In search of an all-weather bike
I ride my bike whenever I can. For me, it's a means of transportation more than anything else. I ride it to get to university; I ride it to get to work; sometimes I even ride it to get to social events. Cycling is a great way to keep fit, to be environmentally friendly, and to enjoy the (reasonably) fresh air.
But quite often, due to adverse weather, cycling is simply not an option. Plenty of people may disagree with me, but I'm sure that plenty will also agree strongly when I say that riding in heavy rain is no fun at all.
There are all sorts of problems with riding in the rain, some being more serious than others. First, there's the problem of you and your cargo getting wet. This can be avoided easily enough, by putting a waterproof cover on your cargo (be it a backpack, saddle bags, or whatever), and by wearing waterproof gear on your person (or by wearing clothes that you don't mind getting wet). Then there's the problem of skidding and having to ride more carefully, which really you can't do much about (even the big pollution machines, i.e. cars, that we share the road with, are susceptible to this problem). And finally, there's the problem of the bike itself getting wet. In particular, problems arise when devices such as the brakes, the chain, and the derailleur are exposed to the rain. This can be averted somewhat by using fenders, or mudguards, to protect the vital mechanical parts of the bike.
But really, all of these are just little solutions to little problems. None of them comes close to solving the big problem of: how can you make your riding experience totally weatherproof? That's what I'm looking for: one solution that will take care of all my problems; a solution that will protect me, my bag, and almost all of my bike, in one fell swoop. What I need is...
A roof for my bike!
But does such a thing exist? Has anyone ever successfully modified their bike, so that it has a kind of roof and side bits that can protect you from the elements? Surely there's someone else in this world as chicken of the rain as me, but also a little more industrious and DIY-like than me?
The perfect solution, in my opinion, would be a kind of plastic cover, that you could attach to a regular diamond-frame bike, and that would allow you to ride your bike anywhere that you normally would, only with the added benefit of protection from the rain. It would be a big bubble, I guess, sort of like an umbrella for you and your bike. Ideally, it would be made of clear plastic, so that you could see out of it in all directions. And it would be good if the front and side sections (and maybe the back too - and the roof) were flaps that you could unzip or unbutton, to let in a breeze when the weather's bad but not torrential. The 'bubble cover' would have to be not much wider than the handlebars of your bike - otherwise the bike becomes too wide to ride down narrow paths, and the coverage of the bike (i.e. where you can take it) becomes restricted.
If it exists, I thought, then surely it'll be on Google. After all, as the ancient latin saying goes: "In Googlis non est, ergo non est" (translation: "If it's not in Google, it doesn't exist"). So I started to search for words and phrases, things that I hoped would bring me closer to my dream of an all-weather bike.
Playing hard to get
I searched for "all-weather bike". Almost nothing. "Weatherproof bike". Almost nothing. "Bike roof". A whole lot of links to bicycle roof racks for your car. "Bike roof -rack". Yielded a few useless links. "Bike with roof". Barely anything. "Waterproof cover +bicycle". Heaps of links to covers that you can put on your bike, to keep it dry when it's lying in the back yard. But no covers that you can use while you're riding the bike.
I was a bit disappointed, but I wasn't going to give up yet. If my dream contraption was going to play hard to get, then I decided I'd just have to keep searching. "Waterproof cover + while riding". Almost nothing. "Bicycle hood". No better. "Roof on my bike". Hardly anything. "Rain cover bicycle". Same result. "Bike canopy". Worst results yet.
This was getting ridiculous. Surely if there was something out there, I would have found it by now? Could it be true that nobody in the whole world had made such a device, and published it on the web? No, it couldn't be! This is the information age! There are over 6 billion people in the world, and as many as 20% of them (that's over 1.2 billion people) have access to the Internet. What are the odds that not even 1 person in 1.2 billion has done this?
I must be searching for the wrong thing, I thought. I looked back to my last search: "bike canopy". What else has a canopy? I know! A golf buggy! So maybe, I thought, if I search for information about golf buggies / carts, I'll find out what the usual word is for describing roofs on small vehicles. So I searched for golf buggies. And I found one site that described a golf buggy with a roof as an 'enclosed vehicle'. Ooohhh... enclosed, that sounds like a good word!
So I searched for "enclosed bike". A whole lot of links about keeping your bike enclosed in lockers and storage facilities. Fine, then: "enclosed bike -lockers". Got me to an article about commuting to work by bike. Intersting article, but nothing in it about enclosing your bike.
Also, further down in the list of results, was the amazing go-one. This is what a go-one looks like:
Now, if that isn't the coolest bike you've ever seen, I don't know what is! As soon as I saw that picture, I thought: man, I want that bike.
The go-one is actually a tricycle, not a bicycle. Specifically, it's a special kind of trike called a recumbent trike. Recumbents have a big comfy seat that you can sit back and relax in, and you stick your feet out in front of you to pedal. Apparently, they're quite easy to ride once you get used to them, and they can even go faster than regular bikes; but I don't see myself getting used to them in a hurry.
The go-one is also a special kind of trike called a velomobile. Velomobiles are basically regular recumbents, with a solid outer shell whacked on the top of them. Almost all the velomobiles and velomobile makers in the world are in Europe - specifically, in the Netherlands and in Germany. But velomobiles are also beginning to infiltrate into the USA; and there's even a velomobile called the Tri-Sled Sorcerer that's made right here in Australia!
Here's a list of some velomobile sites that I found whilst surfing around:
- IHPVA velomobile page
- Information about velomobiles from the International Human Powered Vehicles Association. This is the body that officially governs velomobile use worldwide. Has many useful links.
- North American Velomobilist website
- Cool pictures of velomobiles, links to home-grown velomobile projects, and even a velomobile mailing list.
- Velomobile USA
- The guys that manufacture velomobiles in the USA. Their marketing slogan is 'pedal yourself healthy'.
- The Velomobile Is Comin' To Town
- Interesting article about velomobiles, with many nice pictures of the more popular European brands.
- BentRider Velomobile guide
- This site is dedicated to recumbents of all types. This article surveys pretty much every velomobile currently available on the commercial market - great if you're looking to get the low-down on all the models. Only bad thing is that half the images are broken.
Velomobiles are the closest thing (and the only thing that comes close at all) to my dream of an enclosed bike. There's no doubt that they shield you from the elements. In fact, most of them have been designed specifically as a replacement for travelling by car. However, there are a few disadvantages that would make them unsuitable for my needs:
- Too heavy: can't just lift them up and carry them over railings, up steps, etc.
- Too wide: only really suitable for roads, not for footpaths (sidewalks), narrow lanes, and even some bike tracks.
- Too expensive: all the currently available velomobiles are really quite expensive. The go-one is one of the pricier ones, with a starting price of 9500 Euro (almost AUD$16,000!), but even the cheaper ones are at least AUD$5,000. Until velomobiles start to come down in price, there's no way that I could afford one.
I've decided to stop searching for my dream enclosed bike - it looks like the velomobile is the closest I'm going to get to finding it. But who knows? Maybe I still haven't looked in the right places. I don't need something like a velomobile, which is pretty much a pedal-powered car. All I'm looking for is a simple waterproof bubble that can be fitted to a regular bike. I still believe that someone out there has made one. It's just a matter of finding him/her.
If any of you know of such a device, please, post a comment to this article letting me know about it. If I actually find one, I might even try it out!