Time to customize the WAW….

Nearly all my velomobile rides the last few months have been in the Milan GT; I’ve been learning the machine and getting accustomed to the ride, as well as getting myself in better riding condition for the season. The WAW had seen little use.

On Friday I was going to ride to a local restaurant to meet my wife and her mother for lunch. I then would continue afterwards to a house for work related stuff so I decided to take the WAW out for the ride. Charged up the battery and aired up the tires and took off to the lunch stop. Very quickly realized that I had the pedals set much closer in the WAW vs the Milan, so it felt a little cramped.

It felt really good to ride the WAW again! It’s a more snug fit against my shoulders, but that is really by design with the WAW. Shoulders in contact with the shell and you will feel if it gets up on 2 wheels (which is very rare in the WAW; I’ve only done it once in 4 years). The whole feeling in the WAW is “sportive” as Katanga states. I feel more connected to the road in the WAW.

The WAW has my older Look Keo pedals installed, and the cleats I have on my shoes are worn, causing the pedal to release too easily, making it hard to “pedal circles”….

I thought I would be a little late, but I was first to arrive at the restaurant. My wife texted and said they were stuck waiting at a train crossing. So, I took advantage of some shade in the front yard of the restaurant and pulled off the nose on the WAW, moved the crank out a little bit, tightened the pedal release spring, and put the nose back on, in about 10 minutes. The WAW is hands down, the best velomobile design for doing any maintenance.

Took all of 10 minutes to remove the nose cone, move bottom bracket and tighten pedal release spring,
and then put the nose cone back on. Great restaurant BTW; run by a non-profit that provides work and job training for mentally challenged young adults. “Texas Meatloaf” is my favorite!

I’ve been thinking Velma was getting a bit jealous of all my attention going to Esmerelda (the Milan GT), so I decided to make a custom piece for Velma 🙂

I’ve got a few different customization ideas for the WAW, some that I will be building in the future, but I decided that this week’s project would be to design a storage pocket, to be installed in front of the right wheel. The Milan has storage pockets in front of both wheels, and I find them very useful. I can reach into the pockets of the Milan when I’m standing outside the velomobile, with the full hood off.

The pockets in the WAW will be difficult to access, unfortunately. The design and location of the manhole opening in relation to the front wheels makes the pockets out of reach, unless you have very long arms. These pockets will be more suitable for little used items, such as a jack stand, spare tire or tubes, etc. To access items in the pocket will either require removing the nose cone, reaching up through the foot-hole opening (if you have one on your WAW), or putting stuff in bags with a string for retraction.

As I’ve probably mentioned, the WAW is narrower than the Milan GT, particularly across the chest and shoulders; I put together a video about this :

Being narrow for a velomobile is a good thing; my ride reminded me that’s what is so fun with the WAW; you feel very connected to the ride and the road with a WAW. But it also meant that there isn’t a lot of width available for these pockets. The design has to allow for enough space for my feet and shoes to clear without having any rubbing.

And since the WAW has a removable nose and tail, the final piece has to be a full pocket or bucket shape, not just a curved piece of CF that can be bonded to the shell, as is done in the Milan GT (I wouldn’t want to bond a pocket to the nose cone, it would deform the nose) :

The Milan GT has pockets that are bonded to the shell sides and floor. Can’t do that in the WAW….

So my design is going to be for a CF pocket or bucket, that will match the contours of the WAW’s shell and the front of the wheel well. It will extend about 12″ in front of the wheel housing, and I’ll leave a gap between the bottom of the pocket and the WAW’s shell. I’ll attach it by using metric screws into nut rivets placed into the shell, roughly where the red circles are in the next photo. The nut rivet above and to the right of the serial number is in a location that won’t ever be touched by the front wheel. The wheel will rub against the control arm before it would reach the nut rivet; the arrow points to the nut at the end of the control arm.

I’ll install nut rivets roughly where the circles are. The red arrow is pointing to the end of the control arm.

This will have to be a 2 part mold due to all the curves involved. That’s more work for me to make 2 molds. The plug will not be attached to a backer board of MDF, so that means I can shape the foam for the plug, check the contours against the WAW, make some sanding changes, check contours again, etc. So that will be nicer and result in a better fit for the final piece.

I started by using my hot melt glue gun to glue three pieces of 2″ thick isocyanurate foam together. Used my hand saw to cut back large areas and to do the rough shaping.

2″ thick isocyanurate foam pieces, hot melt glue to hold them together.
Quick rough cuts can be done with this saw; very flexible blade and the foam is easy to work with.

Since I’m using attachment points on 2 different surfaces and curves, I worked quite a bit on sanding and shaping to get the contours correct.

I also added a Work-time clock to my workbench! I’ve been asked on previous projects “how long did it take you?“, and I’m never really sure. So, now when I begin work on this project I put the battery in the clock, and remove the battery when I’m done working. I’m not going to count the time waiting for resins or auto body filler to cure though.

First rough shaping to fit the contours of my mounting area.
I set these up to make sure the pedaling area was consistent. I put the shoes in the cleats so I could rotate the cranks and make sure I was allowing enough clearance for my feet and shoes. I removed the right pedal with attached shoe while I was checking and adjusting the plug.
Two and a half hours into the project, and ready for auto body filler.

Once I was satisfied with the shape, I mixed up and applied auto body filler; this fills in any gaps in the foam, and provides a more solid structure to the plug. The foam is easy to work and shape, and sanding or shaping is quite easy to do when you use the proper tools. The auto body filler is the overcoat that gives a good strong surface for the final contouring, and a strong bonding surface for the molding gel-coat.

I’ll use the PermaGrit blocks to shape the body filler once cured, add more body filler as needed and sand down again. May take a third small application of filler to level out any trouble spots. Once that is done, it will be time to apply the gray tooling gel-coat.

Mixed up 2 batches of auto-body filler and applied. The filler doesn’t take very long to cure, so can be worked and shaped within an hour

2 thoughts on “Time to customize the WAW….

  1. The WAW 2016 is available with long N1 nose and a hatch with magnets and two screws to access the front easily. Could be useful to get into your new designed front pockets.
    But why do you mold? Perhaps a shaped bag with Velcro attached to the body is an alternativ. To prevent bending toward your shoes you could reinforce the bag with sewed in carbon rods (2mm dia?)…


    1. That could be a good approach. I haven’t done any more work on that project, although it is still hanging around the work space. I would be concerned about the flexibility of fabric bag. I store air pump and tool bag in the Milan’s pockets, I could imagine the air pump bouncing around while I ride, and then moving sideways in the bag, which would then be hitting my feet or ankles….


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