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Dec072008

« Veltop Bike Canopy Review »

You may be wondering what sort of bike geekery is going on with the rain cover and windshield in some of our photos. Canopy? Fallout shelter? Surrey with the fringe on top? I'm so glad you asked. C'est le Veltop, mon ami. It's French, of course. Full disclosure: I am half French. 

And yes, I am aware that we're tripping the bike dorktastic with this thing. Some of you out there immediately see its genius, and are wondering where you and yours can acquire one to keep you warm and dry (www.veltop.eu, $240ish, and they ship for free, arriving here in 2-3 weeks). Some of you may wonder why you would replace your highly technical rain attire for a bike umbrella. You are both correct - le Veltop is not for everyone, mon frère. Allow me to tell you more. But first, let's get in the proper mood ... 

In addition to coming with a built-in "Foux Da Fa Fa" chorus as you ride, le Veltop makes riding the bike more comfortable and practical in many cold & wet situations, especially with a toddler. The top cover deploys and stows tent-pole style in 2-3 minutes, leaving the windshield, which can be lowered if you wish. We don't, because we like the wind chill protection in the winter months. A front fairing like this really makes a ride warmer (especially for a child sitting up front and not doing much work), and may help a bit with wind resistance with windshield only, if you care about such things (not that this is in any way a performance item - it's certainly got some windage with the canopy up).

When it pours, you can zip down the clear vinyl side panels, which is a neat warm & cozy feeling for two, kind of like being in a tent in a rainstorm. Your hands, forearms, and lower legs will get moist to wet in any serious rain, and you're still a target for cars driving through puddles next to you, but your core will stay nice and dry. 

If it was just me without passenger, and I weren't such a cold/rain wuss, I'd probably just invest in some rain gear and a hairshirt like the rest of my more puritanical Seattle winter bike commuting brethren. But with le Veltop, I can ride in more normal clothes, knowing that I can deploy the top canopy if it starts raining while I'm out. It lowers the threshold to get on the bike, and that's the secret to having a car-less life, if not car-free. I can live with wet pantlegs and shoes on errands, and I do keep dry extras at work, just in case. I'm tempted to fashion some rain spats, but such foppery might even be too much for me.

We've had it for a month now, and will definitely be keeping it on the bike this winter. Any approach to biking in the rain involves some sort of comfort/performance/fashion compromise, and this one works for us. It's expensive, but so is driving and parking. The build quality is less prototypical than I worried it might be, and it installed easily on my big Dutch bike. They even make an attachment for rear child seats as well, if that's how you roll. 

Some disadvantages: in blustery weather, you'll want both hands on the handlebars, and you may need to zip up the side panels with strong sidewinds. At night, in certain light conditions (light from the front/side) with small droplets on the windshield, visibility is somewhat diminished, but in a manageable way (I've got glasses, so appreciate not having the water on my specs). You lose a bit of that fresh air feeling being behind a windshield. There has been a bit of wear/fraying on the top cover, easily fixed. 

And finally, when the rain top is up, you'll need to limber up (especially with a front kid seat), since you can't swing your leg over the back. So mounts and dismounts are a bit dorky, but again, if you've got this far, you're probably not too worried about that, eh? As you can see from this so-French-it-hurts video (via BSNYC), the French have more than one way to mount a bike:

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Reader Comments (12)

I'm with you, I think the Veltop is cool.

Sadly, Henry hasn't tried it with a bakfiets (http://tinyurl.com/veltop), otherwise I could find myself clicking the purchase button. I hope you are going to add one to your Madsen!

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDrMekon

Try it! Stephane (the Veltop gentilhomme) was very helpful by email, and I believe there's some sort of like or return it guarantee. If you look at this photo you can see the bottom of the windshield is about level with the bars, which hopefully would clear heads, although maybe not the canopy (hmm). You wouldn't be able to drop the windshield as they do on their website, but I can't either due to my front basket.

I also had bakfiets with rain cover and Veltop visions ... if it worked, it might make it a bit harder to communicate with kids under their rain cover, since rain off the windshield might drip into their box unless you have their back panel rolled down.

December 8, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Julian, you are trippin' the light dorktastic, but that's (one of the many reasons) we love you. You even got Dave excited about the VelTop and just wait until he has a chance to hear and sing the Foux Da Fa Fa song. It will be obnoxious. It's snowy here in Chicago and I like nostalgic sleigh ride, flakes-in-my-face experience of the Bakfiets. Funny... I do not miss the rain, but I can see how the VelTop would improve your winter riding experience.

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStephan

Hey Stephan! We miss you here ... I hear things are going swimmingly in Chicago though, so congrats. Yeah, if it was snow, I'd probably go without le Veltop too. No wipers, and catching snow in your mouth is a good time.

I couldn't believe Dave liked le Veltop! I was worried he would revoke my license to ride stylish bikes. And just the thought of Henry finding out what I've done to his bike (hopefully the horsey head on the stem is not too visible in the photos) and pointing out just how un-Dutch it all is has me quivering in my rainboots. Although perhaps the horsey head is Dutch, like the flowers on your basket? Oy ... I can only hope for special dispensation.

December 8, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

For the research, fervor and joy you bring to your bike accessory shopping escapades, you are hereby appointed Dr. J, Advanced Products Research Engineer at Large.

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStephan

Who made me the council of style. My 8 year old daughter derided me for wanting to buy loafers with tassles! And I listened.!You keep your man card Julian if I can keep mine.

See at the rodeo cowboy.

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Dorktastique!

December 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterhenry

Wow, great post. I'm sure I couldn't have found two french bicycle inspired clips on youtube, let alone have them both be killer. Foux Da Fa Fa is my nouveaux favorite!

Hope to see you out with your tripping the bike dorktastic velo top again soon.

December 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGalen

Love love love those Flight of the Conchords boys. For another excellent bike-themed clip, this hiphop bit wherein Bret sports another dorktastic cycling item I am chagrined to say I own, see this video ...

December 20, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Do you think the Veltop would fit over the snap deck (with child seats) of my X? All last winter I was trying to figure out how to get a cover over the X without making it myself and didn't have any luck.

I'm in Seattle and would love to try out your Veltop if you were open to that.

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrynnen

Good question ... the windshield mount is configured for handlebars, but maybe with stoker bars? I do wonder about the clearance between front seat and you though. I do think the canopy itself would work, and the Veltop guy sent me an adaptor that makes lets the seat tube mount work on the back of a child seat, so that part would work.

The Veltop is currently retired for the summer season, but we'll have it back on a bike this fall/winter, and you're welcome to try it! Don't hesitate to email the inventor guy - he's got good English and was happy to answer questions about my setup ...

June 18, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Have you seen this? http://www.flixxy.com/chinese-bicycle-acrobatics.htm
If you haven't, take a look. If you have, go back and see it again. You know you want to!

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

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