First 40 Mile Ride in the WAW

I took off in the WAW this morning and rode my 40 mile route out to Purtis Creek State Park. It was a chilly morning, just perfect for a velomobile ride, and it was a good ride in the WAW. It’s been almost a month since I bought the WAW, and I finally have it rideable. I’ve been very surprised at how much work it’s taken to get it rideable for me. And most surprising to me is the fact that most of the problems I’ve had with it, I haven’t found anything posted about anywhere online. Oh, well. Here is what I had to do to get it working for me.

The first thing I did was to remove the 155mm pedal crank arms the first owner had installed, and replace them with the original 170mm cranks. I never got on board with the short crank fad that’s so popular among recumbent riders. It takes more range of motion in your knee to use longer cranks, so my thinking has always been that using them helps me keep a better range of motion in my knees as I age, and the only way I’ll move to shorter cranks is if I lose enough range of motion that the longer cranks don’t work for me. But a velomobile is different. I knew that I might have problems with the longer cranks in the WAW. I am 5′ 9″ tall (I used to be 5′ 11″ tall before 40+ years of heavy machine shop work pretzeled the shape of my spine enough for me to lose 2 inches of height), but I have long arms and legs, and size 12 feet. I knew that might make it tough to use the longer crank arms, but I decided I wasn’t going to switch back to the 155mm cranks unless I had to. The 170mm cranks are still installed in the WAW.

I knew right away the seat in the WAW was too high, and much too far forward, but I had no idea what a project it would become to get a seat position that worked for me. I had moved the seat back a couple of inches and lowered it before my first ride in the WAW, but I barely got over 3 miles in it before I had to turn around. My shoulders were killing me. My shoulders are bad, from that same 40+ years of heavy machine shop work. I’ve had surgery on my left shoulder, and ruptured my bicep in both arms. Saying my shoulders are bad is probably an understatement.

And the seating position in the WAW, and the position of the tank control sticks put me with my elbows so far behind me that it gave me a great deal of pain in my shoulders, especially my left shoulder, just trying to steer and brake the WAW. I knew I had to get the seat back further and the stick controls further forward. I flipped the seat mounting brackets upside down to get the seat to its furthest back and lowest adjustment. I had to move the pedal bottom bracket back over 4 inches from its original position. I had to remove 7 chain links and cut 3 inches off each of the chain tubes. It still wasn’t nearly enough, so I bent the control sticks forward as far as I could without the brake levers hitting the wheel wells, and did a 30 mile ride on November 9th. It still wasn’t nearly enough.

So, I bought some 3/4″ EMT and used it to fabricate new control sticks. Rather than bend them forward, I used threaded rod to extend the steering linkage enough to pivot the control sticks well over the top of the wheel wells, and moved the brake levers to the back of the control sticks. Using the thumb half of my hands to brake rather than my fingers is taking a little getting used to, but not as much getting used to as the tank steering itself, really.

The cut and bent new control sticks. Note that the one that will end up on the right side is shorter, because it will have a bar end shifter sticking up on the top.

The before.

The after.

This is working. I still need to tweak my seat position a little, but my shoulders don’t feel too bad after a 40 mile ride, so I think the control sticks are keepers.

The seat came with a Ventisit pad. Ventisit pads aren’t padded enough for me. With every Ventisit pad I’ve ever ridden on, I’ve literally gotten bruises on my back. This one was no exception. I knew that with the seat in its current lowest position, I could add some padding and still have plenty of clearance for my knees, so I cut a Walmart camper pad to the shape of the seat, punched some holes in it for ventilation, and installed it under the Ventisit pad. I may end up needing to add more padding yet, but this is much better.

The Walmart camping pad, cut to the shape of the seat, and with holes punched.

Installed on the seat and under the Ventisit pad.

The first time I sat in the WAW, I noticed that the foot holes seemed to be too far forward, much further forward than those in Greg’s Quest. After moving the seat back four inches, that problem was much worse. I couldn’t pedal at all without my heels striking the back of the holes. I ended up taking my jigsaw and cutting the back of the holes to open them up a couple of inches more. I have the cover for the foot holes. I doubt that I’ll ever use it, but if I did, it probably wouldn’t quite cover the holes now. I’d have to add something. I would no doubt have to go back to the 155mm crank arms, too.

And finally, I couldn’t get the Garmin mounting arm to stop pivoting while I rode. I first removed the plastic washers under the locknuts. This worked to keep the mount in place side to side, but not up and down. I’ll be re-installing the plastic washer, then adding a second locknut to act as a jamb nut against the first, to see if that will hold it.

The Garmin mounting arm that won’t hold still. You can also see how much I cut out at the back of the foot holes.

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