Last week the DF-XL arrived on Wednesday. I spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday getting the fit close enough to where I could ride the DF in the Conquer the Coast (CTC) ride in Corpus Christi TX.
Even though the fit was not perfect the results of the CTC ride were incredible. You can read the CTC ride report here.
Following are my initial thoughts on the DF velomobile itself.
Ode to the Quest
August 2014 I purchased a very slightly used 4 year old Quest. Even though the Quest was 4 years old the original owner only put about 200 miles on it and then it sat covered in his garage for the next 4 years.
In the last year I put 3,729 miles on the Quest riding it almost exclusively instead of any of my other bents. It is roomy, smooth and very fast.
I’ve had many epic rides and many Strava KOMs.
So my only frame of reference is my existing 4 year old awesome Quest velo (which I will be selling soon).
With this information in mind here are my thoughts on my new DF-XL.
The DF-XL is much smaller than the Quest.
The Quest took me about 2 weeks to get the fit correct before nothing hit or rubbed while peddling.
Here is a picture of scrapes on my knees from hitting the bolts holding the hood opening on.
Now I only had a day and a half to fit the DF so on the Conquer the Coast ride my feet and knees where hitting and rubbing while peddling. Especially towards the end of the ride when I was getting very tired and my peddle stroke became 'less smooth'.
I'm still working out how to address this issue. I believe that if I lose about 20 pounds (which is my goal) my x-seam will shrink enough that my knees will stop hitting the bolts.
I also have bruises all over my shoulders and arms from trying to get out of the DF when all sweaty from riding.
Because of my weight and weak upper body getting out of the DF is very difficult for me. I have to use a yoga block to get out. I have to carry the yoga block in the DF and make sure I can reach it when I am finished with a ride and I am still inside the DF.
This block is 9" x 6" x 4" and very sturdy and light weight. Holding the 9" side I extend my arm out the right side of the DF putting the block on the ground and using the 9" height to allow me to push up off the ground. Because my arm is almost fully extended when I start this mechanism I have the leverage to lift my butt up onto the first hump of the carbon fiber seat. Then I can put my hands on the side of the DF top opening and have enough leverage to lift my fat butt up and out over the lip of the opening.
I still have to perform the very extreme hip rotate maneuver so that I can get one knee clear of the opening so that I can put a foot on the seat. Once the foot is on the seat I can lift my butt up onto the very top of the back hump of the DF. This allows my long legs to now be lifted one at a time such that they can clear the top of the opening.
This sounds very complicated (and it is), but I also had to learn a somewhat simpler technique for the Quest when I first got it (no yoga block required).
The Quest is impervious to even the largest chip-seal roads. With the big f-Lite tires up front and a very thick ventisit seat pad I could hit the roughest roads and not really notice. Of course the turning radius really sucks in the Quest with the f-List tires - but you gotta love the 50 psi front tires where you can change an inner tube without any tools.
With the DF I had to remove the ventisit seat cushion because I needed the extra 1/2 inch x-seam length it gives me for my long legs. Also, the wheel wells for the DF only allow for up to 406-35 tires on the front - so no big 50 psi f-Lites.
The CTC ride was with no seat cushion and Kojak 405-35 tires inflated to 85 psi. There was very bad chip-seal on a few sections of the route and when I rode over them there was just a very small reduction in speed. The other fast diamond frame bikes riding close to me lost a lot speed when hitting the chip-seal and quickly started dropping away behind me.
The carbon fiber seat in the DF is very comfortable and even after the 66.5 mile ride I was still very relaxed and comfortable without any back pains or sores. Rough chip-seal is a non-issue.
The 4 year old fiberglass Quest weighs 85 pounds empty. The DF-XL weighs 50 pounds. The difference is huge and especially noticeable during hill climbs and when lifting the DF into the minivan.
The beginning of the Conquer the Coast ride starts out by climbing over the Harbor Bridge, a 6 percent grade 1/2 mile long. In the low gear of the DF pushing 200 watts at 80 rpm I was averaging a little over 6 mph with a steady heart rate of 150 bpm. I could have kept that up for a very long time.
At that effort the right front of the Quest would be bobbing up and down. The DF was rock solid with no discernible movement from the front. Towards the end of the ride when I was very tired I noticed that under power, and a very non-smooth peddle stroke, the front of the DF would move side-to-side but never up and down.
When putting the DF into the minivan you have to be careful where you grab the DF to pick it up. Although the drive train is very stiff there is no extra body material. If you push in on the DF side in the wrong place it will quickly deform inwards - but just as quickly pop back out once you release pressure. Remember - only pick up the DF by the bottom.
This light weight is now forcing me to rethink everything I carry inside while riding. With the Quest if I though I might someday need a widget on a ride I would throw the widget into the back of the Quest. Plenty of room for everything and since the Quest was already heavy what difference would another pound or two make? I think my Quest actually weighed around 100 pounds when loaded up for a ride. With the DF I’m trying to keep all added weight under 5 pounds total making the actual riding weight of the DF-XL half the riding weight of the Quest.
No more stereo system, no more 56 oz stainless steel beer growler, etc., etc..
The stiff drive train combined with the light weight makes the DF accelerate much faster than the Quest. You are still not going to accelerate with the diamond frame bikes but at least you will catch them sooner.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting much more information on the DF-XL.