Saturday, January 22, 2005

Diablo Junction - 23 miles

Seems like the 8:30 start time is gaining acceptance during these cold winter mornings. I know I had no trouble hitting the snooze button a couple extra times. I haven’t ridden the mountain for a month and only have a few rides on my commute bike since Christmas – the combination of bad weather, holidays, and sickness has been keeping me off for that long.

So I roll up at 8:30 and meet up with JB and Rick. JB was on his Della Santa for only the second time since last April when he crashed it (he rode it last weekend too, when I was sick). Nicole gave herself a head start and JB asked us to guess when we would catch her. Rick said “mid-Bump” and he called it exactly right.

The fog was thick and it was pretty cold but not windy. I’m still not exactly healthy yet – I’m tempted to claim I had walking pneumonia or something but it’s probably just a really bad chest cold. After every hard effort I would cough and cough but I kept on going. Anyway, we caught Nicole at mid-Bump and it was still foggy and JB asked us to guess when we would rise out of the fog (he likes to do these polls, I’m not sure why) and Rick guessed 1200 feet, but it was probably closer to 1400 feet – right at Clavicle Cracker.

As soon as we popped out of the clouds it started to get warm and we started to get hot. We all had booties and our warmest jackets on and we certainly needed them, but near the Upper Ranch JB decided to take off his jacket so I used the opportunity to attack! I didn’t know if I could stay ahead for that long with my chest still full of sand and glue but I figured “what the hell?”. Rick didn’t come after me but didn’t stop for JB either. As I came around Chainbuster I thought I had a pretty good chance but when I got to the Ranger house JB was close and getting closer. I about killed myself that last 300 meters but I crossed the line first. Then I coughed and heaved for about 5 minutes… it was grand.

We three put on our ear jocks and glove liners and Rick even had ski gloves. Nicole never did make it to Junction, we turned around to ride her in but she had already given up and went to Mia Café for brekkie. Sure was nice to wrap my hands around a hot coffee cup.

Product Review: Castelli Thermolite Socks

Got two pairs of these from my brother for Christmas. They’re much thinner than I would expect in a cold weather sock, but they come up about mid-calf so they cover up that bare patch below the bottom of your tights that can appear with shorter socks. I also had booties on today so I was plenty warm, but I do remember having cold toe problems with regular socks and booties that I didn’t have today with these socks. I’ve never had special winter cycling socks before, I think partially because I was concerned that the extra thickness would make my shoes fit too tightly and that would negate the benefit of extra insulation, so these Castelli socks were comfortable and warm and fit well in my regular road shoes, and they didn’t itch at all. They also seem to be extremely well made – no stray threads or funky stitching. These guys get my highest rating – 10.

Ride to Heather Farm Park with CJ on the Giant Halfwheeler - 3 miles

Dear wife gave me this trailer cycle for Christmas and I love it. After a few rides around the neighborhood to make sure my daughter was ready, we rode the 1.5 mile journey to the park – part road, part trail.

Product Review: Giant Halfwheeler

I looked around a lot at different styles and this one had several features that made it superior to the others. First the seatpost attachment is completely quick release with no special clamp thingy that has to stay on the regular bike – so taking it on and off is painless, not like some other trailer cycles I’ve seen. It’s aluminum and light weight, it has a little splash guard for the child rider (for the rooster tail from my rear wheel), her own water bottle with cage (actually above the handlebars, not below like in that photo), the tow-bar part folds so you can put it in a vehicle easier, it's got a nice chain protector, and the tire is a decent design that rolls well. The seat height and saddle position are adjustable, and the handlebars rotate in the clamp for higher and farther away as the kid grows. It’s a nicely-painted silver with black trim and the ubiquitous orange safety flag in the back.

The pedals won’t accept toe clips and straps so I’ll be replacing those soon because CJ’s feet came off the pedals a couple of times when we went over bumps – she should learn how to use toe clips anyway, but it would have been nice if the Halfwheeler came with pedals that the toe clips could attach to. The crank takes pedals that are ½ inch threaded (kid bike/BMX standard) so the choice of replacement pedals is limited as well. Most of the trailer cycles have the same type of pedals and cranks so this isn’t really a disadvantage to the Giant model.

The attachment to the adult bike seat post isn’t *exactly* quick release – it’s a cam on a swing bolt and you have to open the skewer and then unspin it several turns to swing it open and unhinge it before the clamp opens up completely. The skewer fits into a depression in the clamp so it’s *almost* foolproof, and this seems like a good alternative but I would worry that someone who doesn’t take the time to understand how the attachment works might screw it up and have an unexpected disengagement. The quick release on the folding part works the same way.

Ours is the single-speed version but Giant does offer a 7-speed version. I originally thought I’d want the 7-speed model so we could go faster (!) but I think the other six gears are mostly lower than the gear on the single speed so they might help on climbs but they wouldn’t provide any increase in flat land velocity. There’s a version in steel too, presumably for the Rivendell fans (I don’t think it’s lugged though).

This product gets a 9 on my rating scale. I do think it’s the best of the models available (possible exception would be the Burley but that costs twice as much), but a couple of thoughtful modifications would make it even better.
If anybody could use a pair of mint-condition resin platform ½” threaded pedals for a kid’s bike, they’re yours for the shipping costs - drop me an e-mail.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2006: I've had this Halfwheeler for a year now and I still use it a lot. I did put the toe clip pedals on (MKS) and they work great; dear daughter learned how to use them quickly and her feet don't fall off the pedals nearly as much even with the straps pretty loose. I also put a different bottle cage on since the one that came with the Halfwheeler only held a small, non-standard bottle. One thing I didn't mention before was the quick release on the boom - a very handy little device that lets you fold it for easier hauling in your car, the Halfwheeler by itself is pretty long so without this there's no way it would fit and you'd need some kind of rack attachment; most trailer cycles do NOT have the folding option. And I put some thread lock on the seatpost clamp to keep it from unscrewing out of the clamp when I'm unscrewing the quick release and have had zero problems since then. We ride this to the park, the club, the bike shops, and to Jamba Juice and dear daughter usually chooses the Halfwheeler over the automobile when given a choice to go anywhere. Be sure to check out our photo on the photos page.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Giant Halfwheeler review, it's the only one on the web.

Diablo Scott said...

Glad to help! Actually this is one of the most popular searches that lead to hits on my blog so I've updated it.

Anonymous said...

I ride an Electra Townie and just bought the Halfwheeler 1 for my 4 year old son and I. The problem I'm having is that his pedals scrape on the ground at random times. My salesman said that this would be a problem because of my Townie's lower seat post - check out their website if you've never seen one, because they do have a unique frame. Can you offer any suggestions on how to keep the pedals from scraping? Also, do you know if the joint on the tow bar should be tight or loose? Mine is kind of loose and I can't seem to find any information about it on the Giant website. Other than these issues, I like the Halfwheeler; I especially love my son's enjoyment of the ride! If you have a few minutes to offer any thoughts or advice, that'd be great. And, as of September 7, yours is still the most useful customer review (if not only) of the Halfwheeler on the internet. Thanks.

Diablo Scott said...

1. Yes, a lower hitch will put the pedals lower and you'll have more pedal scrapes. Not much you can do about that but maybe teach your son about keeping the inside pedal up around turns; once he learns that it shouldn't happen very often.

2. That joint, or knuckle, does seem to be loose, but when you think about what it has to do you'll understand why. Ignore the looseness and noise and just inspect it to make sure it can't come apart and go ride!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Scott!

We rode the 2 miles to preschool today - a beautiful crisp Oregon morning. Everything went really well. I tightened up the Q-link a bit (it was sliding down the seat post) so the pedals only scraped once or twice. He did a great job learning hand signals, too! I am going to look in to toe clip pedals based on your experience and mine this morning! Thanks again for your help!


Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, we've been using our 1/2 wheeler for a few weeks now and wondered if the hitch is supposed to have that much play in the side to side. It's a little disconcerting. Other than that we're 100% happy with it. Thanks, Deb (Davis, CA)

Unknown said...

The knuckle does seem loose but that's because it has to have freedom of motion in two planes. Give it a good inspection and make sure it can't come apart, and if you're still not sure have the bike shop look at it, but it's probably fine.

If you're talking about the clamp that goes on your seatpost - no, that should be tight with no play.

Anonymous said...

Great, thanks for the advice! Yes, we're talking about the knuckle; the clamp is solid. My husband also mentioned that the knuckle is supposed to have the ability to move up and down (to go over bumps). I guess I just thought it'd be more "rock solid" of a connection but physically that doesn't work.

It doesn't bother our daughter so that's the important part. We're still white-knuckling riding her around while she's in the back going "WhhooooHoooo!" I'm sure we'll learn to relax more after we get a few more miles under our belt. We're still trying to get used to the back and forth lag when she's (actually) peddling. ;-)

Happy trails! Deb

Unknown said...

I have just purchased a Giant half wheeler and my son loves it! Only concern I have is that when he is pedaling his motion drastically alters my bike and I find it quite difficult to maintain a straight line, wobbling from side to side. This is quite disconcerting, especially on a road with cars parked on the side and moving cars overtaking. Seems to be worse at slow speeds. When he stops pedaling I have much greater control.
The slack in the universal joint also is of some concern and wonder if a brass or teflon spacer/shim would fix the problem?
Thanks for any advice.

Diablo Scott said...

Hi Paul, if you want a personal response you have to leave me your e-mail.

But in general, your boy needs to learn to ride smoothly. It helps if you have a mountain bike for the wide purchase on the handlebars to control the wobble, but it's still and issue. And that knuckle has to be kind of loose or else it won't work... just do a good inspection and make sure it's not cracked or something and then just accept the slack and rattle, think of it as normal machine noise... I think a shim would create other problems you don't want, plus you'd have to take it apart and put it back together again... potential issues there too.

So: teach smooth riding and get used to a little noise.