Velomobile Maintenance Kit: What You Need To Build And Maintain Your HPV

homebuilt-streamliner-with-fairing-from-coroplast
Homebuilt Streamliner with Coroplast fairing.

What is a HPV? Simply it stands for Human Powered Vehicle. As it relates to bicycles and trikes we’re talking about recumbents. Yet the term can relate to any conveyance that moves by human power alone. To date, a new speed record was set by just such a vehicle at a remote location in Nevada. The fastest land speed record  driven by a human powered recumbent streamliner reached a speed of 89.59 MPH at Battle Mountain, Nevada, in the month of September, 2016.

Go-One Velomobile.

A Velomobile is a fully faired vehicle mounted on a recumbent tricycle frame. The aerodynamic shell surrounding the recumbent allows a great reduction of wind resistance. Current speed records surpass 60 MPH. The difference between a HPV and Streamliner is one wheel.

The Streamliner is essentially a recumbent bike with an aerodynamic shell built around it, while the Velomobile is an enclosed aerodynamic shell built around a tricycle frame. So this page is geared towards those with a HPV, but is just as relative to a Streamliner.

The Velomobile can be a simple construction…
or exotic!
AeroVelo Streamliner. Current land speed record holder with human power 2016.

If you have ordered a Velomobile kit, then you have some work to do with assembly. A basic set of tools for those jobs is about as complicated as it gets. Most people should already have some of these tools in the garage. You can get any tools you lack from Home Depot, Lowes, and just about any store offering tools. These tools will be good for adjustments to the tricycle frame and mechanical parts. A skilled body shop mechanic used to working with the composites that make up the aerodynamic shell are your best bet for any damage that might occur. Below are tools that you should have on hand for minor repairs:

Wrenches

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A good set of wenches, both metric and SAE, are likely to be your best friend for maintenance. You will find yourself using those wrenches just to keep things tightened up. Even though you have many choices a combo set will serve you best for minor repairs and or adjustments.

Spend your money once and get a set both guaranteed and with a strong warranty. Don’t be fooled by imitations, copies, and sets that include many extra gadgets just to look big and useful. Check to see if there is a mixture of SAE or Metric on your bike. You never know and it would be uncommon. Still it depends on the manufacturer. Also look to see what specific sizes are used, to make certain you get a set that fits your needs.

Allen wrenches

Allen wrenches (also called hex keys) come in many different forms and are used to fasten recessed bolts. These are used on the brakes, derailers, seat brackets and other areas of your trike. Some of the best wrenches are the “T” type that are much easier to grip. These are great for work in your garage. Now also consider purchasing a multi-folding tool which is indispensable to keep in the gear carried on your trike.  Constant vibrations from the road will occasionally loosen connections that will require an immediate adjustment. Having the mulit-tool will be a real friend when that happens.

Screwdrivers

You will want a set of both flathead and Phillips screwdrivers to work on your trike. Here again get a recognized, name brand tool such as Stanley, DeWalt, Milwaukee to name a few. Most will have a good number of tips and adapter handles in a set, for the many different screw heads that are not always common.

Hammer

A rubber mallet comes in handy when you want to tap part of your velomobile, for loosening a seat post or removing the pin that holds a crank. You only need a small, light weight hammer or even a plastic mallet should be more than enough to do minor adjustments.

Pliers

Pliers are used to pull cables for brakes and gears. However, you should keep in mind that they shouldn’t be used for cutting cables. If you plan to cut your own cables, then use a wire cutter designed to do that. Never use pliers to loosen or tighten nuts or bolts as they will damage the edges. So wire cutters and needle nose pliers are essential.

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Tire tools

You cannot live without the tire tools. If you ride your velomobile often you will have have a flat tire. So first of all you will need a pump. Go for the pump that matches your valves, which will be  either Presta or Schrader. Some of the more expensive pumps can handle both types of valve. There may be times when you have tubes with each type of valve, so it’s just smart to have the mini pump that can handle either one on your trike. At home it’s just a good idea to have a full size pump to make inflating your tubes easier.

An air compressor will make pumping tires a lot more easier, and there are those small enough with cigarette lighter connections for use with your car. Of course don’t forget you will also need a patch kit. Every bike shop, Walmart and others stores with bicycle gear will have a patch kit, complete with patch, glue, and usually some sort of sandpaper or other material to rough up the rubber around the area to be patched. Creating an area where the tube has been abraised just a little helps create a better seal for the patch. And don’t forget the tire levers for taking the tire and tube off the rim. You can’t patch it without those levers! There are also sealants that can be used for instant seals of a puncture.

Lubricants and degreasers

Finally any adult tricycle owner will need some sort of lubricant and degreaser. Even though these don’t classify as tools, they are quite important for keeping your velomobile in great working order. There are not a lot of moving parts that need lubrication, since bearings for the wheels are usually self-contained and lubrication is unnecessary. About the only items that need lubrication are the chain and gear cogs. Calipers for the brakes and derailleur parts may need some light oil, but that’s about it.

The chassis of your velomobile may require a different sort of maintenance, as there are fewer moving parts. You want to be sure and have on hand cleaner for the windshield, bulbs and batteries for the lights, plus stiff bristle brushes to clean dirt and grime that collects from the road.

These are items for light maintenance, but anything more complicated should be done at your local bike shop. Most owners will eventually be capable of doing more complicated work on their tricycles, but it’s always a good idea to let the pros do it. That way you’ll ride with a great deal more confidence.

A velomobile is an awesome vehicle for short commutes and some of the longer events riding across states, or just those enjoyable Century rides. Keeping yours in good shape, whether homebuilt or factory made, will make those rides the best.