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Invention Takes OCU Alumnus from Coast to Coast

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City University alumnus Frans van der Merwe is pedaling his way across the country this month in a newly-designed vehicle he invented. van der Merwe debuted his Pterovelo human-powered vehicle as part of the Roll Over America (ROAM) tour, which kicked off July 28 in Portland, Ore.

About 50 velomobile, or human-powered vehicle, riders from the United States, Europe and Canada have joined the tour, which is currently passing through South Dakota. The tour will continue through 15 states and finish Aug. 24 in Washington D.C.

van der Merwe  pedals about 125 miles per day and is updating fans on his blog, which includes video and live tracking. Fans can make donations to encourage van der Merwe on his journey and send him SMS messages.

“Started off with a fairly big hill this morning,” van der Merwe wrote on Monday. “I was able to push fairly hard up the hill and make a good start. The rest of the day was nice and fast.”

van der Merwe has faced a few challenges along the way.

“Blood sweat and tears today,” he wrote last week. “Crossed one more mountain. The good thing is it was pretty.”

van der Merwe, a 2007 graduate of OCU, has an eclectic background as a pilot, engineer, inventor and artist of composite design. With more than 20 years of experience in the sky, van der Merwe has been enjoyed paragliding, hand gliding and piloting sailplanes and private planes across the globe. He has amassed more than 15 years of experience in composite design and construction, ranging from state-of-the-art gliders to the Red Bull acrobatic planes.

The Pterovelo is a 70-pound recumbent tricycle that features a full enclosure, LED headlights, rear lights, brake lights, turn signals, a USB port, an evaporative cooling system, a rear view camera with LCD display and storage space. The name is taken from the Greek word Ptero, meaning “wing,” and the French word “velo,” meaning bicycle.

“The Pterovelo is American technology and innovation at its best,” van der Merwe said. “With the majority of velomobiles produced overseas, this Oklahoma-made cycle differs by blending together the ideals of most cycling enthusiasts.”

He added that the cycle’s lightweight shape creates more speed with less exertion, resulting in a 20 to 30 percent increase in personal performance.

For more information or to follow van der Merwe’s journey, visit www.