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21 Sep 2015, 09:00

DFXL - First Impressions

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.

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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.

Tiny

The DF-XL is much smaller than the Quest.

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The Quest took me about 2 weeks to get the fit correct before nothing hit or rubbed while peddling.


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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).


Smooth Ride

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 12 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.


Light Weight

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 12 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.

19 Sep 2015, 15:38

DFXL - Conquer the Coast Ride Report

For the second time Robyn and I did Conquer the Coast - a ride starting in Corpus Christi with the 65 mile route circling around the Corpus Christi Bay.

The weather cooperated this year and scenery was beautiful.

Robyn and I were quite the attention getters with the following picture being taken at the start by the local newspaper and then appearing the next day in the Sunday morning newspaper.

Outside of a couple of loops around the neighborhood to get the fit correct this would be my first significant ride in the new DF-XL.

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The Start

Just seconds before the ride started I snapped this picture while setting in the DF-XL.

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The ride started in waves. First they let out a the fastest group of about 20 riders who were planning on averaging about 22 mph for the ride.

They waited 5 minutes and then let out the first wave of 65 mile route riders who where trying to average 20 mph for the ride. There were probably over 100 riders in this group. I started in the middle of this second group.

They waited another five minutes and then let out the third wave of 65 mile riders. In all there were 1,000 riders on the 65 mile route.


The Big Hill (Harbor Bridge)

Immediately after the ride starts you have to climb the Harbor Bridge. This is a 6 percent grade for about 12 mile.

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The DF was pretty easy to get up the hill. The velo only weighs 50 pounds and the drive train is very stiff. I put out 200 to 215 watts all the way up averaging around 8 mph on the 6 percent grade. Still I was almost the last one to the top out of the first two groups and many people in the third group also passed me.


Race To The Ferry

Cresting the bridge the DF zoomed right up to 38 mph and would have keep accelerating except I got scared and started riding the brakes. This was my first ride on the velo and I didn’t want to test the maximum speed possible right away.

After the Harbor bridge the ride was flat, flat, flat. I held the watts at 163 and the heart rate at 153 steady and just started passing people left and right. I was a little concerned whether I could hold this effort for the whole 65 miles but I knew I would get at least a 20 minute rest break while waiting to cross the ferry to Port Aransas.

The 163 watts effort was putting me at about 28 mph and I was really making up for lost time climbing the Harbor bridge.

Right around the 10 mile mark I pass the lead pace line of what I thought was the first group. There was nobody else in front for as far as I could see. I kept the effort up because I wanted to be first to the bridge.

Slowly I started catching single riders who where going pretty fast, but not 28 mph. After several of these riders I slowly came upon what I knew now to be the very first fast riders who started 5 minutes before me. There were about 10 of them in a very professional pace line rotating out about every 20 seconds just like clockwork.

I paced them for a little while to catch my breath and then I put forth a pretty good burst of energy to pass them and start pulling away. After I got about 50 yards out I think they slowed down a little because I seemed to be pulling away quicker without any more effort. Needless to say when I saw them dropping away in the rear view mirror I let up a little bit on the effort myself.

I missed the right hand turn to the ferry because the sheriff was standing in front of it and nobody waved me to turn. I notice the guys behind be turn in my rear view mirror, and knowing they probably weren’t stopping at the rest stop there, I immediately u-turned went back to the corner and asked the sheriff which way the route went. Now I went from first to about twentieth and just tried to maintain my position the next five miles to the ferry.

When I got the ferry there were about twenty people in front of me. Probably another 80 riders arrived before we got on the ferry to cross just before 9 am.

The ride started at 7:30 am and I think I averaged 22 mph on the 28 mile route to the ferry.

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The Data

Shows averaging 22 mph for the first 28 miles to the ferry.

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Down Mustang Island

Of course, once off the ferry everyone hops on their bike and with extreme side-to-side in-your-face motion proceed to leave me in their dust.

Once we got to the other side of Port Aransas and start heading down Mustang Island I start reeling them in. Onesies, twosies at first. Then a big ol’ pace line. The pace sped up to match my pace but started drifting back.

They were rotating out of the front and about every fifth position this one strong rider would come to the front and they would start catching me pretty fast. As soon as the strong guy rotated out I would put more distance between me and them. After a couple of miles of this they gave up and let me go.

Towards the bottom of Mustang Island I really starting to wear out. About mile 45 I decided to start riding a little easier. Even though I’m pretty wore out the DF is still cruising at 19 to 20 mph back up the coast towards Corpus Christi.


The Finish

Three hours and 42 minutes elapsed time I finish the 66.5 mile route. The ferry wait and crossing was 18 minutes so my actual ride time was 3 hours and 24 minutes. I did not stop at any rest stops.

Crossing the finish line one of the vendors really wanted his picture (with advertisement) taken with the velo.

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What about the DF vs. Quest?

There were 1,000 riders doing the 65 mile route. I probably came in the top 30 finishers. The DF is a cruising machine.

I’ll post later this week about DF teething pains and a comparison between the DF and the Quest.

The Quest is an awesome machine and previously the fastest of all my recumbents.

The DF is definitely a keeper and the Quest is going up for sale (along with a few other of my bents).


Strava:

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Garmin:

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16 Sep 2015, 14:37

DFXL - How to attach the seat?

So the DF-XL arrived today.

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The seat came NOT installed.

Looks like I should:

  • Measure my top of shoulders to bottom of butt distance.
  • Adjust the coat hanger height to approximate the distance just measured plus one inch.
  • Adjust the coat hanger height until the top of my shoulders no longer hit the bottom lip of the cockpit opening while sitting in the seat.
  • Now remove the front wheels.
  • Raise the front of the seat to position the middle of the seat side to be in line with the pre-drilled hole in the wheel well.
  • Using a drill bit the same size as the hole already in the wheel well drill a matching hole in the seat.
  • Do the same for the other side of the seat
  • Attach the seat using the supplied hardware oriented as shown in the first picture.
  • Put the wheels back on.
  • Sit in the seat and adjust the peddles for the correct length.
  • Add or remove chain as necessary.

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16 Sep 2015, 01:13

DFXL - Unboxing

Well, the DF-XL arrived today.

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Opening the top I’m pretty sure the pallet and box weighs more than the DF-XL.

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There probably are easier ways to open the box but just slicing down the corners worked pretty good.

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The DF was fastened down to the pallet pretty good.

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Inside the kayak cover were the two front wheels.

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The carbon wheel covers are a work of art. Although the wheels look like they could be swapped from one side to the other, only one wheel has the magnet attached that lines up with the speed sensor on the left side strut.

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Now for all the various adjustments to get the fit correct.

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