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Old 04-15-09, 09:50 PM   #1
Renoe
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Possible Velomobile manufacture and distribution in the US. Requesting your input.

Hello everyone! I'm involved in a small research project with some other students at Penn State University. The purpose of our study is to figure out how much interest and desire there is for Velomobiles in the U.S., as well as figuring out what design and features are best for the riders. We are inviting everyone to give their opinions and concerns about the idea.

A local bike shop owner and nation-wide recumbent distributer wants to manufacture Velomobiles and can ship them anywhere in the U.S. For those of you who don't know what a Velomobile is, it is essentially a recumbent trike with a plastic/fibreglass/ or canvas shell surrounding it. It is a kind of pedal-car. The Velomobile includes an "electric assist" motor which can be switched on or off and features a battery pack that actually recharges as you pedal (like the alternator in a car) For more info and pictures check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velomobile

This Velomobile model is still in it's design/proto-type phase and the owner still isn't exactly sure what direction he should take in the design. A few options exist. Particularly, the Velomobile can be sold pre manufactured, all the shell and motor parts built into a recumbent trike. Option 2 is the manufacture of do-it-yourself VeloKits which can be adjusted and fitted to existing recumbent trikes. These VeloKits are also removable, should the owner want to ride in the open air again. This method would, of course, be much cheaper. Other ideas include constructing a sturdier, heavier model with a more powerful motor; however, this would limit it's usability depending on state and local regulations.

As a cyclist myself, I have a pretty good grasp on the benefits, problems, and concerns about Velomobiles, but we need input from cyclists all over the country, the more, the better.

So please, let us know your opinions!

We have drafted some short web surveys to gather quantifiable data. The goals of the survey are to get an idea of how you use your bike, some questions on whether or not you would be interested in the Velomobile concept, some design preferences, pricing ideas, and some general demographic information.

The surveys are anonymous and are hosted on Zoomerang - a web survey builder and host.
We ask that you follow these guidelines if you choose to fill out the survey:
1 Take the survey only once. If you don't finish, you can always go back and do it over, but please only submit the survey once.
2 Since we are only looking at how Velomobiles would be recieved in the U.S., if you live in other countries, please do not take this survey. Feel free to ask questions or voice your opinion in the thread, but please do not take the survey.
3 We have two different surveys here. Because the Velomobile is built from recumbent trike technology, we have different questions to ask people who own and ride recumbents than people who ride other types of bikes. So, if you own or usually ride a recumbent, take the "recumbent" survey. If you don't, take the "bike" survey.

Recumbent rider's survey: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB228Z85DZKS8

Bike rider's survey: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB2292R8YXKC6

So, take the survey if you wish, post anything you like, I can answer most of your questions. I'm excited to be involved in this project, the thought of seeing more Velomobiles on the roads in America is interesting to say the least. Remember, your input really does matter and we couldn't do it without you. Many thanks to all!


EDIT: question #5 on the recumbent survey should read "How much money did you spend on your recumbent bike (if you own multiple bents, then what was the average price)

Last edited by Renoe; 04-17-09 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 04-16-09, 03:23 PM   #2
JanMM
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what about recumbent bicyclists?
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Old 04-17-09, 03:25 PM   #3
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what about recumbent bicyclists?
Sorry about the late response, I should be more present here from now on.
Do you mean which survey you should take? If you own a recumbent bicycle, go ahead and take the recumbent survey.

On a side note, the surveys were written by different people which explains the differences in tone and focus, but either way, they will give us good information, try to answer as best as you can.

Don't forget, I'm here to answer any questions and hear any design ideas, so if there's something you always wanted to see in a Velomobile, or if you've always had a problem with them, let me know.

What are your thoughts on the shell material? It can either be hard plastic/fiberglass or a soft, canvas-like material (think of the material that makes the roof in a soft-top convertible or high quality tents). A hard shell would be more durable but also more expensive. A soft shell would be easier to adjust and much easier to design zippered "windows" or ventilation holes into.
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Old 04-17-09, 05:02 PM   #4
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Warning: as implied in the title, the survey is clearly for Americans only. Don't waste your time on it if your not a USian.
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Old 04-17-09, 07:11 PM   #5
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Survey taken.

One question was "Why don't you own a recumbent", but none of the answers apply. I simply have no need for it.

One overlooked factor is that in much of the US, having an enclosed bicycle would be terrible for about 10 months out of the year. It would turn a sweatfest into a regular sauna.

My personal opinion- manufacturers keep trying to stick electric motors on things- it seems to me, they're trying to make it appealing to people that don't want to ride a bicycle in the first place, which is a bad way to market things. You need to make it a really great bike for people that like riding bikes, not a really crummy car for people that like driving cars.
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Old 04-17-09, 08:11 PM   #6
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Question #3 on the 'bent survey asks whether you have a bicycle recumbent bicycle or a tricycle recumbent bicycle. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
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Old 04-18-09, 12:15 PM   #7
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Question #3 on the 'bent survey asks whether you have a bicycle recumbent bicycle or a tricycle recumbent bicycle. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Eh, yeah I didn't write that survey, sorry about that.. I'll re-edit the first post to clear that up in case of confusion (the survey itself can't be changed)

Good points StephenH. The ventilation issue is something that will be addressed in some way. Vent holes (that you can open and close) can be built into the shell. Another possibility is to use the kinetic energy from pedaling to operate a couple small fans. I'm no engineer, so I don't know what that would take, but the designer mentioned it as a possibility.
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Old 04-18-09, 07:22 PM   #8
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Summer time riding here in Texas in any type of enclosed shell will require much more than a fan or vent holes. However a "convertible" arrangement would be somewhat better. I love the idea of an electric assist velomobile. If one were available at an affordable price that fit my needs, I'd pick on up in a heartbeat!
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Old 04-18-09, 10:02 PM   #9
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As I see it, there 2 or 3 problems with velomobiles which loop back on each other.

First, they look nerdy as all get out.
Second they tend to weigh too much.
Third, they cost too much.

First and third can be alleviated by selling more of them. If there are more around, people will get used to them, and the price will come down due to mas production.

To sell more, you need to get the weight and price down. Getting the weight down is gonna push the price up, tricky.
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Old 04-19-09, 08:40 AM   #10
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My Leitra is used when rain or cold mitigates against two wheels. It is fully enclosed so warm and dry, but I find that approaching traffic is inaudible.

The survey asks about enclosed bicycles not trikes. I'd expect a streamliner (enclosed bicycle) to be wind sensitive, but find my velomobile stable, tho I prefer to ride two wheels when weather is nice.
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Old 04-19-09, 09:22 AM   #11
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I want a bicycle with weather protection against rain. I do not want a scaled down electric car/golf cart. I do not want to pay the cost of a Chevy Aveo.
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Old 04-19-09, 10:13 AM   #12
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Here's the Type 6 velomobile which I built in 1989-1990:



Now don't go out and build one like this. I have ideas for improvements. I would make the new velomobile lower, by making the seating position semi-recumbent. Then I would lengthen the wheelbase by about four inches. And I would make the body shell wider; this machine is only twenty inches wide, and I would like it twenty four, or maybe twenty six inches wide.


This is the Type 5, painted Navy camoflage grey, so I only use black and white film. My Daughter Mellisa is driving. This is the same as the Type 6, but without the roof. Still, it was hot in Florida, and the blockage of wind made the test riders sweaty.


This is the Type 9 "Fiberglass Ladies Bicycle", which Mellisa designed. The fairing is smaller on account of the hot Florida weather, and riders want cool wind. Unlike the earlier fairings which were designed to reduce wind chill in cold Northern Winters. But this design is a Monocoque- the frame and fairing are one piece. This bike has twenty four inch wheels, not twenty six, and it weighs fifty five pounds. This was meant to be an Electric Moped, not a velomobile. Fiberglass is a lot cheaper than Kevlar, which is what the previous fairings were made of.

Good Luck, but remember, an enclosed bicycle is only good in Northern climates. In the South, you will roast.
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Old 04-22-09, 11:49 PM   #13
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Well, through all of our research efforts, we have collected enough data to form a sizable sample. I am taking the surveys offline, and will spend the next several days analyzing the results. I'll be back to post some general info in about a week.
To everyone who took part in this project, I thank you for your help and support!
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