Our first look at the “relationship accelerator”
(Tandem Dreams part 1)
Yesterday we (Isobel and I) went up to JD Cycles in Ilkley to have our first look at the Hase Pino. We have been thinking for the past year or more about tandems and recumbent tandems as a joint project as we approach retirement. Recently the Hase Pino has come into focus as possibly the most practical choice, so this was our first chance to see if the practice might match the theory.
We were interested in the Hase Pino because at least one of us gets to ride recumbent which is much easier on ageing wrists and backsides. I still fancy a Barcroft Columbia (equally short and splittable with both riders recumbent) but the Pino is here in the UK now whereas the Barcroft is in the USA and I can’t see us getting there for a proper look in the next couple of years. And my brief encounter with a Rans Screamer, the big brother of the Barcroft, was quite scary, I’m not sure I fancy piloting a thing that big and heavy, starting uphill with my short legs and neither rider in the full flush of youthful fitness.
We rode the red “Allround” version (above). It’s around 3800 euros but you could easily spend 8000 euros for a really super version. The frame splits just below the stoker’s seat and it takes 5-10 minutes to disconnect everything to make two handy size packages for transport.
It’s a gorgeous thing with a wonderful metallic red paint job. It doesn’t look like your regular bike or tandem so it attracts a lot of attention from passers by, a good icebreaker if you like to meet people. It’s quite disconcerting at first as the geometry is quite unlike most bikes except maybe a big cargo bike. Riding solo you have to ignore the big boom swinging about in front because it exaggerates everything, and the very wide bars (to clear the stoker’s seat) make the steering very sensitive. The shop owners, John and Ruth Hargreaves, ride a Pino for long distances and said it took about 5 hours to get used to the light steering and relax enough to have complete control, just taking one hand off to scratch my nose led to a major wobble the first time I tried it. (postscript July 2012 – we have our handlebars set to a narrower position than John and Ruth and it doesn’t seem anything like as sensitive so maybe that’s only a problem for big people)
The first time I rode away from a start, with a passenger on the front of the tandem, was unlike anything I’d done before. Jamie, one of JD Cycle’s tandem gurus, was excellent, taking me through the body moves and how to cooperate to get the thing smoothly away and not swerve into the oncoming traffic.
The problem is for both people to be able to pedal smoothly away after the initial push – on a solo bike you can pause slightly once you are moving, to get seated etc. On the tandem it has to be one continuous movement, and you must start with the bike upright so the “stoker” is safe and comfortable. Jamie showed me how to stand and how to swing into the saddle, and he explained how to let the stoker know when to start but there was a lot of stuff that I had to work out for myself. At the moment I can do it but it’s still a surprise each time it works out and still very scary standing there holding your bike and your partner upright (she’s sitting there with her feet in the air) waiting for the lights to change and imagining the whole ensemble crashing to the ground.
It’s a very light tandem, easy to pick up, easy to handle once it’s rolling and just as easy with a stoker as without. Once we had the hang of it we took it out for a short spin out of town and, away from the traffic, we quickly had the confidence to wind it up to a good speed. I think we would need a serious ride to be really confident but we’ve more or less decided to get one. Front suspension takes you over bumps without discomfort for the stoker and it all feels very stable. There’s a report in velovision which talks about racing down winding hills in the lake district with a child trailer and no ill-effects.
Luggage capacity is huge, the optional lowrider front rack allows up to 6 panniers (4 front and 2 rear) and there are photos of Pino riders completely buried in their worldly possessions and looking quite happy (enter “Pino Lhasa” in Google Image for a good example). It’s reported to fit into the bike spaces of UK trains well, and go by air without a lot of trouble, can be packed down small enough to fit in the back of a mini (with the seats down I guess), so while it’s hardly going to compete with the Brompton for multimode efficiency, we are looking forward to planning some good trips away from home. Maybe down Gorbachev’s Iron Curtain bike route when that’s operational?
It’s also very nice to ride solo as the pilot is properly placed in the middle of the bike, so you can use it to take your loved one to the station. It looks as though a suitable plastic crate lashed into the stoker seat might convert it to a good cargo bike. The boom adjusts to a wide range of stoker legs (with a chain tensioner to match) so great for kids or giving rides to friends. Some people swap roles between pilot and stoker which is impossible on most tandems unless both riders are similar sizes.
Finally the best thing about the Pino is that’s it’s very sociable. The heads of the two riders are very close together so you can hold natural conversations. The stoker has a clear view ahead and feels very comfortable and safe without holding on to the short bars, apparently the front panniers are just handy for the stoker to have easy access to maps, camera, snacks, phone etc (I’ve seen a report of a recumbent stoker making sandwiches on the move)
Well you can see we are interested although we have quite a few questions to bottom. We’ll have a proper test ride next week I hope. Ruth, John and Jamie at JD cycles, who specialise in tandems, were absolutely great, helping us to understand how to ride the bike, sharing their own experience of the Pino and tandeming and demonstrating real care over their work.
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