How do you manage to commute about 45km to work every day with a velomobile?
Well, I have to go back in time: in the 90s, I came into contact with recumbents. Right after my exchange year in the USA, my father enrolled us in a recumbent building course in Bremen. There recumbents for personal use where built, so everybody built his own recumbent as far as possible by himself. This started with cutting the tubes to length, milling and soldering the frames, up to spoking and centering the wheels and final assembly of the recumbent.
Fortunately, I had learned MIG/MAG and oxyfuel welding (brazing) in the USA, as well as making my first experiences on a CNC lathe and milling machine. Here in Germany, I then attended a technical high school specializing in metal – i.e. again welding, soldering, milling etc. So I could use the theoretical knowledge directly in practice.
After the recumbent bike (a long-wheel-based recumbent bike, front and rear suspension + damping) was finished and had successfully (as a spectator) taken me to the World Championships in Leicester (England) and back (1500km in about 10 days), I went on to the next course: a recumbent tricycle was developed and built!
Of course I was enrolled again. This time even from the beginning: planning, calculation, first rough drafts and tests etc. I rode the first prototype directly from Bremen to Hambergen (my home at that time) for testing for about 45km. Here and there we made some improvements, but the “Picco” was a successful project right away – and this time some of the trikes were built to order.
My Picco left me with an irreparable frame break after many thousands of km, which I covered mainly to school/work place, but also on bigger tours. My other recumbent bike was stolen from me when we moved in 2017, it still drove perfectly even after almost 20 years!
Now what: for about 20 years I had only ridden recumbents, and now I should buy a “normal” bike? Out of question! It had to be something new, preferably a recumbent bike again, but with three wheels. I had learned to appreciate that very much in all those years. Only riding in the rain had always been a horror for me. Wet from above, wet from below and the dirt from the free spinning wheels in my face.
Through my many tours and as a member of the HPV (human powered vehicles) I knew about velomobiles. Fully faired recumbent tricycles. In Leicester I was allowed to ride in a prototype of Mike Burrows, a fully faired Windcheetah.
That was still on my mind. That’s what it was going to be! Fully faired protected against wind and weather it should go ahead in the future. A car was out of question. From my home to work it was about 18km over cycle paths and along the dike. With a car the distance would not only have been longer, but also would have taken longer because of traffic jams, traffic light stops etc.
The Windcheetah was only available in England at that time. A trip to England would have been nice, but too expensive for me. So I looked around at the German and Dutch manufacturers. First a manufacturer in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, which we could combine with a courtesy visit to the parents-in-law…
But the velomobile we tested there didn’t really appeal to me. It rode well, but my feet were a bit too big, always bumping into the windshield, and I was only allowed to test in an industrial area. The chemistry with the manufacturer was not right somehow, the velomobile didn’t fit 100% – that was not what I was hoping for. But there was still the appointment in the Netherlands and another appointment near Hannover.
On a bright sunny day, we arrived in Siedenburg/Lower Saxony, the production site of the Milan. Jens Buckbesch had already been expecting us and after a short introduction we started right away, traveling the streets around Siedenburg.
What a fun that was! The Milan was running fine, it fitted like a glove and I cycled through the landscape without much effort! After about an hour I knew that I didn’t need the appointment in the Netherlands anymore. I had a little snack with Jens, took a few pictures for the family and then started the way back (unfortunately still without Milan).
It took a little while until I ordered my Milan, and even longer until the delivery. It was a long time you had to wait for a Milan back then. Everything under 12 months waiting time was already record-breaking! Well, until my Milan was “born”, my first child had been born in the meantime. With pram, wife and baby we were allowed to take my second baby from Siedenburg – but still as a kit, which was about 1000€ price difference at that time. As a young father you have to pay attention to the cent.
The construction of the Milan was relatively simple – if you knew how to do it. Here and there I had to pick up the phone again, or send an e-mail with a photo, but finally everything worked out and I could enjoy the Milan even longer, thanks to a changed route – the driving distance had become 4km longer.
At the beginning I was still travelling through the city, but very quickly I found a route “around the city”. When the Milan flies, a few kilometers more or less (almost) don’t matter. Annoying are traffic light stops or traffic jams. At least the latter I can avoid on the bike path, otherwise I feel most comfortable on the road.
With speeds of ±55km/h this is better in most cases, who would expect such a bullet on the bike path? And car drivers tolerate me too, I don’t really stop traffic at that speed.
A change of residence led to the fact that I can now enjoy my Milan every day for about 48km.
Positive side effect: measured by my weight before the Milan I am now 10kg lighter, I save the gym, the car anyway and I met a lot of new people – either on rides or because they asked me about my “rocket” on any possible occasion.