Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recalibrating to Velomobile speeds

One thing I expected from the rotovelo was to go faster. Which has definitely been happening.

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):,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

Rotovelo (RV) group ride 1

Introducing guest blogger Tim Marquardt, another RotoVelo early adopter.

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

Cover for the hatch and Underneath

I park my RotoVelo outside at work, and also when I'm lazy at home. If it rains the seat gets wet, and it accumulates leaves and stuff.  So I've made a nylon cover that goes over the top of the hatch cover and makes it waterproof.  My sewing skills are awful but it does actually work. I'm sure that Ben will provide a proper one with the final vehicle.
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
And finally, here's a photo of the underside because I know you're all dying to see what it looks like.

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

Have speedo... will geek about numbers.

OK, first ride to work with the new speedo fitted and it looks as though my cruising speed is about 40kph. Up from a little under 30kph on my upright.
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

Fitting a Speedo

Ben isn't a huge fan of speedos, and for that reason and because he wants to see what solutions us prototypers come up with, there's no standard speedo or mount for the rotovelo. Yet.
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.
I cut down one end of a bit of tubing, flattened it and drilled a hole so I could attach it to a brake mount as shown. It's padded with gaffer tape and plastic to get it closer to the spokes.
Attaching the display requires a tube to imitate the handlebars they're designed to mount to, so I used a piece of hose. The metal bit is a 10mm socket and driver holding the M6 nut in place.
RotoVelo cockpit with the speedo display on the right. Yes, the speedo is also red.
There's a bolt head in the wheel arch, and in an attempt to discourage leaks I used a washer and bit of old tube as a seal.
A random photo of Phuong.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Helmet Camera!

I was aimlessly browsing eBay and noticed that you can get a helmet camera for $AUS16 including postage. Given what has happened to my previous helmet cameras I thought that might be worth trying. It's cheap enough that even if I do accidentally destroy it I won't mind. Strangely, it works really well. For the price I was half expecting it to stop working after a couple of hours. But it's still going after a few weeks on my helmet. Ben has also bought a few of these so I expect you'll see some proper footage in the future. For now it's all a bit wobbly and badly edited as I try to fit this stuff in around the rest of my life. In the meantime, I've uploaded acouple of  video snippets of my commute home to Vimeo.

RotoVelo Ride Home from Moz Moz on Vimeo. 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.  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
I mentioned that I've already had my first puncture on the new bike. Day two, in fact. On the rear wheel. With a brand new Marathon tyre. Bah!
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.

RotoVelo photos

I've ridden it to work a few times (and had my first puncture). It's a blast to ride - I'm still getting used to the way it rolls on for ages after I stop pedalling, and how headwinds are just noisy rather than show-stoppers. On the other hand, I go fast enough that bumpy bike paths are a major irritation. There's a couple of places where I used to just stand up on the pedals for bumps where now I get airborne, and I definitely have to slow down for speed bumps.
So, some photos:
RotoVelo rear 3/4 view
RotoVelo rear view
RotoVelo top view with mud
There's a theory that I'm supposed to be keeping my velo clean and shiny for more photos in a couple of weeks. But my ride to work takes me along a creek and through the occasional puddle. So it's accumulating a bit of extra weight. Hopefully I will be able to clean it all off before Ben sees it.
RotoVelo front 3/4 above
RotoVelo steering detail
A commenter on The Recumbent Blog thread asked how the steering works, so here's a photo. Front of trike to the left, steering at full lock pushed away from the camera. Note the wee push button on the brake lever for the handbrake.
Moz's Garage (TriSled parking area)
And in my garage is a TriSled collection (I told you I'd been buying these for a while). Hanging up is the long, short-wheelbase recumbent bike I use for touring. I suspect "used to use" but you never know. You can only see the back half, and it has no wheels (there's a limit to how many Rohloff's I'm willing to buy).
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).

Moz's bikes
And here's a couple of bikes that I built for my partner and I. Note that mine uses a Rohloff in a 406 wheel, just like the one in my RotoVelo. The other bike... doesn't have a Rohloff. The front protrusion is a rack that takes two large Ortleib panniers and is attached to the frame rather than the front wheel. That unbolts, and I have one for my bike too. The rear rack on the far bike will take another two large panniers, but the somewhat flimsy one on my bike is designed to remind me not to load it up too much. I have the quad for load carrying.
(I've uploaded larger versions of all of these to my website and clicking the images should take you to those)

RotoVelo is here (at last)


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!