For a few years now I am a proud owner of a halfbike, a personal transportation device. Or a hybrid between a trike and an unmotorised scooter. Or something similar to a unicycle, but with two supporting wheels that are not supporting. Or one of the most awesome things on this planet.
As they say, this is something that can be made only once. Well, the box with the halfbike looks just as average as anything else - brownish cardboard (with a logo) that holds a disassembled halfbike. Not that I have expected different - though I have to say I was pleased with a slogan ride outside the box on the side.
Getting the halfbike assembled took me approximately 20 minutes - and I had to use the videos on the net (from the official webpage), because the instructions were... not that really helpful. A tip here for the makers, include more photos in your printed assembly guide, even if it bumps the price of the halfbike by a few euros. At the current price level - a whooping 500 EUR! - few euros here or there would not make much difference.
All the tools and screws are included in the box, so you can happily assemble the bike even in the middle of nowhere, provided you have internet access to watch the assembly video - which was of great help. The biggest problem I had was the mounting of the rear springs, as they required constant keeping with one hand not to rotate them in place. Otherwise, building the bike from pieces was a fun thing to do.
The device is gorgeous. It looks like a scooter that turned into a trike - there is no seat or any leg rest and the vertical bar is much taller - but otherwise the comparison holds. From the first seconds I knew I am going to have hard times driving it, but I also knew it will be deeply satisfying once I do it.
The bottom part (the frame) is made of aluminium and it can be painted in one of the few possible colours. Mine is mint, which is cyan to me. The vertical bar is wooden and black, with a logo painted half-way through it. The handle bars have rubber covers that make holding them easy, but painful (at least in the learning phase). My plan is to replace the rubber with something softer and nicer as time goes by.
Overall, the halfbike looks great.
Holy shit, I am not going to make it
These were pretty much my first words. It is good that you have 14 days to send the bike back, because you might seriously consider it. Do not, and give it a chance. Or even many, it is worth it.
The official webpage says it will take you about 10-15 minutes to get your first ride. It sounds like a lie. It certainly did not work for me, as I felt comfortable standing on the bike after about one hour. Another hour took me just trying to comfortably rotate the pedals without falling off. And this is where it gets funny - this whole thing relies on balance. You need to be standing on the pedals and balance the halfbike to the opposite direction your body is leaning to in order not to fall to the ground. Figuring this out took me probably way more time than it should, but it was a breaking discovery. While making it, I noticed that the halfbike (still standing) can lean to an amazing angle (way over 45 degrees) before rolling over. This means that it is possible to recover the balance from most of the failures. At the beginning I was jumping off every minute - later on it was ok to balance on it for a few minutes.
The whole approach with standing on the halfbike (with brakes pressed) before attempting any rides had one goal - to learn how to leave the device (by jumping off) before falling. That was useful, because as soon as I released the brake I was getting completely unstable and tilting way too much to be able to ride. That took almost a day before I finally figured it out - just start driving by pushing off the ground, as you would with a regular scooter. My current technique is holding one leg on the pedal put down and pushing away using the other leg, at the same time leaning the bike slightly towards that pushing leg. As soon as I gain some speed, I balance with one leg still pushing the pedal down and the other reaching for the pedals to gain speed. This works wonders.
Holy shit, I am driving it
These were pretty much my fist words - after I got a full cycle on the pedals going in straight line without falling, that is. I needed one entire day to figure out how to turn (by leaning) and another one to learn how to break without tilting over the bar or around it. I still suck at holding good posture (one should be relaxed and up-straight), but boy this thing is fun. I have not driven a bike in ages, but even for me the halfbike is a completely new experience. In its core it is like running up the stairs and flying at the same time. Sounds ridiculuous, right?
My biggest achievement of day 4 with the halfbike was driving around 250 metres in a straight line, without falling. And after a 45-minute session I could barely walk, as the muscles needed to ride the halfbike are rarely used otherwise (unless you live on the top of the Eiffel tower). Anyway, I started to love it. That feeling when the bike is finally riding and I am able to control it is very rewarding and definitely makes up for a really steep learning curve. Do not get fooled by the advertised 15 minutes - it will take much more than that.
I know that for the forthcoming future I will use the halfbike as my workout tool - planning to increase my stamina to be able to ride more than just a few minutes. Also, I am already in love with the feeling that accompanies the driving. The things that I need to improve on is driving uphill (which is much more demanding than it seems, even though there are 3 gears in the bike) and driving on a non-asphalt surface (which requires a lot of strength) - and that is probably the best thing that the halfbike did - it motivated me to do things.
After a few weeks I am able to quite comfortably drive for around 4 kilometres without killing or hurting myself, although that did came at a cost of few bruises here and there. I noticed that the lowest gear is great for slow-paced drives and the easiest to handle the device, though it is the hardest to use when the halfbike is slow. I still need to figure out the correct sequence for starting the ride, but I am more often successful than not.
The halfbike is definitely not for everyone. You need a lot of motivation and will to want to learn it (and master it) - and a lot of strength to operate it for more than half an hour, but - at least to me - it is definitely worth every second spent with it. So if you think you can invest some of your time to learn a new thing and improve your physical well-being at the same time, go ahead and give halfbike a try. It is worth it.