Thursday, 25 October 2012

Random bits and pieces

Impressionistic side by side assessment of the Milan and Fujin

At the weekend,  Dave McCraw & David of Laid Back Bikes visited.  Dave McCraw had done a sequence of pieces on his blog on the building of the Milan & he came round for a try out.  We rode together for a circular route around 10km with me on the Fujin and Dave in the Milan with David on a Nazca Fuego, whilst Dave got used to the handling of the Milan.  He then took it for 2*10km circuits of a local piece of quiet dual carriageway and managed some impressive speeds.  I'll leave the writing of that up to him, however, it is worth reflecting on how the machines compared whilst ridden side by side.
  • The Fujin feels so much faster being open and unfaired with the wind in your face etc.  It is, however, incredibly slow in comparison.  To be fair, the Milan had a far better engine fitted, but then Dave was backing off whilst acclimatising too.  I could easily put 100m into the Milan starting from standing, but this was gained back very quickly once speeds got up.  On the one occasion that I was trying to catch Dave, I'm fairly sure he was soft pedalling, but catching him was amazingly difficult.  This was on a 2% uphill.  Inside, it's not that dramatic (well, it's incredibly loud, but it doesn't feel that fast), but from outside, it looks like it's shifting.
  • The Milan can climb gentle inclines with no bother, as well as short, sharp ones.  Dave dropped me on every hill, despite being in a machine weighing 22kg more.  I would need a long, >5% drag to drop him.
  • The Milan doesn't really compare to a bike at all.  It was fascinating riding the Fujin after having done decent mileage exclusively in the Milan.  One can compare speed versus power input, turning circle and aerodynamics on paper, but they feel like two different types of machines.  They feel more different than an upright and a 'bent do.  Velomobiles are genuinely their own class of vehicle.  I love both, don't get me wrong, but trying to compare the two is simply not possible in terms of the experience they provide.
  • Kudos to David for staying close to the Milan on it's first 10km dual carriageway circuit in order to get photos.  There are some really good shots on his Flickr photostream.
  • David has some video on facebook.  There may be more to follow; watch this space.

 Extra Long Commutes

Coming home from work today, I passed "Road ahead closed" sign at a junction made complex by traffic not being sure whether it was passing or not.  My attention was on the road, so I didn't really process the sign.  Which was a pain.  1km further on, the road was closed (surprisingly!).  Closing 400m of road necessitated a 5km detour over some very lumpy roads including going back 1km on myself (I could have made this shorter, but didn't fancy the huge, fast motorway junction & 500m of road that's treated as a motorway slipway (it was actually motorway until about 18 months ago & folk haven't yet forgotten)).  I had my phone running as a bike computer today (I was running Move! Bike Computer), so have some hard stats.  The gross average was 22.5km/h.  I was stopped for a good 5 or more minutes out of 40.  The net (of stopping) average doesn't really work when there are so many stops (the second half of the first mile is solid traffic & there are more than 20 sets of traffic lights) since the acceleration and deceleration count into the average.  Given that the detour had an extra 90m of climbing and the that home is 60m higher than bike parking, In addition, I was running into a 24km/h headwind for most of the route.  Whilst this has a smaller effect on the VM than on a bike, you can still feel it quite clearly.
What was interesting about the detour was an open downhill and piloting the Milan through a moderate crosswind.  Unfortunately, these occurred at the same point.  64km/h in a crosswind is scary.  Actually, 64km/h is scary to handle the Milan at (it gets super light steering & needs handled really gently), when you throw in a sudden crosswind as the shelter goes for 150m, it requires concentration.  Fortunately, there was no traffic in either direction, so I just had to try to stay vaguely on my side of the road & avoid the kerbs, so it could have been worse.  I might try to avoid another co-occurrence of those two in future until I have worked both out pretty well.
I hate that bit of road in the wind: last time I did it with 30km/h wind on an upright, my maximum safe speed was about 15km/h, so the Milan is better, but I need some time on the flat in cross winds before I try that road again when it's breezy....
The other interesting random fact today was that the winching speed uphill (I don't mean that in a Glasgow/Vale of Leven way...) of the Milan is 10km/h.  Not a bad speed to be able to hold on 5-8% hills in a 30kg machine when out of shape: still a lot faster than walking!

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