Yes, I have done it – I have bought a companion for Penelope.
Yes, companion. I am not planning on selling Penelope in the short term as she fulfils a role that her new stablemate, the Milan, cannot. She is an everyday load-carrying workhorse, the Milan is a speedy long-distance rocket.
This all seems very sudden doesn’t it? But it isn’t, I had been thinking about getting a faster Velomobile for quite a while, and in fact that’s why I had asked to go on the Order List for a QuattroVelo. But when I realised I would have difficulties getting in and out of a QuattroVelo I widened my search for a fast velomobile that I could use despite my arm disability.
As mentioned in the blog post for August 2016, I went to Räderwerk near Hannover to try out a Milan. I will include here what I reported in the other blog post:
A visit to Räderwerk
Having tried out the Milan SL and found it was possible to get out of it without needing a crane, I decided to visit Räderwork (the manufacturer) near Hannover for a test ride.
The fan for the air conditioning on my car decided to stop working so I was extremely lucky that Klaus said he would come with me – which meant we went in his company car (free diesel and, rather more vital at this point, functioning air conditioning).
You can only do a test ride on weekdays so we went on a Friday afternoon when Klaus was able to leave work earlier. It’s a long drive, three hours, to Siedenburg where the test ride would take place and we eventually arrived at about 5pm.
We met Jens with whom I had chatted a few times on the phone and he set the test Milan GT up for my leg length and after a few bits of fiddling about to get it right I set off.
Unfortunately the Tacho wasn’t working and as my Garmin was out of sight on the floor behind my seat I had no idea of what speed I was going, but my impression was not particularly fast. I had to get used to the tiller steering and the very wide turning circle (14 metres instead of Penelope’s 6 metres). But it was good fun and as the lid was missing there was lots of nice fresh air as it was 34 degrees outside.
Jens had told me to head for Asenburg which is about 10km away and I seemed to arrive there a bit sooner than I expected. I turned round and headed back along the same road, this time able to go a bit faster as I knew that all the corners were manageable. The Milan corners like it’s on rails, a totally different feeling to Penelope (who feels like she is teetering on the edge sometimes as she leans into the corners with her very soft suspension). One unfortunate thing was a very loud noise from the rear wheel a lot of the time, pretty distracting; Jens thought it was to do with my pedalling style but I was unsure.
I got back to where Klaus and Jens were waiting and extracted my Garmin – 34.5 km/h average. Wow! My average for the same cycling power level in Penelope is about 22 km/h. That’s a 50% increase in speed!
So then it was time for Klaus to have a go. He was wearing his normal work clothes but had brought his SPD shoes with him so in jeans and a t-shirt he headed off up the road to Asenburg. He appeared back in half an hour – with an average speed of 40 km/h. He can do 35ish in his Strada so the increase in speed for him was not as marked, but it was still faster.
I’m considering whether to order one of these as a companion for Penelope and when I want to do longer rides and faster rides but the Milan isn’t always as easy to live with as Penelope; punctures in the rear tyre are a complete nightmare, the lights are a bit low down for ideal visibility in night riding, water can come in where the flap thing shuts, they can be noisy around the back wheel (the test one was very noisy but it seems there might have been a fault with it), plus there’s at least a six month lead time once you order. But I am sorely tempted and am taking the opportunity to talk to some Milan owners and see what they think about them.
So I bought one?
Following my visit to Räderwerk I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and did indeed talk to some other Milan owners or ex-owners. Their main comment was that the loud noise I had heard from the back wheel whilst doing the test ride is not normal, as that had rather put me off. I send a couple of emails to Jens at Räderwerk asking him to give me a price according to my specification, but hadn’t got much further than that.
And then, last Monday morning, I got two messages at work – one from Klaus and one from TimB from the Velomobilforum – both telling me that someone was selling a Milan GT Carbon which looked good. I looked at the advert – it did indeed look good, pretty much my specification!
So as soon as I got back from work I phoned up the owner, Ludwig, and we agreed I would come and visit the next day after work to try it out. He lives in Ostfriesland so it was a three hour drive for me each way, but I thought it worth getting an early look at the velomobile before someone else pinched it from under my nose.
I managed to negotiate leaving work at midday so I wouldn’t be horrendously late home and set off to Ostfriesland in the car belonging to Gudula (because my air conditioning wasn’t working and it was 34 degrees outside!).
I arrived easily enough and got my first look at the Milan, just a year old…
Everything looked really good. Ludwig is a racer rather than a tourer so it was set up for speed and is very lightweight (about 27.5kg he said). He had initially thought he would need to adjust the boom length for me as he is 1.83 metres tall (I am 1.76) but I have long legs so in fact the boom length was fine.
After a good look at it and a chat I had a test ride with Ludwig following behind in the car – partly to act as my mirrors as there were no rear-view mirrors when the Racecap was removed (I wanted to ride open).
The ride went well, it was about 29km/h for the 12km and this included some less well-surfaced roads. The Milan was very quiet, way way quieter than the test one at Räderwerk, and pretty comfortable except for the sharp bit of something poking into my buttock from the Ventisit on the seat. Ouch!
When we got back Ludwig helped to adjust the seat to give me a more upright position, which I thought would suit my riding style better, and he also fitted the Deckel (lid thingie) which is what I would like to have, rather than the full racecap.
I had a second go riding with the Deckel (and he had also fitted a rear-view mirror) and all went well.
I got in and out four times over the time I was there. It’s not elegant but it is manageable. After my test rides and some conversation with Ludwig I agreed to buy the Milan. Ludwig agreed to change the chainring (65 tooth) for a smaller one for me and to put a small amount of carbon fibre strengthening where I put my hands as I climb out as I have to grab the edge of the cockpit in a place which isn’t as strong.
The deed was done, we shook hands on it and I drove home. The plan was for me to either collect it the next Sunday or the following one.
Collecting the Milan
My plans were such that the first Sunday was available to collect the Milan and Ludwig had time to make all the changes he planned. So rather than putting it on the roof of my car (still without air conditioning!) I hired a van from a local place in Kempen and drove up to Ostfriesland early on the Sunday morning, arriving at 11am for a spot of breakfast with Ludwig and his wife. Their hospitality to me was very generous, especially as I was horribly British and asked to use my English teabags for my tea (shocking, as Ostfriesland is known for its tea!)
He then showed me how to do all the maintenance on the Milan, which includes fixing punctures in the front and back tyres (more complicated as they are hidden within the body of the velomobile). We took the rear wheel off to see how it is done, and put it back again; he recommended I try this a couple of times at home so I am very confident with it, although rear wheel punctures are pretty unusual.
And then it was time to head home with my new toy. Ludwig was very sad to see it go as he had just discovered that his replacement Velomobile is significantly delayed and he will have to wait until February before it arrives. He admitted he had sold his Milan too soon but I have benefited very much from that – he has really set it up excellently and it runs beautifully.
We put the Milan in the van – there was plenty of room.
I drove home, getting stuck in a few traffic jams, but was home by 5pm. Klaus was doing a really long solo ride (he ended up with 213km) and was passing so stopped off to have a look at the Milan – and in fact helped me and Frank get it out of the van and had the first ride in it since I was the official owner. Here is the Milan with Celeste and Penelope.
Over the last few days I have slowly been setting it up for me and my dodgy arm, which involves adjusting the seat angle, tiller position and, most fiddly, the armrest position. The armrests are stuck on the side with velcro but the sticky velcro is not keen on sticking to the carbon fibre, plus sweat loosens the adhesive, so I will probably have to invest in some proper 3M stuff. It is a bit of a fiddly job for me finding a position where my dodgy left arm is comfortable because of scar tissue but I think I am almost there.
Here is the view from the cockpit.
And here are the rides I have done, including on 13 September the test rides in Ostfriesland. As you can see, I am notably faster than in Penelope. I am using Penelope for commuting and the Milan for leisure.
And due to an unfortunate lack of garage space – I already have half of the garage so Frank, Gudula and Lara don’t have much room for their bikes – I am currently storing Alfie folded in my lounge. I am looking for some garage space to rent for him but if I don’t find it I may have to sell him – it depends if I find I am using him at all.
I am slowly building up the miles in the Milan, fiddling with the seat position etc and will do my first ride in the dark this evening (so I will find out how good the lights are!) But so far I am really enjoying the speed, the fast cornering, comfortable ride (surprisingly!) and having something a bit different. I am also considering getting a signwriter to put a Union Jack on the tail…
The name for the Milan
Herein lies the colossal problem.
Penelope is definitely Penelope, and Alfie Alfie.
I decided I would obviously need to find a name for the Milan. Maybe something Italian? Maybe something to do with birds (‘Milan’ is German for Kite, like Red Kite, the raptor). However the big sticking point is what gender the Milan is.
As the person riding it, from inside it is basic and a bit unrefined so more masculine, but almost everyone tells me that from outside it is definitely female because of the curves. My shortlist of names is ‘Millie’ if it’s female or ‘Hector’ if it’s male, but I cannot yet decide the gender. Any comments gratefully received!
Lots of people have now seen the Milan and the overwhelming majority of opinion is that it is female, therefore it is now christened Millie.
I think the comment below from gear7lover says it all!