The Nihola Cigar has two front wheels, much like a Bakfiets tricycle.
The specification of the bike was generally sensible, dual drum brakes up front, controlled by a single lever (bicycle polo enthusiasts take note), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, a seven speed Shimano Nexus internal hub gear, mudguards, a partial chain guard and even a rear rack to add even more capacity. The trike also includes a parking brake, to prevent it rolling away on uneven ground
The front wheels have unbranded drum brakes in them, although judging by the hub shells I’d guess they were Sturmey Archers.
Shinamo Nexus 8-speed internal hub gear.
The frame is re-assuringly well built, with the cargo box being well-attached to the frame in numerous places.
A frame-fitted rear wheel lock is also included to prevent the bike being ridden off whilst the rider nips into a shop.
The rear wheel has a V-brake which I find to be a bizarre component choice on a bike such as this, where there is less pressure to keep costs to a bare minimum. A rear roller brake would have made more sense in my opinion, although with dual drum brakes at the front, this is only a small negative.
Inside the cargo box is a child seat, suitable for two children, complete with seatbelts. The front portion of the box is clear, allowing the passengers to see where it is they are going. The box is capacious enough to allow a decent amount of stuff to be carried in addition to children, and the rear rack adds further capacity.
This was my first “two-front-wheels” tricycle experience, and it has been a very long time since I have ridden any other tricycle, so I was expecting it to feel a bit odd for me. As a non-driving cyclist, I am unaccustomed to having to slow down to take corners. However, after a few minutes I started to get used to the differences between this and a bicycle and I enjoyed the fact that the tricycle required no balancing on my part whatsoever, meaning that very heavy loads would be more manageable. Overall it was very fun to ride after I'd gotten over the first few hair-raising corners
There were a few downsides to the tricycle, its size means it would require a garage or similar for storage, being wider than the average doorway. A reverse gear would also be a welcome addition for low-speed manoeuvring. Bicycle tyres are parabolic in profile because of the way a bicycle turns. Because trikes are less common, they tend to use bicycle tyres which will wear out more quickly due to the inability to lean in on corners. Square-profile tyres (as seen on cars) would be a good innovation for most tricycles, but in the meantime the super hard-wearing Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres are a good choice in the specification of this trike. I imagine that not trying to take the corners at full speed as I did will also improve tyre life.
I personally found the urge to lean into the corners to be difficult to overcome, but for someone who also drives and cycles or someone who doesn’t/cannot ride a bike, I can imagine the handling will feel quite normal, and this tricycle could be the right choice for them. The fact that the trike doesn't need to be balanced or propped up when stationary will be a big bonus for those carrying children.
Zaynan from Practical Cycles will be at the Chorlton Green Festival on Saturday the 16th of April. Amongst the cycles he will have with him will be the Nihola Cigar, so head down there if you fancy a closer look or a test ride.