A long, long time ago I ordered a Quattrovelo. Then I received this birthday cake celebrating it…
But then I had second thoughts about my ability to get in and out due to my disability and bought a second hand Milan instead. My place on the order list for the Quattrovelo was handed over to chum Detlef who duly received his Quattrovelo.
However, last April when visiting Velomobiel.nl to get Millie and Celeste serviced I had a trial sit in a Quattrovelo again and found it was fine to get in and out of. So, once again, I appeared on the orderlist.
When you have a Milan, why buy a Quattrovelo?
This is a good question! However, I did have my reasons.
Firstly, the negative points about the Milan GT.
- It is very low-slung which means you scrape the bottom on most kerbs.
- It has a very wide turning circle (something like 14 metres) which means lots of cycle tracks are off-limits.
- Storage space for luggage isn’t very easy to access.
- In my Milan the chainline isn’t protected so you end up with an oily left leg most days
- If there is a rear puncture that’s a half hour job and not much fun at all as you have to take off the entire back wheel (this has only happened twice, fortunately)
- The rear gears would be a complete nightmare if I had to replace anything. It doesn’t bear thinking about if something broke such as the gear hanger.
- And, the real biggie for me, it is decidedly unwaterproof, even with the Haube (hood). This meant that if rain was forecasted I tried to avoid using the Milan as I would get a wet backside when getting in and out, wet legs from the rain that channels over the bridge and then my leggings soak it up over my thighs, and even wet feet from the rain coming in the holes for the lights. Also rain on my lap from the Naca duct.
The positive points about the Milan GT are legion, but include:
- Looks fab!
- Very comfortable riding position
- Easy to get in and out – as long as your hips aren’t as wide as mine (the phrase “cork in a bottle” springs to mind)
- Fast, fast, fast. Even for an overweight woman like me, Millie is very fast. With sidewinds she is even faster. I can keep up with Klaus when riding Millie and he is lighter, fitter and male. She evens out the disadvantages I have being female, underpowered and overheavy.
And what can the Quattrovelo offer that the Milan can’t?
- The Quattrovelo is not a direct competitor to the Milan. It’s definitely not as fast but it has many other advantages, the main ones being excellent luggage space, easier access to rear wheels and gear gubbins and it is pretty waterproof.
So anyway, I decided to go back onto the orderlist for the Quattrovelo as I felt that having a second option of velomobile for my regular commute and maybe for touring too would be good. I sold Penelope so there was space in the second garage…
The waiting list is long…
Quattrovelos are relatively new and the waiting list was about 10 months. This gave me plenty of time to choose my colour and other specifications.
I had decided on a green colour and then when visiting Velomobiel.nl we saw a two-tone QV, dark green bottom with cream top, and I decided that would be for me, except not such a dark green. I spent the next six months looking at different car colours until I fixed on British Racing Green as it appears on the BMW Mini.
I also decided for a Schlumpf Mountain Drive as I have in Millie, the standard open cockpit (not the Alienhaube or covering hood as it made me feel a bit claustrophobic).
And then finally:
I received an email with the above photo attached. My Quattrovelo had arrived in Dronten and was being prepared.
So two weeks later Klaus and I set off to Dronten, having borrowed friend Ralf’s Sprinter van so we could transport both velomobiles back (Celeste was going for her annual service), and here I am at my first meeting with Quattrovelo number 74:
When I test rode the Quattrovelo last spring I was 15kg lighter so was a bit worried if I would be able to get in and out of my QV. In worked OK…
Out was a challenge but possible if I opened the rear luggage space so I could put my arm there to brace myself as I lifted out.
Whilst we were at Dronten a couple of friends from Cologne popped in to collect a repaired velomobile and Klaus from Köln took several photos of QV74.
In the photo above you can see a reflection of other velomobiles that were being worked on. And in the picture below, a very elongated Quest!
In the photo above you can see the ‘boot’ is open. This is usually fixed shut by means of a velcro strap. However, I was unable to remove this strap whilst sitting in my seat and, as mentioned above, I needed to open the boot to put my hand behind me to get out.
Allert, Klaus and I discussed this and the best option seemed to be some cord that holds the boot shut but runs through eyelets so I can have the end in the cabin with me. Theo found some random pink and white cord to use, which isn’t exactly a matching colour scheme but does the job! Allert welded a couple of eyelets and fixed them inside the boot:
And then to an area behind my right shoulder to help the cord go round the back of the seat.
This cord was to hold the boot closed when travelling (not to close it, I do that with my hand, but the cord prevents it opening in strong winds).
When the boot is open the cord is loose behind my right shoulder on the rear wheel arch.
On the end of this rope was some sticky velcro which I could affix beside me when the boot is shut and it is an easy job to just unstick it if I want to open the boot. I can reach round and pull it tight and then fix it on the side of the QV to my right.
The system works well and in fact Klaus thinks he might have it on his Quattrovelo which should arrive early next year.
Here are some more of Klaus from Köln’s pictures:
Allert spent quite a long time getting my seat positioned correctly. Initially it was too far forward, I needed it further back as I have long legs. Moving the seat back made it easier to get out in some ways, but then the angle of seat recline had to change so that my shoulders didn’t bump on the sill around the opening and this made it harder again to get out. But I tried several times to get in and out and it worked, although not elegantly.
Once the seat position was decided Allert adjusted the chain length. Klaus and I both rode around the block and all seemed OK so the handover was completed with various other bits and bobs (pump for the tyres, pump for the air shocks for the rear wheel, spare battery etc etc). Then Klaus and I spent half an hour trying to squeeze Celeste and the QV into the Sprinter. It was not easy as the QV is so wide! In the end we had to build up a false floor where the step is for the side door so that Celeste could rest one wheel on that. We managed in the end, but not before poor Klaus had put his back out lifting Celeste.
We drove home (Klaus feeling very uncomfortable with his back) and unloaded the Sprinter before Klaus retired to bed with a hot water bottle at his back and I just put the QV in the garage, it was too late to have another ride.
First impressions of the QV
How it looks
The Quattrovelo looks great! I am extremely pleased with my colour choice and it has lots of different shades in the sunlight.
One of my first jobs was to fix some reflective blue and red tape to the mirrors for my Union Jack theme (after all, I had to Britishfy this velomobile otherwise no-one would know it was mine!). I did this job in the garage in the freezing cold without removing the mirrors so it was rather inexpert but was a start and I planned to do it again properly once I had discovered how well the tape stuck.
Here are a couple of pictures showing the lovely colour of my QV, this time parked outside my office.
How it rides
My first ride with the QV was to join the ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride from the ADFC to Wachtendonk. I had to ride first to Kempen where we were gathering before setting off to Wachtendonk. The ride to Kempen seemed quite slow and also very noisy – the cassette of gears is just behind the rider’s seat and the first three gears are pretty noisy.
I ended up being slightly late because the journey to Kempen had taken longer than expected so they were just setting off as I got there.
Off we headed in quite strong wind and I found it very tough going. The Quattrovelo felt slow, heavy and generally tough. There were times when I found it difficult to catch up with people on upright bikes – and these were people on Dutch bikes cycling in jeans and jumpers!
We stopped at Wachtendonk for tea and cake and then it was time to head back. I adjusted the seat position slightly (more reclined) for the ride back. The side of the Quattrovelo bends in and I found that my right elbow rubbed against the side of the velomobile, I wondered if I would end up with a weal after a long cycle ride, but seat adjustments couldn’t really help this. Losing a lot more weight would help, but that’s not exactly a quick fix!
By the time we got back to Kempen I was worn out and decided not to stay for a cuppa with the other riders but go straight home. I was actually rather disappointed with the Quattrovelo, but assumed I was just having a bad day.
The next day I rode it to work. Again it was hard work and noisy, and my average speed was 16.9 km/h. This was Penelope speed levels – Millie is usually 22-24 for my direct commute. My colleagues asked me how I liked it and I said I was rather disappointed.
I commuted the next day too, very slightly faster at 17.8 km/h. That evening was my choir in Kempen so I decided to ride there. I set off and after 1km the lights went out; the battery was flat and I had forgotten to put a spare in! So I had to ride back in the pitch black, trusting only to street lights and my reflectives on the bike. I ran upstairs to get the battery, completely out of breath because of riding the heavy, slow Quattrovelo. I fitted the new battery and rode to choir – I was late because of all this. My average speed ended up at 18.6 km/h, again Penelope territory rather than a faster velomobile.
When I got home I said to Klaus that I was really fed up. I was finding the Quattrovelo really slow and I didn’t want to go back to Penelope speeds and always be struggling to keep up with people. I didn’t know whether to keep the Quattrovelo – if it were going to be this slow there was no point. Millie was in storage at Ralf’s workshop waiting for her indicators to be fixed – I wanted her back to remind myself what speeds I could do!
Klaus counseled that it was super cold outside (-7 degrees for my commute) and that the velomobile was brand new and had to be run in. He also checked the wheels and noticed that the front right was binding – the brake had not been correctly adjusted. We corrected this in under a minute and then at least that wheel could run freely, although this would have only had a very minor effect. We have heard several tales of velomobiles collected by their new owners showing issues with the preparation – including two quite serious issues, so this is something to watch.
Millie was out of reach and needed new indicators anyway so I kept going with the Quattrovelo (which was always my plan anyway). We were discussing the bike tour we had planned for the middle of March – I said I couldn’t imagine cycling those distances in the Quattrovelo, it would kill me. Our plan was to cycle around the Pfalz region to see some of the almond blossoms but in the end we decided we would spend the week just doing tours from home or staying overnight a couple of times not too far from home, so I could ride as much as felt comfortable. This eased my mind a bit as I was very scared of consecutive 100km days in the Quattrovelo.
The horrendously cold temperatures gradually eased and with it the speeds crept up on the QV. Below is a screenshot of all my commutes which were direct (i.e. not going via the supermarket) so the speeds can be compared. The improvement becomes relatively clear.
Getting in and out, and comfort in the cockpit
I haven’t really got any better at getting in and out of the QV, and in fact my arm has started being a bit painful where I lean on it to hoist myself up, but these sort of things are fairly normal when adjusting to a new velomobile.
The Milan has a cable on the tiller so you can fix the maximum angle that it will hang down; the Quattrovelo doesn’t have this, the tiller can lie on the seat, so this meant for me that the tiller is resting on my belly. For gear changes I have to get my thumb behind the tiller. I found this position less comfortable but could not hold the tiller up with my hands as it was too much effort (as I am using my strong hand to hold up the disabled one). I will see if I can invent something to prevent the tiller from lying fully flat on my belly.
The Quattrovelo is waterproof though and this is a real bonus! It has meant I am happy to ride it to work even in the rain. Yes, you get a wet head (although if I had chosen the Alienhaube I wouldn’t even have that) but you get a bit of a wet head going by car anyway as I have to walk to my car. I am perfectly happy with how warm and dry I stay once in the VM.
A couple more test rides
It was several days before Klaus was able to ride with me because of his back, although he did take the QV out for a quick spin when I returned from choir because he didn’t think it could be that slow. His conclusion after this 15km ride was “it is about the same speed as a Strada” – which is much slower than it should be! We asked friend Jupp/Josef for advice as he had also suffered from a slow Quattrovelo at first and he gave us some ideas of what to do, such as cleaning the chain, oiling the Mountain Drive, checking tyre pressures etc.
Anyway, the following Saturday it was time for us to go for a ride together. I pumped up the tyres to 110psi (8 bar) which is usual for Durano Plus, although I had to lie the Quattrovelo on its side to pump up the tyres as otherwise I couldn’t wiggle the pump head into the right position without all the air leaking out. This is undoubtedly a situation where my technique will improve but was pretty annoying as I had to pump up one tyre 3 times.
Anyway, we set off to Geldern at a gentle pace. We went to the bridge over the A40 motorway and decided to do a roll test. This is where you hold the velomobiles on the brakes and then release the brakes and see which is fastest/goes the furthest.
The rolltest was interesting as Celeste accelerated much faster than the QV but by the end we were at about the same speed and travelled about the same distance. Millie always wins these rolltests by miles so it was yet another sign that the Quattrovelo was definitely in a slower bike league!
Riding along the cycle path the Quattrovelo was rolling better, although there was a mysterious loud noise which I eventually identified as the freehub in the back wheels.
When you roll over gravel or pieces of stick and they jump up into the wheelboxes it can be pretty noisy. I am used to this in Millie with the front wheels but the Quattrovelo has double the opportunity for pinball in the wheelboxes, but this is again something which I will get used to.
We enjoyed the ride to Geldern, taking it at a reasonable pace. We stopped for a cup of tea in Geldern and lots of people inspected our bikes.
I had to pop to the bank after this and Klaus took this pic. A bit of a shame I left the boot open!
We rode home fairly fast again and the average speed for the 50km was a respectable 22.9 km/h. The warmer temperature helped, as did oiling the chain I expect.
The following week I rode the Quattrovelo to work every day and got more used to it and its foibles. The speed was definitely improving so the bike was getting run in, and sometime during this week I decided that I would keep it. I still hadn’t bonded properly with it so hadn’t chosen a name, I was waiting to see what felt right.
The following Saturday we fixed the indicators on Millie at Ralf’s workshop. I had hoped to ride her home but it got too late so she stayed at Ralf’s. Klaus was of the opinion it was better that I didn’t have a chance to ride her as the contrast with the QV would be so strong that I might give up on the QV. I was not blind to the good points of the Quattrovelo though – luggage space, non-oily, very secure rear wheels (although it does some strange shimmies when you go over uneven ground at the back, but it is all very controlled).
The day after the indicator repair we decided to ride with Ralf on a longer tour. We decided to go to Roermond and to meet up with a couple of chums there too. We cycled to Ralf’s first to pick him up and then headed towards Roermond.
After only about 1km a very loud rattle developed in the Quattrovelo and I stopped and rummaged around in the boot in case something was rattling (although it felt like it was actually from the gears). I couldn’t find anything so carried on but stopped almost immediately again – the rattle was still there. Klaus tried the QV but wasn’t sure what I meant. We continued on but after another 500m I stopped as it sounded like I was doing serious damage to something!
Ralf and Klaus took the entire contents of my boot into their velomobiles so I had no luggage at all to rattle. Off we went, and the noise was still there, but I decided now I would have to live with it as we would be late to meet the others if we stopped any more.
After another 3km the noise gradually faded away, coming back a little when I changed gear but then disappearing again, and it was 6km before it had completely gone away. It didn’t come back, but I am none the wiser what it was. Odd.
We then had the lovely swoopy downhill road to Swalmen. Ralf went ahead in his DF, I pedalled as much as I could but the lower gearing meant I ran out of pedal power at 40 km/h. Ralf was a dot in the distance and Klaus was also ahead, but this downhill was fun for me too, although I kept thinking how brilliant it would be in the Milan.
The Quattrovelo’s gearing is lower than the Milan’s. This means I am faster to accelerate from stationary (as Millie’s lowest gear is actually pretty high and needs a lot of power) but I spin out with the Quattrovelo at 40 km/h whereas I can still pedal Millie at 60. But as I am unlikely to reach these speeds in the QV that’s not much of an issue.
We got to Roermond and met up with Oliver and Chris. Chris also has a Quattrovelo and showed us some of the things he has done, including putting acoustic foam around the gears to reduce the noise (I have now ordered some). We had lunch together, a good chat and then it was time to ride home. Chris and Oliver accompanied us for a short distance and then peeled off and the three German residents carried on towards Venlo.
Ralf and Klaus have both commented that the rear lights on the Quattrovelo are very good. I am also relieved to have a brake light; I don’t have one of these with Millie and I think it is a very important safety addition, particularly when riding in velomobile convoys which I do surprisingly regularly!
We crossed the Maas at Beesel/Reuver on the ferry.
We crossed back again at Steyl
Whilst riding through Steyl we took the cycle path which had lots of 90 degree bends. I remarked to Ralf afterwards, “I could never have done this in Millie!” Despite the Quattrovelo also having enclosed wheels, the turning circle is significantly better which is a real help.
In total I rode 101km in the Quattrovelo at an average speed of 21.4 which was an improvement on my earlier speeds (it was also a much warmer day).
Pimp my velomobile
I had been pondering over a name for the Quattrovelo for some time. It looks very like an owl so was working on owl-themed names (see the photo below for the owl similarities) during the long, long wait after my order was placed.
Klaus was keen on Athene as her familiar was an owl but I felt the QV was male. I was leaning towards some old English names for chaps who might have been racing British Racing Green cars in the 20s and 30s, so thought of Montmorency, Humphrey, Quentin… At Christmas I discussed this with my Mum and then we came up with the name Merlin which had an owl link and was a cool name. That was the top of my name choice before I met the Quattrovelo, but I knew I would have to wait until I met my actual one.
For the first two weeks I didn’t bond enough to name it, but then on the way over the hill in Grefrath whilst riding to Ralf’s for our Roermond trip I decided on the name for the Quattrovelo. I suppose it was at that point that I decided I liked it enough to keep and so I started to bond with it. And despite assuming before I collected the Quattrovelo that I would choose Merlin for the name, I actually decided at the end that Humphrey was a better choice. So Humphrey he is!
I had of course decorated the mirrors with a Union Jack (which I have subsequently redone with better quality reflectives) but I also felt it would be good to include my blog address as well, so I had ordered some lettering from eBay as well as a little flag and I fitted them.
Klaus and I rode to Kempen for a talk about Hans Jonas and Josef Goebbels, two sons of Mönchengladbach, and he took some excellent photographs of Humphrey after the event.
Another change I made was actually a rather expensive one. I have used a Garmin Oregon for the last 6-7 years (I am on my second one) and I really like it. On Millie the Oregon mount fits on the top of the tiller and it is therefore in an ideal position to see and also if I need to zoom in on the map or anything.
With the Quattrovelo, the tiller can be stashed behind the Süllrand/opening in a special area and in fact has to be in order for me to get out. However, it is impossible to fit the Oregon mount onto the tiller and still fit it behind the little tiller holder thingie.
Here is the tiller stashed behind the Süllrand:
There is very little clearance, it only just fits, thus the very thick Garmin mount had no chance.
A friend Stefan said he could 3D print me a mount to have on the right hand side front wheel arch and I said this would be great. However he was ill and didn’t have a chance to print it for a while and in the meantime I gaffer taped the Oregon mount to the relevant area and realised it was just too far away for comfortable vision, plus I had to take my eyes off the road to see it. It wasn’t a very satisfactory position.
Klaus has a Garmin Edge 1000 which has a different (very flat) mount and this fits fine on Celeste. He had a spare mount and fitted it to Humphrey so he could use his Edge when he took Humphrey out for a spin,
Here is the tiller with the Edge mount on – as you can see, it is very much flush with the grips.
It became clear to me that the only worthwhile option was to upgrade to an Edge 1000 too. So I ordered it and it arrived and I am very pleased with it so far. I will sell my Oregon as it works brilliantly and is in great condition.
Quattrovelo by sunset
I have to say, the Quattrovelo is a very good looking velomobile. As is the Milan. I pride myself on my choice of attractive velomobiles!
And here I am heading off into the distance (an unusual sight!)
Notice that this is a fairly rough road (a Wirtschaftsweg). The Quattrovelo definitely rolls more comfortably over potholey or cobbled roads compared to Millie.
My conclusions after 2 weeks of Quattrovelo ownership
I am writing this post two weeks after I collected Humphrey and having ridden 350km in him. And these are my main thoughts:
- Very attractive velomobile; as the Germans would say, a real Hingucker
- Good rain protection
- Very well organised cockpit with trays both sides for your possessions (this is part of the structural rigidity of the QV but is also handy, although needs non-slip matting)
- Build quality seems good
- Excellent stability at the rear, corners well and feels safe
- Single-sided axles on all wheels so tyres can be changed without dismounting the wheels
- Huge boot – you can chuck the kitchen sink in there and forget about it (assuming it is a lightweight kitchen sink)
- Excellent lighting
- Very good access to front and rear gubbins if something goes wrong (two footholes at the front and a removable panel underneath, rear gears just covered by a plastic cover – which will have soundproof foam added very soon!)
- Gearing range is suitable for me (with a 75 tooth chainring at the front with a Mountain Drive, at the rear I have an 11 speed cassette)
- Trigger shifter for the gears which works well
- Drum brakes at the front (larger ones, 90mm) seem to stop me perfectly adequately. I do not regret not ordering the optional rear disc brakes
- Schaumdeckel/foam cover keeps you warmer when riding and is also excellent to stop people getting into the velomobile when you leave it parked somewhere
- Relatively heavy for this price level of velomobile (apparently it is 36kg and cost me just under 9000 EUR)
- Lots of noise from the drivetrain just behind the seat
- Also apparently noisy hubs on the back wheels (this may quieten down over time)
- Reports of new Quattrovelos not being completely checked out before going to the customer so there are issues (my binding brake was a very minor version of this)
- Narrows at the waist between the front and back wheels which gives much less arm space inside
- Nothing to hold the tiller up
- Required an additional Garmin purchase by me!
- Strange wind whistling noise around the front visor when the wind is blowing from a certain direction
- Front wheels throw mud on the sides just before the rear wheels. Most photos of Quattrovelos have a dirty section here.
- When sitting in the QV it is not possible for me to get something out of the boot, such as the Schaumdeckel/foam cover or my purse.
There are obviously lots more things I could say but I will need to ride Humphrey a bit more to get a better view. However, after my 2 weeks of riding I felt that Humphrey will be a very good addition to the velomobile stable, but I will not be selling Millie just yet. If we want to have a fast ride on a nice summer’s day without carrying a lot of luggage then Millie would be the better choice. I am very lucky to have such a choice!
Next week Klaus and I are doing some touring as we have a week’s holiday from work so I will get a lot more kilometres under Humphrey’s belt and can give some reports on how I found him as a touring velomobile. Millie was a very pleasant surprise when we toured with her before, but Humphrey is a very different kettle of fish. We shall see!
An update after our tour.
We went on tour when it was minus 3 outside and slightly snowing. This isn’t ideal touring weather, but the three days and 230km gave me a good chance to get more acquainted with the Quattrovelo.
Unfortunately this tour didn’t teach me to love the Quattrovelo more. Its drawbacks (weight and narrow cockpit) become more and more irritating the more you ride. I was exhausted after relatively short rides as I just don’t have the power to propel a very heavy velomobile with a very heavy Helen in it at great speed.
What became more of an issue on the longer day rides was the lack of space for my elbows and arms. They were squashed against my body but at the same time rubbing against the sides of the velomobile. The cold was wicking through to my bones/titanium and the constant rubbing of my right elbow was getting sore. When I got back in the Milan again after the tour it was such a relief to have my arms in a comfortable position supported by the armrests (for which there is no room in the QV for me) and also the tiller being fixed higher so it does not have to be held up by me. Supporting the tiller with my right hand whilst the left (disabled) arm hangs off it leads to a lot of arm pain after a few hours.
The turning circle of the Quattrovelo was useful on the Netherlands cycle routes and the luggage capacity meant it didn’t take long each morning to stow my stuff, but these benefits were vastly outweighed by the fact it was slow and heavy and uncomfortable. It seems that my seat may also have broken (but I have to check this further).
The day after the tour I collected my Milan from Ralf’s where it has been stored for a month. What a fantastic feeling to ride in it again – fast, nimble, not quite as noisy and overall so much more comfortable for the rider. The drawbacks (low front so you scrape, massive turning circle) are not that dramatic and are far outweighed by the positives of speed and comfort.
The Quattrovelo has now been put into my other garage (500 metres away) and I will use the Milan for the next few days. When the rain comes I will swap back to the Quattrovelo, but for a dry day it seems to this rider at least that the Milan is a much better option.