A velomobile is the ultimate evolution of the bicycle.
velomobile, velomobiel, velo, or bicycle car is a human-powered vehicle (HPV) enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions. They are similar to recumbent bicycles and tricycles, but with a full fairing (aerodynamic shell). A fairing may be added to a non-faired cycle, or the fairing may be an integral part of the structure, monocoque like that of an airplane.
They are not to be confused with purpose-built for racing or speed records fully fared vehicles with two wheels, generally called streamliners. Streamliners have set many speed and distance records. Though fast in their own right, velomobiles are considered much more streetable machines. Using three or more wheels can have advantages for everyday use, including the ability to stop and start unaided, better stability, cross-wind handling, etc., though there are arguments made that the multiple track machines (three or more wheels) have aerodynamic disadvantages due to the drag of the extra wheels and the surface contact points.In practice though, velomobiles continue to be close to their two-wheel cousins in performance
There are a few velomobile manufacturers; some are home-built. Some models have the operator’s head exposed; some its covered. The typical drive train of a velomobile is not unlike a bicycle or recumbent. It will consist of a front bottom bracket with one or more chainrings, and a rear derailleur. Depending on the configuration of the velomobile there may be any number of idler pulleys, and chaintubes along the drive train to manage and protect the chain. One of the defining characteristics of most velomobiles is that the chain and drivetrain components are protected from weather and the road.
If you really want to know the history — start in 1927
What makes a velomobile so fast?
Aerodynamics. As your speed approaches and exceeds 15 MPH, you are no longer pedaling against rolling resistance or weight, you are pedaling against the air.
Most bicycles punch through the air with brute force, leaving aerodynamic chaos in their wake.
Velomobiles glide through the air like an eagle on the wind, leaving lighter bicycles in their rear-view mirrors.
Rainer Pivit in 1990 did a very scientific analysis on this subject. The graph from his work shows that above a very small speed aerodynamic drag plays more or a role than any other function of bicycle operation. The full translated paper can be found here : here and the original german here: Velomobiles take advantage of this, the original Gold Rush was a simple faired recumbent. A velomobile has a significantly lowered aero profile, typically with a CdA below 1%
Are Velomobiles Safe?
Yes. Velomobiles are quite possibly the safest form of cycling that exists (outside of indoors, and thats debatable)
Velomobiles can hold greater speeds with less energy than conventional bicycles. They are highly visible, and most are equipped with a full complement of headlamps, brake lamps, and turn signals.
Moreover they don’t look like a bicycle .. They are the size of a refrigerator, brightly colored. They “feel” like a car to other drivers. Velomobiles get noticed in traffic, can keep up with traffic, and can communicate with traffic. More importantly velomobiles are typically a monocoque closed shell machine – which is like wearing a bicycle helmet that covers your entire body. Skin to ground contact is limited – if at all during an accident .. and the Carbon Fiber shell protects the rider like a modern day cocoon. Can you get hurt? yes, of course. There’s no magic here, but the amount of physical injury should something terrible happen could be greatly reduced.
Modern Day velomobiles —
Technically advanced, carbon fiber shell pedal vehicles which can be configured in a number of ways .. from sheer racing speed to ample cargo capacity. Enough room to carry ample cargo for a multi-day excursion or just an adorable back seat passenger!