Four Wheeled Velomobiles

Its Autum and the weather gets cold and rainy again. Naturally the time of year I think about velomobiles and check second-hand offerings.

Since I’ve rolled my trike a couple of weeks ago, when the rear wheel slipped going slightly too fast around a corner in rain, the greater stability of four-wheeled velomobiles looks a lot more interesting at the moment. Couriously, there is currently some development of four-wheelers going-on among velomobile manufacturers.

Quattrovelo recently got a working prototype of the new Quattrovelo on its wheels. They also made a blog post about advantages of four-wheelers compared to three-wheelers and pretty much documented the entire design and building process in their blog.


Sunrider Veloquad
Alligt went with adding a second wheel to the rear of the Sunrider. While the Quattrovelo is a beauty, the ‘design’ of the Sunrider veloquad is not exactly my cup of tea.

Image: Alligt

‘Ugly duckling’ comes to mind. At 60kg curb weight a pretty overweight ugly duckling.

Begorett Velomobile
A visually far more interesting approach came from Begorett. Unfortunately an other pretty design study that will most likely never hit the road. Judging by their website, they are most concerned with ‘cycling safety’ and envisioned a crash-proof electric mini car with pedals, rather than a light-weight human-powered velomobile with electric assist.
More about it here: Begorett Velomobile

Begorett Velo black 01
Image: Begorett

Since currently I don’t have the funds to order a Quattrovelo (basic price €7500) and regularly stumble over DIY-velomobile threads in the German Velomobil-Forum and BentRider, I’m considering to build a faired four-wheeler myself.

Something roughly looking like the Begorett velomobile (less pretty for sure). The chassis made from film coated plywood panels, with big entry hatch (like the Orca), wide 24″ wheels, no suspension and rear wheel drive. A direct drive hub motor with a cog mouted to the brake disk mount that drives a central drive shaft with a short chain would make the whole human power/electric assist drive design fairly simple and relatively cheap. Two freewheels at either end of the central drive shaft would drive cogs at the wheel hubs by a short chain.

I’ve build a set of 24″ wheels with wide downhill rims and disk brake hubs a couple of month ago, but newer used them. Some hub disk cogs from VeloSolo mounted aside the brake disk with a couple of spacer’s and the rear wheels are ready to go. A 160mm or 180mm brake disk should work to clear the Avid BB7 calipers off the 22tooth cogs. The 24″ front wheels with 90mm Sturmey Archer drum brake hubs and matching rims, currently used in the Blue ICE, could go to the front.

The KingCycle nose cone from Ebay, like the one on my black Sprint, could be used as the front fairing, but might need a little trimming. Light weight but stiff Con-Pearl panels should work for the hatch and coachwork.

Without owning a garage I’ve got some size constrains, though. It has to fit through a 80cm wide door and might have to rest standing on its rear end though the night.
Some rough weight estimates gave the impression it might weight under 50kg without battery. Well, perhaps…

While 50-60kg would be fairly heavy for a human-powered velomobile, it should be sufficient for an electric assisted test mule. If the design works, the film coated plywood could be supplanted by featherweight and super strong (but rather expensive) carbon fiber honeycomb panels in an updated MkII version.

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Scuderie Campari SC1

Unfortunately this stylish hybrid pedal car is only a design study.
Design: Christian Grande

ScuderiaCampari_SC-1_Biposto (3)

ScuderiaCampari_SC-1_Biposto (2)



Images: Scuderie Campari

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Internal gear hub efficieny compared to single speed and derailleur

Andreas Oehler at Fahrradzukunft made some efficiency measurements of some well run in IGH’s (Rohloff Speedhub 14 ca 5,000km, Alfine 11 ca 3,000km), at their different gear ratios compared to single speed and derailleur gearing:

thin lines are at 50W, thick lines at 200W. All measurements at 60 rpm crank speed.

In part 2 he measured and compared the Rohloff Speedhub 14, Alfine 11, Inter 8 and NuVinci N360:

thin lines are at 50W, thick lines at 200W. All measurements at 60 rpm crank speed.

In part 3 he measured and compared the Pinion 1.18 to Rohloff Speedhub 14, Alfine 11, and Inter 8:

thin lines are at 50W, thick lines at 200W. All measurements at 60 rpm crank speed.

The Pinion showed higher efficiency losses at higher crank speeds:

Overall lesser efficiency at 50W is likely due to proportional higher losses from seals, chain tensioner, gears, ect (eg if you have overall gear train losses of 10W, you got proportional higher overall losses at 50W power input than at 200W power input)

The articles are in German, but Google Translate will make them readable in Englisch. Take some time to understand the grafic’s. They might look a bit confusing at first.

The graphics show, the Rohloff isn’t just the most expensive IGH with the highest gear count (exept the bottom bracket mounted Pinion 1.18), it got the smallest efficiency losses, regardless of power transmission, as well.

You might take these measurements with a grain of salt. Tester Andreas Oehler himself mentioned at the end of part 1 some potential measurement errors. Regardless, I find these comparisons highly interesting, even if the actual measurements aren’t 100% correct. Even if it where, his clean chain drive might have diffent losses than my dirty chain drive. In my view it is enough to see a more or less correct tendency in efficiency differences between the different drive train variants.

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Stanislav Petrov

Thanks to Markus Kompa for reminding me (again) of Stanislav Petrov, the russian  officer in charge at the Soviet Air Defence Forces, who most likely saved my life and the lives of my family and friends on September 26, 1983 by having good judgment and big set of balls.

The Man who saved the World – Official Trailer

Thanks Stanislav, for saving my life!

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Blue ICE – Wheel swopping

The Sprint with 28-559 Durano’s at the front was handling ok, but gave a bit of a harsh ride at 5 bar. I’m still contemplating lacing wide 26″ Bellacoola Downhill rims to the Sturmy Archer drum brake hubs and using more supple 26″ Big Ben instead.
While having a couple of other front wheel sets on hand, I had to try them out first.

20″ Wheels
First I’ve tried the 20″ wheels with some 47-406 Schwalbe Energizer Plus, since that’s how the Sprint 26 was ment to be and the tyres harmonise quite well with the 27mm wide Rhyno Lite rims.

Blue ICE 20-26

Very nice ride and very agile handling. I actually didn’t miss the front suspension.
While I’ve mounted the seat rather low, it still feels a bit too high for comfort.

Next came a set of 55-406 Big Ben. More cushy ride, still quite agile corner handling. Quite a nice setup if you venture off the road regularly.

Blue ICE 20-26_Big Ben_left

24″ Wheels
Today I’ve mounted the 24″ wheels with 55-507 Big Ben to the Sprint and went for a little tour through the city.

Blue ICE 24-26_Big Ben_rear_right

The ride is positively comfortable, handling still quite nimble and 24″ wheels just roll better over less than perfect tarmac or gravel. Even real dreadful cobblestone roads are bearable up to 10km/h.

Blue ICE 24-26_Big Ben_right

I really like riding with a higher bottom bracket and the laid back seat angle. The small 5 liter bags, mounted under the seat, are just big enough to carry tools and spare tubes, but still offer some space for a ’emergency cat food shopping’ on a Sunday afternoon. :D

Blue ICE 24-26_Big Ben_left

The Sprint with 24″ front wheels and 26″ rear looks more balanced than a 3×24″ or 3×26″ set-up. At the Black Sprint with 3×24″ wheel setup the front wheels look always somehow bigger than the rear.

Blue ICE 24-26_Big Ben_rear_left

The other ‘new thing’, the Patterson Metropolis, feels better every day. While it adds a just perceptable drag in 2. gear overdrive mode, switching gears is done in a split second.

Overall weight without tools and water bottle is 22.7 kg/50 lbs now.

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The first ride

Did the first short ride around the neighbourhood with the Blue ICE today. The Patterson Metropolis looks slick and works great so far. Overall weight without bag, tools and waterbottle is 21.5 kg. The battery rear light and rear fender are still missing, though.

Blue ICE 3x26_right

Blue ICE 3x26_rear

I wasn’t feeling that well today, but just couldn’t resist to get her rolling. The 26″ front wheels handle well without the front suspension. Much better than I thought.
The skinny 26″ Duranos are ok, but are way less comfortable than the 24″ Big Ben, that I use at the front of the black Sprint.

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The Blue ICE

Several month ago I’ve bought a lightly used blue ICE Sprint 26 frame by chance.

Blue ICE frame

It lived a quite dormant live under the living room table since then and the hunting for components began. While blue wouldn’t have been my first colour choice for an ICE Trike, it looks rather pretty with the silver components, I think.

Blue ICE 3x26

About a grand later, it is standing on its own feet (err wheels) now, waiting for new head set bearings to arrive. I think, apart from mounting the head sets and chain, the ‘Blue ICE’ is about ready to get rolling soon.

While I’ve got a nice looking polished silver crank set mounted at first, by an other chance I’ve stumbled across a 2-speed Patterson Metropolis crank set.

Blue ICE - Patterson Metropolis

The brushed finish of the Metropolis is rather crude and the 175mm crank length is unfortunately a bit too long for me. The mechanical design of the 2-speed Metropolis on the other hand is quite sound. It was on sale and at 1/3 of the regular price I don’t mind drilling new pedal threads for a 160mm crank length and give it a nice polish one day. But first I like to ride it a bit and if it’s as nice to use as I hope, I might order a second one for the ‘old’ black Sprint.

For now, I’ve put a 26″ wheel with 9-speed cassette and Shimano XT RD-M772 9-speed derailleur in the rear and 26″ wheels with 90mm Sturmey Archer drum brakes at the front. That might change soon, if I get a wide, shiny silver 24″ double walled rim with 36 holes (unfortunately a bit hard to come by).

I’m not exactly sure about the front wheel set-up yet and alternated between 20″, 24″ and 26″ front wheels every other week to look at. *sigh*

While I will use Sturmey Archer drum brakes hubs, in 20″ there are currently a new set of polished Sun Rhyno lite rims in 406 size and an other new set of very pretty, narrow, polished Ukai Z rims in 451 size to choose from.

Rhyno Lite 406-Ukai Z 451 chrome

On the other hand, I’ve got a freshly build set of 24″ front wheels with 40mm wide downhill rims, Author disc hubs and Avid BB7 brakes ready for testing, but since the rims are black anodised they might better fit to the black Sprint.

Chances are the ‘Blue ICE’ get’s some kind of electric drive later, but for the time being it stays a cycle. Whether it might get a heavy 9C hub motor, or a much lighter slow wound RV-100 Revolt outrunner with a one stage chain reduction drive to the rear brake disk adapter, I have no idea yet.

An other new ‘feature’, the under-seat-pockets:
ICE mesh seat with Lowepro side pockets

I just found out my old Lowe Alpine backpack side pockets fit the new ICE mesh seat rather nicely. I think they are discontinued, though.

The silver handle bar stem might get used to mount a head rest and the rear light, we’ll see.

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