Halfbike FAQ

Since I have been a Halfbike Ambassador I have been asked a lot of questions so I’m going to try to address the most common ones since my original review.

  1. Do you still use the Halfbike?
    1. Yes, but not as much as I should. I was trying to run more often so it got set aside except for the occasional ride to the park with the kids. I got back on it for exercise a couple of weeks ago before my club run, and decided that I really do need to use it more – it was hard work. I guess I was in better shape, or maybe it’s just that my calf muscle issues (very tight right now) made it feel harder. I decided to stop after 2 miles (and then ran 6).
  2. Is the Halfbike good for commuting?
    1. I don’t think I’d be confident enough to do that in high traffic areas or areas with fast traffic without a reasonable amount of space at the side of the road. A large pothole can easily cause problems (although not drastic ones as it is easy to step/jump off if you get unstable) so I’d want to know I had the space to deal with it. If it’s on quiet roads, sure. I prefer to use my folding bike for my commute in Manhattan.
  3. Will the Halfbike fit in my car?
    1. It should – I have a large SUV and don’t even need to fold it. Folded I would imagine it fits easily in most. I did have a smaller car, and to avoid folding it I moved forward the front passenger seat and just put it in behind the seats.
  4. How difficult is it to ride long distances on the Halfbike?
    1. As with any activity you will need to build up at the pace that is right for you. I was able to go from a couple of miles to several miles, to 11 miles early in the year using it regularly. I plan to try to do something similar again so I will update to let you know how I get on when I get around to it.
  5. How hard is it to learn?
    1.  It took me about 15 minutes or so to get moving on it, then about the same to get used to turns (and I still feel like I’m trying to master that – for tight turns at least). I taught a neighbor of mine to move on it in about 10 minutes, and she was turning shallow corners soon after that.
  6. Would you recommend the single or 3-speed version?
    1. I think I would consider the 3-speed if I were to buy a new one, but the only time I’ve wanted it is on steeper hills or at times when I’ve been forced to stop part way up a hill (because it’s impossible, or really tough, to get started again).
  7. Does the Halfbike come with fenders?
    1.  Fenders were, and apparently still are, planned. However, production issues mean that these are still in the development phase. They are hoping to make them available in the coming months, but with a lengthy delay already behind them, it’s not clear at all when that will be.
  8. I have back/neck/other pain – will the Halfbike be okay for me?
    1. I don’t know, sorry!
  9. Do you still have a coupon code?
    1. Yes, email to ask me for a discount code for 5% off and ask any questions you still have. The codes are single use.
  10. Do you get a commission from the makers of Halfbike?
    1. Yes, that’s part of being an ambassador, you get a discount, and for helping you make the decision I get a commission. I do treat all questions seriously and will say if I am not sure it is right for you. I’ve also been happy to help people who have been looking to buy used ones they have found online. I like to think I am not swayed by the deal in how I respond to people – for example, I will say that if you are just wanting it for commute, consider a folding bike instead. It is certainly the case that not everyone has bought one after contacting me.

Halfbike – a review

I have been asked quite a few questions over the last couple of months about the Halfbike, so please see my FAQ posted on October 25, 2016 for an update.

Until this year I’d never had anything happen that stopped me running for any length of time. It was fortunate that I happened to have bought a Halfbike from a Kickstarter campaign, and it had arrived just a couple of months before.

It was also fortunate that I was able to use this while I wasn’t able to run (the muscle issues I had didn’t seem to manifest themselves when using this).

When I first got it (back in November) it took about half an hour to put together, and then about 10 minutes of failing to stay on before I was able to comfortably ride up and down the street.

After this it pretty much got ignored for the winter until February where I had issues that prevented me from running for a few weeks, right in the middle of marathon training. I substituted my training runs with riding the halfbike, joining my running club group runs on it (although eventually I did get too fast to stay with them so would circle around to rejoin), and honestly having fun. I successfully managed to get through 11 miles of riding, which I had initially thought would be difficult.

Out with the club

It was also perfect for riding with the kids

It was also perfect for riding with the kids

Luckily I was able to get back to running with about a month to go before the marathon, but had to build up slowly so I was still making use of the Halfbike.

Overall, the marathon was a success, I got through it comfortably and I don’t doubt it was because I was able to keep my fitness level up using this.

Following this I was happy to be chosen as a Halfbike ambassador – I have taught friends how to ride and can offer a 5% discount code to anyone who is interested in buying one. If you’re in NJ, and we happen to be at the same races, or if you can make it to an RVRR run, I’d be happy to bring it along to let you try it out. Alternatively, if you’re already sold on it, ask me for a discount code.

EDIT: Since I posted the following statement, it seems that you can buy the single speed again – I’m assuming that at the time it was out of stock or something – I have the single speed but now I believe that it only comes in a 3 speed option (which means I wouldn’t have to get off when going up the hills – the single speed can make that difficult)

I have been asked quite a few questions over the last couple of months about the Halfbike, so please see my FAQ posted on October 25, 2016 for an update.

 

TomTom Runner Cardio review

A few weeks ago I was given a TomTom Runner Cardio to demo for a couple of weeks. After a quick intro to how to use the buttons (completely different from the Garmins that I’m used to) I was ready to go.

Apparently I was too eager because when I got back from my run and tried to work out how to upload the activity, I discovered that the watch was linked to somebody else’s account – presumably the last person to demo that particular watch. Set up involved downloading some software and connecting to the computer which was pretty simple – that was when I saw that another account was linked and no option to change it. The advice was to do a hard reset (which is worth bearing in mind if you ever buy one and decide to sell it – reset first). That meant I lost that activity so that’s worth thinking about if you buy a used one. Set it up first!

Unlike Garmin, TomTom does not have its own activity site for automatic upload – it uses mapmyrun (*note that I have been informed that TomTom does have https://mysports.tomtom.com which asks you to sign up by downloading the app and connecting the watch – it was at this point it prompted for a mapmyrun account and there may have been a way of signing up without it that I did not see). Personally, I use mapmyrun, strava and Garmin connect (there are various reasons I like to track in all those places) and one of the things I like about Garmin is that I have it set up such that Mapmyrun and Strava are both linked to my Garmin account and when an activity is uploaded to Garmin it automatically goes to the other two.

During the time I had the watch I wore it alongside my Fenix 3. There have been various issues with GPS tracks and pacing with the Fenix 3 (which, as of today, may have mostly been dealt with after the introduction yesterday of new firmware) so I was interested in how it compared.

What surprised me most, given that the Fenix 3 has always reported shorter distances, is that the TomTom didn’t give much higher distances. They were surprisingly close, and in one case, exactly the same:

Fenix 3: 17.24; TomTom: 17.30

Fenix 3: 8.33;   TomTom: 8.37

Fenix 3: 3.34;   TomTom: 3.34

The difference definitely showed in the tracks though, with the Garmin being off the actual line many times (again, hopefully that’s fixed by the recent updates):

Garmin not consistent with where I ran

Garmin not consistent with where I ran

TomTom more accurately showing my route

TomTom more accurately showing my route

Garmin off the road and corner cutting

Garmin off the road and corner cutting

TomTom again showing a much better "true" path

TomTom again showing a much better “true” path

During the time I had the watch I was taking part in the RVRR “Train”ing Run which is a non-competitive run. I was asked if I could pace the 8:30 group for the second half (in case the pacer for the full 34.6 couldn’t keep it going) and I’m glad I had the TomTom because I knew I couldn’t rely on reading the pace from the Fenix 3. The TomTom did a good job, although after each stop at a “station” it did take a while to settle again. Without it I think I might have been lost.

What is most confusing about this run is that, although the TomTom displayed the pace correctly during the run (often around 8:20 to 8:25), the pace chart on Maymyrun is way off – looking at the graph for pace for the activity and tracking it along, the reading it gives seems to indicate pace was in the 9 to 10 minute mile range: http://www.mapmyrun.com/workout/1018421885

By contrast the activity from the Garmin (it seems maymyrun identifies it as a Garmin 920XT) has the pace chart spot on (despite it not being so accurate during the run) – if I didn’t know which was which I would swear they should be the other way round: http://www.mapmyrun.com/workout/1017497979

For my final run, I found myself at the gym when the kids had a swimming lesson, so took myself off to run on the treadmill. The TomTom was not at all accurate at getting pace which is not necessarily all that surprising (my Garmin is better at that), however what I did like about the TomTom is that when you stopped the run, it asked you to correct the distance – a nice feature I wouldn’t mind having on the Garmin (although I really don’t run on treadmills often if I can help it).

In summary, the TomTom is a decent watch. I wasn’t a big fan of the look, but that wouldn’t stop me using it. The built in heart rate monitor is handy (particularly when it’s hot, I don’t like wearing a strap), and it was pretty good at showing me my actual pace during runs. If you want to see a lot of data while you are running it might not be the best – you’d have to scroll through the screens to see additional data. In the cold of an NJ winter, if you want to record your heart rate you would have to wear it under your clothing to get that reading, which is fine if you don’t need to glance at your watch during your run.

 

3 months with the Garmin Fenix 3

It’s been 3 months now since I received my Garmin Fenix 3 and wrote my initial review so I thought it time for an update.

The strangest thing about the watch is that the GPS seemed so accurate on those initial runs, showing clearly where I had run and making me happy with my purchase. Within a few days there were some issues, but GPS is never perfect and nobody should expect it to be. However, there clearly are some ongoing issues with whatever algorithms they are using because corners are constantly (and consistently) cut which means that overall distances are shorter than they should be.

Now, I have to say this doesn’t bother me too much but it does bother many people – a quick read of the Garmin forums will show that people are returning it, or debating returning it unless Garmin sorts it out soon.

I have taken part in several USATF certified races this year and every single one of them has measured short – if you know anything about how USATF certifies courses, then you will no that it would be impossible to run a shorter distance during one of these races. It would be very normal for a GPS watch to actually show longer than the race distance because it would be extremely difficult to stay on the shortest track around the whole course.

Why doesn’t it bother me too much?

  1. I mainly use the data to review and compare runs after I get back. During the run I may use it as a guideline to see how fast I have been going (average pace) and how far I have gone, but not to worry about what pace I am running at one particular time (it does seem to get that wrong too often to rely on).
  2. In some ways I like that it measures short – I know it’s not overestimating how many training miles I’m doing, and it also means that it is recording a slightly slower average pace because of that.

Why does it bother me a little bit?

  1. All of this data loads to services like Garmin Connect, Strava, Mapmyrun, etc. and those sites will automatically indicate when you hit a best time over standard distances – of course that is most likely to happen in a race, but if it doesn’t measure the whole distance, the site isn’t going to pick up on it.
  2. If I were in a longer race without mile markers, and if I didn’t know the course already, I might want to use my watch to let me know how much further I have to go – of course I can try to compensate for the shorter measuring from the watch but that’s a pain, and then what happens when they fix it and suddenly it’s showing me the actual distance?

There are conflicting reports over whether Garmin are working on a fix or not. Apparently this isn’t the first time they’ve released a watch with similar issues, so I would assume that at some point all will be well and most people will be happy with it again.

Ultimately it’s up to the individual how important this is to them – for me it’s not such a big deal although some improvement would be nice.

Update June 25, 2015: In the last couple of days Garmin have provided updates to address the accuracy issues. In my single run since installing the update, a run that was previously recorded at 8.3 miles was recorded at 8.6 and more accurately reflected the actual path I ran. The Garmin forums appear to show a mix of responses, with most noting that it is a definite improvement.

Day 3 with the Garmin Fenix 3

It has been 2 days since my original Garmin Fenix 3 Review and I’m still finding my way around the functions. After getting the watch on Thursday (setting it up on Thursday evening), running on Friday, then flying to England on Saturday (daytime flight, which raised the question about a “flight mode” given the connectivity options on the watch, but with no answer I turned off the bluetooth as that seemed to be the only option I had – the plane managed fine), today was my second chance for a run.

After posting on the Garmin forums and a look at the GPS accuracy, I changed the recording mode from “smart” to “every second”, and I also turned on GLONASS.

The GPS picked up the signal quickly again, saying it was ready before I’d even opened the door. There was no hanging around this time before starting my run, which is perhaps why the first half mile does not appear to have had a good lock and makes it look like I was running on the opposite side of the road – I knew something wasn’t right when I looked at the screen a quarter mile in and it had me running slower than a 9 minute pace when the effort was clearly faster than 8 (maybe even closer to 7) at that point. My suspicion was confirmed when it suddenly jumped to around a 6 min/mile page presumably to correct itself. The route was an out and back, running on the same sidewalk with the exception of running along the A1198 where the map shows that it clearly picked up the side of the road I was running along. Full details here on Garmin Connect. Apparently with a faster pace my cadence may be a little higher, and my stride was longer – we’ll see how this tracks over time with various runs.

The return (tracking to the left) was accurate, but early issues meant the start of the run was not accurately recorded.

The return (tracking to the left) was accurate, but early issues meant the start of the run was not accurately recorded.

By contrast the route along the A1198 was accurately recorded both ways.

By contrast the route along the A1198 was very accurately recorded both ways.

I did not bring the rubber strap on this trip, so ran with the metal strap (I have the Sapphire model). It was a little looser than I would have liked so I may take another link out when I get back to the US where my link removal tools are, but then I worry it will be a little tight for day to day comfort.

A note on battery life: 2 runs (just over 3 miles and 5 miles respectively), one with every second GPS with GLONASS turned on, 2.5 days since charged and approximately 1 day with bluetooth turned off (on the plane and overnight) and now the battery is at 75% which I think is pretty impressive. The clock face I am using also has a seconds hand (the standard one) and this was noted as something that would use more battery.

One thing to note is that I need to be more careful about the notification settings from my phone. Someone in the US sent me a text message when it was the middle of the night here in the UK. My phone was on silent, but the watch vibrated when the message came in and woke me up. I turned off the bluetooth because it was the quickest way I could think to deal with it in my sleepy state.

My latest update at 3 months of ownership can be found by clicking here.