There are some products that possess mass appeal. Their end user is recognisable, easily defined and most importantly, abundant. There are also those products who’s appeal is somewhat limited but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor product, on the contrary, it may be fantastic but it generally exists to fulfill a highly specialist role, a role in which the masses may not regularly partake.
I predict that the Restrap Hike-a-Bike harness will never be the companies biggest seller – not because it’s no good but simply because the majority of people will actively shy away from those situations where it shines. Cyclists can be a funny bunch, some will openly berate a route for having more than three gates per fifty kilometres, so any product that encourages them to actually embrace carrying their bike is likely to be one for whom many will have little use or indeed, much interest. However, should you be someone for whom a gate or two is of no concern, then do read on as the HaB harness might be just the thing to accompany you on your off-piste wanderings.
The first thing I’m going to do is evict the elephant from the room by saying – if you don’t have to carry your bike, don’t. If the terrain or gradient makes pushing possible, then chances are that will be the easiest or at least less strenuous way of ascending. Should you find yourself in a position where you’re having to start lifting the bike over things or somewhere where the use of your hands would be an advantage, then congratulations for you’ve reached genuine HaB harness territory.
There are many ways to carry a bike and people tend to have their own technique – over the shoulder (made nigh on impossible with a frame bag though) or across the back are two favourites but in truth no method is particularly pleasant for extended periods but I think the HaB harness probably aims to make it less unpleasurable if not exactly enjoyable. I suppose my first concern was how much faff is using the harness going to create – if you’re anything like me, the more faff, the less likely I am to use it because I’m lazy and would simply rather soldier on than spend time doing something my brain perceives to be ‘messing about’. It’s the same reasoning behind why I rarely use a tent … my head views that as ‘faff’. Anyway, as it turns out, the HaB harness is actually very quick and easy to deploy, which obviously makes you much more inclined to do so. It attaches to your top-tube by way of two buckled Hypalon straps and when in place doesn’t look too dissimilar to your common-or-garden large top tube bag. At 225g it’s not especially heavy, so I see no reason why it couldn’t become a permanent addition.
When the inevitable does eventually happen, it really doesn’t take very long to unfurl the harness (a single velcro strap) attach the aluminium hooks to the (supplied) orange frame straps – again, these could perhaps be left in situ. Lastly, secure the front wheel to the down tube with a third orange strap and aside from a little adjustment, you’re good to go.
Now, you may recall that I said, “If you don’t have to carry your bike, don’t”, so with that in mind I packaged the harness up and sent it to Bear Bones very own Northern Monkey correspondent, Karl. He’s a man who enjoys nothing more than marching up a slippery one in three with 50lb across his shoulders, so I felt he was ideally suited for the task.
When Stu asked me to try out the Restrap Hike a Bike (HaB) harness I jumped at the chance of carrying my bike instead of riding it, who wouldn’t (told you). I’ve done a fair bike of HaB over the years, sometimes courtesy of Stu, so I know how awkward it can be. I have my technique down to a tee but if there’s something out there that might make it better then let’s give it a whirl.
To test the Restrap properly the bike used needed to be the bike that is usually with me whenever I’m stuck clambering up a HaB section. It might surprise you that it’s not my gnarly enduro bike that gets carried up a mountain before plummeting off the side back to the valley bottom (full disclosure I don’t actually have an enduro bike). It also isn’t the fat bike which gets dragged for days though knee high snow drifts in a blizzard (I’d build an igloo and wait it out). It is in fact my rigid mountain bike, complete with frame bag, seatpack and top tube bag. This is the bike that gets carried more than any other bike so this is the one I used in the test.
My usual technique for HaB sections is to throw the bike onto my back, seat and top tube closest to the floor. I put my head under the down tube, grab the front wheel and a pedal, then start the long grind. It’s effective but not particularly comfy … see below.
The Restrap HaB Harness requires a bit of setting up before the adventure starts. A strap on the downtube, and a strap on the chain stay. Nothing too taxing but bring scissors to make it all nice and neat. The actual harness is mounted to the top tube. It’s not small (about 280mm long). The harness and my top tube bag took up most of my top tube. Also take note, if you’re running a frame bag it may clash with some of your strapping points.
Riding with the harness strapped to the top tube I did find that my legs caught the harness. Bit annoying as this is where the harness will spend most of its time. This might be resolved by pulling the straps tighter or adding an additional strap to keep it all together?
Up to this point in the test I’m not particularly enthralled with the HaB harness. It’s been a bit fiddly to setup, taken most of the space on the top tube, and I keep catching my legs on it whilst cycling. Now for a steep HaB section. Unravelling the straps and hooking them onto the downtube and chain stay straps is straight forward. An additional strap is provided to hold the front wheel steady and it works well. To lift the bike up, firstly your right arm goes through the front strap and then you lift the bike up. Once up, your left arm goes through the second strap. Tightening the straps secures and balances the load. Once in position it’s almost as comfy as a rucksack, not quite but pretty good. It’s easy to walk around, the weight is very close to your centre of gravity so I didn’t need to compensate much to stop me falling backwards which quite often happens with my normal method of HaB. It was also very easy to lower the bike off your shoulders as well. One thing to keep in mind, narrow gaps will be difficult as the bike sits flat across your back so it’s a very wide load. Maybe get a sign to warn others of your wide load.
Putting the straps away is easy, everything goes into a mesh pocket and folded shut using a velcro strap.
Overall, once mounted to the bike the Restrap HaB harness makes light work of carrying the bike. If you have space to mount it on your bike and expect to have hours of HaB I can see this being a worthwhile addition. But this is also where the problem lies, even on the hardest of events, the duration of having to carry a bike on your back is relatively short, which makes me wonder whether I’d still simply throw the bike on my back and be done with it rather than carry the harness. However, it is very comfy to wear and there’s no doubt that it does make HaB sections much easier
Thank you Karl. The Restrap HaB harness is available directly from RESTRAP and will cost you a penny under £50.