Time for action, regardless.

It’s been a few months since I last blogged…ok, several.

There are two reasons for that, namely:

  1. Time – not enough of it, which leads to 2.
  2. Research

It is all very well, writing something subjective about an issue or product/service but to hold greater weight it should be supported by facts, not just personal experience. However, when one wants to do the latter but doesn’t have the time to source the objective articles, nothing gets written…so, like many a blogger I’m going for the former, and will support the blogs with sources if I can find them expediently; if not, I will add sources at a later date or would be happy for readers to provide pertinent objective sources whether they are supporting what I am writing or indeed contesting.

The next blogs will be about pollution. It has a multitude of guises, but for me the key areas are:

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Soil
  4. Noise
  5. Visual

The above can be in isolation or merge together, so tricky really to do an article on each, so it may be best to talk about the issues that encompass pollution and the sectors they are embedded within, such as transport and noise, or renewables and visual.

I will commence in the next blog, to make future indexing easier for readers (I’m clearly optimistic in the notion that more than one reader will traverse and imbibe my blogs).

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Velove Armadillo

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

The Quattrovelo

QV with Quest

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.

 

Pertinent links:

Velomobiel

Eva’s Youtube site (works at Velomobiel)

Rainer’s video footage (a customer)

 

 

The move to electric biking Part 1

So, my first blog, ever. Got to start somewhere I guess and I admit that I’ve been putting this off for quite some time. So many interests, where to start? What do I prioritise? Which blog name do I use? How many barriers can I put up to bolster my deft procrastination…meanwhile, recent events have prompted me to take the plunge. More on that later. For now, cycling. And so it begins…

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I have been a regular cyclist for quite some time now, ranging from mountain, to road, and even to folding bikes. All bikes for a specific purpose. Now whilst I had owned a car throughout, they got very little use; the direct line to London partly and perhaps thankfully to blame. However, one of the unfortunate side effects of having a bike, is the sweat (don’t worry I won’t be going into great detail of my particular glands). Whilst this wouldn’t be such an issue for road or mountain biking ventures, for commuting it’s far from ideal, especially for short stay commuting and by that I mean, evening meetings or short errand trips into another town. This is where showers are either not available or suitable due to the duration of the visit.

And so, after several years of sweaty short commuting, I decided to invest in an electric bicycle, or e-bike (yes, I know, sacrilege to the ardent minimalist cyclists out there). Given that my mountain bike was 12kg, my folding bike 8kg, and my road bike 7kg, the original aim was to find a lightweight bicycle that had a light motor/battery system, just to assist up hills. Given that this is the major cause for the undesirable fragrance (to me at least, and I expect others…), then I expected that there would be models out there which met this requirement… Well, I wasn’t entirely mistaken, however, I was rather taken aback at first, by the fact that existing e-bikes were almost the same weight as all three of my own bikes combined!

Before I had given up hope, (or try my hand at a DIY e-bike conversion), I came across Vivax. This was exactly what I had unknowingly been looking for! The whole electric system (including battery) weighed a mere 2kg!

Sadly the euphoric sensation I experienced ended rather too abruptly for my liking, as I then found out cost of said e-bike…£2500, yes, that’s right, and this was just the cost of the electric system (motor/battery/controller), so there was the simple (or rather not so simple) matter of the rest of the bike…and the bike in question had to have a straight seat tube of a certain diameter. Hmmm, so as tempting as this was, I decided to refrain from exploring further, especially as I was unable to test-ride it, as there is only one importer in the country, not in close proximity to this author’s residence. So, back to the e-bike drawing board.