Some time ago, we covered the topic of “Are recumbents any good for commuting?” and today, we will be a bit more specific. I have asked Jan Wijnen to help me prepare a list of reasons why you will like a velomobile for commuting and also a few points why you may skip that idea. Jan is the owner of Velomobile World, the world’s biggest velomobile producer, so he has the experience I need to cover this topic.
Are velomobiles suitable for commuting? The answer is YES!! But with some considerations. While velomobiles can be the optimal choice for commuting in many situations, there are exceptions. At Velomobileworld, they aim to provide transparency and honesty to ensure that when you purchase a velomobile, it aligns with your expectations and brings you satisfaction.
Positive aspects of velomobile commuting
- Aerodynamics: Velomobiles are manufactured with a sleek, streamlined design. This aerodynamic shell minimizes air resistance, allowing the velomobile to move through the air with greater efficiency. This increased efficiency means you can commute faster with the same energy input or cover longer distances in the same time as a regular upright bike. For a more detailed explanation, please watch the video below about aerodynamics.
- Weather Protection: Velomobiles offer excellent protection against the elements during daily commutes. The aerodynamic shell, designed to enhance efficiency, also acts as a barrier against weather conditions such as rain, hail, snow, and sun exposure. Check out another video below demonstrating how the velomobile shields you from the elements.
- Storage Capacity: Velomobiles provide ample storage for commuters, ensuring your belongings stay protected from the weather. This is particularly practical for those who use their velomobiles for daily commuting. Learn more about the storage capacity in a dedicated video hereunder.
- Safety: Velomobiles offer heightened safety compared to standard bicycles. The enclosed body provides physical protection in case of a collision. In addition, the velomobile’s distinctive colored, streamlined shape improves visibility, reducing the risk of accidents. Velomobile World offers options to equip your velomobile with lights, reflectors, and turn signals, further enhancing safety.
- Health Benefits: Riding a Velomobile offers an excellent cardiovascular workout, promoting improved fitness and overall health. Commuting with a velomobile enables individuals to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine, reducing sedentary time and encouraging an active lifestyle. Read more here on Velomobile World website.
- Cost Savings: Using a Velomobile for commuting can lead to significant cost savings. Unlike cars, Velomobiles require no fuel and have minimal maintenance costs. They eliminate expenses related to parking, tolls, and vehicle insurance. Additionally, they are often exempt from various vehicle-related taxes and fees. For a comprehensive breakdown of the costs associated with owning a velomobile, please refer to another video guide.
- Environmental Friendliness: Velomobiles are an eco-friendly transportation choice. They rely solely on human power, producing zero emissions and reducing pollution and carbon footprint. Choosing a velomobile for commuting contributes to sustainable mobility, helping to lessen the environmental impact of transportation. Even if they are equipped with electric assist, the environmental impact is very low compared to any car or motorcycle.
Best commuting scenarios
- Distance: Velomobiles are optimal for distances between 3 to 40 kilometers / 2 to 25 miles one way. If your commute is shorter than 3 kilometers, using a regular upright bike is often easier. Many people store their velomobiles in a small shed, which may take a bit more time to retrieve compared to an upright bicycle. Commuting more than 40 kilometers / 25 miles one way is certainly possible, but it requires sufficient time and energy. Over time, your body will adapt to longer trips, but you need the available time to do so.
- Environment: An ideal scenario is living outside the city and commuting with your Velomobile into the city for work. While riding to the city is feasible, in heavily congested areas, your average speed may decrease, and commute time may increase. Nonetheless, you won’t be stuck in traffic if your city has dedicated cycle lanes without too many traffic lights. Other scenario is commuting between two cities when you spend most of the time on open roads or long, uninterrupted sections of cycle paths.
Some drawbacks of velomobile commuting
- Storage Space: You’ll need a secure space at home and at your workplace to store your velomobile.
- Convincing Your Partner: As velomobiles are not yet a widely used mode of transportation for commuting, convincing your partner may be the greatest challenge to come.
- Learning Curve: Riding a Velomobile requires some adjustment compared to a traditional bicycle. The handling, balance, and braking characteristics may be different, so it may take some time and practice to become accustomed to the unique riding dynamics of a Velomobile.
- Hilly terrain: If your journey to work is very hilly, it can take longer to get to work by velomobile than by road bike or regular recumbent bike. Even though velomobiles today weigh just over 20 kg / 44 lbs, it’s still more than a conventional bike, and going up long hills can be slower. But you don’t lose other benefits such as safety or protection from the weather. Plus, all you need is a small electric motor, and the problem is solved.
On a side note. I myself owned a velomobile for several years and commuted to work with it occasionally. It was 22 km / 14 miles between the two cities. But back then, velomobiles routinely weighed around 35 kg / 75 lbs, and just starting at the many traffic lights in the town I live in added considerably to the overall journey time and spoiled my enjoyment of the ride. Also, because my physique was far from ideal. On the other hand, some of the fast sections of the journey were absolutely exhilarating and I could really enjoy those. Likewise, commuting in the winter when it was freezing was nice and warm because I was enclosed inside a shell that my own body could warm. I eventually sold the velomobile when our daughter was born, and I needed money for all the baby gear, but that’s another story. Today, I’m looking at velomobiles again. They’re much nicer, they’re cool, they’re much lighter, and I believe they would be a nice change for me and the right mode of transportation for my trips to work. Plus, I’m also about to change my residence and many traffic lights will suddenly become just one.