Mary Arneson's Cab Bike Velomobile
Mary Arneson showed her Cab-Bike velomobile and talked about her trip in it across some of Germany and Holland. [Note that a velomobile is usually defined as a fully or mostly enclosed three or four wheeler for utility rather than racing use. TD] She travelled to Giessen, Germany a month ago, bought three of them for herself, her husband, and her daughter, then transported them by train to a town near Cologne before starting a tour along the Rhine river and through the Dutch tulip fields to Rotterdam, where they were shipped home. They rode about 240 miles in 11 days, going up to 45 miles in a day, and the Cab-Bikes worked quite well (even for her daughter, who is not a very active biker).
They were a little noisy inside the shell, have a large turning radius, and are quite heavy (about 70 pounds), but nonetheless it has became her favorite vehicle and the one she rides the most around town here. She enjoyed the bike scene in Europe, with bike paths nearly everywhere in Germany and Holland, a highly varied bike fleet (including lots of recumbents in Holland), and such novelties as a three-story bikes-only garage taking up a full block near the central train station in Amsterdam! They also went to the Spezi show in Germany, one of the best commercial bike shows in terms of recumbents, trikes, velomobiles, etc. She didn't see as much of the show as she wanted to because they spent some time doing translating for the Greenspeed crew. She did not see other velomobiles on the road, but they are small production vehicles so that is not surprising (she heard that there may be about 1,000 Alleweders, 250 Leitras, and 50 Cab-Bikes - including her three).
Mary then spent some time showing us the details of her Cab-Bike and answering questions. It has full suspension, 14-speed Rohloff hub gears, and an enclosed drive chain. The gearing is biased toward the low end, so she has yet to run out of climbing gears (though the 526% range does run out on fast downhills). The joystick steering works either by twisting the narrow V bars at the end (as a Windcheetah steers) or by leaning the stick from side to side. Braking is with drum brakes on only the front wheels (linked to one lever on the handlebar). It is said that using a rear brake makes it unstable. The rear view mirror is in a streamlined bubble on the roof, and the bell is out in the nose and operated by a string that reaches back to the cockpit. It has a manual windshield wiper that works fairly well, and the ventilation keeps the windshield clear of fogging down to about 5 F. She wants to add turn and brake lights, which are available from the Italian distributor but not from the German factory due to differing legal restrictions on them.
She ordered some custom nylon bags that velcro alongside the rider and are quite handy for snacks, jacket, etc. The seat is a molded piece that she has found to be quite comfortable. It is supposed to accomodate riders from 5'5" to 6'6". It is quite warm inside in cool weather while wearing just light clothing. In hotter weather the windshield slides open and the side windows can be removed from their velcro fastenings and stowed.
The builder has no US distributor due to liability insurance costs, so they had to learn basic German (plus bike terms) in order to go there and deal with a builder who speaks no English.
Liability issues rule out several other potential velomobile options in the US, though David Eggleston will reportedly start selling Alleweder trikes out of an operation in Texas, perhaps by selling them in kit form. They paid about $7,000 each for the Cab-Bikes, though if they get back the German value added tax as they are supposed to that will help a little. Still, you can see why many German owners have rented out the sides of these little attention-getters for advertising signs!
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