I thought long and hard about this trip; not the reason for going, but how I was going to get there. Being someone whose carbon footprint is significantly lower than the UK average, and whose main form of transportation is by bicycle, the thought of travelling by plane was rather disconcerting. I calculated the trip by plane including the effects of radiative forcing; not pleasant reading. This one return flight would equate to 1/3 of my total emissions for 1 year. Yes, I looked at sharing a car, taking a train/bus/ferry. Taking a ferry was a non-starter as there were no longer any sailings on that route. The other options were very time consuming and expensive, all of which would take a lot more time away from work. So a trip to Stansted by bus was the first part of my journey. I considered cycling the 36 miles to get there, however I could not find clear instructions either online or over the phone on the location or security of the bicycle areas. My fears were allayed when I reached Stansted; I had lots of time before my flight left (due to bus schedule), so I checked out the bicycle parking; no shortage – three areas, very close to the terminal and well lit, so they seemed fairly safe.
So onto my destination, and I took the opportunity to take a few pictures from my window seat.
Safely touched down in Sweden. I took the first shuttle bus to Gothenburg, the home of the Velove Armadillo, a four wheel cargo quadricycle, designed in Sweden, engineered in Holland by Flevobike. I was met by the founder, Johan Erlandsson, and indeed the vehicle itself (road worthy prototype, top image). Hop on he said, and I did (I’m not always quite so obedient). Unfortunately the lunch venue he proposed was busy, so I went on a test ride in the city; we then went to their garage where they store their cargo bikes, including the semi-trailer version of the Armadillo which I tried. It was quite a surreal experience. Being able to run literal rings around the concrete pillars (separating the parking spaces) in the enclosed parking area was quite incredible; although I had seen the video footage I was still surprised at it’s exceptional manoeuvrability.
The latest version was at their workshop in the outskirts so I hopped back on the prototype Armadillo, and headed towards it on the bike path. We’d got about half way there when Johan realised he had to head back into town, to return a key, so it gave me the opportunity to take a few photos.
At the workshop we met with a few charming Swedish people, who were there to test the Armadillo, and Johan proceeded to go through a presentation of how beneficial the Armadillo is, in terms of reducing emissions, congestion and road impact, compared with conventional vehicles. He showed a picture of the canopy they are developing to turn it into a two seater faired quadricycle.
We then tested the latest version, which has a few improvements over the previous prototype, mainly the new Bafang Max assist. Despite having no load on the back it was still remarkably stable as I slalomed it left and right past imaginary obstacles. The suspension also was on a stiffer setting than the prototype I had ridden earlier, which better suited my riding style. Moving the suspension piston between the holes on the double wishbone enable one to quickly alter the stiffness; of course the springs themselves can also be changed for fine tuning.
Sadly it was suddenly time to leave and the Swedish testers kindly offered me a trip back to the airport. But what I wasn’t expecting was gridlock. Thankfully with their sat nav skills, behind the wheels of a, yes, Volvo, and my sprinting prowess (well, my attempt at running at least) I got to the boarding gate on time, more than a touch breathless.
And back to Blighty.