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ROAM Velomobile tour gets big sendoff from Portland (Photos)

Posted by on July 28th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Just before takeoff, the velomobiles assembled in front of Salmon Street Fountain in downtown Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Leave it to Portland to give a hero’s send-off to a cross-country velomobile tour.

Today about 50 velomobiles assembled at Salmon Street Fountain just before taking off for the Roll Over America Coast to Coast Velomobile Tour. The four week, 5,000 km journey will do wonders for the image and awareness of velomobiles if the huge turnout today is any indication.

Scores of people — from tourists to local bike enthusiasts — gawked at the machines and asked questions of the riders today. At noon, a representative from the Portland Bureau of Transportation read the official proclamation making today Velomobile Day in Portland.

After the gathering at the fountain, the velomobiles rolled out, over the Hawthorne Bridge and down the Springwater Corridor Trail. They’ll take the Gresham Fairview Trail north and then head east through the Gorge to begin their journey.

Check out the photos below for more scenes from the big send-off…

ROAM Velomobile Tour send off-29-28

ROAM Velomobile Tour send off-28-27

ROAM Velomobile Tour send off-32-31

ROAM Velomobile Tour send off-36-35

Good luck ROAMers! Follow their progress on the ROAM website.


NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Alan 1.0 July 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    No vested interest, just a shameless “buy local” plug for “itsavelomobile.com,” fourth photo up from the bottom, built in Cottage Grove, OR. Go Taylor! Best wishes to all the riders, and the ROAM tour as a whole.

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  • Joe July 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    sooo cool glad I was able to make it out to watch..

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  • Ted Buehler July 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm


    Thanks for coming to Portland, Velomobiles, and giving us a taste of the future.

    Rather than flying cars or jetpacks, we should demand Velomobiles as the transportation of the future.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Alan 1.0 July 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      Make mine an e-assist flying velomobile. 😉

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  • Jay July 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    This was definitely the highlight of my day today. Freakin amazing concept and equally amazing performance from basically a recumbent bike with a “kit-car” type of chassis. I really would like to ride one and check it out!!

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    • mi7d1 July 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Jay, I live in SE Portland, you’re welcome anytime to come and check out my velomobile.

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  • 9watts July 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    so inspiring!

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  • Ted Buehler July 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    These run about $10,000 each.

    But what if a manufacturer made a million of them every year? How low would the price go? Certainly under $1000… I’d buy one at that price, and if a city retrofitted infrastructure for velomobiles, I bet you could sell a couple hundred thousand of them.

    They’d work well for quiet suburban cities, with space on the road, commute distances of 5 – 10 miles.

    Portland is a bit jammed right now, you’d have a tough time really gaining much time over a bike or a car — if you rode in the car lanes you’d get stuck in traffic, if you rode in the bike lanes traffic would be going too slow.

    But it’s the future. If we want it.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Alan 1.0 July 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      Nice vision, but remember that stop lights and signs, or stop-and-go or slow traffic, reduce their aerodynamic advantage and emphasize their weight. They need uninterrupted longer distances to take advantage of their forte, and that seems like a big hurdle for many city applications.

      Also, fogging in inclement weather is an issue for full-canopy models. Coatings help, or maybe thermal (double-glazed) canopies, like ski goggles, could become practical at higher production levels.

      BTW, the BlueVelo Quest starts at $8,750 and that’s a high-end, state-of-the-art model, even though there are options which will push it over $10k. The Velocity Velo open cockpit kit is $1500 plus the trike or $3600 for a complete 8-speed.

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      • -J July 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm

        While I think these are kind of neat, I don’t see them as having much practical use in Portland. They have almost none of the benefits of a bike (portability, maneuverability, quickness, cargo capacity, easy storage ), coupled with many of the downsides of cars ( poor visibility, higher weight/inertia) At 80 plus pounds, I would rather have a vehicle that can actually carry some cargo, rather that something that needs support vehicles to carry the luggage. And if I wanted a three wheeled covered vehicle that cost over $5,000 , I would rather have a TWIKE with electric/pedal assist hybrid that can carry two people and cargo.

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        • Shining Raven July 29, 2011 at 2:03 am

          You make some good points. I use a velomobile myself for my daily commute, which is mostly outside the city, and for this it is very useful. But if I go downtown into the city center, I usually take my “normal” bicycle, for pretty much the reasons you state: higher maneuverability, better visibility.

          So a velomobile is not for everybody. But if you live somewhere where it is mostly flat and you do a lot of overland riding in all weather conditions, then it definitely has advantages over an ordinary bike.

          As for the cargo carrying capacity: that is much larger on a velomobile than on a normal bicycle with panniers. The exception are very bulky goods that cannot fit into the shell.

          It was a actually hotly debated in the preparation for the tour (I am not a participant, but I followed the discussion on message boards) whether there should be a support vehicle. As you state, it does not appear so environmentally freindly. In principle, all participants could have carried their own luggage in the velomobiles.

          But with 50 velomobiles (as with a road march of 50 cars) on a journey over 3000 miles, there are bound to be breakdowns, and then it is of course advantageous if there is a support vehicle. So the riders decided there should be one, and then of course it makes sense to take advantage of this and have it carry the luggage as well.

          So it is not strictly necessary, and of course you can carry luggage in a velomobile, even a bit more than on a bike with panniers. When people go on individual trips, of course they take their own luggage and don’t need a car following them around….

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  • matevz July 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I encountered a bunch of these land-yaks on my way downtown today, and I was not impressed with their ‘share the road’ ethic. I’ll just relate the most infuriating instance of bad behavior:
    I was behind a group of them coming off the broadway bridge and there were several pedestrians on the bridge. The guy right in front of me was riding (driving?) too far to the right to safely pass the first pedestrian, but instead of moving over, he honked (yes, he had a horn) twice when he was almost on top of the guy walking, causing him to jump sideways and cling to the bridge railing. Nice.

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    • Ted Buehler July 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      matevz — they’re tourists, many from Europe, so you have to give them a pass at some things.

      It doesn’t bode well for their situational awareness, though. If visiting riders can’t be respectful of other traffic, I can see how they might get themselves in dangerous situations on US highways. It might be slick to cruise down hills at 50 mph, but if they have some middle-America drivers going 70 behind them and not expecting a Velomobile, it could have bad consequences.

      Be cautious, polite and careful out there, Velomobilers…

      Ted Buehler

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    • Shining Raven July 29, 2011 at 2:14 am

      Okay, that was definitely not cool. I guess there is always one… velomobiles should be ridden on the road, if possible.

      For shared-use paths, most velomobiles have a bicycle bell. So if you want to alert pedestrians to your presence on a shared path, you should use that. I never use the horn for this, and I think it is boorish and impolite. The horn is strictly for cars, you want to be able to honk back 😉

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    • q`Tzal July 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      Sorry, none of the large group rides (with “normal” bikes) I’ve seen can be construed as polite or following the rules.
      You get enough people together they will follow whatever lack-of-rule-set that the majority allows. If your non-conformity happens to be that you are fully obeying the rules of the road when everyone else is not don’t expect to be part of the group for long.

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  • Tim G. July 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I own a Quest Velomobile. I love it. My 20 mile commute to work takes 30 minutes by care and 45-50 minutes by velomobile. I get a good 45 min workout, in 15 minutes net time. It is sooo nice to come home from a hard day in the velo. The work stress gets left on the road.

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  • captainkarma July 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    So we’d need a velomobile lane too? Although people might not complain so much about regular bikes if these were taking the lane all the time like they probably should.

    Also, are these fellers camping, hotelling, or is there a contingent of motor homes and RVs following their route?

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    • Lance P. July 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      I asked the same question. “Where is your tent and clothes”? One of the participants said that they are being followed with vans that will be carrying all of there food/clothes/everything 🙁

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      • Alan 1.0 July 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm

        One of the guys on the ROAM ride, John Abbey, has done long-distance, fully-loaded, solo touring in his Quest, and blogged about it on crazyguy.

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      • Shining Raven July 29, 2011 at 2:08 am

        You can carry all that in a velomobile, I’ve done it, and a support vehicle is not necessary.

        There was a long discussion about this among the riders beforehand. The short of it: with 50 bicycles or velomobiles on a 3000 mile trip, there are bound to be breakdowns. Let’s hope it does not happen, but you have to plan for the worst. In order to not loose people or having to wait for hours with the whole group, it’s better to have a support vehicle that can carry a broken down velomobile. Once you have made that decision, it would be stupid not to let the vehicle also carry the luggage…

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      • G.Schoone July 29, 2011 at 2:31 am

        You can put that inside behind the chair , there is over 140 liter of storage in a velomobile.

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    • Shining Raven July 29, 2011 at 2:11 am

      Velomobile riders definitely do not want velomobile lanes. Normal roadways are perfectly fine. And normally most riders I know (and myself) ride this way, taking the lane on the road. Mostly, this works pretty well.

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  • dan July 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Sounds like you can cruise in the 30+ mph range? Sweeeeeet! That sounds amazing, would love to give it a shot. Visibility to traffic does seem like a concern; it probably makes sense to travel in a group.

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  • dwainedibbly July 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Is it just me, or do the two photos of them all in a line at on the path on waterfront park & on the bridge look just a little comical? Not poking fun, just pointing out that those shots make me want to giggle like a kid just a little bit.

    Good luck to everyone! Have a safe trip!

    Large scale use? We can’t even get people on regular bikes in large numbers in more than a few places in this country. Then you have to make the jump to recumbents, then you have to make another jump to full bodywork. Maybe in an alternate universe. Mrs Dibbly wants hers to be purple, please.

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    • G.Schoone July 29, 2011 at 2:30 am

      Its Possible , you can get your velo in any color.

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  • captainkarma July 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Not that I agree with this, but one day they will start putting 49 cc motors in them, register as mopeds, and take over the world. I could possibly abide with that if they used tiny 4 stroke motors with emission controls to efficiently charge an electrical propulsion system like hybrids. Regenerative braking, throw in some solar cells, why not.

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  • jim July 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I remember when I used to have a pedal car, sigh, those were the days

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  • Mary July 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    They aren’t practical everywhere, but they’re terrific in the Low Countries, where high winds and frequent rains make make long commutes unpleasant, and parallel bike routes give cyclists an advantage over the gridlocked cars. Velomobiles cut through headwinds and can sail at high speed on a crosswind.

    We’ve had ours for more than 8 years now in Minneapolis. We love riding them in a good downpour, and we like going shopping with a “bike” that can carry 60 pounds of groceries. It’s true that they aren’t great for stop-and-go traffic, and they can be hard to park. We — and most European velomobile owners — ride something else when those drawbacks are an issue.

    European velomobilists generally tour self-supported. One or two dozen Dutch velomobiles make an annual trip to a rally just north of Frankfurt. The ROAM group is using a few support vehicles because they are traveling far from bike shops, grocery stores, and other amenities, maintaining a brutal pace, and leaving no time for on-the-road repairs. If something goes wrong, they need to be able to pick up the rider and machine and get them to a safe place.

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  • bikesalot July 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    It was great riding with them to Lewis & Clark SP. I knew when they hit the open road I would be toast, speed-wise, so we parted company and I return to the office grind tomorrow. ;-{ Even so, I will be interested to see how their very ambitious daily mileage goal works out over the long haul…..

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  • NEIL July 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for the pics J.M.
    Hey everyone there are at least two(2) local Velo’s
    These Velos may be designed for a specific set of climate specifications, our challenge is now that we have seen it done thir way-Lets show them a Portland
    Style/Design Velo, (one that works for us)!
    I am so excited!!!!!

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  • 9watts July 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I’m not sure where we might be able to follow the group’s progress, but thought some of you might enjoy this report from a friend of mine:

    “We had that group come thru the columbia river gorge yesterday I work for Odot and we had to do a rolling road block on I84 and shepard them thru the Bonneville tunnel.we had traffic backed up for a coupla miles behind them.They camped at Cascade locks last night and I saw the whole herd pass thru Hood River at 9:00 AM this morning. They plan on averaging 150 miles a day .To qualify to ride in the group you must be able to maintain 20 mph for 10 hours a day. Nice people.”

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  • mi7d1 July 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I’m not sure where we might be able to follow the group’s progress, but thought some of you might enjoy this report from a friend of mine:
    “We had that group come thru the columbia river gorge yesterday I work for Odot and we had to do a rolling road block on I84 and shepard them thru the Bonneville tunnel.we had traffic backed up for a coupla miles behind them.They camped at Cascade locks last night and I saw the whole herd pass thru Hood River at 9:00 AM this morning. They plan on averaging 150 miles a day .To qualify to ride in the group you must be able to maintain 20 mph for 10 hours a day. Nice people.”

    “The Journey” page has links to each days route. On the home page is a Twitter feed link from the group leader.

    The “Blogs” page has links to the riders blogs. Not everyone has a blog or is updating it frequently.

    Doing aTwitter search #ROAM2011 will provide all the twitter post being made by the riders.

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  • Jeff Wills August 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Update: they’re in Montana! The OHPV gang has supported them this far, now they get to zoom across the Great Plains. Updates from the road are on the OHPV forum: http://www.ohpv.org/forums/index.php?board=12.0

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  • Ted Buehler August 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Bluffton OH today.

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  • Jay August 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I love the look of these little machines, too bad I missed the event. I’m going to look into velo’s more and hopefully ride in one

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