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Forget aerobars: Ars tries out an entire aerobike

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16 comments

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andystow | 5 days ago
1 like

I really want one, but I also want a Bakfiets and an ordinary, and I don't have room for either of them yet.

I reckon I could do my nine mile work commute (typically nearly 40 minutes, my record just over 30) in under 25 minutes in one.

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chrisonabike replied to andystow | 5 days ago
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Sounds good!  (I also have these kinds of cycles on my "to do" list).

David Hembrow (albeit equipped with high-quality infra, enabling speed by avoiding stopping) reckoned his commute of 18.6 miles was 10 minutes faster than with his other recumbent (not especially aero but probably about "roadie" good).

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mattw | 1 week ago
3 likes

Heh.

David Hembrow has a video of him riding one (at 50 or so?) accidentally catching up to a bicycle race.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av9pOmrACSA

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 1 week ago
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It's happened in Le Tour also (I don't think that was Mr. Hembrow though).

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mattw | 1 week ago
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I think the issue for the UK is that we do not have roads or infra suitable for velomobiles or faired standard cycles.

And where we are building infra (Manchester, London etc) it is overwhelmingly too tight and narrow for practical use by such.

Plus rural cycleways or rail trials etc are always shared, and not maintained.

So it's difficult to see the opportunity or the justification, short of enthusiasts, who in another mini-world might be doing lawnmower or hovercraft racing, at places like Donington Park and the local abandoned airfield.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 1 week ago
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I'd suggest the roads outside of urban areas are suiltable for velomobiles and certainly faired bikes.  I presume you are alluding to the danger of bottoming out on awful road surfaces?  That would be an issue for velos.  However like non-faired recumbent trikes they generally have suspension - and smaller wheels are usually stronger.

Adding some electric power could make them practical in moderately hilly terrain although at that point arguably they've lost much of their purpose.

Again not ridden a velo but I've found a part-faired recumbent (2 wheeler) caused me to become extremely visible to traffic.  Albeit it was a bright yellow one!

Sadly, I agree with your general point.  Cool as they are they're essentially hobby horses / niche use even where there's mass cycling with excellent infra.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 1 week ago
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Having said all that - perhaps a redesigned "mobility vehicle for older people" with *some* user input power might be a thing?  So "keeps you dry / provides shelter from windchill, plus more stable that a bike"?

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Rezis replied to mattw | 5 days ago
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Would love one, but especially on our rural roads wouldn't feel safe being that low and below the line of sight of motorists in the tall grass verges...

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pockstone replied to Rezis | 5 days ago
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I encountered one of these on an early Sunday morning ride from Porthmadog to Beddgelert I heard it coming but thought it was one of the many fighter jets that zip about Eryri. I got quite a surprise confronted by a low flying green zeppelin, with a natty little headlight in the nosecone. It was well hidden by stone walls and going at quite a lick. I thought at the time it seemed quite a risky endeavour.

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chrisonabike replied to Rezis | 5 days ago
1 like

Rezis wrote:

Would love one, but especially on our rural roads wouldn't feel safe being that low and below the line of sight of motorists in the tall grass verges...

Well the problem there is having motorists in the tall grass verges!

Looking at velos and low-height cycles most people have that thought - they just look horrifyingly low compared even to cars, never mind a truck.  And they're also slim profile and unexpected - and will definitely be faster than motorists expect (most people seem to be poor judges of the speed of cyclists).

I've not ridden one but I have spent time on a couple of recumbents which were lower than "normal bikes" - but still taller than most velomobiles.  I can only report that - at least in daylight - I seemed to be super-conspicuous.  Probably because "what the heck is that?"

I do take extra care at junctions.  My feet reach them a bit before my head and it does feel different than on an upright bike, plus those are easier to balance at very low speeds also. (I've now got two-wheel recumbents - although anyone can trackstand a trike all day!)  Even going slowly though it's going to be a few fractions of a second different that on an upright bike.  There's even more distance between a driver's eyes and the front of their car (and they normally have the windows closed) - they seem to manage...

We know that some drivers are simply not looking at all, or not looking enough, or only looking for cars and bigger vehicles.  That is of course also a problem for "normal" cycles.  How much more of an issue is it for velos and other low-slung things?  Probably not enough of them out there to get useful numbers...

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andystow replied to mattw | 5 days ago
1 like

mattw wrote:

I think the issue for the UK is that we do not have roads or infra suitable for velomobiles or faired standard cycles.

And where we are building infra (Manchester, London etc) it is overwhelmingly too tight and narrow for practical use by such.

Plus rural cycleways or rail trials etc are always shared, and not maintained.

So it's difficult to see the opportunity or the justification, short of enthusiasts, who in another mini-world might be doing lawnmower or hovercraft racing, at places like Donington Park and the local abandoned airfield.

There's a good Youtube channel of a London-based cyclist who uses one, and I think sells them. It's been over a year since any new videos, though.

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chrisonabike | 1 week ago
2 likes

Welcome to the Dark Side*!  It is a very varied church - if a rather tiny one.

Get yours here (other dealers are available), they're going like er... very expensive, niche, custom-made hot cakes with a long waiting list.

There's easier steering if e.g. you've hand, arm or balance issues **.  Efficient all-weather transport, carrying luggage, transporting things for your business.  There's racing, of course, you can race them ... did I mention going fast?

They might be another fuel efficient "car alternative".  Some thought so during the late 70s oil crisis (e.g. this one) but ...

BUT ... cost, availability, even less "one size fits many" than normal bikes.  Oh, and and parts / support (there is a lot more "engineering" than most bikes).  Plus they're really bulky, heavy things.  Good luck locking one to a lamp-post (or anything really) and finding it unmolested on return.  Or even wheeling it into the office and putting it next to your desk.  Stairs?  Lifts?  Narrow corridors with doors and turns?

Finally apparently pretty noisy inside - which I can believe having had a recumbent with a tailbox.  I wasn't even in it but it acted like a resonator for all the chain and pulley rattling / bumps and bangs.

* Still, I'm rather jealous as I've never actually ridden one.

** Of course any trike/quad should do that.  The universe of possibilities opens up - you can easily steer with one hand (joystick, twisting tiller), there are all kinds of 2 hand variations e.g. "tank" style).

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 1 week ago
1 like

I like the idea of recumbents, but they do strike me as less convenient (though much faster) than a traditional safety bicycle. There's also the problem with not feeling safe in traffic.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 week ago
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Can't beat bikes for practicality* [1] [2]!  People keep trying though.  The Sinclair C5 was designed as a cheap car-alternative - albeit nobody other than Clive Sinclair was a believer once they saw or sat in one.

The Leitra was also designed to do this.  Again not tried one - clearly better than a C5 - but it doesn't scream "slicing through the shopping centre traffic".

Bikes are brilliant for being visible AND being able to see things.  You just feel "out in the world" in the way you don't when inside a vehicle.  And it seems that (at least now) for transport people either want "covers significant distances" e.g. speeds above say 50mph OR it's local travel and top speed is not the most important factor for them.

The world isn't designed around recumbents.  One could imagine a world where everyone travels by Leitra - I'm sure it could work (e.g. like the US cities where people get around by golf cart).  It seems that from our current world they don't really answer a question a lot of people are asking though.

I've done the shopping on recumbents a few times, and my current one is reasonably agile and has my head about motorist head height (not "SUV" height).  But yes - all I've tried are less - or much less - nimble in traffic.  No bunnyhopping, a shorter inverted-pendulum for balance etc.  For me it's fun / longer distances in greater comfort.

* Hate to admit it but the e-scooter does strike me as a killer form-factor for single-person transport in terms of minimal space usage, portability when folded (depending on power / battery size) and ease of use / familiarity for users (you're just standing).  Yes, there are definite cons e.g. the small wheels, perhaps less stable, less useful for carrying loads etc.

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 1 week ago
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It does seem that good visibility is key to being popular for commuting in traffic. That would explain why the sit-up-and-beg style commuter bikes are popular amongst the filthy casual commuters.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 week ago
1 like

I think it's also "familiarity" and (bear with me) maybe biomechanics / the affect of body position on how you feel / interpersonal realtions?

I've got a bike set up to be more "upright" (not quite "full Dutch") and I just find it's somehow a more ... pleasant and social experience?  Seems to be something about being physically closer to pedestrian egonomics / biomechanics which means you connect more naturally with the environment and especially other people.

Pehaps the position (not leaning forward / having to bend your neck / look up to see forward) is natural so more relaxing?  And there's "being a pedestrian with superpowers" - you're about a foot taller than normal and you can go at a fast jog with almost no effort.  And indeed you don't always need to pedal.

I find my recumbent position also has advantages of this kind over a moderate normal bike set up.  I'm not connecting with pedestrians so much (I'm lower and obviously doing something abnormal).  But my head / neck position means I'm looking up / out at the world naturally.  Like gliding through the country in an easy chair.  Albeit my head's now bent downward, but it seems to be a more "natural" feeling than bent upward as I would be on even my Dawes Galaxy tourer (which is hardly "slammed"...).  (I've a headrest also but I find I don't always use it.)

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