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20 Nov 2013

Head fairings

A common question nowadays seems to be: 'Should I buy a Wim or a Sinner hood?' My answer is: neither of those. Not because they don't fit an Evo K, my VM doesn't need one to beat most of the competion, but because I see some serious drawbacks that are not mentioned enough. Yes, I have a special hood too, the Darth Vader one, but I only use it when I have a lot of room to gallop.

The first hood I used was the original vm.nl model, with a visor. The protection against cold winds, the aero advantage and snug feeling where nice, that's true. But I lost quite some sense of what was happening around me. And when in the dark, rain or fog your sight becomes really bad. Opening the visor improved my sight, but I was/felt still enclosed in a tight space and not able to move my head as much as I'd wish. What did help was that the Mango wasn't that fast at all, so it wasn't the biggest problem that I couldn't look very far ahead.

So, with good weather and clear roads, it wasn't that bad. Despite the huge difference in built quality, I still see Wim's hoods as something much similar to the original vm.nl hood.

Just before I sold my Mango I tested the Sinner hood. It's spacious! And thanks to the ear openings you can hear what's happening outside. But it also has two huge blind spots, just like the Beyss Evo hoods. And when it rains or when it's foggy, the visor becomes a hell to look through. You than open it, and the cold and the wet let you know you're not in a car.

Because, in my opinion, a hood should work when the it's raining, when it's foggy, when it's dark or when you have a combination of those. I don't need weather protection when the sun is shining. A velomobile should work in typical velomobile weather!

I have enough technical knowledge to admit that such a hood is not easy to make/design/manufacture. Honoustly, I don't know if it's even possible. My 'Darth Vader' does offer plenty of sight. And it has a hole instead of a visor. But it's still too much of a bubble that excludes the rest of the world a bit too much.

And there's another problem that fast velomobiles ad. A hood makes you so fast, that you run out of routes to ride on. This hugely depends on where you life. But for me up to 50kph is when I still enjoy the ride. Above that, It all becomes a bit too stressful.

I still see the advantages of a hood. But the disadvantages should be known too. I'm absolutely a 'head out velonaut'. Perhaps it's just that I have something that dislikes being fully enclosed. Fact is that without a hood you have better sight, can communicate better with other traffic and move your upper body more for cornering balance and sight. Things that I find very important for a fast velomobile.

I've written about rain protection before. Use the search function to find these posts.

12 Nov 2013

Still here

Yes, I'm still riding! Though the past months where either busy or not worth writing about.

So I still ride, but I stopped racing. That took up too much time, money and energy and I got too little in return. Only a few minutes of happiness. So instead of hammering 'round a track with a heart rate of 180bpm, I stick to riding my own routes. Fast in my Evo K or as a serious workout on the Thys Rowing Bike, a.k.a. Saga.

I quitted in May, but the last race I took part in was in Assen, last September. The K and I where good for just under 50kph during a 45min. crit. on an 800 metre oval.

The K's gearing now is 61/38 - 27/21/19/17/16/15/14/13/12. When This chain and cassette are worn out I'll up-grade to a 65. That'll be near the end of 2014....

Something I'm quite proud of is the Nazca Cruiser I restored. It's my bike to ride with someone else. I only had to buy a few new parts. Most of what I used was had I had 'in stock'. Women really like this colour. Thought I find it a beauty too.

It's not slow, very comfortable, easily adjustable and handles like a Nazca. The gearing is close ratio so that you'll always find the right cadence. The chain idler makes for an efficient chain line.

During the 1st 2 weeks of September I cycled through the Netherlands. First on my Pioneer, and the 2nd week on my Fuego. The weather was good enough. Perhaps a bit to warm in the 1st week. Camping, cooking, chillin', sleeping and nearly 1300km.

Well, that was it for now. I'll be writing more. And that won't take another 7 months ;-)

4 Apr 2013

Busy! 1st vacation ideas

I thought about it for a long time, and have decided not to ride to Spezi this year. I've been there 3 times now and I'd like to spend my vacation(budget) somewhere else for a change. 2 of such valuable weeks should be spend as good as possible!

Spezi is a wonderful event, but I must dare to change a habit every know and then. This years vacation will be a ride around Denmark, on my Fuego. When that'll happen depends on the vacation schedule at work.

There are new parts orderded to make my precious white 'bent more of a tourer. The close ration 1x9 will be exchanged for a 2x10, 39/52-32/12, SRAM shifted setup. The stock shock will be replaced by a more reliable Fox Float. I expect that one to keep it's pressure longer than one week. And for racing, the lock-out function will be a nice addition.

With the experience of last years vacation, this trip will have better planned routes. The Fuego is much faster, but does ask for a better road quality. Another step forward will be the better positioned Radical Banana bags, to reduce aerodynamic drag. With improvements such as these, riding 150km per day should be quite easy.

9 Feb 2013

A Thijs 222 Revolver

I've been riding recumbents for about 12 years now. And for 7-8 years now, that's been good for about 14.000km per year. That had a noticeable effect on my legs and stamina. My arms however....

Through all those years I knew about Thijs Rowingbikes. They always intrigued me. I had the luck of getting to try 2 of them. The 1st time was Harry's  222 CVT, and 3 years ago I rode for 2 hours or so on Jos' Revolver. The main difference between those 2 is the shifting system. Those rides sparked my enthusiasm.

A little more than a week ago, 4 Revolvers where offered for sale on ligfiets.net. All for a fair price, and 2 of them in my region. Of course, I tried to resist. And I sought support on Twitter. Most response I got was from row addicts. Buying one bike would mean having to sell something else. This to control the number of bikes around the house. But I found a solution for that, namely that I will sell a bike, realy. That was the 1st hurdle to cross. Than there was the argument to save money. But Marloes said to me that money doesn't make you happy and a rowingbike does. Right after I read that, I made a phone call and send an e-mail. Something to nominate for 'best decision  of 2013'.

Last Sunday I walked to the train station, travelled to Wolvega, and walked another 6km to the right address. The wind was fierce and cold and made me hide under my blue jacket's hood and behind my Buff. The purchase went quickly, between the doors of a van.
The bike sure is worth the effort. Within little time I was back at the train station. Though to make the weather a bit worse, it had started to rain. Thankfully, the train offered warmth and space for me and my 2.25 metre long bike.
And since than, I row. That same evening I rowed to work. The ride back home wasn't 4km, but 9. And it was almost 2am....
The 40km I rowed on Monday was a bit too much. But the weather was much better than expected. On Tuesday,  that ride around Zijen was just what was needed to loosen up the muscles after the lunacy of the day before.

Apart from replacing a brake cable and adjusting a clutch cable, the 222 didn't need much work. I did tidy things up a bit, naturally. Conclusion was, that for a 2nd hand bike, this was a good one. It was money well spend. Apart from the pedals, those where awful. So worn out that their only right place was the bin. A pair of trimmed down (cut of cages) A520's do hold my feet in position. Now nearly a week later, I am fine tuning and improving small things. Frame number 508 began live as a CVT, and was converted, at some point in time, to Revolver and Dyneema cable.

The high number of muscles involved, combined with the joy of riding a bike make these Thijs bikes highly addictive. Even with the tiny bit of experience that I have, and the poor rowing technique I must obviously have, taking the short way home is difficult. The odometer now reads 125km.

I didn't have to think for a name. Naming her Saga, after Saga Noren, was almost plain logic to me.

More info about rowingbikes can be found on this website.

21 Jan 2013

My Fuego

In my blog post about my Pioneer I mentioned it is almost stock. My Fuego is the opposite of that. I like tinkering, and probably have voided any possible warranty.

For a start, the seat angle is lower than designed. For most riders it'll be too low. And the rear mud guard is within reach of the seat. But I know how to use it and appreciate the better ergonomics (a more open body position) and smaller frontal area. The seat is also mounted more forward. This is to stop the cranks from hitting the front wheel. That became a problem after I started riding with less stretched legs. I'm talking about a 3cm reduction.

Another thing I choose to do was remove the rear rack. I couldn't get rid of the strong feeling that the rack bag was a serious wind catcher. So instead of that I use Radical Solo Racer panniers, that hang behind my shoulders. It also saves carrying the weight of the rack.

The 25cm narrow handlebars come from a Velomobiel.nl Quest. They weigh little and offer enough space for all controls. To save space, and to keep the brake cables out of my line of sight, the brake levers have their thumb operated position. The narrower handlebars are, the more twitchy a bike becomes at low speeds. But low speeds is not my area.

That's also why there's only 1 chain ring at the front. Though when I replace the drive train later this year, I'll make it a double. That combined with the upgrade to a 10 speed 12-32 cassette will make it more suitable for vacations. And it's an opportunity to buy new a new SRAM derailer and shifter.

The wheels are special too. The hubs are from a unknown brand. Combined they weigh just over 400 grams. That light yes, and I won't say they the right choice for a big guy in the mountains.... 64 Sapim Laser spokes, those save weight and cause less air resistance, connect them to the rims. The rear rim is nothing special. It came of another bike. The front rim is from Gingko Spezialradteile and is very light, 249 gram. It's narrow though and has a tire width limit of 28mm. My prefered front tire measures 29mm, a Minit Light. That, with a light Schwalbe tube, rolls nicely and is terrific over brick roads. There's a Durano at the back now. I'm thinking about replacing that by a NOS Stelvio, or an Ultremo ZX.

The shock is the stock air/oil unit from Kind Shock. Close to that is a TC idler. I like those and use them on all my bikes. They last very, very long and just work better in my experience.

I carry lights, always, just like mud guards, that come from M5. Under daylight, the lights blink in a distinctive pattern.

The result is a Fuego that 'officially' weighs 13.3kg, including the mud guards. The ready to ride weight is around 14kg. That nice weight combined with the seat angle of 20 or 22 degrees make it faster and fun. And let's not forget that it's a Nazca, so the handling is superb anyway.

I've not done any experiments to find out how much faster it is since I got her in the summer of 2009, but close to 10 percent is not overweening. Most of that improvement is in the aerodynamic package. The weight reduction helps some too, but mostly adds to the liveliness of the bike.

In comparison I can say, without any doubt, that, under anything but typical velomobile conditions, I'm as fast with my Fuego as I was with my Mango. That partly because I'm rather small and light for most velomobiles, and partly because the Fuego and me go together so well. It's a 2+2=5 situation.

Let's take last Saturday evening as an example. It was -5 degrees C, with a 4Bft wind. Any cyclist will recognize that as 'unfast conditions'. My cruising speed was 33-35kph over 2 times 15km, without really trying, because I can't push hard when it's cold. Can you imagine how much I'd like to go on a spring vacation with this bike?

2 Jan 2013

2012, a list

I rode a tiny bit less than in 2011, 14506km
  • Evo K: 6646
  • Pioneer: 4181
  • Fuego: 1654
  • The rest: 2025
Highest speed this year was 74kph, down the Ketelbrug, chasing 30 or so other velomobiles, and overtake just about the whole pack in the few km that followed. Re-thinking that, that must have been the coolest moment of the year.
Longest day trip was 230km, from Valkenburg to Arnhem, a part of my Spezi vacation.

I bought the Winter 'Bent and sold the Oké-ja. There's one bike nominated to be offered for sale. I also bought and re-built a Brompton.

I learned to be captain on a tandem, the Quetzal.

The Velomobil Seminar, combined with the stay in the chalet, was very memorable. 

At the annual swimming event that raises money for something good, I swam 3km.

Problems with a wisdom tooth cost me about 10 days this year.

'The Bridge' is the best TV serie I've seen since 1984. Saga is special.

My favourite TV moment was the gold winning act on high bar by Epke Zonderland, also because of the commentary. And next to that, pretty much everything of olympic gymnastic tournament I could see. A couple of Formula 1 GP's also where great to watch.
I became an uncle.

Since April I volunteer for my swim club, a most excellent thing to do.
My best race was the 3 hour of Cycle Vision. My worst race was Groningen. The track is ruined by tree roots, and an Evo K does not like such bumps.

The Fuego was put on a diet. I'll soon write about how I got her down to 13.25kg, including mud guards.

I played a board game with friends 'till 1am, outside, on the 2nd day of Christmas.

I've cycled trough France.

I found out I'm not 1.74, but 1.77m tall.