbent trikes with a hard shell made of fibreglass or plastic.

I found out about the idea through David Hembrow’s blog (and information page). He owns a Sinner Mango and is very enthusiastic about their benefits. They are particularly practical in the Netherlands because their bike paths are smooth and wide, and the enclosed shell offers protection from the rain and cold.

Possibly a Velomobiel would be a feasible replacement for a car in Perth. The disadvantages of the car are many. I am searching for the best of all possible solutions to the mobility in a big car city problem, except for “buy a car”.

First choice is continue riding a bike everywhere. This is OK for me, not for Vicki, who has stricter limits for sweating, doesn’t like getting rained on, and has greater need for punctuality.

A scooter is no good because you can’t legally drive them on the freeway, nor the bike path. They also offer no protection by themselves from the rain.

Granny bikes (motor-assisted bikes) seem to be popular, their benefit being reduced sweatage. Complete rain protection on bikes is possible through good mudguards and purchase of a bike rain poncho. I have seen these worn in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. However, a certain amount of pride must be sacrificed before wearing such dorky Germanic costumes.

Public transport is too inconvenient. It is 1500m walk to the train station including crossing Leach Hwy. And buses… just forget about buses. TransPerth are a disgrace even to Perth.

Taking a taxi in certain situations and bike otherwise is a good possibility. You can get a fair few taxi trips for the price of 1 year’s car registration. My colleague from work does this.

A Velomobiel could be good. They are fast and keep you dry from rain. There are only a handful in Australia so far (see forum thread).

However they may get quite hot in Australia if there isn’t good wind/airflow. In Perth it is usually breezy, but you don’t get much going up a hill, so it could be sweaty work pushing yourself and the 30kg machine up certain hills. Also, the Kwinana Freeway PSP is quite often busy and narrow and the wider than average Velomobiel may not be appreciated by other path users.

But despite this, I think the Sinner Mango Plus would be great in winter at least. Perhaps on hot days a bag of ice could be put inside the shell for air conditioning? Or you could run interior ventilation fans from solar cells?

The Rotovelo is a Velomobiel designed and built in Melbourne. It doesn’t seem to have all the bells & whistles of its Dutch counterparts but an all-Australian vehicle is nowadays pure unobtainium. It would be great to have such a bike.

To overcome heat and sweat, another Australian bike retailer suggest a motor-assisted recumbent trike with removable soft shell for inclement weather. They make a good argument for the conventional trike with electric motor, and it’s cheaper as well. However I’m unsure how well the fairing and rain cape will work while you’re not moving forwards.

Flying Furniture Electric Assist Trike

Flying Furniture Electric Assist Trike

So I think I will make more inquiries into Velomobiels and motor-assisted recumbents. They look like a very fun and economical way of doing long trips in Perth without sweating or getting cold and wet.