When we think of velomobiles (for those of us who think of them at all), we typically picture recumbent trikes with rigid aerodynamic shells. The Lightning F-22, however, is a little bit different – it's a recumbent bike, that has a full-body shell made from stretchable spandex.
California-based Lightning Cycle Dynamics has been making speed-oriented recumbent bikes for quite some time, and also offers custom builds of a record-setting fabric-shell model known as the F-40. The F-22 is essentially a more practical, much less expensive version of that machine.
At the heart of it is a fairly regular-looking chromoly steel-framed recumbent bike, which is also available on its own. The F-22 treatment adds a fiberglass aerodynamic nose on the front, along with an aluminum-rod "truss" (for lack of a better word) that gives the stretched-over shell its shape.
Riders are able to get in and out through a zippered side opening, with their legs extending out through two holes in the bottom-front, and their head sticking out of an opening in the top. A zipper on the back allows for access to a nylon seat-back bag featuring two small pockets and a single large one, along with an Axiom aluminum alloy cargo rack.
Other features of the bike itself include an ergonomic seat with a foam bottom and mesh back, front and rear Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, a 27-speed drivetrain consisting of a triple-ring crank and a 9-speed Shimano Deore rear derailleur, and an aluminum kickstand. The whole thing, including all the velomobile add-ons, weighs a claimed 31 lb (14 kg).
According to the company, the recumbent seating position combined with the drag-reducing shell make it possible to cruise on level ground at speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h). Like other recumbents, the F-22 is also said to be more comfortable to ride than a traditional upright bike. Its shell additionally provides some protection from inclement weather, although it should be noted that the spandex is not waterproof.
If you're interested, the Lightning F-22 is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$2,780 will get you one, assuming the crowdfunding project is successful. The planned retail price is $3,230.
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