Velo advice

PRDMAMA

New Member
Hi all,
I have recently begun bicycle commuting primarily for health, but also for fun and ecology. My commute is 13 miles each way, and I'm not in good enough shape (yet) to do this more than once a week. Other factors that keep me from riding more often include weather and sometimes just needing to get there faster than my legs can move - especially with the days getting shorter. But I want to ride more rather than less, and I'm thinking an electric assist velomobile should eat away at my excuses.

That would be a big change and a big investment, with very few options for test-riding. So I have a lot of questions. I would like to either keep the velo light and low-power so I can ride it on the trail, or have it be fast enough to be safe on roads with car traffic. For the record, cars scare the #$%^ out of me and I will not ride my bike on the roads. Anyway, I get the sense that the Elf is too big for the trail but too slow for the road - although it does look seriously cool and I'm open to trying it anyway.

What other options are there? To complicate matters, I'm 5'0" and have found that gear often isn't made for those of us who don't have to duck when walking under a tree branch. Advice and opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

Pace

Member
I think if you are not comfortable riding a bike on the streets, then going to a velomobile is probably not a practical option. Comments below are based on spending about a week of total time riding a few different velomobiles (no e-assist), I don't own one.

First a non-assisted velo is going to be quite an expense, never mind adding electric assist. Elf's are actually fairly inexpensive as far as velos are concerned: something like a bule velo quest could easily be in the $10k range assisted.

Second, riding a velo in traffic is slightly different than a regular bike, you have to be prepared to spend more time taking the lane (middle of travel lane) in addition being off to the side like a regular bike on roads w/ higher speed limits or on hills (I still think that applies to an assisted version). When I tried them, cars seemed to give me more room in general, but not always, and it takes a while to get used to the lower vantage point (you can't see over traffic anymore). You have to be aware of all the same situational threats on the roadway, and you need to be able to do it in conjunction w/ mirrors (either on the velo or your helmet). Although I don't think it's harder to ride a velo on the road vs a regular bike I don't think it's any easier either. Everyone is different of course, but my gut says that if you are not comfortable riding a bike in traffic, you might not find it any easier in a velo. Having said all that, Elf is a bit different than most -- it's a lot bigger/taller so that may change things a bit.

In terms of your original list, an electric bike will help with:
  • speed
  • lack of initial fitness
but won't do much for
  • weather exposure
  • ease/comfort riding on roads (i.e, it's going to be pretty much the same as a regular bike in that respect)
 

biknut

Active Member
By coincidence I commute 13.2 miles each way, 3 days a week to school. There's very few eBikes out there that are fast enough to ride in traffic safely. You need to find something that can travel at least 25 mph, or else drivers just see you as a rolling road block. Stromer might be a good choice for you. They have good range, and with pedal assist can top over 25 mph.
 

PRDMAMA

New Member
Thanks so much for the advice. If a velo won't do much for weather or comfort on roads (which I think of as primarily the ability to get close to traffic speed), then there may not be much point to a velo for me. Electric assist without any fairing would help me get to work faster while I'm getting in shape and staying on the trail (where I feel safe), and that alone would help me ride more often. My only concern about that is adding extra weight to my bike, maybe the trade is worth it.

That said, I've seen plenty of bents but never ridden one. What's the appeal?
 

Pace

Member
just to be clear: velo definitely would help for weather (that part of my comment above was with respect to a 'regular' electric bike. Dry in the rain, and warmer in the cold (though can also be an issue in hot humid weather)

Even for fast bikes: stromer, e3 dash, or a velo with a 20-28mph assist, you are not going to truly be able to mix with cars like you are one of them... they will all be faster to accelerate, faster overall, etc. That doesn't mean you can't safely ride on the roads (though I understand some may not be comfortable doing so), but you always have to ride like a bike in traffic -- even if you are a fast one. You'd need something like the performance of a vespa to take speed out of the equation. There are some ebikes with that kind of performance, but in a lot of places you'd need a motorcycle license for that and that's just a whole different ballgame.

I'm guessing an assisted velo would keep you very easily in the 25-35+ range (unassisted in a quest I could maintain 30 on level ground once up to speed with about the same effort of doing maybe 17-20 or so in an upright from what I remember).

for recumbents: they are fun, I think being different + comfort factor is a lot of the appeal. Most are not alot faster than an upright bikes overall though, and the ones that are are not usually well suited to commuting IMO.
 

Pace

Member
If you were going to go for a non-intimidating recumbent, one of these with an electric motor conversion would be pretty interesting I think. The place where I got my dash carried hp velo bikes and did conversions for their recumbent bikes & trikes.

(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)
 
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PRDMAMA

New Member
Great! 25-35+ mph *might* be enough to help me feel comfortable on slower side roads, I'll have to give it a try. That's faster than the Elf - they indicate 20 mph.

Nice photos!
 
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biknut

Active Member
If you were going to go for a non-intimidating recumbent, one of these with an electric motor conversion would be pretty interesting I think. The place where I got my dash carried hp velo bikes and did conversions for their recumbent bikes & trikes.
(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)
This I like. I've never been into the recoms, but this is just crazy enough to get my attention. I like the shield too. That would come in very handy in the winter, and also vastly improve the aerodynamics, which in turn helps extend your range, and speed.
 

Pace

Member
Great! 25-35+ mph *might* be enough to help me feel comfortable on slower side roads, I'll have to give it a try.
That's for something like these (a velomobile):
(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)

so just to clean up terms: I've been using "velo" as short for "velomobile". But "HP Velo" is short for HP Velotechnik, which makes the faired recumbent I showed above (along w/ other recumbent bikes & trikes).

For that HP Velo Spirt recumbent with the fairing a couple of posts above, you could get a conversion for up to 20 unassisted/28 assisted and I bet it would be easy to keep in mid to high 20's if you've got enough battery power to use it at higher assist levels for your commute. 35+ would take a lot of work and you'd be fighting to keep that pace once the assist trails off even though the fairing is going to help aerodynamics. A velomobile would have another level of improved aero dynamics and those are pretty stable at high speed. But again, pretty pricey: you'd probably drop $10k minimum on an assisted velomobile. That hp spirit recumbent with something like a bionx motor conversion and the fairing is probably in the $5K range.
 

Pace

Member
Great! 25-35+ mph *might* be enough to help me feel comfortable on slower side roads
Also, just one more note on this... don't get too caught up on thinking that speed is the thing that will make you comfortable on roads. I think it's really more just about riding time and easing yourself into different traffic situations. I really think you have to be at a point where you are comfortable at any speed before you worry about being faster... faster has a lot of benefits to be sure, but the faster you go, the more hyper vigilant you need to be, and you need to be thinking ahead for what you and everyone around you is doing.