Considering most people on this planet wouldn't think twice about travelling on most forms of non-motorised transport, it seemed fitting to start the Self Propelled Magazine Reviews with a contraption that looks so weird that most people wouldn't dare try it out.
I'm talking about the Halfbike.
It arrived in a box with a logo designed to perplex your girlfriend. Inside the thing was partly assembled and at first glance it wasn't immediately obvious how to finish off the build. Luckily the Halfbike website not only looks great but comes with a comprehensive support page with answers to all your questions.
Not only that, the Halfbike crew are super good filmmakers and they've kindly knocked together a video with step by step instructions on how to turn a box of parts into a fully fledged crazy machine.
The Halfbike is non-motorised transport's answer to the Segway. It looks kinda like a baby penny farthing made love to a tricycle and gave birth to the cutest little thing with wheels. As soon as it was ready I wanted to try it out.
The Halfbike feels really solid and well made, but at the same time is easily lifted with one hand. With some apprehension I wandered up to dry land trying to visualise how the first ride would go, it looks ever so easy when the pros are riding it around but I figured it wouldn't be quite so easy, especially seeing as you want to intuitively steer using the handlebar, which doesn't work. Instead, the spring-loaded rear wheels enable turning using a body-weight shift. Or in other words, you steer by leaning left or right.
It took about five or six goes to cover ten metres and after ten minutes I could just about make it through a full frame without having to put a foot down.
It's worth noting that if you decide to teach yourself in a public place the process will be slower purely because people will stop you for a chat, and then inevitably ask for a picture.
I found that the key was to start with a pedal just forward of an upright position, and much like a kick scooter using the standing foot to push off gives some forward momentum, which you need to take advantage of before the Halfbike slows to a crawl.
Like a bicycle, it's easier to keep going at pace, so getting your back foot onto the remaining pedal and continuing the movement is key.
After that, to avoid overweighting on one side during each pedal push-down, using a combination of opposite lean and the support of the handlebars will....or should....keep you upright.
The learning curve is progressive and after about half an hour I was happily covering thirty or forty metres in a straight line, and once you're at that stage the fun begins.
The beauty of the Halfbike - and the attraction you get from watching someone who can actually ride it well - is the fluidity of the movement which leaning into a turn gives you. Once you're up and running in a straight line try turning, first small then with more pressure.
The sensation when turning is that the Halfbike is always about to fall over, but actually the springs allow quite an angle before all hope is lost, so as you're trying out the limitations of your balance and the Halfbike's turning circle, all the while you have to trust that the the small wheels behind you are both on the ground.
Without doubt, the Halfbike is a head turner. I'm informed by its creators that distances of over 80 miles have been travelled in a day, but boy that must have been a workout. The only way to reasonably carry gear would be in a small backpack so I'm not convinced that the Halfbike would be the ideal companion on a long-distance journey, but reign in your expectations and you could easily win a competition for the coolest commuter.
Simply remove two screws and the Halfbike's stem folds down easily, meaning a part-commute on a train is made simple.
And if you want to make more friends, the Halfbike is a brilliant addition to a party in the park. Everyone will want a go and, thankfully, most will get to a stage where they're comfortably riding after not too long in the non-existent saddle.
- Price: €499
- Colours: Black, White, Mint, Lime and Pink
- Gears: 3
Novelty Value: 9
(10 is about as unique as you can get, 0 is one of those heavy bicycles you can rent in a city)
Top Speed: 7
(10 is Usain Bolt, 0 is a snail with a limp)
Street Cred: 8
(10 is having 'Astronaut' on your business card, 0 is Donald Trump's hair)
Build Quality: 7.5
(10 is a tank, 0 is ice-cream in the sun):
(10 treats 10% slopes like they're downhill, 0 is dying at any type of incline)
Ease of Riding: 5
(10 means anyone can do it, 0 is impossible for the finest athlete)
Learning curve: 6
(10 is easy as the one times table, 0 is doing a rubix cube with your mouth)
Fun factor: 7.5
(10 is the ultimate laugh-making head-turner, 0 is more boring than a sloth doing a hundred metre sprint)
Fitness benefits: 8.5
(10 is the ultimate trainer, 0 gives you less of a workout than Netflix on a beanbag)
(10 is as convenient to carry as your daypack, 0 is like driving a car through a toilet roll tube)
(10 will happily fit/fold into the trunk of a mini, 0 won't fit into a garage)
Long Distance Potential: 4
(10 means you could go forever, 0 makes one mile feel like a thousand)
THE END NOTES
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