Rotovelo – Dealing with ergonomics

Cette article est également disponible en français.

Carrying on the adventure and the fine tuning of the most efficient veicule in the world: a velomobile. You may want to read my first posts about the Rotovelo prior to the below.

I remember having read on a forum thread sometime the following statement: The good thing with the ICE tricycle is that you have all this ergonomic feature that allows you to have the perfect fitting that to ride hundreds of miles in the day without so much pain, the bad is that you have all this extra weight that allows the fitting to carry for the remainder of your trike rides. Nothing against ICE though, beautifully built tricycles (that you can convert into a velomobile with the Ocean Cycle Challenger body by the way).

The Rotovelo is not in the battle for the feather weight nor it is regarding the ability to fine tune with ergonomics. The seat is molded into the plastic body and does not allow any fine fitting change. The foam of the Trisled seat is a one piece fitted into the velomobile plastic body with zip clips. The handlebars are well placed, the body of the velomobile means that you can put your hands anywhere without affecting the aerodynamics. The initial position of the hands is comfortable, quite high actually in regard of where they are on the Catrike Speed for example. The inner space of the Rotovelo at the image of the whole tricycle: simple and reliable, it is also colored and very pleasant in look and feel matching the rotomolded body.

My first rides with the Rotovelo were short, 8, 12 and 45 kms respectively. I received my Rotovelo and  quickly noticed the limitation of the seat: Not breathable and hard, even harsh in some aspect. I chose this velomobile also because of this simplicity but I must admit it (also because I have spine / back problems on my record): I did not like the seat of the Rotovelo and I loved the location of the handlebars and relax position of the upper part of the body.

Having a seat pad / position with a proper fitting for my back / spine to have the most enjoyable ride

I tried to gather information and see how I could deal with this. My first stop was on Google and Facebook. I found key information and pictures for the rest of the project. Nancy, first owner of a Rotovelo in North America, posted pictures and and made of lot of changes to her velomobile to address: seat, heat and hardtop (adapting Flevobike top and Ventisit foam among other things). Nanda Holz from Spin Cyclz provided the Ventisit model to use. Ventisit was an obvious choice, well known in the recumbent word, they sell online and being in Europe was even better.

I took the thicker Varna model of about 3 cms to compensate the lack of suspension of the Rotovelo (depending on how you consider steel though). Order is pretty easy and you pay online. Being in Switzerland, I was provided with the seat pad within a week with the lowest shipping rate.

Addressing the comfort is not addressing ergonomic and if the Ventisit foam covered part of the to do list only (breathable and less harsh), it was not ensuring coverage of the ergonomic as such if I was to simply to lay it down into or on the plastic body. I was also seeking a better support of my spine.

Here is how I achieved this:

Remember this old extra foams you get when collecting your new bike or ski helmets? A few years ago you had a lot of them included into the box, I recently bought a new bike helmet and had unfortunately to pay for them… Times change. These foams may have the perfect shape / thickness, they are designed usually for the back of the scull at the top of your neck. The neck being the upper part of your spine, why not converting them into an extra padding to provide the perfect back support? The width was about the size of the Varna pad. Pictures are better than a whole bunch of words, I invite you to check the attached gallery for the procedure I followed. I took my old Giro foams and it was enough to get the shape I was looking for to improve comfort and ensure proper support all along my spine. Using this system also saves you the extra weight of any fitting mechanism or system. I have not tested it on long rides so far but will of course update about the overall outcome of this approach.

This process is only a proposition and is followed at ones own risk and responsibility. It has not the approval from Trisled. I remain open to any comment or suggestion seeking advice and improvement. It has not been tested over long rides and I may update accordingly at a later stage according to my experience.

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  1. Rotovelo – The setup « Frederic's Blog
  2. Rotovelo – trouver ses marques – confort et ergomomie. | Frederic's Blog

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