Tripod velomobile nears production


August 22, 2012

The Tripod is an electric-assist velomobile made in Portland, Oregon

The Tripod is an electric-assist velomobile made in Portland, Oregon

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Velomobiles are certainly a unique form of transportation. They’re essentially human-powered recumbent tricycles, with a full-body fairing to increase their aerodynamics and protect against inclement weather. Most of them are made in Europe, which unfortunately adds to their already-steep prices for non-European buyers ... so, when we spied the made-in-the-USA Tripod velomobile in Portland, Oregon earlier this month, we took note. He’s a quick look at some of the things that make it special.

The Tripod is manufactured in Portland, by Columbia Cycle Works. It debuted in 2010, but has so far only been made to order. That’s set to change, however, as the company is about to ramp up to full-scale production.

Unlike many velomobiles, in which the rider sits low and very reclined, the Tripod’s rider is in more of an upright position (not unlike the Cab Bike). While this no doubt decreases its aerodynamics somewhat, it does afford the rider a more commanding view of the road, and makes the Tripod more visible to drivers – a full lighting system, an electric horn and an orange safety flag also help in that regard. A windshield wiper helps the rider see the road during the wet Oregon winters.

Its shell is made from a reinforced polymer material, which is reportedly “tough, durable and lightweight.” The lid of that shell opens and closes with the help of two gas-filled struts. Its windows and sunroof can be opened in hot weather, or the lid can be completely removed – a kayak-style skirt can still be used in the cockpit when the lid is off, however, for streamlining. When the vehicle is left unattended, the lid can be locked closed.

While many velomobiles are available with an optional electric assist motor, the Tripod comes standard with a 500-watt hub motor that can push it up to the legal limit (for powered bicycles, in most places) of 20 mph (32 km/h). Given that it weighs about 110 pounds (50 kg) – not counting the battery – that motor should also come in quite handy for quick starts and climbing hills.

Columbia Cycle founder Philip Rush told us that the vehicle is intended to be primarily pedal-driven. That said, with a good enough battery, it can go as far as approximately 30 miles (48 km) by motor alone. Unlike the case with many other electric-assist bikes and trikes, however, the buyer of the Tripod is responsible for supplying their own battery. This allows them to pay for no more power capacity than they need – a rider with a short, flat commute likely isn’t going to be using the motor as much as someone with a long, hilly one, for instance. The absence of an included battery also helps keep the velomobile’s shipping costs down. Whatever battery is chosen, it can be charged via a retractable power cord.

Rush also stated that the Tripod is intended to be the least expensive velomobile available in North America, and at a price of US$7,450, it’s certainly one of the cheapest. The Canadian-made Hornet is presently available for CDN$5,650 (currently US$5,700), with battery and motor included. It lacks the Tripod’s hard top lid, however, and its head/tail lights, turn signals and horn are all optional extras.

Source: Columbia Cycle Works

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

$7540? For that I'll buy a nice bike, a full wardrobe for inclement weather AND a nice used car or a Piaggo MP3 and a few nice riding suits.


Can't see much difference in EU or US pricing, labour in the 1st world simply is too expensive for placing low tech products in non-1st world markets. US$ 7500, in large parts of this world, will buy a 2nd hand car that will haul the entire family and more at speeds and ranges vastly superior to pedal power. Make this in Latin America, Africa or Asia and chances are the price will come down, making it more attractive as an alternative to cars or public transport in short range travel in the 1st world.


But have you done an actual cost/benefit analysis based on miles/charge, etc, or is this more of a knee-jerk reaction. I've seen 3-wheels that go for a lot more with the same basic features.

Curt Sommer

I have an electric Quest velomobile from Holland and it cost much more than this beautiful new American machine.

Millions of people who either cannot or should not drive cars can use this for reliable transportation.

A drape to protect the drive train beneath the vehicle might be considered.

Ross Nicholson

At $ 7540, I could buy 3 Nano that could serve three families at a much faster clip compared to the velomobile. Bas is right, get these gizmos made in the Third World and you can save a pretty penny.


Looks very useful to me- and with US dollar value way down, this is actually about 4 or 5 thousand dollars worth in comparison to past value of money. I have seen European velomobiles go for $14,000.00 average. When first imported- I think the German made Twike was very very high in cost. This is "Cheap Thrills"!

Chris Jordan

First we need bike lanes because regular bikes need them and these things need them more. Please show me a video of this thing running any kind of slalom and stomping on the brake hard, I really want to see it.

The Hoff
Lovely for Oregon but in South Florida this thing would kill you from heat exhaustion almost every month of the year. Even on a good bicycle one needs to hold about 14 mph to avoid feeling like one is being stewed in a very humid oven. The breeze from faster movement brings relief. Being surrounded with plastic would be absolutely awful. Jim Sadler

are they going to offer one with a 'deisel' hybrid charging system (aka RC plane motor generator...)???


As Bas says above TOO expensive for Cheap end product. In UK a 1st world country can buy this for $7500:

Ford Fiesta 1.25 Edge 3dr £5,000 GBP

Just had full service and first MOT-AC- Manual, Elec - Front Windows, Radio/CD, MP3.

A GREAT town/family car, 40k miles only a few yrs old. GOOD Car from dealer with backup (Respected dealer).

When will they realise, design it and get cheaper mass produced buy off shelf parts to make own thing. Then a $2500-3500 model might do it. The ppl will not buy into this madness, the model T Ford of electric transport will come and when it does they'll sell a million. WHY would anyone pay more than the car I put above 110MPH top speed, 50MPG Avg more highway, and very safe/reliable, airbags, anti lock, anti wheelspin, on an unsafe, slow, limited range thing, that can't go on highways. Come on guys, think outside the box, not on another planet.

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