So, almost 2 years after my first post, I’m re-entering the blogosphere as it were. My original intentions of regular (ish) blogging, seemed to wither and die not long after my first post. Life, it seems, takes over. One had to prioritise, and blogging went by the wayside. An ephemeral interlude. But, not to be deterred, I’ll try again, perhaps even recount some of the things that have usurped blogging over the past 21 months.
So here we go again, and I thought I’d start with my most recent trips away. Dronten, Holland. Those two words will no doubt feature in a future post, as it was where I picked up my current mode of transport, a DF velomobile (fully faired lightweight aerodynamic recumbent tricycle). This trip was to look at another velomobile, but, yes, I know, the title is a bit of a giveaway – in this case the Quattrovelo (QV). Yet to reach production, but in it’s final prototype, I have been eagerly waiting this test. It’s a vehicle I have been following over the past 15 months with ever increasing zeal. Whilst it is not the first 4 wheeled aerodynamic bicycle, it is the first to be designed for production, and not as a one off, or as an adaptation from a recumbent tricycle. Allert in particular, who is the designer/engineer of the QV, along with Theo and Eva from Velomobiel (a velomobile company), have spent countless hours developing this vehicle. It is not simply a case of adding an extra wheel. The handling is key, as well as the ability to store more luggage, in a more accessible way than is possible with a tadpole (2 wheels at the front, 1 at the rear) velomobile. Stability and safety were also important considerations, and the extra space in between the wheels gave rise to other options, such as a child seat. Whilst space is limited it can accommodate a child up to about 1.20m in height. For most velonauts (popular term for velomobile riders) that space will be used as storage, like a boot on a car.
And so, the test. Actually before the test of the QV I decided to ride a QXS (a smaller 3 wheel model) so that I could directly compare the two in handling. Whilst the QV is quite a bit longer and larger than the QXS, it didn’t feel that way; in fact I felt a bit more cosseted in the vehicle. Instantly the ride felt more assured; it did not have quite the acceleration of the lighter QXS, but if felt grounded, unwavering.
Something I have noticed in my own velomobile is that, if one doesn’t pedal smoothly, the rocking effect at the front (pedal end) increases lateral movement. This is reduced slightly with wider tyres, however with 2 rear wheels on the QV, and pedalling in an exaggerated inefficient way on purpose, it made very little difference to the sideways movement of the QV; a significant benefit of having 4 wheels.
I then tried my own slalom test; this is to test at what point the wheels lift. In some 3 wheelers, this can occur relatively easily; the taller and narrower you design a vehicle (whilst at the same time increasing ground clearance and raising centre of gravity) the less stability you have in turning left and right in quick succession; this may be to avoid an obstacle in the road such as an animal or indeed human, or an inanimate object such as a pot hole. I managed to raise the wheel on the QV, but it took several fierce turns to lift it, and the front wheel swiftly dropped back down.
And ride quality? Well, as expected, it is more comfortable than a 3 wheeler; not significantly on smooth roads; the roads and bike paths on my test were in far better condition compared to those that I ride on in the U.K., so if I tested again I’d search harder for unpaved roads; there are several U.K. based velonauts who have placed an order for the QV so will hear from their experiences when they receive them, hopefully at some point over the summer.
The tenacity of the team at Velomobiel is admirable; they have not only created a highly efficient 4 wheel velomobile but have also spurred on other manufacturers to develop their own.