The velomobile is "the most uncommon animal" in the personal transport kingdom. And it's coming for the U.S. this summer.
If you're road-tripping through the northwestern United States this weekend, don't be alarmed if you see a pack of Europeans flying by in colorful bike pods. The vehicles are velomobiles, a covered recumbent bicycle (or tricycle) optimized for aerodynamics and long-distance travel. Departing from Portland tomorrow, the Roll Over America Tour is bringing velomobiles from coast to coast over the course of a 30-day road trip, hailed as the "world premier of velomobiling."
Apparently velomobiles are popular in Europe already, but the 47 "velomobilists" (or "velonauts") on the trip are eager to showcase their "movement" in the U.S. and promote velomobiles as another alternative to carbon-burning transportation. "Let us share our experience with folks across the Atlantic. They will love it," wrote German tour captain Josef Janning on the tour's website. "And we will have all the fun that comes with an extraordinary adventure." (You can check out a video of his commute below.)
Velomobiles wait to be shipped stateside in Groningen, The Netherlands; Image via Roll Over America
Velomobile enthusiasts claim that the vehicles are faster than traditional road bikes because their smooth shells reduce drag. Other benefits include comfort (you're reclining, after all) more cargo space, protection from the elements, and up to one-third less effort involved. The Roll Over America cyclists will certainly put these qualities to the test, as they cross mountains and plains and cover about 100 miles each day in a hustle to get from Portland to Washington, D.C. We'll have to test-drive one before we can weigh in on the debate.
Top image(cc) by Flickr user Watson House; Bottom images via Flevobike