VelomobileLast night, I got to learn a little bit about velomobiles. A velomobile is generally defined as those funny looking recumbent bicycles with shells around them. The shells can provide a measure of protection against the weather, and make the vehicle much more aerodynamic. This allows you to go faster with less effort than you could on a conventional bicycle.

The advantage of using a velomobile is that you do not need to burn any fossil fuels to get around. You can even get electrical motors to assist you on the hills that are powered by your pedaling actions. Velomobiles tend to be heavier than bicycles, but due to the aerodynamics they are usually easier to go fast in. They provide much better protection from the weather, and are much more stable.

It is a lot more difficult to roll a three-wheeled velomobile than it is to fall off of a bicycle, and it is extremely unlikely that you are going to be thrown over the handlebars to land on your head. If you do somehow fall off of your bike, you have a much shorter distance to go before you hit the ground from the seat of a recumbent bicycle.

Apparently, they are much more popular in Europe than they are here in the United States. I have seen them before from a distance, but last night was my first exposure to one and the first time I was able to see one close up. Ethan Davis gave the presentation to the Portland Maine Bicycle Commuters group. He operates a by-appointment-only shop in Arundel.

The velomobile pictured above (more of which can be seen at the meetup website) uses a commercially produced recumbent bicycle that has been retrofitted with a custom shell to turn it into a velomobile. There is a mounting point in the nose of the bike, which allows the shell to pivot forward so that the rider can get in.

I found Ethan’s presentation last night pretty interesting, and it certainly has piqued my interest in the velomobiles themselves. I did not get an opportunity to ride his around at all, so hopefully I will get an opportunity in the near future. I hope that they catch on here in the states so that we start seeing more of them.

Have you ever ridden a velomobile? What did you think?