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Interview with Leo Visscher and Dietrich Lohmeyer

Published on 27 January 2012 14:37, edited on 27 January 2012 16:55 (1851 times viewed) 0Comments

BentBlog interviewed Leo Visscher of Alligt and Dietrich Lohmeyer of Akkurad

BentBlog: Leo, with your company Alligt, you are producing all kinds of parts for recumbent bikes. Your most famous product surely is the Alleweder. How did it come that you took over the production of this velomobile from Nico Pluimers (who himself had taken it over from ist inventor Bart Verhees together with Lohmeyer)?

Leo: At this time, I had already produced single track recumbent bikes and found it interesting, as it was a technical challenge. After a couple of years with two-wheel recumbents it was possible to develop new things, now for trikes. Today, the development of a four-wheel vehicle sounds interesting to me. I am a technical man. I am having fun to create something with my hands which I had invented in my head.

BentBlog: Does that mean that you are currently developing a four-wheel vehicle?

Leo: Yes, a prototype has been in my head for two years now, but due to a lack of time it is not ready yet. My first thoughts were to take the forepart of an A6 as a basis. The back would have been wider and have two rear-forks of an A6. Meanwhile, I came to belief that I will rather take the Sunrider as a basis for this. But first the Sunrider will be further developed now. When this is successfully done, I will have sufficient free time and financial means for the next model. Maybe a four-wheel vehicle then. The concept is a Sunrider-like velomobile, which is inside and outside built in high quality and has an elektric support. There is a big market for a nice four-wheel velomobile, I think. But please tell your readers not to expect this within the next 1-2 years!!

BentBlog: The Alleweder was an ancestor for an entire row of current velomobile models such as Quest, Mango, Strada, Leiba X-Stream and similar head-outside velomobiles. Those, but also the follow-up Alleweders (A6, A7) are plastic versions. Does the aluminium-made A4 still have a chance on the market?

Leo: Yes, I think so! Up to now, it is my best-sold VM. There are a couple of different reasons for this: it is well-paid, it is fun to build it yourself an afterwards you do not only have a bike but you also learned something during building it. People who build such a VM also build their kitchen or a canoe themselves. They are looking for challenges. For them, it is fun to build the bike and the VM is a bonus. Apart from that, they can be sure to be able to maintain it themselves. In countries in which velomobiles are less known, customers want less extreme financial risks and they are rather ready to spend 3000 than 6000 Euros. In this regard, the Netherlands are no good market for the A4. Rather Norway, Australia or the USA. As the building kit is selling so well, there will now be the A8-aluminium-building-kit.

BentBlog: The Alleweder once was awarded the title 365-dagen-fiets. Is weather protection today still the most important feature of the Alleweders?

Leo: Yes, but I think you can say this about all VM.

BentBlog: Compared to the 365-days-bike back then: what is better in nowaday-Alleweders?

Leo: Everything was changed. Mine are well to produce and to ship. The kit is divided into 3 packages. You can ship these packages a lot cheaper than a vm-body. Thus I can send the kit to Australia for example.

BentBlog: Dietrich, is not only an important distributer for Alligt but also contributes its knowledge in terms of e-mobility. A lot of Alleweders are sold with electric drive from Akkurad. Because you won’t get far without?

Dietrich: No, this is surely the wrong answer. Sportive and strong riders can ride a couple of hundreds of kilometres per day with the Alleweder. My son rode 42km in an hour during the
„Cycle Vision“ without training. The only modification compared to a standard series vehicle were slick-tires with 8 bar pressure. The electric drive is used to extend the operational area: less strong persons can now daily ride longer distances and mountain-rides. When commuting to work it is important for a lot of people not to arrive at work soaked with sweat as usually, there are no showers. And of course this argument holds true for the super-sportsman as well

Velomobiles without a motor are only fast if the rider is able to bring a minimum muscle-power onto the pedals. Human performance however is extremely variable, in my opinion between 60 and 800 Watt.

I am now 62 years old and I can „bring“ approx. 120 Watt over longer distances. Given this output, you will be extremely slow even at smaller mountains. On velocities of different bikes based on different power are given. If you ride with 100 Watt on a Dutch bike (remark from „Dutch bike“ is „Hollandrad“ in German, a specific bike model which is known as „Oma fiets“ in the Netherlands; a very upright bike) velocities of 20 km/h will be given, with a Quest 33 km/h. However, these values are those for flat terrains. If you enter only 5 % of slope, a Quest with a 90 kg rider who rides with 150 Watt will result in 8 km/h, at 10 % slope only 4 km/h. So when I am overtaken by a Dutch bike while pedalling up a hill, I will be in a really bad mood.

A lot of our customers are elder people who do have the money to buy a velomobile. We do not want to sell our low-CO2 vehicles solely to the group of super-sportsmen but to all levels of the population. We want to get the people out of their cars, not only from their cycles. We want to sell the most economic means of transportation and no pieces of sport equipment.

The short answer is: since I have been riding with electric assist, I have riden faster, farther and more often. Significant longer distances in the every-day-use and more often because one’s weaker self won’t make the case that often anymore. In the last 20 years I rode approximately 100.000 km with electric velomobiles, without electric drive this would have been way less., because I am no super-sportsman.

BentBlog: There is a 250W Pedelec-version and a 45km/h-version with German type certificate. What model is right for which application and where are the differences of these models apart from the motors themselves?

Dietrich: Meanwhile we are selling 9 types of electric Alleweders:

  • Alleweder 4 with 250 Watt crank drive (no permission needed in Germany).
  • Alleweder 4 with 250 Watt hub drive (no permission needed in Germany).
  • Alleweder 4 with 500 Watt crank drive (permission needed in Germany) up to 45km/h + human Power
  • Alleweder 6 with 250 Watt crank drive (no permission needed in Germany).
  • Alleweder 6 with 250 Watt hub drive (no permission needed in Germany).
  • Alleweder 6 with 500 Watt crank drive (permission needed in Germany) up to 45km/h + human Power
  • Alleweder 6 with 600 Watt hub drive up to 44 km/h (permission needed in Germany)
  • Alleweder 7 with hub drive (again no permission needed)
  • Alleweder 7 with crank drive (again no permission needed)

The Alleweder 7 is rather meant for more sportive people who ride without a motor or with a 250 W motor for which no permission is needed. Due to the smaller cross-sectional area its aerodynamics are a little better than that of the AW 6.
The AW 6 does have a larger and deeper hatch, thus in summer hot air can easily flow out and boarding is a lot simpler. Especially in the motorised version, you can feel the better roadability. The track is a little wider.
The Alleweder 4 is made for people who love the material aluminium and for home-builders. It is about 1000 € cheaper than an AW 6 and 7, as a kit, you can buy the Alleweder 4 from 2845 €
BentBlog: Together you developed the plastic-models A6 and A7 further. Which share of all of your sells do the “old” aluminium versions have?

Dietrich: If I look at all sold vehicles in the German-speaking countries in the last 3 years, we still sold about 60 % Alleweder 4 made of aluminium. Speaking about statistics, I can tell you that of these vehicles, 52 % were sold with a motor, 42% were sold in the 45 km/h version (with permit). However you have to consider that a lot of our customers first buy a pure velomobile and later equip it with an electric assist. The share of electric-assist vehicles will be around 70 % of all of our vehicles.

Leo: In the moment I am selling more alu-VMs. Of course, I am selling other parts as well, but when I solely look at velomobiles, 60% are A4, 20% A6, 10% A7 and 10% together Sunrider and WAW. I am currently developing the Sunrider further to make it easier to produce. I expect the Sunrider to account for 50% of my sells within 1 to 2 years.

BentBlog: Keyword Sunrider: Together you are selling the Sunrider now. On one can read that Alligt does also sell the WAW. Which developments will be seen in the different brands in the next years?

Leo: I do not want to produce or further develop the WAW but only sell it. The A8 will look similar as the WAW, it will be a faster VM than the A4 but primarily, it will be a second self-building-variant. The focus will not be to build a fast velomobile which can compare with the Quest or the WAW. It is great fun for me to cooperate with Akkurad and thus build efficient, fast riding velomobiles, regardless whether human powered or motorised. Quest and WAW will always primarily be interesting for people who want to ride fast human powered only.

Dietrich: I think that two groups of velomobiles will emerge: light, very aerodynamic velomobiles for the sportsman, who is proud to ride very fast based on his own muscle power and on the other hand comparably cheap electro-assisted velomobiles for the every-day-use, with a larger luggage compartment, comfortable boarding a wider track and more space for the rider.

BentBlog: You mentioned it already, Leo. The new Alleweder A8 has been announced for quite a while now. Again a kit made of aluminium which can be riveted by the self-builder. What can you tell us about it?

Leo: I have been selling WAWs for 1.5 years now. I am commuting from home to work with a WAW. The form of this bike inspired me, I want to offer it in my own technique, as a kit. As I said, the A4 is my best-selling bike. Now there will be a second kit. Some, who built an A4 or a FAW in the past want to build another aluminium-kit but they need a good argument to give their old bike away and to build a new one. So I am offering a faster (as far as possible in aluminium) velomobile as a metal-sheet-kit now.

BentBlog: It will be slightly smaller than the A4. Will it still be possible to store all the things you need in every-day-use?

Leo: The cross-sectional area will be as small as possible, but I will have to fit in (I am 1.86m tall and 90kg of weight), the length is not so important. But the kit has to be dividable onto packages. The luggage compartment will be larger than that of the WAW as I am working with a 20“ rear wheel.

BentBlog: When will the first prototype be ready?

Leo: As soon as possible! Currently, I don’t have too many orders. Optimistically, I think of End of January. Hopefully not later than End of February. I only need around 80 to 100 hours for the finalisation of the A8. In fact, Sunrider and A8 should be both ready for the Spezi 2012. Though the Sunrider has the highest priority, the plastic parts take their time, so this will probably have to wait until summer 2012.

BentBlog: The following questions are included in most of my interviews: Which development of the last ten years was the most important for the development of the recumbent bike market?

Leo: It depends on what you are looking at: Only the VM: the Sunrider with electric assist. The model is yet not perfectly producible. The Sunrider-enhancement I am working on will improve this a lot. The developments by Akkurad were important to equip human-powered vehicles with nice motor-support.

Dietrich: My private opinion is that a electric-assisted fast velomobile as a vehicle for the entire year offers more advantages than an unfaired recumbent. I am doing 90% of my rides with an electric-assisted velomobile and only 10% with my (also very nice) long-wheel-base recumbent. But the unfaired recumbents were commercially more successful.

BentBlog: Which important developments will we see in the next years.

Leo: Velomobiles will become even more professional. Manufacturers will improve the products, there will be more variants and more manufacturers.

Dietrich: In the area of electric-assisted velomobiles there will be stronger systems which will enable the vehicles to hold the allowed 45 km/h even at 7-8% slopes. In spite of this, highspeeds should then be limited to approx. 50 km/h as, according to my opinion, higher speeds are too dangerous in every-day-use.
BentBlog: Which recumbent/velomobile apart from your own ones would you like to own and ride?

Leo: The one I’ve got in my brain! A four-wheeled on with which I do not have to reduce speed at curves; with appealing build-quality (like the Sunrider) and luggage space; with electric-assist or a combustion engine. Combustion engines are somehow history in the moment. Electric-drives are already very good for commuters. But at distances of 200km, petrol is better, I think. It is just practical to be able to get fuel everywhere, especially, if you do only need perhaps 0.5l on100km, if you find a good petrol engine. I am looking for a 25ccm moped motor which combusts cleaner than the old two-stroke-engines and which is available for roughly 500 Euro. I personally, would prefer this compared to charging the battery every couple of days. I don’t want to think about this, just ride.

Dietrich: A Milan with our crank-drive.

BentBlog: Thank you very much for the interview.

Leo: Thank you too.


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