Wednesday, December 1, 2010
After not being able to organise any other Rotovelo riders to ride with me, i bit the bullet and booked for the 210km course. Mind you, this was only about 2 weeks before the event, so i thought i better start training. My ride to work is only 11km or so, but there are a couple of good hills. The wednesday before the event i rode 120k’s, which was fine, i averaged about 29km/h, but had sore knees afterwards (not enough riding practise me thinks!). That means no more riding until the big day.
I was lucky enough to have a mate who lived maybe 500m from the start, and was able to crash there the night before. It would have been a perfect start, if i hadn’t locked the house, just about to get into Rotovelo when i realised i’d left my helmet inside. Spent 15mins trying to wake up my mate, then i was off.
The start line was of course full of eager people on their upright machines, but i managed to find another guy on a recumbent trike up the back to start with. I’d been told to start up the back. Anyway, after waiting around for what seemed like ages, the line started to move, slowly. Heavy traffic was fine in Rotovelo, people didn’t have a problem noticing me, my only problem was going so slow.
I was thinking to myself that i really need to concentrate on pacing myself, but only doing 20km/h with the majority of the riders up the back was just too much. As we worked our way through the lights and inner city streets i started to wind it up a bit, and got the first of what would be a very common reaction from riders as i crept (or sped) past them: WTF!, OMG, Sh##, and lots of other expressions of surprise. Not to mention people asking if i had a coffee machine inside, mini bar etc. Perhaps the funniest was pulling up at one set of lights with one of the 1st Aid Motorbikes behind me. The riders next to me didn’t notice the motorbike and assumed i had a thumping 500cc motor tucked into my shell!
So, by now i’m out onto Beach road, the bike traffic is starting to thin out a bit, and the speeds are creeping up. I find myself sitting on 35km/h now, and feeling real good. I’m getting a few riders frustrated as they tuck in behind me and then realise that i’m too slippery to pull them along.
I stop for my first break at about the 50k mark, it was just before Olivers Hill in Frankston. Well, wasn’t that a great hill to ride up! I had changed the drive sprocket to give me a higher top speed and was concerned about my ability to get up steep hills, but i managed ok. I don’t know how many of the people who had passed me going UP the hill i whizzed past going DOWN. I had some sensational runs heading down where i managed to time the lights just right and overtook 50 or 100 people at a time. Extended downhill sections are almost beyond my ability to describe - I’m in a completely different speed class - got to use the mirror heaps and make sure cars are out of the way because I’m spending all the time overtaking.
I’m really happy with the handling of Rotovelo here - with brakes on both front wheels i can actually help steering by using the brakes - extremely handy when taking emergency avoidance measures at top speed - which on some of these hills is around the 70km/h mark. Soooo many riders are sitting on the right hand side of the lanes. I’m getting really good at calling out "ON YA RIGHT". The run from Dromana on is pretty flat and by this stage i’m starting to feel a bit tired, wondering if i’m going to make it, and then all of a sudden I’m at Sorrento and in the line for the Ferry.
The break was nice, although no chance of getting to the toilets on the boat! One of the cool things about Rotovelo was having room to put stuff - so i had long pants and a warm jacket to wear whilst not riding. Once across the other side we were back into it. This was where the head winds started to kick in, but for me, hills were more of a problem, head winds slow the upright guys down instead! I stopped for a break at a rest stop set up at a servo. Would have been a great photo of Rotovelo next to the fuel bowser!
All of a sudden it started bucketing down with rain - people were dragging their bikes under cover and trying to keep out of the rain. I just put my cover on and hit the road. Well, the rest stop was at the top of a hill, so i let it rip. Did you know that rain drops really sting at 70+km/h? It was a fantastic descent, long straight road, multi lanes, no traffic, and didn’t get stopped at the lights.
Geelong was frustrating - lots of lights, and it felt like the course was going in circles, i was really looking forward to getting out onto the Hwy and pointing towards the finish, not to mention having that nice tailwind. Had my last stop at the BP on the Freeway, and filled up on mars bars and fizzy energy drinks. I knew that we didn’t stay on the freeway the whole way, but it was a real bugger doing all the twisting and turning rather than just sticking on the Freeway.
Then i’m overtaking cars (speed limit was 60), now i’m cracking 75km/h, but the person who was miles ahead of me is now just ahead, and even worse, they are riding on the right hand side of the bike lane, and i can’t safely overtake at speed or yell out to them. So i slow down, ask her to politely move out of the way, then get into it again. But there is not much bridge left now, and i can only get back up to 70k’s before having to turn off. Grrrrrr!
The last bit of the ride was great - mixed emotions from me as i realised i was going to make it. The finish line was good - people cheering, cameras flashing and me zooming in on Rotovelo. Boy was i glad to finish! Met up with Ben and the Trisled team at their display and had a good chinwag.
Final stats: For a distance of 220kms or so, average speed of 26km/h, which i was very happy with considering my lack of fitness and training. Max speed 77km/h down the bridge. No problems with the bike at all. If i had got a dollar for every toot from a car on the course i would be a rich man! Found out that my miniature camera didn’t record - bummer! But do you want to know the funny part? A few weeks later, i was checking over my Rotovelo prior to riding to work, and i actually put a tyre gauge on it, rather than just feeling the tyres (like i do on the mtn bike). Well, the pressure was less than half the recommended, so i pumped them up and had a 10% increase on my average speed. Now if only i had pumped them up prior to RTB!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
After a fair bit of playing around I've decided that the Mango approach of a bicycle bell and a bit of string is the least awful way to get a bell into the rotovelo.
I had a pingping bell mounted next to the cockpit so I could reach out and ping it, but it was about 15cm from my ear which was not ideal. I've been looking around for a bicycle bell that I can bolt on to the shell and bike shops don't have many of those. The pingping bell mounts using an O ring so I just twisted that under a washer, which kind of worked. And on bike to work day I got a free bell with a standard clamp and one problem - the clamp is designed for a handlebar no more than 20mm in diameter, when normal handlebars are 22mm (this is why they were free). I grabbed one just in case, since they're no use to anyone else and I might be able to use it.
The other day I had a brainwave - a doorbell is designed to do exactly what I want. The actuator goes on one side of a barrier, and the ringing noise comes out the other side. All I need is a lightweight, weatherproof doorbell. So I had a look around and most of the ones I saw are designed for a thick door, not a 3mm velomobile shell. They also tend to be heavy (because who cares on a door). I did find one that I thought might work, but it was $30 and heavy, so I put that idea on hold.
(a couple more photos)
Plus I washed it. It seems odd to own a bike that needs to be washed.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Today's discovery was that while the RotoVelo might look a bit like a kayak, it doesn't behave like one.
I was riding in the storm drain that is Moonee Ponds Creek, and the grass growing out into the creek has grown out to the point where there's only about 10cm between the edge of the grass and the edge of the water (right where the video snippet the other day showed the dog). So at about 25kph I decided to ride mostly over the grass in an attempt to avoid the water.
Turns out that the "grass" is actually quite a solid mass of mostly soil and roots.
The front wheel bounced up and off the grass, turning me sharply left and into the creek. Which is only about 15cm deep, but that's deep enough for the foot slots to act as big water scoops and stop the trike very quickly. While filling it with water.
Fortunately I was the right way up and could just ride out of the creek, then stop and drain the water out. Which is easy enough, that part is just like a kayak - grab the back end and roll the vehicle over.
Cue rattling sounds as all the junk I've stashed in it clatters out, along with the
The good news is that inside the velomobile there's no real wind, so despite being sopping wet I was still quite warm. It was about 8 degress (Celcius) this morning, not a good temerature to be riding an upright while wet.
Tomorrow I will bring a spade to work and on my way home do some "lawn mowing".
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Which does remind me, I need to get a better speedo. The Knog one seems to record 145km/hr as my top speed every day, so I suspect it has some kind of limit to what speed it will allow. I don't think I go anywhere near that fast, so I'm going to try for a more accurate speedo. My actual top speed on my daily commute is probably only about 60km/hr, usually on the new bridge near Flemington Station. That's a fairly steep descent on a fairly good path, so I can coast from 30km/hr at the top of the hill and still be doing 50km/hr when I get to the bridge.
Today is National Ride to Work Day, and there were free breakfasts all over town put on by bike shops and random advertisers. Naturally I planned a route and got up early to maximise the number of free snacks I got.
I left home at about 6:30am (actual time 6:45am) and headed to the Human Powered Cycles stall in Merri Parade / St Georges Road since they opened first. Free muffin and a quick chat with Bill and Lewis then off down St George's Road to the bowling club and a particularly badly located stall. In a park some distance from the road, on the inside of a corner, with no pram ramps and a high curb. But they had muffins and fruit, as well as juice and coffee. So the few cyclists that stopped were well rewarded.
Stop three was Velo Cycles who are located brilliantly for a day like this with the Park St bike path giving them lots of quiet outside space. Another banana and muffin, a quick peek inside the shop (they stock the Taga bike/pram that I haven't had a chance to peer at before). Then off to Commuter Cycles by 7:30am to watch Huw getting organised and meet up with a couple of Victorian Greens people winding up for the state election next month.
Those were all within a couple of kilometres of home, so I added less than 10km to my commute.
Then off to work along the usual route and one last stop at Docklands which was very corporate as you'd expect. The Melbourne Bike Share people were there in force peddling their scheme with its "bring your own helmet" problem, as well as their RACV sponsorship problem (We love cars! We sell car insurance! Win plane travel!).
Lots of comments on the rotovelo, especially since it was foggy with light misty rain, making it a bit unpleasant for other cyclists :) People were impressed with the lights and how visible it is as well as the "out of the wet" aspect. And the "not falling off" thing on a day like this with nice greasy roads.
All up a slow and well-fed ride to work today.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I normally ride about 300km each week, at about 30kph on flat roads, averaging about 25kph over the week. On the upright I've been riding Moonee Ponds Creek cycleway (shared path) and through Docklands to Port Melbourne where I work. It's about 25km round trip, and takes about 30 minutes there (downhill) and 40 minutes home. Those are door to door times, not riding times. What matters is the time I have to get out of bed :)
With rotovelo on the same route the overall time is about the same. Mostly because the bike path doesn't really suit going any faster. There's a couple of decent stretches where I can cruise along at 35-45kph for a kilometre or more, which is nice. But the back streets between home and the bike path are mixed - if I take the direct route it's faster but that end of the bike path is slower with a couple of blind corners, but if I wander the back streets more to avoid the slow part of the bike path I have extra corners and speed bumps. The bike path at the bottom end is just bad - narrow, bumpy and lots of stops.
So I've started exploring the on-road routes to work. There's a nice run through Royal Park and through the CBD where I can cruise along at 40kph most of the way. Being able to keep up with rush hour motorists when they're moving, and still being narrow enough to filter through gaps is brilliant. To overtake cyclists in the bike lane I have taken to moving out into motor traffic rather than slow down, wait for a chance, then overtake. As I get more confident I'm riding in traffic more.
At traffic lights I do accelerate more slowly than athletic cyclists, but if I let them get past me I just have to pass them again (sort of like car drivers feel about cyclists). So I've taken to going really hard out of the lights to stay ahead of them, which leads to entertainment when someone tries to chase me. One guy on a single speed stayed with me at 40kph for nearly a kilometre the other day. 40kph is not bad at all for a single speed! I wasn't working anywhere near as hard as he was once I got rolling :)
Through the CBD grid of streets is quite fun. It's generally downhill, and I need to move a couple of blocks to the right as I go through the grid (Australia drives on the left). So I do the cyclist trick of making right hand turns at red lights (with the pedestrians), then leaping back onto the road when the lights change to keep ahead of the pedestrians.
There's a section at the end of the CBD run where there's no bike lanes, 3 or 4 lanes of traffic and it's all moving 40-50kph. There is an alternative route for bikes, but it's longer and slower. So I just mix it up with the cars and that works pretty well. When I get lucky with the lights I can get to work in a little over 20 minutes, about 2/3rds my best time on the upright.
While I'm complaining about bike paths, here's the worst spot on the Moonee Ponds Creek path (for cyclists, anyway): http://www.nearmap.com/?ll=-37.768981,144.936929&z=21&t=h&nmd=20100711 Note that the right hand side as you come out from under the bridge is a good 3 or 4 metres lower than the left hand exit. The right hand turn coming out from under the bridge is also viciously off camber, and leads into a short, steep climb. Or you can go straight ahead at that point - I posted video the other day of me coming the other way and exiting up the ramp and under the bridge. But the low route is slippery (there's water trickling down and moss on the path), and if you slide you end up in the water. On the upright I take the longer, higher route. On the velomobile... it's much more fun.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
What do you call a group of velomobiles? Or, more specifically, a group of RotoVelos? Well, for the time being, until someone cleverer than me comes along and tells us all otherwise, I shall refer to this group as a Dozen of RVs, on the basis that my good lady wife lovingly refers to my newest toy as “your green egg”. Or maybe a Zeuss of RVs (as in Dr Zeuss, he of Green Eggs & Ham fame). No, for the time being, a Dozen it is.
So, I am here to report on the first ever RV Dozen Ride, which took place in near perfect conditions early last Sunday. Eight of us met at Albert Park Lake and rode to Black Rock and back. In summary, we brought a significant number of smiles to the folk who were lucky enough to see our awesomely colourful convoy. Even the most hardened roadie smiled. How could you not? Eight brightly coloured eggs rolling down the road is a sight never seen before, at least not here in Australia.
At our rest spot, at the Velocino Cafe in Black Rock, many passers by stopped and took photos of the eight vehicles lined up on the side of Beach Road, like a huge, long multi-coloured velocipede.
Lastly, and for the moment, as a story teller in part, I hope that this day will be remembered as the first: the first group of RV riders to show the rest of the world their fun, fast, comfortable vehicles. RotoVelo may or may not become more popular than McDdonalds and Coke, but as we rolled along on the most glorious of spring afternoons, pedalling , waving and smiling to all those passing and being passed by us, it felt like this might be the start of something rather special and fun. We shall have to wait and see.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The first version was too narrow, and also showed that I can't sew curves so I needed to leave bigger borders than I did. So I cut a paper template that turned out to be just the right size once I'd made the second version. I also tried pulling it closed with string but that was too hard, I needed three hands to hold the cover in place, plus one to hold the spring-loaded clamp on the string and another to pull the string tight; then with some 6mm shock cord which works but is much too strong for the task; so today I bought some 8mm sewing elastic and that's much better.
Now I wonder if a proper version of this could just sew the elastic straight to the nylon, which might make it easier to fit. I could inpick the first cover and buy more elastic to try that idea out, but it means sewing elastic that's under tension which could be fun.
|Cover Mk 1 on top of the template|
|Cover Mk 2 fillted, hooked over the mirror.|
|From a distance it looks fine|
Followup: The elastic works better than I expected. I can now fit the cover by clamping the front under the hatch cover, pulling the other end to the back and fitting it from there, running a hand down each side to the front. It's much faster than my first attempts and really only possible because the elastic is fairly week so it's easy to work with. The shock cord was way, way too strong.
The main problem now is that the channel I sewed for the elastic is too wide, so the elastic tends to pull up and out of the channel as I'm fitting it. It's definitely time to find someone who can sew properly.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
I also tried a different route, a somewhat shorter one that's mostly on better roads but has a nasty bit of traffic at the end. But if makes a real difference being able to sit at 40-45kph in traffic, since that is roughly the speed all the motorists were doing in the city. Which means I can get to work in about 25 minutes if I want to.
The ride through Royal Park/ along Royal Parade was nice, good seal and slightly downhill with a decent bike lane. Which does bring up an important question - what should I do about cyclists who doze along on the right hand edge of the bike lane and don't respond to being pinged at? The cyclist in question seemed quite upset that I whipped past on his left (at least a metre to his left!). Do I need a big loud piezo horn like the race teams use or just get used to slowing to 15kph and waiting while the cyclists wakes up, looks around and (if I'm lucky) moves left?
Currently I have a wee pingping bell (visible here) attached to the hatch so it's outside but I can reach it while riding. It's also in fairly dirty air, so it's not costing too much. But it's close to my ears so I'm reluctant to mount a proper bell there, and the only alternative I can think of is an electric horn (I already have 12V for my lights). But that's not a noise people associate with bikes, so it'd be as bad as an air zound. The "honk honk" ... obstacle looks around dazedly going "I wonder what made that noise", rather than leaping sideways (and often looking aggreived).
That last point is one that also concerns me: some pedestrians are offended if cyclists don't ring just to say they're coming through, but others are offended at being pinged at (I assume they interpret it as the imperitive "get out of my way"). On thje Upfield Path this is compounded by a few spots where there are pedestrian entry points at building corners, so it's wise to ping madly as you approach from the blind side, as there's literally no time to do anything if a pedestrian steps out at the wrong moment. So it's a bit of a no-win situation. Always ping, and offend quite a few people; never ping and shock others while offending a fair few more; or ping only when you want someone to move aside (offending some and perpetuating the "if I ping I want you to move" meme).
Saturday, September 18, 2010
So I've bought a Knog N.E.R.D. wireless speedo and fitted it. The basic problem is that the sensor has to be close to the spokes and also point more or less at the display. With most recumbents this is tricky, but at least with velomobiles it's easy to get the two close together. My problem is that I really want the display on my dashboard, but I can't work out how to get the sensor pointing towards the dash. So I've mounted the display behind a wheel arch. I can see the speedo when I'm riding, but it's not very easy to read. Which is not really a bad thing, it'll still tell me roughly my cruising speed, my max speed and how far I go.
Friday, September 17, 2010
RotoVelo Ride Home from Moz Moz on Vimeo.
http://www.vimeo.com/15050277 This is early in my commute home, through Docklands in Melbourne where I switch from shared path to bike lane then bike path. It's relatively smooth but there's still a lot of camera shake so I'll be working on that in future. For now, it's what I've got.
RotoVelo 2 from Moz Moz on Vimeo.
http://www.vimeo.com/15050691 This corner on the Moonee Ponds Creek shared path (NearMap view) has a really ugly off-camber right angle turn at the top bridge underpass, leading to an uphill amble around to the next bridge underpass. Or you can hoon down a ramp and ride along in the concrete "creek". But you're on the ouside of the corner so the gap between the water and the grass gets quite narrow and there's water running across the concrete that supports a lot of slimy stuff. On a two wheeler it's pretty exciting. But with rotovelo the corners and climbing are more of a hassle, and the sliding around doesn't matter much at all. This is, however, where most of the mud gets sprayed onto the bike. In the video there's also a dog encounter at a particularly narrow point.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
|RotoVelo rear wheel|
Fixing that was relatively easy - I had already bought a mini-pump that has a small head on a tube (Topeak Road Morph) so it's easy enough to pump the tyre up, and the advantage of the rotomolded shell is that I can just roll the velo over and not worry about scratching it. So, out with the tyre levers and a quick patch job later it's done.
What is less amusing is that the shell is close enough to the end of the axle that a standard quick release lever can't swing open properly. For those buying the cheap (cough) version with derailleur gears that means you get an allen key bolt style skewer, but for Rohloff owners I strongly suggest pitlocks or equivalent. With the wheel covers installed there's really no way to lock that wheel in place except pitlocks, and at $AUS2500 or so it's not something most people can afford to replace. So I've ordered a couple of sets of pitlocks from Germany that are keyed alike (pittted alike?), front and rear for my upright and tourer (which use the same wheels), and a rear one for the rotovelo.
I am thinking about cutting a matching hole on the other side of the valve to make access easier. The front wheels only have covers on the outside, so valve access is easy, but my full size floor pump only attaches to the valve with a lot of effort.
So, some photos:
|RotoVelo rear 3/4 view|
|RotoVelo rear view|
|RotoVelo top view with mud|
|RotoVelo front 3/4 above|
|RotoVelo steering detailhttp://www.moz.net.nz/rotovelo-blog/rotovelo-moz-7.jpg|
|Moz's Garage (TriSled parking area)|
Under that is my quadricycle, or quad. Four wheels, a big black plastic bin, and two wheel drive with a Rohloff and three chainrings. It'll hold 120kg reasonably easily, and more if you're careful. I've had that much soil in it with a similar bin also full of soil on my trailer. Which is why the quad also has disk brakes on all four wheels. (I'd just like to make it clear there is no connection between me doing things like that and bikes just mysteriously breaking for no reason).
(I've uploaded larger versions of all of these to my website and clicking the images should take you to those)
The story behind my getting a prototype RotoVelo is long and boring. I've been buying bikes off Ben at Trisled for a long time and over the years have become friends with him. In the sense that he accepts that things break around me and it's not my fault. Although he's still bitter about the wind trainer (it exploded). So I've become the unoffical destruction tester, and I also take a lot of the photos that go on his web site.
More than a year ago when he started this project I found out about it and decided that it looked promising. So of course I started asking when I could have one. Once he was confident it would work he also asked me to put together the lighting rig for it - a 12V LED based system that's fairly robust and works quite well.
For the last couple of months there have been interesting things to see in the TriSled factory, and some of them we've been sworn to secrecy about. The RotoVelo was one of those. There have been shells lying around, frames in various stages of construction, and even a few rideable vehicles.
The first step for me was picking a colour - Ben had a row of shells in various colours and us special customers got to fight over who got which colour. For me it was easy - red ones go faster. Then I had to wait.
Last week I got to go along and model for some of his promo photos. I spent half a day in the studio while the photographer went "move a centimetre forward. No, towards me forward. No, more that way". Seriously. Six hours and we got about 20 photos. But then I got to ride one, and managed to ride over the photographer's toes doing action shots. So I think we're even.
But finally the happy day has arrived - I've been allowed to take my velomobile home!