By Doug Hook (cycling, running & healthy living blogger) Check out his Cycling
and Maturing Well
Doug's blogs are all about being in good shape, both mentally and physically. He has enjoyed cycling and running for some years and has entered a couple of races. At the age of 56 he decided to quit his job and to his own words: "be on the FIRE lifestyle, that is Financially Independent, Retired Early"
Read the full review: Here
Putting it together
I was so excited when the Halfbike box was handed over to me by our local DHL delivery driver. The Halfbike comes partly assembled and needs finishing. This was mostly straight forward and it helps having some bicycle knowledge here and watching the online tutorial beforehand was very helpful. The only bit I really struggled with was getting the second stability spring into place and this is a two person job. Naturally I asked Rachel to lend a hand, she thought it was tricky to balance her foot on the wheel and feared for my wellbeing; oh I do love her! But we made it by wedging something into a back wheel and standing on that while tipping the Halfbike in order to slip the second spring into place.
There were some thoughtful touches such as the tyres being fully inflated, a tool was provided along with instructions for fitting the mudguards. For the mudguards, there was a neat piece of metal which was designed to hold the two mudguard nuts in place and allow the bolts to be tightened. The gears and brakes were in perfect adjustment. All of the other nuts and bolts were all really tight, so it was nice to see good care and time had been taken on the assembly line.
I am quite impressed at the quality build; this is NOT some cheap toy which has been quickly thrown together. Once fully assembled with everything nice and tight, I looked carefully at the Halfbike from behind. Everything was perfectly in line, not easy with two halves of the frame starting at the back, spreading out to go around the bottom bracket (where the pedal cranks are), around the front wheel and up to the handgrips. It was perfect and this is how it should be – I don’t believe my sample was a special press sample.
I liked the finish and quality of the fittings; all good stuff. The main front wheel is, in many ways, the heart of the Halfbike. It is built with a 3 Speed Sturmey Archer hub and I know these generally go on and on for many years. Besides, this 3 speed hub appears sealed for life, presumably maintenance free?
Starting to ride
I was a little apprehensive about learning to ride the Halfbike. Some of the comments on my previous desktop review
suggested it was really difficult. Sure, I had watched the tutorial but, to be honest, I didn’t find that very useful. It was simply better to simply get out there and ride!
Luckily we live in a quiet cul-de-sac and I could practice outside on the road. I might have seen a few curtains twitch from our neighbours, wondering what I was up to. Although I had a helmet on, I didn’t feel as if I needed one – if you are falling off, you simply put your foot down.
After 5 minutes I was riding along happily. In some ways it’s just the same as learning to ride an ordinary bicycle as the slower you go, the harder it is to balance.
In spite of the cold, a few people in the neighbourhood came up to me and asked what I was riding. Some thought it was a kind of mobile exercise bike, a bike for doing tricks etc. For every single neighbour I spoke to, they had the offer of trying it for themselves. Sadly everyone declined (perhaps this is English politeness….?).
My biggest problem in riding the Halfbike is not relaxing enough. I felt tense and my hands were tightly grabbing the grips. My arms and my shoulders felt very tense after the first few minutes and I knew I was needing to relax a little. Also my brain was trying to direct my body to behave as if I was on an ordinary bicycle through trying to turn the handlebars. This doesn’t work, the “handlebar” is fixed in position and you can only steer through leaning one way or the other.
And then I got it!
All of a sudden I was riding fairly easily and curving around a corner alright. It was as if the lightbulb had been switched on in my mind and it was a huge step forward. Mind you, on the first one or two rides along our road, I did lack a certain finesse but I could feel myself improving and relaxing more. It is a case of feeling more confident, relaxing and going with the flow of the Halfbike.
Conclusions so far
The good bits:
- having to learn a new way of balancing, arguably a more natural way of balancing and moving. This is the most important benefit.
- I could feel much of my body working together in riding the Halfbike; not just my legs! My core muscles were definitely being used as well as arms, shoulders, hands, wrists etc. All this is good!
- you can have a tremendous amount of fun if you have a good area of smooth, flat paving to use the Halfbike – parks, promenades, wide pavements (that’s English for sidewalks!) or even our local Busway cycle track
- learning something new is a positive thing to do
- it looks quite elegant. I like the swooping curve starting at the back and curving up towards the hand grips. It would be nice simply hanging on a wall!
- it has 3 gears; Sturmey Archer no less!
- it is very well made
- it has a brake (but see below)
- it is novel, innovative, something different
The not-so-good bits:
- you may need some patience in learning to ride it. I am reasonable after 30 minutes and I think I’m “Mr Average”
- it is all black. If I had a choice, I think you could have some fun with different colours, patterns etc. Perhaps a few neon colours mixed with some black parts? The parts made from wood could be varnished and left with a wood appearance?
- I wouldn’t feel safe using it on busy roads
- the single brake lever operates a braking mechanism on the rear wheels. Each brake block rubs against each rear wheel (there is a metal plate for this). The brakes are for slowing you down, not really for stopping abruptly
- unlikely to be suitable for distances (although I wouldn’t be surprised if someone uses it for LEJOG
- not sure how suitable the Halfbike is for going up and down hills. I’ll blog more about this next time
I’ll be blogging again as I get out on my Halfbike more. Anyone local who fancies having a go is more than welcome!