HASE Pino Steps - Firmware Frolics

This short article refers to the 2021 model of the HASE Pino Steps fitted with the Shimano DU-E6100 motor and the Shimano SC-E6100 head unit. I purchased this bike secondhand not long ago and have been getting to know the ins and outs of it and of the Pino in general.

One aspect of this was that I had no idea, the bike having been bought maybe 10 months ago by the original owner, whether any of the firmware had been updated. I knew that the bike hadn't even had it's first service, having done only 68 miles from new, so I suspected that no updates had been done.

I knew from the Pino Owner's Group on Facebook that the firmware on this bike could be updated by the user and I had been advised in good faith that this was possible using the Shimano E-TUBE application which is available for various platforms. I understood that the updates could be done if I installed the application on my iPhone so I downloaded it and installed it. I checked from various sources exactly what the process was and I went ahead.

In short this was a disaster! The application installed and connected perfectly well to the bike and the installed components were recognised, so far so good. The application indicated that the firmware of the E-6100 was out of date and needed updating which I'd expected and so I elected to go ahead, all good so far.

About 30% of the way into the firmware update the system became non-functional and the application indicated that this was a "Network/Bluetooth" issue and suggested that I should try again. To clarify, I had an excellent WiFi connection, a good Internet connection and no prior issues with Bluetooth on the device whatsoever.

As instructed I tried to repeat the process a number of times with exactly the same result. The end result of the firmware update was a HASE Pino Steps that could not be ridden, cosmic.

Clearly this needed to be resolved, and quickly. I knew that by going to a bike shop I would in all likelihood end up with a hefty bill. I determined that the "professional" way to update these things, which also allows access to other tools, is to use a Shimano PC Linkage Device, these come in an older version (SM-PCE1) and a newer version (SM-PCE02). Depressingly, along with many other things, these units are at the time of writing in very short supply and on top of that they are not cheap, around £170 for a black box and some wires.

To my great relief I managed to source one of the older units, here it is, not much to see:

I downloaded the E-TUBE application for Windows (v4.0) and installed it on a nearby PC, I then connected up the PC, SM-PCE1 device and The Pino and hoped for the best. The process from there was quick, faultless and simple.

The E-TUBE software recognised the components on the HASE Pino and identified that the E-6100 firmware needed to be overwritten. I agreed to this and the overwriting process started immediately, the entire overwrite took about 4 minutes.
Once the firmware had been overwritten (the correct software is automatically downloaded from Shimano via the Internet connection of the PC) I was advised to reconnect, which I did. This was again completely straightforward, one click of the mouse. Once reconnected a screen showed me the current status of the Steps system components.
As you can see it is confirmed by the E-TUBE software that the latest software versions are now installed , hopefully this will ensure that as time goes on things will continue to work smoothly, at least I know that the bike systems are now all up to date.

My conclusion from this is that, as I have often found to be the case, a hard wired system will often be less trouble, quicker and more reliable that a Wireless/Bluetooth option. The black box is a costly item but when I was confronted yesterday with a very expensive non-functioning bike I would happily have paid the price if I had at that point known that it would fix the problem.

Based on this experience I do not intend at any point in the future to try to update my system using the E-TUBE mobile application, I will use the Windows Version and either the (SM-PCE1) or the (SM-PCE02). I just hope this helps someone avoid the hassle and anxiety I experienced!

A HASE Pino & Us - First Ride!

Having recovered from the journey and spent some time properly getting to grips with the HASE Pino at home it was time to try the bike out for real. I could hardly wait. Lorena and I loaded the Pino onto the bike rack, I also must mention that this THULE rack is fantastic, it's just so easy to put onto and take off the car, it makes transporting the Pino a breeze.

We decided, rather than launch straight onto the roads with unfamiliar handling, to head for a local car park that we knew would be quiet to just get the feel of things and this was going to be the moment of truth, was this bike going to solve the problems it had been bought to solve?

I tried the bike solo first and I was staggered. I found it immediately comfortable and the power from the Shimano E6100 motor was smooth and the motor was quiet, it made a huge difference even in ECO mode. I very quickly got used to the different handling and I found myself riding round and round the car park with a huge grin on my face, I didn't want to stop! Is there such a thing as the "Pino Grin"🙂

Lorena wasn't going to let me get away with it, she wanted to be in the Stoker Seat and to find out whether after all this time we were going to be out riding a tandem around Northumberland again, whether this bike was going to solve the sciatica problem.

Within moment of setting off we both knew that this was a winner and that we had backed the right horse. Lorena found the riding position comfortable and felt safe, all her apprehension about being on the front evaporated and was replaced by the sheer pleasure of a clear view of the road ahead and the wind in her face.

Riding around the car park was not really representative of the reality of cycling in the UK because the surface was good and the area was flat but it was enough to tell us that this bike is going to work for us. I have no doubt that we have made the right choice and I am hopeful that we will have many hours of pleasure now that we are back on a tandem again after a number of years.

It is my intention to continue to write up our experiences of the Pino as we venture further afield and cover more miles. For the moment we are just delighted that this leap of faith has worked out. I also plan to produce a series of videos of our experiences and points of interest which I hope might encourage others to take the plunge.

A HASE Pino & Us - Lady Luck!

The UK Tandem Club has a very good website which offers access to many tandem related resources not least of which is a buy and sell area where people can advertise tandem bicycles they no longer need, for a modest fee. When I decided to sell our Orbit tandem I advertised it on the Tandem Club website and I managed to sell it quite quickly.

This was the bike I sold, I was sorry to part with it but Lorena's sciatica beat us:
Anyway, that was the past, back to the present. When I set up my Tandem Club options I asked to be notified of any new advertisements that might appear on the site as I remained interested in the items that came up for sale though I held out little hope of finding what I wanted, I proved to be very wrong.

At about the time that I had decided to buy a new HASE Pino an advert popped into my inbox. The advertisement was for a white HASE Pino Steps and it looked to me to be in excellent condition. I contacted the seller immediately for more information.

It transpired that this particular HASE Pino Steps was being sold having covered only 68 miles. I will not go into any details but the bicycle was essentially new and I was able to establish that the original supplier would be happy to support and service the bike, the bike came with all the original paperwork.

Even though we had never at this stage ridden a Pino I knew that I had to take this chance so I paid a deposit, agreed how to pay the balance, and started to make arrangements to collect the bike. In the interim period I ordered and took delivery of a THULE EasyFold XT 3 rack (expensive!) as I needed that to go and collect the Pino, a trip that was going to be a 700 mile round trip with an overnight stay spent in a small tent!
I must say a thank you to Ward Appeltans from the Pino Owners Group (Facebook) who was very helpful with his wise advice on carrying the Pino on a bike rack, he was most generous with his experience and guidance.

The excitement built as I arrived to collect the bike, the seller proved to be very helpful and allowed me to examine the bike in detail before departure and to familiarise myself with it. A short test ride down the road and I knew this was the bike for us and it was time to load the bike onto the rack, everything came together nicely, thanks to the previous advice of Ward Appeltans.

With the final balance paid it was time for the 350 mile drive home with my prize strapped to the THULE bike rack. Everything seemed to be secure and off I went, about seven hours later I arrived home, the deed was done, I was the owner of a HASE Pino Steps and I couldn't have been more pleased.

A HASE Pino & Us - Boxes Ticked!

The more I looked at the HASE Pino 2021 the more I liked it and the more of an ingenius solution I thought it was to so many problems. Referring back to my list of requirements this is what it ended up looking like:

  • Must be comfortable to ride and not induce sciatica in either rider.
  • Must be reasonably convenient to transport by car to allow a wider range of cycling areas to be enjoyed. ✓
  • Must be possible to transport in our motorhome garage, or on a motorhome rack. ✓
  • Must be reasonably convenient to store at home. ✓
  • Ideally could be ridden by one rider. ✓
  • Must provide good carrying capacity. ✓

In summary:

I did not know at this point whether the Pino would be comfortable to ride. All I could go on was that I could not find a report that said that it wasn't comfortable for the stoker and I could find many reports that said it was extremely comfortable.

Very encouragingly I even managed to find references from people who had found the stoker Pino position to be the answer to back issues when tandem cycling. I was 99% sure I would be able to be comfortable on the Pino in the rear position, I saw no reason why I wouldn't be.

It was clear that the Pino 2021 could be transported by car with the frame shortened, also the tandem length, when shortened, meant it could be transported in the garage of our motorhome, a huge plus. I did some investigating and determined that the folding THULE EasyFold XT 3 tow ball mounted bike rack would be perfect for carrying the Pino 2021, no more struggling to roof mount a tandem.

The ability to shorten the Pino 2021 meant that we could comfortably store it in our available space at home, it can clearly be ridden by one rider and it can carry oceans of luggage. It seemed to me that the bike would satisfy all our requirements and could even be used as a solo touring bike for short trips or long weekends.

I had at this point pretty much decided that this is the bike that I wanted, I knew that if I went for the Shimano Steps option this would create some limitations in terms of touring range but as that was not to be the primary function of the bike the advantages of motor assistance seemed to me to outweigh the "touring limitations". Time would tell how this might work out and I'll share my experiences as time goes by.

The big problem of course remains, the cost. However, things were to take an unexpected turn.

A HASE Pino & Us - The Pino 2021

Bicycles, particularly unusual ones, are expensive things and if this plan was going to come to fruition I needed to work out how it was going to be paid for. I had established a "bike fund" and into this fund I put the money from the sale of the Orbit tandem, two Brompton folding bikes, two VOLT e-Bikes and finally I sold a touring bike. All this cleared up a lot of space, it clarified things in my mind and most importantly it gave us a good fund to work with as we set our future direction.

It had always been a massive frustration to us that it was never convenient or easy for us to transport our tandem, even with the Tandem Swing roof rack, as it was a large heavy thing to get up onto the roof of the car no matter how much I tried to dress it up and to convince myself otherwise. On top of this it was essentially impossible to incorporate tandem riding into our motor-homing trips which was a great shame, essentially the ideal cycling arrangement for the future would tick the following boxes:

  • Must be comfortable to ride and not induce sciatica in either rider.
  • Must be reasonably convenient to transport by car to allow a wider range of cycling areas to be enjoyed.
  • Must be possible to transport in our motorhome garage, or on a motorhome rack.
  • Must be reasonably convenient to store at home.
  • Ideally could be ridden by one rider.
  • Must provide good carrying capacity.

The Pino semi-recumbent tandem seemed to satisfy these requirements as the frame could be dismantled into two pieces but reviewing YouTube videos this did seem to be a bit of a performance and also seemed to leave you with two pieces that would still be quite awkward to transport. I didn't want to spend a fortune and still not be happy with our setup but I carried on looking.

I had been keeping an eye on the secondhand market and I did spot two quite new Pinos for sale and made some enquiries about one of them and I came quite close to putting in an offer. At this stage we still hadn't ridden a Pino so all this was going to be a shot in the dark but it just didn't feel right to me to be taking up the time and expertise of a business if what I was looking at doing was to possibly buy secondhand, it just didn't seem fair.

As time has been passing I had continued to discuss my thoughts with Lorena who was by now coming round to the idea and dare I say it was even sounding quite enthusiastic!

And then everything changed, thankfully before I made an offer on the Pino I was looking at, when I spotted this on YouTube:

My first reaction was that I had had an unbelievably narrow escape by not buying one of the secondhand Pinos I had been looking at which would have required me to split the frame and rebuild it every time I wanted to transport or store it, again the advice of Igor from Rent-a-Pino was invaluable. The new 2021 Pino (released late 2020) had a telescopic front boom and a telescopic main frame, in addition a Shimano Steps option was available, depending on the depth of one's pockets.

It was looking as if I now knew where I wanted to be....

A HASE Pino & Us - Beginnings

My wife Lorena and I have enjoyed cycling for many years, I have been involved in a number of endurance events and I qualified as a cycling coach a number of years ago but I vastly scaled down my coaching activities at about the same time as retiring from the UK National Health Service to spend more time doing other things.

Over the years I have ridden all manner of different bicycles for all manner of different purposes and I have now reached the point where cycling has become something that I very much enjoy as a leisure activity rather than something which has at times, for me, become rather all-consuming. Increasingly I also want to try to incorporate cycling into other activities, in particular traveling in our motorhome.

In the past we have had several motorhomes which have become incrementally larger, currently we own a Hymer B680 which has a spacious garage in which we often carry a Honda PCX 125 scooter which we use to explore from the motorhome, large vehicles can be more trouble than they are worth when exploring the countryside!

Lorena and I have had a great deal of enjoyment over the years riding several "conventional" tandems (Dawes and Orbit) both here in the UK and over in Mallorca where, until recently, we have cycled regularly until that was stopped by The Coronavirus Pandemic. Our regular mode of transport is a Nissan X-Trail and we have a "Tandem Swing" carrier mounted on roof bars which we used to transport the Orbit tandem.

Sadly as time went by riding our tandem ceased to be the pleasure it once was . This was primarily brought about by Lorena being diagnosed with a large prolapsed lumbar intervertebral disc which required surgery. The surgery was partially effective but the long term outcome was that riding a tandem almost invariably resulted in Lorena suffering from agonising sciatica which quite simply took away all the pleasure of riding a conventional tandem.

Sadly, as things could not be made better no matter what we tried, we reluctantly took the decision to sell the Orbit tandem which we did in 2020. At the time of writing we still have a Dawes tandem in store in Mallorca but in all honesty we think it is unlikely that we will ride it again. Having sold the Orbit tandem I think Lorena and I had pretty much come to the conclusion, though we avoided talking about it, that our tandem riding days were probably finished.

At some point, I suspect on a previous visit to JD Tandems in Gargrave, I had seen a HASE Pino tandem and I had been intrigued by them, I liked that fact that they were different and I just started to wonder whether a HASE Pino might be a way of getting us back on the road. I started doing some research and received invaluable help and advice from Igor who runs Rent-a-Pino in France, we hope to holiday with Igor in the future.

Time passed and the idea of owning and riding a Pino kept nagging away at me and for some reason simply would not go away. It has to be said that Lorena was less enthusiastic than I was, her main concern was perhaps feeling vulnerable sitting out on the front, I assumed from this that on a regular tandem Lorena regarded me as some kind of human shield!

At this time, with the pandemic raging, it was not a good time to be test riding tandems and many businesses were in any event closed. What I needed to do was to clarify my ideas, rationalise our bicycles, watch the market, and most importantly, work on Lorena......

The Storming of The Capitol

A new day and a frosty morning here in the UK, things are not getting better in America and overnight it has been reported that 4 people have died, one shot, during the storming of The Capitol yesterday, tragic but predictable.

Donald Trump has apparently now said that there will be an "orderly transition" and I conclude from this that he is perhaps shocked at what has happened and knows that he has blood on his hands.

It is interesting to think about how America seems to respond in a crisis. Comparing this situation with 9/11, and I am sure in spite of a great deal of planning and theoretical work, once again things have not gone well.

During the 9/11 attack, according to several reports and TV documentaries the US President was completely out of touch and unable to direct operations from Air Force One. The technology side of things failed completely and different parts of the administration were unable to communicate with each other. In fact, things were so bad, that those on Air Force One became dependent on an intermittent TV signal and TV news for information. This was the sole source of information on Air Force One, and to the US President. At the time, in a moment of National crisis, things were completely out of control and crisis control systems failed completely.

Last night, what happened was that hundreds, possibly thousands, of protestors marched on The Capitol, the seat of US democracy. This was a planned and known event and the shocking thing is that protestors were able to walk straight into the very seat of US democracy and disrupt it.

There are huge questions to be answered, the most obvious of those being why was the building not better prepared and protected, given that this was a predictable event? Surely in this situation what was required was a "ring of steel" to be placed around The Capitol to ensure that if things got out of hand they could be dealt with and that the required manpower was available to deal with the situation.

It seems to me that once again the United States was left woefully unprepared in a time of crisis and the systems which should have been in place to manage a crisis were simply not up to the job. It is all very well being "the most powerful nation on Earth" but if you cannot deal with a sudden crisis then there is something badly wrong. The ability to deal with a crisis quickly and effectively is what frequently matters, not having vast numbers of nuclear missiles sitting in silos.

The role of social media in all this cannot be ignored. It has been known for months, maybe years, that the current US President uses social media to promote his particular agenda. In some instances social media has been used to promote "unrest" and division which is the last thing that the world needs at the moment from someone with such power at his fingertips, what is needed is calm and stability.

Surely the social media companies could and should have acted sooner and with more rigour to control and reduce the spread of misinformation. It is not enough to simply put warnings on things which are known to be wrong, they should be removed completely. Putting warnings on tobacco products does not stop people consuming them, they still kill people.

Bit Of A Downer

Have to admit that I'm feeling pretty low about things today, apart from the pandemic being so awful it's being just so badly handled and even the good news about the vaccine is tainted with delivery problems, confusion and delay.

They are talking about there being 2 million doses available per week, and that is sure to be an over-estimate. Even if that is accurate, at 2 doses per person, that's enough to vaccinate one million people per week, if there are enough people to actually do that. I cannot see them getting near that for ages.

The population of the UK is 66 million so at one million per week it's over a year to vaccinate all the people. This is at the same time as we are seeing adverts saying "Jab & Go" for Easter 2021 holidays, just so totally irresponsible.

Coronovirus Spread - Who's Fault?

On the Coronovirus front things continue to go from bad to worse with just under 1000 deaths reported yesterday. At last someone has the courage to lay the blame where I have said all along that it should rest, with human behaviour.

This is what Professor Hugh Montgomery who works in ITU at The Whittington Hospital, London, has had to say about it:

"It is wrong to blame the surge in cases and deaths on the new variant of coronavirus, which is only slightly more transmissible and causes the same symptoms"

"It is making me very angry actually now that people are laying the blame on the virus, and it is not the virus, it is people, people not washing their hands, they are not wearing masks"

Professor Montgomery warned anyone not socially distancing or following the rules that they "have blood on their hands". "They are spreading the virus. Other people will spread it and people will die. They won't know that they have killed people but they have. "

Professor Montgomery added: " I am watching whole families getting wiped out here, and it's got to stop. "

Professor Montgomery also said that it was "a great myth" that hospitals are being overwhelmed by elderly people. "The people we are getting are, like the first wave, my age really. I am 58 and I would say half the patients are younger than me. It's the middle-aged people or a little bit older that we are getting ".

It is dreadful to read this but at least someone has finally had the courage to come out and say that the problem rests with human behaviour, which is what I have been saying all along, to anyone that will listen.

COVID Vaccination - Will You Win?

The big news of the day is that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by the regulator for use in the UK, it is expected that this will be a real game-changer because it is far easier to store in a "normal" refrigerator rather than the ultra cold conditions needed for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The development of these vaccines is a scientific triumph but some aspects concern me.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is currently in use was found to be 95% effective in the control of the coronavirus in a major trial, this was far higher than had been either predicted or expected.

The new Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trials are a bit more difficult to understand, for me anyway. I understand that the originally planned dosing regime of 2 full doses proved to be about 65% effective. However, it seems that a regime which was discovered by accident (or in error) of one full dose and one half dose was apparently 90% effective.

Combining this information it appears that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine delivers an effectiveness of, on average, 70%. This apparently means that 70% of the people given the vaccine will not get Covid symptoms.

There is no doubt that 70% effectiveness in a vaccine is a good result but the problem, as I see it, is that it looks less good when a vaccine that is 95% effective is also available.

Let us imagine for a moment how we would feel if we were talking, not about a vaccine, but about a cancer treatment. As we know cancer can be fatal and, as we also know only too well now, a Coronavirus infection can also be fatal, particularly in some groups.

Are we now left with an extremely difficult situation, who gets what? If I was diagnosed with cancer and I was offered a treatment that was known, on average, to be 70% effective, how would I feel if I knew that there was a treatment that was 95% effective at fighting the disease. In all honesty I would not be very happy about being given the less effective treatment.

Is it possible that, knowing that there are now vaccines with different levels of effectiveness, members of the general public, when offered the vaccine, may well ask which one they are going to be given? Might they not be keen to consent to being given the "cheaper and less effective" vaccine, when they know that others are being given a "more expensive and more effective" vaccine?

There is no doubt that in the minds of the general public we are going to see strong views emerging about vaccine delivery, people are going to be asking why there are being given the "less effective & cheaper" vaccine and not the "more effective & more expensive" vaccine. They are also going to want to know how they have been selected to have one or the other.

There are going to be difficult discussions to be had and difficult concepts to be explained. I know myself that travel would not be a barrier. If I am offered the "less effective & cheaper" option locally I would very happily travel any distance in order to receive the "more effective & more expensive" vaccine. Basically if I am going to be given a new vaccine whose long term effects and effectiveness are not known I want to have the one which looks at the moment to be the most effective.

Then of course there is the nightmare scenario of the potential for vaccine distribution to turn into a postcode lottery. Is it just possible that the "more expensive & more effective" vaccine might be used predominantly in the south and south east? This might be explained by reference to the need for a "cold chain" for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, less travel etc.

This would leave the "less effective & cheaper" vaccine to be used in the northern areas. Traditionally far more is spent per capita in the south than the north and if this did happen it should surprise nobody.

It would be interesting, even at this early stage, to know the delivery distribution of the approximately 600,000 "more expensive and more effective" Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations that have been given. Any guesses anyone?