Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Time

Well, I fail as a blogger as usual, but not quite so much as a velomobilist. Since winter never properly fell on South Central NY, I've been able to get out more often. Someone asked the other day how long it takes me to ride to campus. "It depends," I said, "how many people stop to ask me about the velomobile." "Well how about if no one stops you?" "I don't know," I replied. "It's never happened." But today I did make it in without being stopped. Except I forgot to check the time when I left, so it didn't do me any good.

Taking the velo to campus is an interesting endeavor. For one, I go about ten miles out of my way because I'm convinced it's safer to go over the pedestrian bridge than to try the flyover (which is marked for bicycles, but would be mighty harrowing). Secondly, there's so many more people. Especially with this streak of lovely weather--trees are in bloom, we've seen the sun more often than not--students are thronging any open spaces. Oddly, though, I get mostly looks or hoots rather than questions. That surprises me. It's college. Aren't you meant to be inquisitive young people? I'm a friendly looking sort, generally, I think. But many, many people walk by and don't ask anything, though I can tell they're curious from the gawping, shuffling, and many phone photos. Even if I wave or say hi, most shuffle away as if I was panhandling. But hey, I guess that gives me more time to work if I'm hanging out on a bench right next to the velo.

Today I met a couple of people who'd heard of human powered vehicles or at least knew not only about recumbents but about people who race them. Mostly people who know about these things already stare starry-eyed at it, tell me repeatedly it's cool, but don't have as many questions. Still, it can sometimes make the spiel easier. Often, I feel badly that I've had the chain taken up and set the pedals specifically for my frame, because it really limits who I can offer test rides to. Of course, that doesn't stop some people. Among the students who did stop to ask about the velo on Wednesday was a tall, broad guy who insisted he be allowed to climb in and actually did so as I protested. Not cool, guy. Not cool. In the end, he couldn't even get his feet in front of him to sit down and try to operate the pedals, so he climbed back out looking rather smug and I didn't have to chase down and club anyone.

Interestingly, the single most common question is: How much does it cost? Since most people never follow that up with a question about where to acquire one, I wonder whether it's people looking for a status symbol. Man. If only all the people driving giant SUVs so they could look cool decided to invest in velos instead, it would be a much happier place around here. Well. Maybe not for the folks who seem to think my being on the roads is offensive. "SUICIDE!" someone yelled at me the other day.

Granted, it would take us all a little longer to commute. I get stuck at turn lights if there's no car behind me to trigger the weight sensors, and it simply takes longer to pedal somewhere than drive, but you notice more along the way, you get the exercise, and trust me, after a day of work, feeling the wind on your face and burning some calories away helps you burn stress too. We have more clouds and rain in the forecast for the week, but hopefully I'll be out spreading the velo-love more and more as the semester continues.


  1. Hi. I'm glad I found your blog. I think I saw you riding around a few times last year - at least I'm guessing it was you, since there can't be that many blue velomobiles in Binghamton! I was familiar with velomobiles, but only from seeing them online, so it was exciting to see one in real life locally.

    I agree with you about the many merits of biking - especially the simple pleasure of feeling the wind in your face. I like to say that bike commuting reclaims the time you spend in transit from being a chore to being time well spent doing something you enjoy. (And I totally agree that the Washington St bridge is a nicer ride than the 201 - that's hairy.)

    Anyway, keep on riding, and I hope I get a chance to check out your velo in detail sometime.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jim. Any good routes to recommend? Maybe I'll catch you out on the road some time. Cheers!

  3. From the south side/footbridge to campus I usually take Vestal Ave, but some of the parallel side streets (Clifton, Audubon) are nice for a leisurely ride because they have a lot less traffic. When I get to Clubhouse Rd I cut through the apartment complex up above University Plaza and come down Murray Hill to the path onto campus behind the East Gym.

  4. Hi someone linked your blog on so I am idely reading through:

    Hopefully you see this! Traffic lights aren't activated by weight sensors, but magnetic induction coils. They need a certain amount of ferric metal (ie steel etc) over them to activate.

  5. I'm curious to know how the bike stops. I don't think it can be the same braking system on 2 wheeled bikes

    1. You're right. Since the front two wheels aren't on forks, you can't have regular disc brakes. I guess some velo models may have a disc brake on the rear wheel since that one's mounted on a fork more like a regular bike, but the WAW has drum brakes in the front two wheels, rather like a car's brakes.