What are the advantages/disadvantages between a (possibly electric) velomobile and a regular bike when in daily use?

  • 1
    At this point, it seems your mind is set to buy a velo. I would say to go ahead and get one and commute on it for a month or so and then self-answer on your findings.
    – RoboKaren
    Sep 8 '17 at 0:43

By velomobile you mean something like this, a fully enclosed/faired bicycle, tricycle, or quadricycle:

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Unless your commute is in the heavy rain/snow and you have a fully enclosed velo; or you're commuting more than 100 km on salt flats each way and need the air-resistance efficiency, there are very few advantages to a velomobile and very many disadvantages:


  • Are very heavy/slow going up hills, or starting up from stop lights for that matter

  • Are terrible to park (take too much space)

  • Are terrible to secure (no easy place to put a U-lock)

  • Are terrible at maneuvering (around your workplace's parking lot, for example) because you can't really walk most velos by yourself

  • You're too large to split lanes but also too slow to keep up with traffic so that cars will honk at you when you take up an entire lane.

  • Can't easily be carried up stairs

  • Won't fit on a bike rack, back of a car, or in an elevator. This has implications for mixed mode commuting (bike+bus or train) as well as makes it difficult if you have a major problem at the side of the road and need to transport the velo back home, to work, or to a repair shop.

  • Many enclosed ones can be very hot in the summer

  • Are expensive to buy, fragile, and expensive to fix/maintain (thx Rider_X)

  • And ... are just the right height to get squished by a truck or bus

Now, electric-assist velomobiles do have some advantages, but (as the podride homepage you initially linked to itself notes,) the four wheel version is in a legal gray zone as in some jurisdictions it might be considered an automobile rather than a bike or motorcycle. And if you are in a jurisdiction where the motor is limited to 250 watts, be prepared for a lot of hard work pedaling.

Tl;dr If you want a small electric car, get a small electric car like a neighborhood electric vehicle (USA) or motorized quadricycle (EU) These have license plates and can be driven and parked on local roads without any concerns about legality. They also have headlights, tail lights, turn signals, and other safety equipment.

  • Apologies again: what sparked my question was the PodRide. It looks quite different from other velomobiles. I would prefer the electric option. Sep 6 '17 at 1:49
  • 1
    Another problem is resemblance to a car, so a distracted driver will assume you are a car.
    – Criggie
    Sep 6 '17 at 7:45

Compared to regular bikes?

  • way faster. There's hardly any effort to maintain a speed of 30 km/h for hours. Last weekend I rode 340 km no problem.
  • very comfortable: no sore butt, protected from rain and cold.
  • quite a bit of luggage space (dependent on brand of course)
  • you'll get a lot of positive reactions (and the occasional angry honk)
  • protected. You're inside your helmet.
  • 3 wheels. There's no minimum speed going uphill
  • safe and really fast downhill (relatively of course)

  • Yes, they are larger, so you'll need to have some space to store it. Preferably in a garage, otherwise a parking spot will do quite nicely.

  • I never lock it, because nobody wants to steal it anyway.

  • Maneuvering is hardly ever a problem, only if you want to make a u-turn in a street. But you can always FredFlintstone it
  • the airflow around your head is enough to keep you cool. No problem riding in 35 C degrees
  • low maintainance: the chain is inside. Will last tens of thousands kilometers with just a few drops of lubricant every once in a while

Compared to electrical vehicals:

  • better for your health
  • larger action radius. No limit there
  • environmental friendlier. No electricity needed
  • The question is specifically about commuting. Are you commuting long distances each day? Can you speak to how you park each day at work or at school?
    – RoboKaren
    Sep 6 '17 at 16:40
  • Currently, it takes me 15-20 minutes by bike to get to school. If I could, I would just use my bike and install an electric motor for my daily commute. However, the Canadian winters don't really allow for biking, and although I do have a car I will soon be sharing it with my brother who will most likely be using it much more often. Parking won't be an issue because we have desginated motorcycle spaces at school which will fit most velomobiles just fine. Sep 6 '17 at 20:55
  • 1
    I'd be surprised if a velomobile worked in winter where a rigid mountain bike with studded tires didn't (what I used in midwest US winters).
    – Batman
    Sep 6 '17 at 21:12
  • My commute is 17.5 km one way. I've also had commutes of 35 or even 44 km one way. At the current office there's a free guarded bike park around the corner. At other offices I simply used a parking spot for cars.
    – haayman
    Sep 7 '17 at 18:33
  • Our winters have become really mild here. And if there is snow the bike paths get cleared pretty quickly, so that's almost never a problem for me. If a mountainbike can't handle the snow then a velomobile won't either for sure.
    – haayman
    Sep 7 '17 at 18:37

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