This grown man has bought himself a tricycle (with the blessing of Mrs. CF!) .… what on earth was I thinking? Anyhow, it looks like this (yes, the flames make it go faster ;-):
What is it?
It’s nothing more than a recumbent tricycle/bicycle with cover to reduce air resistance, called a velomobile. The one shown above is a very basic model made of aluminium. As you can imagine, fancier models (see image below) are also available with better aerodynamics and lower weights (e.g. some consist of carbon fibre). Prices range from as low as €1.000 for used older models, to as much as €12.000 for new carbon fibre models with electronic support systems (to help with inclines slopes and get up to speed faster).
How fast are they?
This obviously depends on the model, the rider and the course. But to give you some indications, the model shown above should be able to make speeds up to 40km/h (25mph) possible for short stretches. With average speeds around the 25-30km/h mark depending on the route (personally will aim for 27km/h for now).
The more fancy models with trained riders have been known to be doing speeds of well over 100km/h (65mph) during races. The record is currently set at over 85mph (138km/h)!! That’s insane for a human-powered vehicle.
I can almost hear you think, well, the answer for us is primarily two-fold. And perhaps unsurprisingly consists of:
- Economics; and,
But there were various other considerations as well, all will be reviewed below.
Ok, so here are the numbers:
- Purchase cost: €1500 (pretty good deal, bought it used in Belgium)
- Expected residual value: €1000 (this is conservative as these velomobiles keep their value well)
- Missed opportunity cost: €105 (assuming 7% ROI on purchase price)
- Maintenance: €50 (not sure what yet, but you never know, there is always something)
- Ferry crossing: €0.91 per roundtrip (have to cross a big river to get to work)
First year (worst case) yearly expenses: €655 + ferry costs
- Estimated cost of using the car (excluding road tax and including increased maintenance and partial depreciation, as we would have had the car anyways, even when not using for commuting to work): €0.18/km
- Normal car commute: 84km (roundtrip, bicycle route is significantly shorter due to a ferry crossing at about 54km)
Cost per day traveling to work by car: €15.12
Number of trips needed to break even: 46 trips = exactly one trip per week for the first year (I actually have 6 weeks of paid time off per year = 46 working weeks per year).
Now here is the kicker, I’m being partial compensated for costs of the car. I’m going to get €0.12/km for my normal commute: €10.08/day (this is not taxed!), but this is irrespective of what form of transportation I use. Plus I received a sign-on bonus to further compensate the costs of commuting. This was part of the negotiation for the new job, as I would no longer get a company car.
The compensation works out to also be about €0.12/km after taxes (based on using the car 46 weeks per year, 5 days per week, 84km per day). In short, the compensation (€0.24/km after taxes) already completely covers the operating costs of the car, and potentially a bit more (depends on the amount of maintenance required).
Now, the actual savings are a bit harder to calculate, as it will become a complicated calculation with many variables including depreciation (car and velomobile), maintenance (car and velomobile), number of trips by car/velomobile, etc. Many of which we don’t know at this stage.
But based on our best guess, and an average of 1.5 trips per week with the velomobile, the total “savings” should hoover around the €1700. For the record, this consist of elimination of the car expenses (€0.18/km) + compensation (€0.24/km) = €0.42/km “income”. Subtracted are the various velomobile/ferry expenses. This is quite a bit of money and will motivate me to get my butt legs moving in the tricycle.
Health (and Time Management)
Since Miss CF came along the time available to work out is limited. Trying to squeeze in a workout between work, commuting, household chores, spending time with Miss CF and Mrs. CF, blogging, etc. is difficult. So when replacing my normal (somewhat useless) car commute to work by cycling to work, I kill two birds with one tricycle: better health and optimize use of available time.
Considering the commute is just under 27km one-way, it takes about an hour to get to work (including ferry crossing). Add about 15 min in changing and showering, the total duration is about 1,25 hours per trip or 2,5 hours per day. The normal commute is about 1.5 hours (under normal conditions, one big traffic jam and it can stretch to 1,75-2,0 hours), so the additional time is normally 1 hour. However, as I don’t have to work around rush-hour and traffic/traffic jam restrictions (i.e. not having to get to work before 7:00 and leaving before 16:00 in my case), I can make my day more efficient and the 1 extra hour actually does not have a whole 1 hour impact on the day. But still provides 2 extra hours of workouts (and indirect overall health improvements), now that’s a clear win.
Besides the economical and health reasons, there are a few other considerations that led to the purchase of the velomobile. These were, in no particular order, the following:
- Traffic: no more traffic jams, awesome!!
- Safety: having three wheels makes you a lot more stable on semi wet and slippery roads. Which means I would have more days out of the year that I can use my regular road bicycle to get to work
- Storage space: I can actually take some stuff with me like clean clothes, shoes, food without needed a heavy backpack like I need now on the racing bicycle.
- Speed: a velomobile should go a bit faster on the longer distances than a regular road bike (note “should”, still need to prove this is the case). Despite having more weight to move (a velomobile is about 20-25kg heavier than a road bike), the Cd resistance value is so much lower that overall you can achieve higher average speeds (caveat here is that this applies on stretches that have few traffic lights and/or other area that you need to slow down).
- Weather: I hate cycling in rain and wind, but this should make that a bit more manageable and enjoyable.
- Environment: replacing the trips normally done with the car is obviously a good thing
- Band-Aids: completely in line with a post of a while back. This way of commuting takes effort and makes me, us and the planet a bit better. So it’s worth the extra work.
For those of you whom are interested in further information, you can check out the following websites.
Quick overview of the Alleweder velomobile (one of the most successful production models of any velomobiles to date at about 500 units):
Largest producers in the Netherlands (in Dutch, also includes some model overviews)
For those in the USA and Canada:
How about you, what did or do you do to make your commute more efficient. Is this tricycle something for you too?