Pulling Power, the Radical Design Wheelie

“What the hell is that?”

I got that a lot from walkers on the West Highland Way heading North as I headed South from Kingshouse to Victoria Bridge. Some folk just looked at me and others were very interested and we stopped an talked about it. Most folk liked the idea of not having a pack on, and looking at some of the knee crushing 90L monsters being carried, I could understand that. But the idea is often very different from the reality.

The Wheelie comes from a company in Holland called Radical Design, and Hubert van Ham the man behind the designs kindly sent one to the UK for me to test.
It’s a lovely bit of kit, very simple and easy to assemble. There’s some adjustment in the straps for height and walking position and also at the wheels, both in tyre pressure and track width for coping with different terrain. You wear a large comfortable hip-belt to which the Wheelie attaches and the large quick-release buckle at the waist is your entry and exit point, just as in a regular rucksack. The storage area is like a huge seat-wedge that you get on bikes, but this will take all the kit you need for an extended trip with scope for external extra stowing. It comes with a raincover and there’s also a hidden harness so you can carry the whole thing if needs be.

The first few steps were strange, with a definite seesaw effect between me and the Wheelie, but as I got into my stride it settled down quickly and I found that on most terrain I didn’t need to use the handles which curve forwards at your hips, and I was hands-free for most of the time. On very rough ground the handles aid stability and also a wee pull from the wearer helps with momentum over obstacle and also keeps the Wheelie from getting too much stress at its moving and linking parts.
My pace was very good indeed, I had 40 litres of camping kit in there and I couldn’t feel it at all. With no weight on my back, there was no sensation of a load. What you have is a sensation of resistance, not like walking into a strong wind, or even like someone holding onto your belt from behind. It’s different. I’m not saying it’s without effort, I found it to be a very good heart and lungs stretcher, and the next day my legs were telling a tale of time and distance worked.

I got to Ba Bridge feeling fresh and happy, the sun was shining, I had no pack on and consequently a dry back, and it’s just a lovely spot to linger at.
As I drank some Banananuun (tastes like Irn Bru, brake fluid and banana skin) I reflected on the other new kit I had on while I was here. As I was leaving home a courier lorry pulled up with a box of Haglöfs test kit and I had a quick rifle through. Throwing caution to the wind I stuck on a pair of Lynx pants, a Jura shirt and a pair of Escape Ventlator shoes with the new Sole insoles in them. I had some revelations using this kit, especially as it was just out of the box.

South from Ba Bridge is on Telford’s cobbles. I will not lie, it’s harsh. The hardest part of the West Highland Way for me, but in trail shoes and without any weight on my back I made remarkably smooth progress. I had set the tyre pressure quite low, trading speed for shock absorption and it was quite bearable.
There’s not much in the way of accessible pockets here, but I had attached a bottle pocket (also from Radical Design) to the hip belt and was sipping juice quite happily. Unclipping to access the pack section is no more difficult or time consuming than taking off a pack, but I think if I was going a longer distance I would maybe wear a bumbag or attach another accessory pouch to the hipbelt.

I didn’t know what the hell to expect. But, it was really good fun, it was so nice not to have a pack on, but still to have all the kit with me. The Wheelie is very usable, very comfortable and not at all strange once you’re on the trail. I know it’s limited in its scope, open hillsides would be beyond it and having to cross obstacles that mean taking it on and off constantly would annoy, but on Long Distance Paths I think it’s in its element. Folk with injury or disability might find trails accessible with one of these as well. 
It has a practicality and an “otherness” that I like and I would have no problem taking this the whole length on the WHW. Thank goodness for different.

 

And how did I manage to do this one-way walk without doubling back? Well, Joycee dropped me off at Kingshouse and met me on the trail heading down to Victoria Bridge. Wheelie in the motor, and off the the Real Food Cafe.
Alright!

22 thoughts on “Pulling Power, the Radical Design Wheelie

  1. The wife says you look like an old wifee with her shopping trolley but I can see the appeal for long distance wanders,I dare say you could yark a wee pack into it for some lightweight ascents,bob’s yer uncle!

  2. The shopping trolley thing has come up a few times :o)
    I’ll tell you, on a long trek I reckon it would be grief-free.
    On a downhill it is stable and the low centre of gravity and hraness design means that there’s no way it can influence you or take the descent into its own hands.
    A wee pack in there for excursions and the like would be no problem.

    It was really interesting.

  3. All you need is another five of you trolley’d up and you can recreate Ben Hur in the Real Food Cafe carpark.

    Just don’t let any horses/ponies/mules see you pulling that as they might point at you & laugh…

    But, seriously, I guess it’s a modern, clever, lightweight take on the rickshaw principle.
    How about a mile-ometer to tell you how far you’ve gone?

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  5. Das, you could fit one of the wee Bike computers onto it no problem. It’s a good idea that.

    The rickshaw comparison has not escaped me :o)

    Banananuun has to be tried. Oh yes.

  6. Being in Holland I’ve seen these things in the shops. Your positive review takes me by surprise. Always looked at them with a bit of a snigger if the truth be told. Should learn to keep an open mind. Maybe the Dutch being free of ‘hill-tradition”(for obvious reasons) are better suited to thinking out of the box?

    Been looking at another Dutch wheelie product with a similar degree of schepticism but having kids I keep coming back to it. I’ve since read in Op-pad (dutch trail/tgo) that they’ve been used in anger by a young Dutch family in the Highlands. Check out: http://www.anndur.nl Maybe I should keep an open mind about this too?

    From what I’ve seen, radical designs kit seems to be well made, bomb proof but a little too heavy for my taste. Maybe you can convince them to put their fertile minds to lightening my load ;-)

  7. That’s another wacky contraption right enough Dave. But, if it makes possible or encourages self-powered travel, it can only be a good thing.

    I’ve got another couple of Radical Design accessories and I’ll feature them soon, like you say the fabrics are old-school but the thinking is very different.

    I do think there’s scope for a lightweight solution to this wheeled rucksack stuff, it’s definitely got me thinking.

  8. This is very weird. Was on the South Downs last week practicing for bigger hills by going up & down the escarpment when I bumped into a bloke who was towing his gear. Found this so strange I was considering posting a note when I saw PTC’s review.

    Just as PTC supposed, the bloke explained he suffered from a (very) bad back and could not carry. He was using a porter’s luggage trolley to which he’d strapped his rucksack, camping gear etc. The wheels were small – about 4 inch diam – and non pneumatic! He’d completed the Isle of Wight Coastal Path and was about halfway through the S Downs Way, so he and his home made chariot must have done 100+ miles.

    Proves you don’t have to spend a fortune! But I think he’d have preferred the Dutch version.

  9. That’s really good to hear.
    Finding an obstruction and working a way around it, magic :o)

    It really doesn’t seem so weird mow that I’ve used it. I can see lots of possibilities.

  10. I’ve used a Bob Yak on the back of the mountain bike to drag my gear over stuffing the rucksack with gear, great idea on the better trails, but when you hit something boggy, or something a bit technical. it’s a real pain. I can envisage the same issue with this trailer, think I’ll stick with my packs!!

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