The past few weeks have been very busy leaving me very little time for any velomobile trip planning, and absolutely no time for actual velomobile riding. After participating in a month-long overseas deployment, then going back on the road for another week-long trip and then flying back to the USA to visit my family and our new home…there’s been a lot of competing priorities! The trip has still been in the back of my mind and I’ve begun to build a mental list of modifications to the Quest which will need to be completed before I leave in late June 2019. Adding to this list is a small amount of equipment I will need to buy for the trip. It seems that traveling with the velomobile should prevent me from overpacking! Storage space will be a concern which I will cover later.
The first big upgrade I need to make the the Quest is to improve the bike’s climbing abilities. A recumbent bicycle has a distinct disadvantage of not allowing the rider to put his or her entire body weight on the pedals as you climb a hill. A velomobile deals with this problem with low gearing and the inherent stability of 3 wheels. On a very steep incline, the Quest may only be moving 3-4 kilometers per hour.
Velomobiles are built for the flats and this is where they shine, but I will need mine to climb some very large hills while also carrying about 15kg of additional gear in the bike. The solution is a lower gear ratio. At the recommendation of Theo from Velomobiel.nl, I chose to replace my rear cassette with a much larger 36-tooth version which is the largest sprocket possible that won’t cause interference on the Quest’s body shell. I replaced the chain at the same time even though the old chain was not near it’s wear-limits. I will clean the old parts in an ultrasonic cleaner and keep for future use.
This was the first time I removed the rear wheel since I bought the velomobile in July 2017. I was initially a little intimidated, but it was a pretty straightforward process after watching the video of Youtube presenter Saukki from Finland who has an identical bike to mine (same color too!). I can’t say enough about his channel. If you are curious about velomobiles (especially the Quest) take a look. The production quality of his videos is quite good.
Thankfully, Velomobiel.nl delivers all velomobiles that they sell with the necessary tools to remove the rear wheel. While I have over 9,000 kms on my bike and I never needed to remove the wheel, I think it will be a good idea to bring these tools along on my trip just in case. Finishing these upgrades now with a few months left before I leave will hopefully work out any bugs or issues I’ll face with the new parts. As part of my preparation, I will work up to 400 kms per week of cycling and I will increase the weight of the bike gradually over the next few weeks to mimic the weight during the trip. With the new cassette installed and the new chain fitted, I went for a 40-km evening ride to test everything out. There aren’t any large hills near my home, but I have plans to use a large 12% grade hill in Valkenburg, Netherlands to train on.
Truthfully, a completely unsupported trip of this distance is quite a challenge. The amount of gear I need to bring along is substantial. Tent, sleeping bag, clothes, shoes, food, cooking items, tools, parts, batteries, water, tire pump, shock pump, spare tires, spare tubes, chain parts, extra cables, bike lock, rain cover, passport & wallet…the list goes on and on. Most people embarking on a long-distance bike trip are going in groups and with upright bikes which may end up having greater storage options because of rear and front fork-mounted baggage. I will need to carry everything inside the carbon walls of the Quest. Unlike an upright bike, I can’t strap on another bag to increase my carrying ability without seriously impacting the aerodynamics. I have to therefore be very deliberate and thoughtful about what I bring along. Volume is my primary concern with weight being a secondary factor. Many smaller bags and pouches will be preferred over large bags.
Surely, not a lot of room to work with. While I am able to store many small items in the tail cone, behind the seat and under my elbows, there is also a good amount of wasted space in the front of the shell near my feet. Forward of the wheel wells there is room to mount some type of bags or storage on either side of where my legs are. With some small brackets I could make this space more useful. I have begun to search the house for any small zipper bags I can scrounge up.
I will also need a way to cover the manhole opening when I’m not riding to keep out the rain and dissuade sticky fingers while I am grocery shopping. Security and safety is a concern and I already have set aside a folding segmented lock which I will bring along.
And that commitment…
The bulk of my household goods are scheduled to be picked up in 5 days to be shipped to the USA…and the velomobile is not going. After that day, there is absolutely no backing out. The excitement of the trip is now met with equal anxiety of the unknown. If I said I wasn’t scared I’d be lying. In times of uncertainty and doubt I try and remember quotes like the following:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain