Glasgow bike mechanic designs be-spoke Velovan

By Laura Smith on Thursday 23 October 2014

Source: Glasgow TV

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Glamping has just entered the bicycle world.

Well sort of. Scots having to camp in a tent while cycling around the country could soon be a thing of the past thanks to the Velovan.

Created by a Glasgow bike mechanic, the compact bicycle caravan has been designed as a portable cabin to be towed by pedal power.

“Ever since I cycled across Europe I decided I didn’t need a car or motor vehicle of any sort,” said the quirky invention’s creator John Buchan.

“During that trip I saw a motorcycle towing a miniature caravan and thought, surely I could do that on a bike by making it lighter.”

It took John, from Knightswood, about five months to design and create his initial Velovan.

While this first attempt was created using wood, he hopes to develop the product using lighter materials such as fibreglass and aluminium.

“It’s lightweight, waterproof and surprisingly comfortable and spacious too,” said the 6 ft 2in cycling enthusiast.

Velovan specifications

  • Dimensions: Height 1m, length 2m, breadth 75cm
  • Projected cost: £1000 – £2000
  • Weight: 60kg
  • Speed: 12-15mph on a flat surface
  • Storage: Two parcel shelves accessible by a back door

“I can see it having lots of different uses,” John added. “It would suit people camping around Scotland and I think travelling cyclists would love to have something like this.”

“It’s something people could potentially run businesses from,” he added.

“I’ve also had some interest from people from festivals who think it would be a great idea for small food vans.”

But what we really want to know is, do you need to have thighs like Chris Hoy to be able to move it?

With his Velovan weighing in at 60 kilograms, John said he’s been able to cycle comfortably and safely tow it around the city.

Velovans for the homeless

As well as creating a commercial product for biking and camping enthusiasts, John believes his invention could also be used as a short term solution to homelessness.

It’s an issue that is of huge importance to John, who was homeless six years ago.

“My only option was to stay in a hostel for three months,” he said.

“It was soul destroying. There was 96 rooms and a lot of drug use, it wasn’t a safe place.

“I eventually got a flat but the experience left me almost hopeless with anxiety and depression. If I had the choice of a hostel or a Velovan, I would definitely pick the latter.”

He visualises a social enterprise that would allow homeless people to tow a Velovan to one of several registered sites around the city.

Each secure site would have toilets, a shower block and electricity points to charge an on-board battery, which could power electric blankets and lamps.

“The costs would be a fraction of what they are in a hostel, and once the user gets a flat, someone else will use the van, so it would be like a homeless short-term hire scheme,” John explained.

“As part of the project it would also be compulsory for participants to be taught bicycle mechanics and wood working skills to help them find employment after they found a home.”

It was while he was staying in a hostel that John learned his trade as a bike mechanic.

For eight months, he volunteered with Glasgow charity Gorbals Recycles Project, which fixes up old bikes to resell at affordable prices.

While there he earned a qualification in bike mechanics, which he put to good use for five years while working at The Glasgow Bike Station.

So what’s the next step?

John is looking for a work space where he can develop his design while pursuing funding applications, but we hear his ambitions go much further than his Velovan scheme.

“The bicycle is one of the most fun, efficient, versatile inventions ever made, and I want to push it to its limits,” he said.

“Starting with Velovan, I aim to build a working bicycle powered boat, a pedal powered plane/helicopter and a land speed record breaking bike within the next five years.”

So watch this space.

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