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In 2000 I got a Cyclodyne with a full body through Ebay. I had hoped to use it as a commuter vehicle, but found that there are a number of design issues that I thought needed to be resolved first. It is an amazing piece of engineering, but current velomobiles have taken the state of the art way beyond what it was when my Cyclodyne was built.
I first learned of the Cyclodyne while in Grad School. I was looking through the patent index in the library for patents related to human powered vehicles (not part of my research;-)), when I came across the patent for the Cyclodyne. The inventor, Alan Carpenter, clearly put a large amount of thought into his machine, which is a front wheel drive, front wheel steered, tadpole style recumbent trike. It is fitted with a disk brake that is in line with the front wheel drive mechanism which operates via a differential. According to the patent, it was intended to be a more practical descendant of the Vector fully faired racing trike. The body originally had blinkers, and a head and tail light. So perhaps you can imagine, after having read all this, and then coming upon what was obviously the only chance I was likely to get to obtain one, I just had to go for it! When I got it, the wiring was still attached to the chassis, but was no longer connected to the fairing, and the battery was gone, along with some of the lights. The original seat- a thin fiberglass shell with wooden battens built in was pretty badly damaged, so I replaced it with a seat I had made previously out of electrical conduit.
Here is a picture of me with the new Cyclodyne shortly after we got it back to our place.
This particular machine was built in 1979, and was one of 14 produced before Cyclodynamics ceased production in the mid 80's.
From what I understand, the original owner lived near Boston and wanted to use it to commute in to work at the Boston Globe. He used it 10 or 15 times before giving up. It seems that he was arriving late for work because people (including police) kept stopping him to ask him questions!
The Cyclodyne sat in his garage for about 10 years until a friend of his - the owner of the Fat Dog Bicycle Shop in Mass agreed to trade him a nice mountain bike for it. The bike shop owner intended to use it in parades as an advertising gimmick. When Fat Dog was about to close its doors he decided to put it up for auction on Ebay, which is how it came to be in my posession.
My sister and her boyfriend at the time came up, and she tried it out.
My old Lab, Hal, was very excited by the whole thing and ran alongside as I rode down the driveway (RIP, Hal, you were a good boy!)
In the Summer of 2000, (a half year prior to purchasing my Cyclodyne) while on my honeymoon, I got the chance to try out Brian Wilson's (now Ron's) Cyclodyne in California.
A couple of months ago I finally decided to give the original owner of my Cyclodyne, David Pearson, a call. I'd gotten his phone number from Lou at Fat Dog Pro Shop, the cycle shop from which I bought the machine.
Dave said that he had bought the machine sight unseen for about 4000 dollars after seeing it in an advertisement in a cycling magazine.
The original Cyclodyne ad as seen by Dave circa 1979
He had been cycling in for his 20 mile commute, but had to stop when it got too cold in the Wintertime. The Cyclodyne seemed like it could be the ideal solution, so he decided to go for it.
It was delivered by a freight company to Abington, MA in a huge wooden box. The Cyclodyne is about 9 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet high, and the box allowed about 1.5 additional feet on each side so it was clearly too big for the vehicle Dave and his friend had brought with them. They broke open the box, and he cycled home while his friend drove.
The Cyclodyne was supposed to have been set up for commuting, but although it did have a tail strobe light and left and right blinkers which ran off a 6V battery, it didn't have a head lamp. So Dave rigged one up along with a yellow light for the interior. He said it was disconcerting not being able to see the computer or anything else on the interior of the vehicle at night. He confirmed that he had only used it less than 10 times to commute before he gave up. One of the big problems was that it was too wide, and people refused to pass him, so he was killing himself to go about 35 mph to keep up with traffic. The cars continued to back up and wound up with a long line of cars strung out behind him, kind of like the Pied Piper. He also said that he had been stopped by the police about half of the time he had ridden in. So he ended up riding it without the shell for some time and found it to be much more enjoyable.
I think it is quite interesting that this was actually several years before the Leitra - the oldest currently existing velomobile manufacturer.
More new info:
A couple of days ago I received this very interesting email:
- I noticed your Cyclodyne page and thought I'd let you know that I was part of the Cyclodynamics shop in 1981 and 1982, at which point they went out of business. I worked directly under Alan Carpenter as a R&D technician/production assistant. There were one or two "ecodynes" made at the shop as well- a rear drive variant. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them as I can.
T. Sage Harmos
To this I replied:
Wow, amazing to hear from you! (What do you prefer to be called?)
I had pretty much given up on trying to find someone who could tell me what happened to Cyclodynamics. A few years ago I tried to track down Alan Carpenter, with the little information I was able to come up with as to his whereabouts - no success. I'm mainly interested so that I can add the information to my website, to possibly act as a instruction as to what not to do when trying to make a commercially viable Velomobile.
So what did happen to Cyclodynamics? How did they go under? Is Alan still around? It sounds like Eldredge Smith - I think that is his name - has one of the Ecodynes. He also has a website, although he is calling his machine a Cyclodyne. If you haven't already checked out his website, there is a link to it from my website.
Did you or Alan (or anyone else who worked for Cyclodynamics) try anything similar later on?
It must have been pretty exciting to work there - and tremendously disappointing when the went under...
That is all I can think of for now.
Thanks - it was great to hear from you.
Sage wrote back:
My friends call me Sage. Alan is around, we haven't corresponded in a long time but I just sent him a note and We'll see what happens. Thanks for the heads up on Mr. Smiths Ecodyne, I sent him a note. I helped make his and remember it well. I haven't made an HPV since, but they still catch my interest. There's probably as much money to be made in HPV's as there is in steel guitars! :-) The last project Alan did that I know of was to make a car from scratch using a small block 400cid V8 in an old postal jeep frame.