by John C. of Dallas, TX
She arrived in a pristine box, engineered to withstand the assault of any
trucker or package handler along the nation's highways.
I retrieved her from her holding cell, her white paint glimmering in the hot Texas sun. I made myself familiar with her controls and operation (although I already own a TerraTrike, so getting to know most of the controls was rather simple.) Working the canopy takes some practice, but even that is mastered within one or two tries.
The next thing to do is take her out for a spin. I checked and the BionX battery was fully charged. That meant I could take the hilly ride as a first test of man and machine. (With the BionX it's a test of mostly machine.)
My notes will be observations in two fold: First, simply the experience of piloting the Velocity Velomobile and second, comparing it to my former velomobile, a Bluevelo Team made in Canada, which is based on the European Cab Bike
First impressions. One must first work out a method of entering and exiting
this wonderful machine. I tend to be on the rather large-scale end of the
spectrum and there is more than enough room for me and my frame. Egress is a
tad more difficult than entry, but I have made a mental note of the best way in
which to climb out. You are tucked into this machine not unlike a Formula One
Once under way, I noticed it was quite easy to steer and easy to pedal, almost didn't need the assist on our lazy little hills. But with the BionX kicked into gear, OMG! This thing flies. It offers truly great visibility and adequate ventilation, although you should know that it was 104 degrees F on the first ride. I added a fan to the dashboard to help circulate air for the long test ride and that worked like a charm. It will also help prevent steaming during cold winter rides, I suspect.
There is a bit of a rattling noise to all velomobiles - and compared to my TerraTrike path 8, which has no protective shell, it is downright cacophonous. But less so than the Team was (more on that later.)
While riding, the pilot feels a certain sense of being under control in this velo and I like the feeling. Others I have ridden in are more like 'hold on we're going for a wild ride'. Not so with the VV. It is stable, fast and FUN. Did I mention it was fun?
To say it turned a few heads is an understatement. Traffic tended to notice me quicker in it than simply on a recumbent trike. That is a good thing, as long as you are not planning on committing any crimes and using it as an escape vehicle.
Let's compare it to the Team. For total transparency and openness I should report that I wrecked my Team (twice) and while the first occasion was certainly my fault, I felt the second wreck stemmed from a problematic design in that velomobile. Its track was way too narrow. You always felt you were about to tip over if you carried too much speed into a corner. Not so with the VV. It has a wide track - wider in fact than the standard TerraTrike , which it is based on. This is due to the fact that wheels have to be pushed outside the body. This wide track makes the VV feel solid, safe and fun. Did I mention it was fun?
In the Team, your head is outside, which in the summer is nice, but during rain and cold, the canopy of the VV is going to come in quite handy - not to mention an incredible decrease in drag. I rode the test ride during a front pushing through our state and winds had kicked up to 15-25 mph. In the VV it was as smooth as silk.
Under braking, the VV is quick and responsive and settles into a stopping posture with ease. No steering to fight with cross braking. I do have my front discs set to activate off of one lever, leaving the other hand free to control the BionX accelerator and engine brake. Something I would recommend to all. Gearing is a tad short for my liking, but not so as to be uncomfortable, it is just a matter of getting used to it. My TerraTrike Path 8 uses a hub gearing and the gear spread is a bit wider, so that is just want I am used to. Compared to the Team, the gearing seems right on. (Gearing was one of the Team's big plusses, especially when locked in with a BionX system. The VV is to be on par with the Team in this area, as well.)
Straightline speed on a flat bike path was incredible and up hill with the BionX motor was, as I have indicated earlier, quite exciting (did I mention this thing is FUN?). Starting from a dead stop at a light is easy and the BionX kicks in real fast. (I am still used to being able to shift at a stand still with a hub system, so I must relearn to downshift as I approach a traffic light.) The left side mirror gives good vision from behind the vehicle.
All in all, I would say that Velocity Velomobiles has built a rather spectacular vehicle. While a tad noisy, it has good ground clearance makes scraping a minimum and the TerraTrike chassis takes road abuse and dishes it back as if to say, 'No pot holes today.'
I wish I had known about VV before purchasing my first velomobile. While the Team was excellent in build out and a quality machine to look at and ride, it had engineering flaws and major maintenance was difficult in that everything was all but impossible to get to. Not so with the VV.
Get one today and try it out. Did I mention it was fun?