Monday 18 January 2010

Northern Velomobile Ride

Yesterday was the Noordelijke Velomobieltocht - Northern Velomobile Ride. It was organised by Peter, who lives a few hundred metres from me here in Assen.

We had a bit of snow overnight, and I set off into it with a sparkling clean Mango which I'd washed the day before.

Peter's route took us through just short of 60 km of Drents countryside. It all looked beautiful in the fresh snow which had fallen overnight. We stopped for lunch and there was delicious soup provided when we returned to his home at the end of the day.

You can also see a few more photos on picasaweb.

Other participants also documented the ride.

Peter's experiences as organiser can be read on his blog, Alex took lots of photos and Wilfred's blog post includes a really nice film:

We didn't have such a big group as the Oliebollentocht a few weeks ago, but it was a very pleasant event all the same.

A group of us go on similar rides most weekends.
Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.


WestfieldWanderer said...

Looks like terrific fun.
I want a Mango!
I wonder what sort of reception one would get on British roads?
David, have you a view on the hill climbing performance of a Mango, relative to a conventional bike?

J.. said...


From reading your blog, I understand that you got your new Mango quite recently. I was wondering why you chose the "old" model, the Mango Classic if you will, and not the new Mango+. I assume it was available. Does the new design have any significant downsides or did you think the old one is just better looking?

From what I gather, the only difference is in the body shape (and thus, luggage space), the rest is exactly the same, right?

David Hembrow said...

WestfieldWanderer: It was indeed terrific fun.

As for hill climbing, well it's a fairly heavy machine so it will go up steep hills slower than a lighter machine. It's a good idea to have low gears as well as high if you'll be riding in a hilly area.

Slight inclines are OK. I think you gain more due to aerodynamics on a hill up to 3% than you lose due to weight, and of course you'll have no problems with gaining on the way down the other side.

J: My Mango actually has a slightly overweight and cosmetic second body-shell which was available to me because I work at the ligfietsgarage. Together with my colleagues we built it up outside of work time. That's how I could, in effect, jump the queue to get a Mango. It was a unique opportunity and I know I'm very, very lucky to have the machine.

The classic shape has room for a generous 70 l or so of luggage behind the seat without packing up into the head bulge or reaching back into the awkward space behind the rear wheel. I've taken enough for camping (tent, sleeping back, clothes, food etc.) in the back of a Mango. The Mango+ has room for 130 l, which is an enormous capacity compared with any panniers available for conventional bikes.

Given that either shape takes a lot of luggage, I think many people do make their choice based only on which they prefer the look of.

An advantage of the Mango Classic shape is that it normally has a slightly lower weight vs. the Mango+. It's difficult to quote an exact weight as of course with something hand-built as these machines are, every one is a little bit different from the last.

The lightest Mango produced yet is a Classic which we built just before Christmas which weighed just 30.5 kg ready to go (including lights, battery etc.). However: watch this space...

You can see some photos of my Mango, and others, under construction on this blog or on Wilfred's blog (he borrowed the white test ride Mango yesterday, but has his own on order).

Nick said...

Fascinating, it almost makes me want to try a velomobile. Almost! But I'm an old fashioned sort of person; I can't get over the idea that things you pedal should have two wheels, a diamond-shaped frame and no bodywork. My loss, I'm sure, but there we are. One day, though, I might make a trip up to your part of the world for a closer look at this form of locomotion.

J.. said...


Thanks for your response. I definitively want to take a closer look at the Mango+. I assume you and/or Sinner will be at Cycle Vision this year?

The problem I usually have with recumbents is the seat. I know the Mango was designed for people of 2 meters in lenght and over, so that's not what bothers me. But my upper body is relatively long, so mosts seats a too short. I end up with the top end jammed between my shoulder blades. Not I riding position I would endorse. Strangly enough, the website will tell me exactly what kind of spokes the wheels are fitted with, yet there's nothing there on seating options. Does the Mango take all kinds of seats? If you could fit an XL Alu Challenge SL-seat in there, that'd be wicked.

I'd also like to get your take on the double chain drivetrain, with the hub in the middle. I've read several posts listing it as a disadvantage. I know doesn't use them any more. So, what's the deal? Is it noise, efficiency?

David Hembrow said...

Nick: To be fair such machines are not for everyone, and that's just fine. However, take a test ride if you get a chance. You may find you really like it.

J: Yes, we'll be at Cyclevision. Sorry there aren't any details of the seat on the website. It's a "Sinner seat" that we make in Groningen along with the rest of the bike.

There are two sizes at present, for longer and shorter backs. Hopefully you would find one of them to be comfortable. We also can customize the fit a little with closed cell foam.

The sinner seat isn't the only option. Peter installed a seat from Nazca in his Mango. I think it would almost certainly be possible to fit a Challenge seat, though we would have to try it to know for sure.

Intermediate gearing has both advantages and disadvantages. For most people there are more advantages than disadvantages:

It allows use of a small back wheel, and therefore more luggage space within the same size body, while also using normal sized chainrings at the front. Extra large chainrings often won't work with front derailleurs (or at least work less well).

A 20" wheel with intermediate drive works out lighter in weight than a 26" wheel.

The smaller rear wheel allows the Mango to be more compact than some competitors, making it easier to store and transport.

Having all three wheels the same size also means you don't have to carry two sizes of spare tube and tyre, which again increases weight and eats further into the luggage space.

The intermediate drive also means we can install hub as well as derailleur gearing. 8 speed Shimano Alfine and Rohloff options are popular as is the Dual Drive, combining hub and derailleur.

The overall gearing range of the Mango can be adjusted quickly and easily, independently of everything else, by changing just the size of the chainwheel which pulls the secondary chain. As a result, the Mango can be set up for slower riders in hilly areas, or for fast riders racing on the flat.

It also is where we mount the electric assist in the Mango, keeping the unsuspended weight low compared with putting it in the rear wheel.

What's more, the arrangement makes it easier to fully enclose the chain, which reduces maintenance and increases reliability. Most velomobiles with a single chain don't enclose the chain fully, which greatly reduces reliability. It's OK for a sport bike used only in summer, but personally I'd find this unacceptable on a velomobile for everyday use in all weather.

After Sunday's ride there was no chain cleaning required on the Mango. used a 20" back wheel in the first Quests, which were lighter in weight and had a bigger luggage capacity than the newer Quests. However, they decided the very slightly higher performance potential of the single chain and larger back wheel was worth losing those benefits for. The Quest does still keep the chain fully enclosed.

The noise in my video is mostly from the bike, but the video makes it sound louder than in real life. Quite often, wind noise is the loudest thing you hear as you ride along.

There are many factors determining the noise level within a velomobile, of which the intermediate drive is just one. Different chain idlers make different sounds, for instance.

The product is always being improved. At the moment I'm using a couple of experimental new parts in my Mango which when we're happy with them will make all Mangos even quieter.

If you're making a choice, there are other things which are worth considering too. For example, not all velomobiles have suspension on all three wheels, and without suspension a velomobile is likely to be much noisier. Some are better than others in traffic. For example, how well you can see behind you varies, as does the clearance for going over obstacles on the ground, such as speed bumps.

J.. said...

I'm guessing the try-out Mango is not going to be there at Cycle Vision, right? I'll have to come to Groningen for a test ride.

David Hembrow said...

J: It's too early to say. To be sure of a test ride, please do come up to Groningen. I think it unlikely that there will be a Mango on the try-out track at Cyclevision. However, last year the white try-out Mango was nominally available for people to use when I wasn't racing in it.