Second article from the YAB – Your amazing bike – series. This time a WAW velomobile from Dan and his story about purchasing it, selling it and purchasing it back again.

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Owner’s name:
Dan Isbell

Bike model: 
2019 WAW #397 / Rohloff & Doug Davis’s custom rear amber and red blinking lights for added visibility.

Originally Doug had ordered this WAW for his Bicycle Evolution shop in Plano, Texas with a Rohloff Speedhub on the rear wheel paired with a single 52T chainring on the front crankset. Although that simple drivetrain worked well enough for me to get up some pretty good speed out on the roads near where I live, I wanted an even higher highest gear so I could truly enjoy maximum speeds on long downhill descents. What I enjoy most about velomobiling is riding the rollers. When I pedalled this WAW with its single chainring, I found myself spinning out too soon with the 52T chainring. 

I tried several larger chainrings, and of course they solved the problem of spinning out too soon on the descents. Predictably, though, the larger chainrings meant that I was struggling a bit on some of the short but quite steep uphill climbs when negotiating some bridge underpasses on our local bike trails. I never did find the ‘sweet spot’ perfect single chainring tooth count that could give me both optimal high speed pedal powered downhill descents when riding the rollers, and yet still allow me to climb the steepest grades on my local rides without over-straining the drivetrain components.

I owned WAW #397 for about one year from May, 2019 until May of 2020, when I sold it to a fellow ‘Bentrider from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That summer I bought a used Hilgo from a fellow ‘Bentrider in western Florida. I truly liked the easy access to mechanical work in the WAW with its quickly unbolted front and rear shell portions.

It was the Hilgo’s totally removeable shell top section that tempted me to sell my WAW. That velomobile’s mechanical access was wonderful, exactly as it had been described in the promotional advertising I had seen. The Hilgo also had a unique ‘drawer-slider’ custom rear derailleur that intrigued me. I enjoyed several hours of test rides in the Hilgo in spite of the fact that I was never quite able to get the seat and boom combination that would permit me to fit in the cockpit of the Hilgo, so I sold it to a new buyer in South Carolina. 

My plan was to buy a new Quattrovelo Plus that Doug Davis had ordered from with a Rohloff Speedhub gearing. When I learned how much import costs had risen during the COVID year+ due to cutbacks in air travel between Europe and the USA, I dropped my interest in buying a new Quattrovelo Plus and began to look for a used one with a Rohloff speedhub that might already be in the USA.

In the spring of 2021, I got a message from the person in Milwaukee who had bought WAW #397 from me. He said that he owns three velomobiles, and that he hadn’t been riding WAW #397 more than about 300 or 400 miles in the entire year that he owned it. He asked if I might be interested in buying it back from him. Knowing how much I liked working with the WAW’s mechanical accessibility, and how well I liked the fit and finish of the WAW, I decided to take him up on his offer.

After riding it for a few months, I decided that I liked WAW #397 enough to invest in the purchase of the dual crankset, front derailleur, twist grip shifter, cables and housings that would be required to convert it to dual chainring front gearing. Stephane Boving at Katanga put together a package of the parts necessary and shipped them to me, along with detailed directions on how to successfully install them in my WAW.

The conversion to dual 33T and 53T chainrings has been a wonderful upgrade making this velomobile perfectly suited to my gearing range needs. Now I have a lowest low ‘granny’ gear of 14.3 gear inches and a highest high gear of 120.9 gear inches. It truly is the “best of both worlds” for me. I am able to easily climb the steepest grades where I typically ride. I can also blast down steep descents without spinning out, so now I can go out and ride the Iowa hills like the roller coaster in my velomobile.

Other special things: 
The photos I have submitted with this bike focus attention on the two added powerfully blinking lights that give me tremendous visibility to motor vehicle drivers. The WAW’s lighting package that includes turn signal indicator lights front and rear, as well as on the mirror cones on either side also enhances the safety aspect of this velomobile.

Why have you chosen this bike?
For me this WAW velomobile is the culmination of a long process in which I have bought and sold several velomobiles, searching for the one that is the best match for me. 

What do you like most on it? 
Stephane’s improvements over the decade or so that he has been building the WAW’s makes them a joy to ride. The front and rear suspension feels just great. I am always thankful for the easily removeable front and rear shell sections every time I want to access the boom up front, or the rear wheel components. The open wheelwells up front make airing up or changing tires a breeze.This WAW’s Rohloff gearing is something I truly enjoy now that I have made the conversion to dual chainrings up front. The boom has sufficient adjustability when combined with the mounting structure of the carbon fiber seat; the WAW fits me very well even though I am 6/3″ tall and have a 46.5″ x-seam combined with European men’s size 49 cycling sandals.

What´s your favourite route you ride on this bike? 
After I ride for about 5 minutes through our residential neighborhood, I am on a smoothly paved road with only light motor vehicle traffic that has me descending a hill at about 35 mph. After a roundabout at the bottom of that hill, I climb up another hill on the same road to a T-intersection. 

From there I turn due west on a straight smoothly paved ‘farm to market’ road that has an additional wide paved shoulder. This road takes me over a series of roller coaster hills that lead out of town. The motor vehicle traffic on this road is minimal, and I typically don’t use the paved shoulder lane at all, or only rarely.

I can ride this road for about 11 miles past farm fields and pastures, interspersed with farmstead building sites with their homes, barns, sheds, graing storage, and silos. Occaisonally, the road passes over creek bridges, and there groves of trees follow the streams that drain the croplands. 

Most days I will ride this route, and I never tire of its scenic beauty. The fact that it offers me perfect roller coaster hills is a big plus. The hills on this route are not particularly long or steep, but speeds of well over 40 miles an hour are always there, and once I get rolling many of the following uphills are crested at 20 and 30 mph. That is what I call fun!