Friday, August 15, 2008

New bike: Giant Halfway

Image of Giant Halfway bicycle
This is the new bike in my stable, the Giant Halfway folding bicycle. I'd long wanted--but didn't need--a folding bicycle. Many of my friends had them, and they're just very practical and fun. After test riding a few folding bikes from different makers, I bought this Giant Halfway a week ago at Pacific Bicycles in San Francisco, using my San Francisco Bicycle Coalition membership to save an additional 10 percent. (Yes, membership pays for itself.)

What finally prompted my purchase of a folder? Short answer: higher gas prices. As most conscious bicycle commuters understand, recent increases in gas prices have caused many motorists to reexamine their standard commute mode. Many drivers are flocking to bike shops and emerging as bicycle commuters, and many are also fleeing to transit. Which means increasingly crowded transit systems, and growing competition by multimodal bike commuters for space on buses and trains. As many bike commuters who rely on Caltrain in the Bay Area will tell you, overcrowded transit can mean bicyclists waiting for later trains or buses.

A folding bike avoids this challenge. Nearly all transit systems in the U.S. allow folded bikes onboard, even during peak rush hour periods. My present commute--between home in Sacramento and office at UC Davis 17 miles away--is made with a combination of bicycling and transit. I usually board with my bike on the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, but I also occasionally use the UC Davis shuttle bus or Yolobus. (Most days I use transit for morning commute, and bicycle the entire distance home.) All these transit services have been much--much!--more crowded, and I have been anxious about getting stranded or delayed by a lack of bike capacity. Hence the Giant Halfway acquisition.
Image of Giant Halfway bicycle folded
Of all the folding bikes available, what was appealing about this bike? First, the Giant Halfway is relatively affordable, sold at an attractive price point. Depending on your needs, it might work for your budget. Second, it is relatively quick to fold. Many folders, such as some models of the Bike Friday line--are really travel bikes--offering great ride quality but requiring more time to collapse; suitable for a trip to Europe or elsewhere, but maybe not the best option for quick folding as you rush to your bus or train.
Image of Giant Halfway bicycle front fork
This Giant Halfway is affordable and quick folding. It is also very smartly designed. The geometry is great; meaning the ride quality doesn't feel cramped, "squirrelly," or uncomfortable. The single front fork (above) facilitates quick folding, and also easy repairs of flats. You don't need to remove the entire wheel, just the inntertube.
Image of Giant Halfway fender and kickstand bracket
The Giant Halfway also offers great features, such as fenders, kickstand, and a rear rack. The designers even created a special mount (above) for the fenders and kickstand, showing the Halfway's intended purpose as a practical commuter. It's a smartly designed bicycle.

Again, there are many great folding bicycles on the market today, another sign that the bicycle industry is moving to better serve the commuter market. Great folders include the Breezer Zigzag, the Brompton, and the KHS Mocha/Latte. If you are a multimodal bicycle commuter fearful of rapid crowding on transit systems, or live in a small apartment, or lack secure bike parking and need to bring your bike into your office/workplace--you might want to consider a folding bike.

Any other suggestions you might share? Your experiences with folding bikes?

Images: Paul Dorn.
Visit: Folding bikes win new fans on region's packed buses, Arizona Republic
Visit: The Best of the Best: Folding Bikes, ecogeek
Visit: The Folding Bike Solution, Transportation Alternatives
Visit: The Folding Cyclist
Visit: Folding bikes for crowded transit, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

19 comments:

tyrtle said...

I was looking for a new commuter bike last year and as it happened, the one that I enjoyed riding the most happened to be the Dahon Cadenza. This one's a little large as folding bikes go - it's a full size bike when unfolded. However, given its size it folds up relatively small (and quickly) with two hex nuts releasing the frame to fold the front wheel to the back (sideways).

Once I had a folding bike, though, I found that it was *very* useful. My work takes me to different projects both in the local Toronto area and to other provinces or even other countries. Before, bringing a bike wasn't possible on local trips and a hassle on longer ones. Now I am able to use it much more, folding it up and sticking it on the train here in Toronto, unfolding it in Quebec, 800 km later and riding it to/from work.

I've been intrigued by the smaller folding bikes like the Bike Friday Tikit but am not sure how it would be to ride for the larger commutes I do (in the neighbourhood of 15-30 km at times...)

PM Summer said...

Nice. I would have recommended a Birdy (for a lot more $$$$), or a Brompton (for a few more $$), but that Giant always struck me a very good value.

SubCommander Sasquatch said...

Paul, cool machine. What is the stable up to now? 12? 15? I know the Central Valley is dead level, but have you had a chance to try that 48-28 gear on any steep hills yet?

John in Calgary said...

Nice Giant bike! Unfortunately, the weak link remains, namely, the transit system. I can't bare the thought of taking anything onto an overcrowded bus/train or waiting forever for a transit vehicle to show up or waiting longer than forever for a train system breakdown to clear. I invested in a Bionx electric assist for my Trek 7300. Brushless rear hub electric motor, lithium ion battery pack, and handlebar controller/throttle fit beautifully into the bike. I get to work twice as fast with half the effort and never have to give a second thought to public transit. Now that's freedom.

Yokota Fritz said...

One of my friends in Santa Cruz bought the Giant Halfway maybe 18 months ago (?) and loves it. It's been working out very well for him for his commute from Santa Cruz to his job in San Jose via the Highway 17 bus.

I've tried various folding bikes from Bike Friday, Birdy, Strida, Dahon, Giant and others. When I finally scrape up the $$$ for a folding bike I'll make a decision about which to get.

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul. How's the wheelset on the Halfway? I am a heavy rider around 200 pounds, in the past I have experience trouble with rear wheels.

Paul Dorn said...

@ anonymous: I'm also north of 200#, and am familiar with broken spokes on rear wheels. On most bikes I prefer at least 36 spokes, with quality rims (Mavic, etc.) The Halfway has 28 spokes (14g) on a 20 inch rim, with serviceable but not outstanding alloy rims. At this pricepoint, the wheels are functional, and comparable to the wheels on other folders in this price range (Dahon, etc.)

One of the endorsements of the Halfway was from my friend Richard, who is also a heavy rider who uses his everyday, and I mean every day. It's not just his commuter, it's his recreational ride. He loves it. And bought a second Halfway.

I haven't ridden the Halfway much at this point, about four days. But I'll post on its durability. I also understand that smaller wheels are generally stronger, though I'd welcome insight on that.

IgorTheCat said...

Of the regulars I see on my daily intermodal commute, there is only one "foldie". He rides the “Coaster”. This is a heavy rail commuter train that connects San Diego to the Los Angeles Metrolink in Oceanside, where I board southbound to San Diego. Bikes are not an issue here, as these are large cars with adequate space. I transfer at Old Town to the San Diego Trolley Light rail system. I have no trouble here, but this is largely because at this point I am traveling opposing the rush hour, to almost the end of that line in the eastern El Cajon suburb.

I like Giant bikes, and the FCR3 was my first choice for a commuter. (I went with a Trek 7.5 FX, ‘cause when I went to buy, the Giants were sold out everywhere ;( ).

The one sided fork is a clever idea, but I would prefer a quick release on a conventional fork. Lesson 1 from engineering 101 is that EVERYTHING flexes. I am a big guy, and think that asymmetrical flexing would be a problem.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I would love to see pictures and descriptions of your updated stable on your tips website.

airMohan said...

enjoyed knowing all about them ...as I never had one.

Beach Resort

oranckay said...

The Halfway looks fine and I'm sure it's everything you say it is (and frankly I'd like to try it), but one disadvantage has got to be that it has unique parts. The hubs, for example. I see your point about not having to remove the wheel to fix a flat, but if the wheel itself ever had to be replaced, you'd have a headache. Probably not an issue for most people, but something to think about. It wold be easier to get it replaced in San Francisco, for example, than it would be in Fairbanks. Not the case with a bike using more universal parts.

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foldingbikehut said...

We've started to sell the Giant range of folders in the UK, and we think the designs are well thought thru and a bit quirky, particularly the clip!
The Halfway is an excellent bike for the money, fantastic build quality. I can't understand why its not more popular? Perhaps Giant don't do enough to promote it?

prasetyo said...

This bike is super. I have been using for 2 months and very satisfied. the price is quite expensive but comparable to the advantages

Anonymous said...

I was happy with my Giant Halfway for about the first 500 miles until the T-bolt that prevents the handlebar stem from folding broke. That makes for a nasty crash. Beware! If you have a Giant Halfway - I'd advise rigging some kind of second latch or saftey chain to prevent the stem from folding. I checked my bike before the ride and the stem felt loose, so I turned the T-bolt about a half-turn to remove the slack. But the bolt broke before I even rode a mile.

René said...

I've used my halfway to get to and from work everyday for almost 2 years no problems and never get bumped on public transit. I have the transbay commute. Bike rack full? I can bring it inside. Folding bikes are always allowed on BART.

Anonymous said...

Great looking bike.
I would like anyone's advice on which folding bike I should buy. I plan to use it to commute from San Francisco to Oakland via BART. I weigh 170lbs, 5ft 9inches tall and 39yo. I have never ridden a bike regularly or used it to commute. I am a recreational runner and fairly fit, exericising 8-9x/week.
I would love any recommendations! Thank you!

Paul Dorn said...

@anonymous: It's nearly impossible to make an online recommendation about a bike to a particular person through email (much depends on your riding style, risk tolerance, distance, color preference, carrying needs, fitness, budget, etc.) My best recommendation is always to visit a good local bike shop and have the staff assist you. Have you visited Warm Planet Bikes in SF (near Caltrain)? Or Mike's Bikes in SOMA?

I can vouch for the utility of the Giant Halfway, a very serviceable bike. You might also consider Bike Friday, Brompton, Breezer and Dahon folders. In recent years more folding bikes have entered the market, and that's a great thing.

Artie Moffa said...

I commute on Caltrain, and I've never actually seen a cyclist get left at the station due to overcrowding on the bike cars... but I've seen it get pretty close. Maybe they've added more trains (or more bike cars) since this article was written?

I just have a superstitious fear of single-fork front wheels. I wouldn't try to defend it logically, but I'd be afraid a pothole or speedbump would make my bike fold up in ways the manufacturer never intended...