Building a Velomobile
If you have the inclination, building a velomobile can be a fun and rewarding project. A variety of approaches of varying difficulty are possible from buying a commercially available cycle and surrounding it with a full fairing, to designing and building it from the ground up.
Here are a variety of different ideas related to building your own velomobile:
Locating other homebuilders in your area
Several people working together as a group to create a velomobile for each group member could provide mutual motivation and encouragement, and pool ideas and resources . When I first started this website, it began as the Velomobile Homebuilders Network (VHN) Webpage to make it easier for builders to find each other. Although the VHN webpage is no longer maintained, the idea still has merit, and over the years, some groups have gotten together to socialize and build.
Buying a 'Bent and Building a Fairing
Purchasing a commercially available recumbent bike or trike and then building a fairing using the recumbent as a chassis would reduce the amount of time to usability in comparison with designing and building the entire vehicle.
Facebook has several velomobile related groups, including a coroplast velomobile page (some very cool things can be done with coroplast!).
At the North American Velonaut Blog, I’ve put up a number of posts on the coroplast fairing builders that I found to be most impressive.
Building a frame based on one of the commercially available plans or kits (and then enclosing it in a fairing) is an intermediate approach to building your velomobile that offers some advantages over designing and building from scratch.
Over the years, Greenspeed has offered tubesets as a way to acquire a trike and save some money. Going with such a tubeset avoids the difficulty of having to cut, miter and bend the tubing and also circumvents having to anticipate design problems (assuming the kit manufacturer has already addressed these issues). Plans eliminate the need to design the frame the but still require the labor to cut and shape the tubing prior to welding or brazing.
The Alleweder design is a monococque (load bearing shell) velomobile which may still be the most prevalent of all VM's to date. Of the 500 Flevobike Alleweders that were built in the 10+ years that it was offered by that company, somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 of them were homebuilt from kits. The Alleweder is made from pop-riveted aircraft aluminum sheet metal in the same fashion as many airplanes.
At present two versions of the Alleweder are available - the Dutch produced Alligt Alleweder, and the Flevobike Alleweder, for which production has been resumed by the Texas based Velomobile USA. Both versions of alleweder are available from VelomobileUSA. Velomobile USA is now offering an updated version of the Flevobike Alleweder in kit form.
A fellow named Dave Shank, from Buffalo New York built a Velomobile USA FAW+ in the early 2000’s. Although Dave sadly passed away, his Flevobike Alleweder Blog is still up, and shows some build photos, as well as describing some of his experiences with it. I posted a Memorial for Dave Shank that I wrote shortly after he died at the North American Velonaut Blog.
Visit Ethan’s Alleweder page for my own experiences with the Flevobike Alleweder.
Greenspeed offers plans, parts, and tubesets for their proven designs. They offer their tubesets for about $360.00 US. Greenspeed offers a special front fairing attachment extension which fits under the front boom tube.
Blue Sky Design manufactures steering spindles, canopies, body shells etc useful to VM builders
Power On Cycling A supplier of parts
Two wheel recumbent homebuilders Links
Long Wheel Base RWD
It was with much surprise that I learned that Gardner Martin of Easy Racers passed away in late 2004. Gardner has been called the "Godfather of the Recumbent" and did more to advance the cause of human powered vehicles than I could ever hope to. Many people are familiar with his tried and true Toureasy long wheel base design.
I am honored to write that back in 2000, My Wife and I spent a few hours with Gardner at the Easy Racer shop in Freedom California while on our honeymoon. Based on the plans that Gardner had earlier made available to the public and on the websites below, I built several TourEasy clones. Prior to acquiring my Alleweder, I mainly rode my homebuilt Toureasy Clone.
Here is a webpage at Recumbents.com that gives a description of how to build a Toureasy Clone.
A.D. Carson of Glendale WI has a very helpful website that describes how to build variations on the Toureasy Theme. You can view it at: http://www.recycledrecumbent.com/.
Recumbent Trikes as Chassis
Leaning Delta trikes
A leaning delta trike offers an intriguing possibility around which to base a velomobile. This type of trike should allow you to sit higher up, with a narrower track than non-leaning trikes. When locked in trike mode it would provide additional stability to help deal with slippery conditions and would allow coming to a stop without having to put ones feet down.
Aside from the Flevotrike, I am unaware of any commercially produced leaning delta trikes that might be suitable for this purpose.
Homebuilt Tadpole Trikes
A fair number of people have built their own tadpole (2 wheels in front) trikes. A google search should serve to turn up some good online resources. Some plans that have been around include:
Rick Horwitz's Thunderbolt trike plans........Great comprehensive free on-line plans and tadpole trike design info.
Atomic Zombie bike builders community has numerous designs available online, along with an extensive builders gallery and a forum of active builders.
Building a front and/or rear fairing are fun and useful projects that can be accomplished by many homebuilders.
Fairing Design Considerations
This list of practical fairing design considerations came from a thread on the velomobile mailing list and is in no particular order
Easy ingress and egress
Some degree of collision and crash protection - at the very least it shouldn't make things worse!
Improved road presence and visibility to other traffic
versatility/adjustability for different types of weather
Head and tail lights
Rear view mirrors
protection and security of cargo
easy access to cargo
Aerodynamics - improvement in ability to go faster with less effort
Recyclability - probably not an issue for one-offs or small scale
production (composites aren't easily recycled)
Ease of construction
Ventilation to avoid overheating and condensation on windshield
Minimize solar heating (greenhouse effect)
Clear field of vision to front and sides in varied weather conditions
Minimize mechanical and road/fairing vibration noise
Provisions for radio, speakers, mp-3, cdplayer, etc.
If you think of any others please email me.
Partial and Full Fairing Construction
A variety of different materials have been used for fairing construction on a one-off basis, including coroplast, Zotefoam, (and similar, less expensive and more readily available camping mat material), pop riveted aluminum sheets, and fiberglass or carbon fiber composites.
A tailbox can be a good starting point for gaining experience with fairing construction. Tailboxes are incredibly useful, can offer aerodynamic/speed improvement, cargo carrying capacity, and serve as a mounting point for additional lighting/reflective decal.
Completed Homebuilt Velomobiles
There are numerous decisions to be made when designing your velomobile. Some of these decisions can be circumvented by using one of the commercially available kits or sets of plans.
If you choose to completely design and build your velomobile, though, the community of people who have built their own bikes and are willing to share their experience is inspiring! Much can be learned by visiting the web sites of these generous people.