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26 Oct 2011

Coroplast for my Fuego

How can you make your favourite 'bent better? Make it faster! I have good experiences with the TF on the Pioneer, so I thought I could make something similar for my Fuego. This time more aimed at speed than at practicality. And because the rack of the Fuego sits quite high, the luggage compartment will be tiny. It turned out to be big enough for long 1 day rides.

The TF on the Pioneer is effective, but I used a lot of tape. That works, but doesn't look slick. I decided to use more pop rivets for this TF. That method worked. The finishing is much better.

I started with the same cardboard template I used for the Pio, only made the back part (part that rests on the seat) a bit narrower. The Fuego is my fair weather and race bike, so not often will I wear thick clothing when I ride it. The result is a widest point of no more than 46 centimetres. And those who paid attention at their aerodynamic lessons will know that a narrow TF can be shorter than the wide TF. That's the reason this fairing is relatively short, keeping the bike easy to manoeuvre and store.

After I'd cut the back plate to size, I strapped it to the seat of the Fuego and then bent the connection flaps with the use of a hot air gun. I then roughly cut the side parts to size and started pop riveting them in place. One by one and carefully heating the material when bending was needed. In practice, you'll quickly get the hang of it. Good household scissors work well for cutting.

30 or so rivets (and 60 m3 washers!) later I could cut it to size in more precisely. Just a matter of look, fit, try, and cut. Small steps, as you can't cut part back on.

First ride was my 42km commute to work. It held and didn't cause any problems. Coroplast dampens sound good and keeps it's flexibility for a long time. This afternoon I tried to do some roll test. Coast from 40 to 30kph and measure how that takes. Do that in 2 directions and repeat the test without the fairing. The differences you see in coasting time give an idea of what the TF does.

However, the wind was changing all the time. The times I measured weren't really clear. But, based on what I saw on my cyclometer and felt, Id say it ads about 7%. And, as it often is for aero ad-ons, the faster you go or the more headwind you have,the more effect it is. I certainly won't be riding without it often.

My address for Coroplast is

23 Oct 2011

Suspension (2)

In part 1 I wrote about how suspension can be an advantage on a fast bike. And in the end I mentioned the added comfort. Now especially American riders often seem mighty concerned about rear suspension. They (excuse me for the generalization, but this is the impressions I get from following the forums )say it soaks up energy when they climb. And they are worried about the extra kilogram it ads to a bike. Don't they know that extra kilo makes your bike more comfortable and faster? And keeping your wheels on the ground also is a mayor safety feature.

Anyway, the climbing thing. If you want a bike with rear suspension and rear wheeldrive, you need the right chain line. The 'right' chain line is more than just a line trough the pivot point of the rear swing arm. That's what many people think. I can't do the calculations, but this website is a good tool for those who are not an experienced ' bent designer.

You can control the chain with an idler. When that idler is placed at the right place, all the power you put in at the front, is transferred to your rear wheel. If you do it wrong, energy is wasted in making your bike bounce. Now some say that the solution is a stiffer spring. Wrong! Very, very wrong. A stiffer spring only makes the problem less noticeable. There's less movement, but just as much loss.

Especially when climbing that is a big problem. When you climb, you often pedal less ' round' and you put in more power. Now let's look at a Nazca Gaucho Highracer. That has comfy, safe and fast rear suspension, but also allows you to climb like a mountain goat. I haven't done any serious climbing, apart from my Spezi adventure, but others have. I have ridden it, and now matter how hard and I stamp on the pedals, I can't sense any movement in the rear swing arm.

Now if you're a racer, you're looking for what is absolutely the fastest. Than you might worry about a tiny little bit of loss. But for the 98% of the riders, the advantages of proper rear suspension can not be ignored.

My old Cruiser did not have a chain idler when it left the factory. Cruisers didn't get an idler until 2009 or so. I added on with help of the website I mentioned earlier. On my way to the Easter meeting earlier this year I got to climb a bit. And even when I really tried to get the suspension to pogo, it didn't.

Conclusion. Not having suspension only is an advantage for a small group of people. They race on super smooth roads. Everyone else who commutes, travels or tours will be happier with good suspension.

17 Oct 2011

LEL 2011,

Assen, train, Kampen, ride 40km, Lelystad. And 4.5 hours later, back home in the same way. Inbetween was the annual 51km TT over the dyke between Lelystad and Enkhuizen.

51km in a very open landscape, with only 4 corners, means that this is a velomobile event. And I'd been taking part with a VM here since 2007. I didn't feel strong then, and neither did I yesterday. The difference between 4 years ago and now? Two seconds. It's an apples and eggs comparison, I know.

I started enthusiastically with just over 40 and still had an average of over 38 at the half way point. But then the headwind took it's toll. At higher speeds, the aerodynamics could be better. I did benefit from the excellent climbing capabilities on the 6 times I had to climb the dyke. That always used to slow me down more than I found acceptable. With 10km to go, I had the brilliant idea to push the head rest way backwards. A feature this protype Vendetta has. Immediatly I gained more than 1kph and was now doing 36 or so. I finished with an average of 36.5kph.

It's time to put my cleats back to the position I always had them, about 1.5cm closer to my toes than now. I'd moved them towards my heel because of my ankle injury. Not being able to ' ankle' a bit is costing to much power. I'll start with 7mm.

What is good news is that an Evo K rider won with an average of 60.9kph, a track record improvement of 3kph. Within two weeks, according to the contract, I too own a K. Heavier than the one that won, and without the head fairing, but even then, a really fast VM.

Despite the fact that my upper legs had a tough time in the TT, the ride back to Kampen went surprisingly well. It's a shame though that the only elevation we have here are viaducts. Because when it comes to climbing and long distance riding, the V is an fine addition to the 'bent market. My daily total was 140km.

12 Oct 2011

Suspension (1)

Suspension is an important factor on a bike. The most common form is using the right tyre pressure. A tyre that is at a not too high pressure will absorb small road imperfections. The fatter and/or more supple a tyre is, the smoother your ride can be. A light rider deforms his tyres less, so he/she can do with a lower pressure than a heavy person.

The same goes for a shock absorber. A light person needs a different spring, or air pressure in the air shock, than a heavier person. Spring load and damping must be set up correct to keep the wheels on the ground. A wheel that's not on the ground, does not steer or brake. Proper damping is so that 1 bump, translates in to 2 movements of your shock. 1 in and 1 out. Yes, good suspension can very much improve the handling of your bike.

When you take a turn right on a bumpy road, and your rear suspension is not what it should be, the rear end could bounce to the left. A brick road I often follow has a sharp right hand corner. When I take it on my Fuego, with the 28mm rear tyre at 8 bar, at 30kph, the rear suspension keeps the wheel on the ground. On unsuspended wheel could loose grip and bounce of, resulting in serious road rash.

Many velomobiles have a really basic kind of rear shock. They can sort of make up for that with a fat rear tyre. However, it's better to have a proper mtb-style shock. And in my new Evo K, there will be a fully adjustable air shock. Air shocks have something steel springs don't have, progressive suspension. The deeper you push it, the firmer it gets. That means that small imperfections get filtered out nicely, while it won't be too soft to soak up big bumps. Velomobiles most often have 1 rear wheel. When that looses contact, there's no back up. When a front wheel get airborne, there's always a second wheel to keep you in a straight line.

On a two wheeled 'bent, front suspension can be nice too. It's often said that you don't need front suspension with a big front wheel. But I surely felt a difference between my Cruiser (406mm + suspension) and my Pioneer. (559mm no suspension) Even though the Cruiser had 35mm Kojaks and the Pioneer a set of 50mm Kojaks, the C felt more comfortable.
Now the route of a chain can make it difficult to install a front fork with suspension. It varies per model, but it's not easy on an old Pioneer. I did get it to work, and I love it. When you buy the more modern Nazca Gaucho, there is the option to get it with front suspension. (not with USS) It's a version with the suspension built in the head tube that gives slender look and does not conflict with your chain. The travel it has is enough to soak up most bumps. If I where to buy a new Gaucho 26, I'd opt for the most comfortable version. Not that an un-suspended front is harsh, but I really like it plush on my big tourer.

Part 2 about suspension will be about potential power losses and suspension. Yes, you can have rear suspension and ride up a mountain!

9 Oct 2011


Today was cold and windy. I have a bit of a cold and spit out stuff when I ride. It drizzled on the 2nd half of my ride. Conditions and excuses enough to complain about a lack of speed. But today's ride of 32km, went in just over an hour and I my max was 57kph.

I'm used to riding 'bents with suspension. And my opinion is that a touring and commuter bikes need some short of shock absorption. (rack and fender advised too) You can even benefit from suspension on a less than perfect race track. It's one of the things that makes my Fuego so good. But when you're out for the simple reason to go fast, you know where the smoother roads are. You can often skip most of the brick roads.

The Vendetta has no suspension. It's light en very stiff. With the 23mm tires at 8 bar and a 62kg rider, going much faster than 30kph on a brick road is not pleasant. But hey, that's only to get out of town. Because when there is room and a road/cycle path to gallop, this 'bent is a joy to ride. At cruising speed, the combination me&Vendetta is only a tiny little bit slower than I was with my Mango. Yes, a VM adds a lot of practicality, but this is only about speed now.

Last Tuesday I had 60km ride on my borrowed prototype. It's perhaps a kilogram heavier than the production version. The wheelbase is quite some shorter too. That might explain why it can feel a bit jumpy on short bumps. The rider position as much more aero than what my Q451 offers, handling however, is quite easy. A dry winter is very welcome. That will ensure I can make many more fast rides on this fine machine.

3 Oct 2011

Autumn meeting 2011

In the week before this Autumn meeting I had to decide with which bike I'd go. Cruiser or Cruzbike? I choose the latter. Thus far my longest ride on it was just over 80km and I was curious how it would be to ride way over a hundred, a 140km. All luggage (sleeping bag, liner, toiletries, clothing and food) fitted in my 25 litre Radical Backbone, that fit's nicely to the seat tube rack of the Q451. I did recently ad 2 small hooks to the seat that hold the seat straps of the Backbone. Electronics and alike fitted in my fanny pack. (also brilliant for using your camera while riding)

So, Friday morning, 7:25h, of to work. Plenty of things to do after the usual 42km commute. I had macaroni for lunch and was offered some left over couscous after work. With that extra little meal I had enough fuel to ride untill Dronten. There, 50km from work, I ate some sandwiches and turned on my lights. There was at least another 2 hours of riding left. At 28kph, the good ol' Nordlight bottle dynamo buzzed happily.

Farmers kept working way past sundown, taking maximum advantage of the summer weather.  Heavy machines, with lots of lights, everywhere you looked, something was being harvested. It was dry, but not dusty, the sky was clear and I only had 20km left to go. The Vogelweg is well known under Dutch riders, perhaps it's our own 'Route 66'. It starts and ends with traffic lights. And after that, it only was a few km to the Stichtse Brug. Quickly ascending, and steadily descending, due to roadworks, I reached Blaricum. 15 minutes later, I arrived at my destination.

The problem with arriving at 10 in the evening can be that you spend time finding a bed in one of the 7 huts. However, I was smart enough, and someone else kind enough, to reserve a spot for me. There also was tea and there where many familiar faces to say hello to. It was past 1 in the night when I crawled in to my bed.

The next day started with breakfast and explaining a dozen or so times what sort of bike I had brought. And also during the 50km group ride my little orange 'bent was quite a head turner. I swerved a bit through the field of about 50 riders. Halfway we stopped at a pancake restaurant. I had a big vegie pancake that actually was complete meal. But with a weekend like this, it's good to have calories to burn. The pear ice creams Maarten bought at the end of the trip do not provide a lot of calories. But, they are delicious and very refreshing, which is a good thing with the temperatures we had.

Traditionally, the time between the ride and the evening meal is spend on talking about and looking at each others rides. In the evening it quickly get's to dark look at them. Maaike did a successful attempt at riding the Q451. Harry arrived in his ROAM Mango after having made a special delivery. And I took a shower.

Gerold gave another great explanation about what we where about to eat, more specifically, how. He has the right to do so, the food is excellent each year, including the salad and the dessert. I went for sliced banana with whipped cream, twice. And when the big bowl of cream was 'empty', I made sure it was really empty.

The campfire was hotter and better than the night before. Another thing I was often asked about was my Evo-K. And, since where sort of a big family, we talk about more just bikes. The night that followed wasn't quite long enough. But by the time I woke up, it was almost 9. I managed to get everything back in to the Backbone again after breakfast. Wilfred was waiting to get going on his Thys 209. Together with him and Harry I rode back home, via almost exactly the same route I used on Friday.

Harry's right wheel went wonky and needed a roadside repair near Dronten. It had done well during the 5000km of ROAM, but now, suddenly having 5 broken spokes, something needed to be done. That caused some delay, which didn't matter, since I had all day to get home. The 3 of us didn't carry a lot of food. So we had a meal in Dronten. And with our belly's filled up, we maintained a good pace for the rest of the day.

The pond between Genemuiden and Zwartsluis had a small suprise. Imagine someone with the words 'blue jean hotpants', blond, 'floppy white shirt', and... well, you get the idea. Daisy Duke. Anyway, I had another 60km to go. My companions just under a hundred or so. We had a second stop for food near Havelte. 4km from my place, Harry and Wilfred took a turn left. I got home, took a shower and had pizza.

Weekend total: 335km, avg speed around 25.5kph, cruising at 28.

My photos: here.