Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Amazing Wovel - a Hands-On Review

So I've had my Wovel now for a complete winter season and I'm now ready to provide a comprehensive review.

For those of you who don't know what a Wovel is, it's basically a giant shovel attached to a wheel and its website reports that it

"clears snow with a fraction of the effort and (is) safer on your back"
Being a huge fan of functional exercise (exercise that doesn't feel like exercise - shoveling, playing with kids, push mowers, biking to work etc.), I of course immediately bought one.

First impressions were that it's very large - make sure you've got room in your garage. At our house I used two bicycle hooks to hang it off the garage wall and due to space constraints we have to park my wife's car beneath the hanging wheel.

Assembly was fairly straightforward and given my tool-based ineptitude, since I was able to put it together, I'd say anyone can do it.

The learning curve for woveling is not terribly steep and once you get going you'll find that indeed, it's much faster than a regular shovel and it's also much easier on the back.

The picture above came from a recent snowfall. I started our two car driveway after my neighbour with a standard shovel had already cleared off half of her one car driveway. I finished before she did, and in the end my back hurt more from clearing my walkway with a regular shovel than from clearing my entire driveway with the Wovel.

In terms of beefs, I've got a few.

Firstly the shovel is not made of the sturdiest plastic in the world. I've got a driveway with a few divots in it and over the course of only 4 or 5 uses, my shovel blade got pretty dinged up - so dinged up in fact that I ordered the stainless steel reinforcement bar for the bottom of the shovel. I wish I had ordered that from the get-go as it really made scraping down to the asphalt a breeze and definitely protects the soft blade. Only drawback to the reinforcement is the fact that it will stick in cracks so if you've got cracks in your driveway, or asphalt that's not smooth, I would imagine it would make woveling much more challenging.

Second beef is the giant wheel. Occasionally, after vigorous use, the wheel falls off mid-Wovel. It's designed for easy adjustability (depending on where you place the fulcrum you can either throw the snow higher or have an easier time with heavier loads) but I think the adjustability is a bit too easy given how often it falls off. I now tighten both pre-wovel and mid-wovel to ensure that this doesn't happen.

Lastly, while the price of the Wovel is quite reasonable, the price for the extra package (padded grips, "gravel wheels" and the steel reinforcement for the blade) seems a bit high for what you get.

If I were the Wovel folks, I'd make the stainless steel reinforcement part of the base model and then charge a fair bit less for the padded grips and gravel wheels. Grip wise I imagine handlebar tape would be a much cheaper and easier alternative though I've not used anything and have done just fine.

I'd give the Wovel an A- and would heartily recommend it to anyone with a large driveway or a trick back who wants to shovel on their own rather than hire a snow removal service or buy a big polluting snow blower.

If you're in the US, the Wovel website is having a 30% off sale ($83.97 USD) and while they do deliver to Canada, if you're in Canada you find the Wovel at Home Depot where it's on sale for 33% off ($99.95 CAD).