Here are some links to complete articles that have appeared about Bike Friday.
Or, you can link to excerpts of other articles.
Bicycling 2011 Buyer's Guide
tikit voted "Best Folding Bicycle"
from TreeHugger Best of Green 2010
April 8, 2010 by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada
Folding Bikes Grow Up:
from Popular Mechanics
June 30, 2009 by Linda Yin and David Dunbar
GEARED UP: Oregon business feature
January 6, 2009 by Ben Jacklet
Lessons from a Man Who Hasn’t Missed a Workout in 16 Years
from Core Performance
April 7, 2010 by Joe Kita
Know when to fold 'em
from The Globe and Mail
October 2005 by Jen Gerson
Know when to fold 'em: Though imperfect, niche bikes offer a solution for cramped commuting
from Boston Globe
November 30, 2008 by Kytja Weir, Globe Correspondent
Bicycle Touring Pro interviews BF Marketing Director Hanna Scholz, June 2008
June 1, 2008 by Darren Aiff
"A kick-ass bicycle"
April 2008 by Grist.org
*ORIGAMI BIke* From Zero to Suitcase in under 6 seconds
Mechanical Engineering Magazine
June 8, 2008 by Jeffery Winters, Associate Editor
Handles as nicely as my last road frame
from The New York Times
September 2005 by Stefani Jackenthal
Alpe d'Huez on a Friday
from Washington Post
July 2005 by Andrew Beyer
I Can Ride My Bike Every Day
April 2005 by Jim Langley
Bike Friday Twin Air Q
from Australian Cyclist
March 2005 by John Gilpin, Austrailian Cyclist
Rules of the Road
February 2005 by Peter Hall
Mike & Susan Mahony talk tandems
from Houston Chronicle
March 2004 by STEVE SIEVERT
FYEye: Pack 'n' Play
from Forbes FYI
November 2000 by none
It's a hit with the Brits
AtoB Magazine November 2007
"It's got class."
Shropshire, UK-- by David Henshaw
The Brit bible of folding and otherly-abled bikes, AtoB Magazine, recently put the tikit through its pedal strokes. Here's a condensed review from the November 2007 issue. The AtoB editors have always been aficionados of the justifiably famous Brompton, so the cover subtitle 'Brompton beaters?' suggests the tikit really tickled their fancy! A pre-BTO tikit was tested in this review; read about the new Built to Order tikit.
TIKIT blue and black 07
First impressions are quite impressive. Folding bikes with 16-inch wheels can be twitchy, but the Tikit has a much bigger feel, responding more like a 20-inch bike. Some of this steadiness can be put down to the ‘boring but trusty’ Schwalbe Marathon tyres, but credit must also go to Bike Friday’s innate skill in producing quality frames. Quite simply, it feels right: the bike transmits every subtle nuance from the road surface to the rider, but the ride is never harsh.
Even on rough tracks and trails the bike is comfortable and forgiving despite the lack of suspension. A clear demonstration that even with small wheels, a good frame can make suspension unnecessary. We’d go as far as to say that the ride and handling is the best we’ve seen with this wheel size, with the exception of the classic Moulton, which, of course had full suspension.
Gearing is a bit of a compromise. Fit a derailleur to a 16-inch wheel and the gear range is likely to be a bit low, and a bit narrow. This can be improved with specialist derailleurs, such as the Shimano Capreo, which is specifically designed for small-wheelers (and is expected to make an appearance on a later Tikit derivative), but the basic Tikit is equipped with a mix of entry level SRAM equipment.
The gripshift and MRX cassette give eight gears between 31" and 80". That’s fine as compromises go - it won’t climb serious hills or spin fast down the other side, but the Tikit can deal with most things, and build up a reasonable head of steam on the flat too. There's no technical reason why it shouldn’t be upgraded with better quality and/or wider range gears - we’d guess that a market will soon develop in this area.
Another key folding bike characteristic is (or should be) low weight. This is more than just a matter of bragging down at the pub, because if you commute with a folding bike, you will spend many hours of your life carrying it rather than riding it. The Tikit weighs 11kg (24lbs) for the small frame and 11.7kg (251/2") for the big one, which is the good side of average, but not spectacularly so.
TIKIT in transit bag
With the saddle stem free, the rear frame is able to drop down, so you sort of flick the rear wheel under in a Brompton/Birdy manoeuvre. At this point, you find yourself looking for something to undo, but it’s all done: the handlebars are now loose and can be folded flat against the front wheel, locking into a clip on the frame tube, the saddle stem folds down and nestles against the frame, and all that remains is to clip the rear frame to the main frame with a little plastic tab.
Fold the right-hand pedal (the left hand folds, but doesn’t need to), and the operation is complete.
Bike Friday claims a five-second fold, and says in no uncertain terms that it is the fastest fold around, which may well be true. In experienced hands the fold time could well be in the three-second region, but for Mr and Mrs Average, let’s say under ten seconds with a little practice. So from the slowest fold, Bike Friday has effortlessly introduced the fastest.
How does it work? The rear frame and saddle stem hinge is slightly out of skew, allowing these elements to fold against, rather than under or over the main frame tube. The rear frame release is all down to clever design in the area where the front and rear frames and saddle stem come together.
The handlebars are even craftier. A pair of Bowden cables (two being safer than one) connect the bottom of the rear frame to the handlebar hinge clamping plate. When you’re riding, these cables are firmly under tension, keeping the handlebars up. Folding the rear frame slackens the cables, and by magic the handlebars drop too.
TIKIT Alvin Lee Cambodia 07
Even more than the Brompton - where the saddle height and angle have to be set - the Tikit unfolding sequence is repeatable because the adjustment of the folding mech cables must be absolutely spot on, and certainly in the first few weeks of use, the adjustment would need to be watched closely. Similarly with the rear frame hinge and handlebar hinge, where the clamping plate is a bit weedy compared to the much chunkier versions favoured by Brompton and Birdy.
Some bikes will tolerate slop and play in the mechanism, but the Tikit probably won’t. Quite how the bike will last in the cut and thrust of commuting is hard to guess, but when new it works very well.
Folded size is not the Tikit’s strongest point. The actual package size is a bit of a moving target because the three frames and various saddle and handlebar adjustments can make a big difference. We tested a small-framed bike with saddle at full stretch, producing a fairly typical package.
We measured the length as 87cm, width as 44cm and height as 69cm, giving a folded volume of 264 litres, or 9.4 cubic feet. That’s broadly the same as a 20-inch bike like the Dahon, but the Tikit is lighter than most Dahons and the package is securely locked together, so it’s much easier to deal with.
Surprisingly, reputable bicycle manufacturers sometimes design a folding bike with no clear idea as to how it will be used. What you want is a bike that doesn’t fall apart; that can be carried with a handle in a nicely balanced position; and that can be wheeled along easily when you don’t want to carry it. Bike Friday really has put some thought into this, and the Tikit is one of the best machines we’ve seen.
You lift the package by a carry-handle on the top of the frame, positioned to give near ideal balance. This works well - you can tell, because the bike feels lighter than 11kg, which is always a good sign. If you’re going further - crossing a large station concourse, for example - the package can be wheeled. On the bottom of the saddle stem is a foam grip, which is ideal for pulling (or more comfortably, pushing) the bike along. Instead of trolley wheels, the Tikit runs on its road wheels, which are not quite side by side, but the package is stable and it rolls really well.
Steve Chang tikit
What do we think? We’re very impressed. The fold is fast, and the package size reasonable. Ride is wonderful, and quite a revelation for a 16-inch bike.
A practical commuter? The Tikit will squeeze into all but the most sardine-like rail carriages, although its bulk would count against it on the Tube, or a typical rush-hour bus.
Value for money? When we started testing folding bikes, £400 was a pricey machine. These days, you’re looking at four figures for a decent bike, so the base model Tikit at £870 (£820 until Christmas for A to B subscribers) is barely out of the mid-range.
There are numerous Dahons at this sort of price, plus the Airnimal Joey, but these are all quite bulky machines. Of the compacts, the Mezzo offers good value in the £600 zone, but the Birdy now starts at £1,000.
As usual it’s the Brompton that the Tikit will be compared to: the British bike starts at £565, but you really need £900 plus for a decent lightweight example. The Tikit is a little heavier, but sportier to ride and arguably quicker to fold.
And it has one other attribute that’s all too rare in the folding bike world - class.
- David and Jane Henshaw
Cycling legend reviews the Bike Friday TiLite XL Tandem
December 2004 by Fred Matheny
HOT! * Light! * Packs in two standard suitcases * Superb stoker comfort * Custom orders welcome
NOT! * More flexy than conventional tandems * Stock gear range too high and narrow * Rim brakes may not be sufficient
Bike Friday virtually created the travel bike niche. Sure, there were other foldable bicycles before Alan Scholz designed his first small-wheel machine to fit in a suitcase in the early 1990s. But none rode as much like a conventional bike.
RBR's Ed Pavelka and I have owned Bike Friday Pocket Rockets for more than 10 years. We've used them for camps, tours, brevets, centuries and training while traveling. They ride and handle as well as our best bikes.
Bike Friday also offers tandems. The original model -- cleverly named Bike Two'sDay -- fit neatly in two suitcases, one for the captain to check and one for the stoker. Ed rode a Two'sDay 600 miles across New South Wales in Australia in 1997 and vouched for the design. Now, the company offers no fewer than 48 tandem models, including triplets, for everything from racing to touring to family recreation.
My wife, Deb, and I rode one of Bike Friday's high-end models, the TiLite XL Road Tandem Traveler, equipped with Dura-Ace 9-speed components. We totaled 25 hours during 10 rides, including a 5:30 century at the Tour of the Valley in Grand Junction, CO.
This tandem is seriously light. Our test bike didn't crack 30 pounds even with pedals. It's light because the cro-moly steel front and rear are joined by titanium connector tubes. Seat masts are Ti, too.
Our first impression of the bike was -- flexy! Thanks to the lightness and springiness of titanium, the TiLite is less rigid than standard tandems. It wasn't disturbing, but it took us a few rides to adjust. Once we did, we liked the way it held the road in rough corners, almost like a suspension bike. The give in the frame also meant stoker comfort on rough roads even though the bike didn't have a beam or suspension seatpost. Deb experienced no saddle discomfort even during long rides on rough chip 'n' seal roads.
Standing -- always a good test of tandem flex -- wasn't a problem, although it required a bit more captain/stoker coordination and smoothness than on a stiffer bike.
Bike Friday tandems or singles are great for travel. Because they fit in a suitcase, you don't get charged the exorbitant airline bike fee (as much as $75 each way). A packable tandem means that you can take it on a vacation with a minimum of fuss. The company even offers two tandems that convert to a single bike for those days when one member of the team doesn't want to ride.
On the first try, the TiLite took about an hour to assemble. Based on experience with the Pocket Rocket, I could have reduced that time by half with some practice. Tearing it down for re-packing took 45 minutes. But again, practice would get you ready for the airport in 30 minutes or less. The tandem fits easily in two standard Samsonite suitcases. Bike Friday says a skilled packer can actually fit it into one.
Bike Friday tandems are also easier to transport when assembled because their 20-inch wheels help them squeeze into vehicles that can't accept a standard 700C-wheel tandem. For example, with the front wheel removed, our test bike fit diagonally in the rear of our '95 Jeep Laredo and 2002 Toyota Highlander.
With the seats folded down, we rolled the bike in, catty-corner, on the rear wheel, then turned the handlebar to let the tailgate close. We appreciated being able to haul the bike in the safety of the car and avoid the labor of hoisting it onto a roof rack.
Fearing the Gearing
Stock gearing on the TiLite is, well, aggressive. Chainrings are 62/48 teeth with an 11-23-tooth cassette. Adjusting for the small wheels, these sprockets produce approximately the same gearing as 53/39 chainrings mated with the same cassette on a 700C bike.
We knew we couldn't climb our local hills -- like the 6-mile grind with grades to 10% to Black Canyon National Park -- on that gearing. So Bike Friday installed a Shimano Deore LX rear derailleur and an 11-32 cassette. The resulting low gear of 30 inches allowed us to spin up steep climbs.
One drawback to 20-inch wheels is the enormous chainring needed to get a decent high gear. The 62x11-tooth combo yields 113 inches, only slightly larger than a 53x13 on a standard bike. As a result, we spun out on fast descents. Because the extra weight of a tandem means extremely rapid downhilling, another 15 gear inches would have been useful.
The bike came with standard Dura-Ace rim brakes. I was concerned that hard braking on long, curvy descents would overheat the rims, raise the pressure in the tubes to dangerous levels and potentially cause a blowout. But the brakes worked fine, even on the switchbacked descent of the Colorado National Monument during the Tour of the Valley.
Bike Friday's Hanz Scholz reports that he gets excellent results using a rear wheel with a drag brake while descending long, steep grades with a load. With this option, a cable is attached to a disk brake. Drag is adjusted with a standard bar-end shift lever to prevent the tandem from rolling too fast.
The small wheels on Bike Fridays mean accelerated tire wear because tires go around more often for a given speed. And tandem tires wear fast in general because of the greater weight they bear. Even so, our tandem's excellent IRC Roadlite EX 1 1/8-inch tires showed minimal wear after 450 miles.
We really enjoyed riding this tandem. It was fast, light, maneuverable and comfortable for both driver and stoker. Portability was a big bonus, too. Finally there was the Wow! Factor. Other cyclists wanted to talk about the bike. Motorists pointed and waved. It's hard to ride incognito on any version of a Bike Friday!
Comment from Bike Friday: Remember, a Bike Friday is custom fitted and specified - you can get virtually any gear range and combination of components you desire.
Visit www.RoadBikeRider.com 's website at http://www.roadbikerider.com.
For more information, see: http://www.bikefriday.com/bf/tilite
Copyright 2004 www.RoadBikeRider.com . Reprinted with permission.
Portable bicycles are gaining respect among commuters
November 2004 by Jack Cox
The best-known folding bike today may be the Bike Friday, made by a Eugene, Ore., firm whose custom-fitted contraptions have inspired a cult following over the past decade.
"We almost reside outside the normal bike market because we only sell direct," says co-founder Hanz Scholz. "Our focus is as much on the community of riders as on the bike."
The small-wheeled bike, named after Robinson Crusoe's helpmate, Friday, comes in a citified version that sells for about $600. But Bike Friday's top sellers are high-performance models that feature a normal-length wheelbase, weigh as little as 18 pounds and sell for $1,600 to $4,500, depending on the components. (See www.bikefriday.com)
"We try to deliver what people want, not what they need. We're in the business of dream fulfillment, in a way," says Scholz.
"People don't come to Bike Friday expecting it to be their primary bike, though it ends up that way for about 70 percent of them."
One of the brand's biggest fans is Teruel De Campo, a Denver anesthesiologist who has ridden his high- end Bike Friday "all over Europe" and once led Scholz on a ride up the Mount Evans road, one of the most grueling circuits in Colorado.
"All bikes will fold," De Campo likes to joke. "Some, you fold yourself. With others, cars may do it for you."
Bike Friday Pocket Crusoe Review
January 1, 2004 by Emily Smith
CRUSOE Emily Smith
Built Just For You: Your Crusoe is custom built, right down to the engraved brass nameplate. The models range from an affordable, 20lb model with standard quality componentry all the way to the lightest Crusoe Elite boasting de-lites like a carbon fibre seatpost and DuraAce/Ultegra components. Of course there are 9,18 and 27 speed models, with or without the famous SRAM DualDrive hub, and Rohloff 14-speed hub versions too - it depends on how many mountains you intend to conquer. (If you want drop bars and STI, the Pocket Rocket Pro is probably more your speed - we make minimalist versions of that bike too, starting at 19 lbs*).
Suggested retail price: varies, depending on model, options, and upgrades
Price paid: $2550 including rack, hard-side suitcase, soft-side bike bag
Rating: 4 out of 5
I ordered my Bike Friday Pocket Crusoe for several reasons. First and foremost, my husband and I have been talking about trying loaded touring for years now, and it's time to stop talking and start doing. I needed a bike with very low gears for climbing mountains with a load. Second, I thought it would be nice to have a bike that could be taken along when we travel. We don't fly often (which is where a folding bike like the Bike Friday really excels), but even on a road trip a folding bicycle packed in a hard-sided rolling suitcase takes up a lot less room in the car and hides the bike from prying eyes as well. Finally, I wanted a bike I could put a rack and panniers on for running errands, which we have found ourselves doing by bicycle this summer for the first time and would like to do more of. My carbon-fiber road bike (an Aegis Swift), while perfect for fast club rides and events, is simply not the right steed for carrying a load.
Before ordering, I did my research. I spent hours pouring over the Bike Friday web site (www.bikefriday.com) and asked a zillion questions of my friend Eileen, who has a Pocket Rocket Pro (another Friday model). I also emailed the Bike Friday sales team and threw another zillion questions at them. I changed my mind three times about which model I wanted; because all Bike Fridays are custom-built to fit and to allow you any component choices, there were so many decisions to make that my head was spinning at times! But finally, with the help of all my resources, I nailed down the model and options I wanted and placed my order. (Note that there are only a handful of Bike Friday dealers; most orders are placed directly through the company, and a 30-day money-back guarantee is offered, since you won't get a test ride unless you can travel to Portland, Oregon.)
Because there are so many Friday models and options available, from the light, race-worthy Pocket Rocket Pro, to the trail-ready Pocket Llama, to beamed models like the Air Friday and Air Glide, and even “Bike Saturday” recumbents, it is hard to generalize from my Bike Friday to others; however, the quality of the manufacturing and assembly is excellent and should be consistent across the lines. Bike Fridays are steel bikes; you won't find exotic carbon, aluminum, or titanium frame options available (though their "Air" models have a ti-beam), but that was fine with me, given my planned use of this bike. Steel is forgiving on bumpy roads and more easily repairable than other frame materials should something happen on a tour or trip. It's also hardy enough to handle a load.
Even though Fridays are rather basic in frame material, the sky is the limit when it comes to groupsets and components. Within reason, anything you want, you can get. (You'll be limited on wheel sets since Fridays have 20" wheels, however.) I chose a mix of Shimano Ultegra up front (including triple chainrings, of course!) and XT in the rear, for the low gears I would need in the mountains. With the 20" wheels, all gears are lower than on a 650C/700C bike, so my salesperson, Walter, helped me choose the proper chainrings and cogset for the gear range I wanted. Walter also recommended bar-end shifters, which I would have never thought of. They work better with the Avid V-brakes and wider 406 rims on the Pocket Crusoe, which can accept the wider tires I wanted for the occasional gravel road or packed trail. I'd never used "bar-cons" before, but had heard and read good things about them so decided to trust his advice.
I chose the "petite" model Crusoe, which simply means that the bike is constructed with narrower steel tubes than the standard size and is thus a lighter-weight bike. Bike Friday recommends petite models for folks 5'4" and under who weigh less than 125 lbs. The petite models also allow for carrying a small load (say, 20 lbs), so I figured I'd be okay with a 30 lb. load since I'm only 105 lbs.
The Pocket Crusoe is billed as a touring bike, and as such, the “standard” configuration (though there’s really no such thing; virtually everything on the bike is customizable) includes flat or special Bike Friday “H” handlebars. Being used to drop bars and most comfortable with multiple hand positions, I chose drop bars, my favorite 38 cm Salsa Pocos, just like on my Aegis road bike. Bike Friday can split nearly any handlebar you choose, except for carbon bars. Your choice of handlebars will influence the type of shifter and brakes recommended for your bike.
During the ordering process, I was asked to supply various measurements, both my own and those from my existing road bike, so that the Bike Friday techies could determine and construct the proper size Friday for me. I found it curious that they didn't ask for my top tube length but made sure to supply it as “extra” information. Since I've had experience with “squirrely” front-end handling in a previous bike with a short stem, I made sure to mention to Walter that I wanted to end up with a 9 cm stem at a minimum. He assured me that there would be no problem.
Well, there was. When my bike arrived, I noticed fairly quickly that the "effective" top tube was longer than on my racing bike by a full inch and a half. (I say "effective", because the Friday top tube is low and slanted, so to obtain an equivalent top tube measurement to a road bike with a horizontal tube requires measuring an imaginary horizontal line from seatpost to head tube.) In order to achieve the reach I was accustomed to the handlebars, I had to pull in the "fit stem" (a temporary stem, adjustable in height and reach, which I would later send back to have a lightweight custom stem made from) all the way, which translated to a 5 cm stem. Too short!
The sizing form had asked for the measurement from the center of my saddle to the center of my handlebars, and to Bike Friday’s credit, my Crusoe did have a top tube that allowed me to achieve that measurement. However, what it appears that they neglected to take into account was that I had also ordered a setback seatpost; nor did they know (or ask) that I have to mount the saddles all the way back on the rails on my other two road bikes in order to achieve a proper knee over pedal spindle position. As a result, I sit quite far back in relation to the seat tube and thus need a shorter-than-predicted top tube to have a reasonable-length stem. I suspect that the Bike Friday sizing formula does not take all bike position factors into account, and this is where women of a particular build (long femurs, short upper body) can run into trouble with these bikes. I also think that this may not have been an issue often enough for a smaller builder like Bike Friday to be aware of, since so many cyclists don't really understand bike fit, and as long as a bike is reasonably close, may just take off and ride - and suffer pain later without realizing why. If I hadn't just recently gone through much bike fit research and the fitting process on my Aegis, I wouldn't have realized that a very short custom stem was a bad idea and would affect my bike handling. I would like to see Bike Friday modify their sizing formula to allow for women built like myself to get a good fit without having to send the bike back to be rebuilt. It’s possible that most of their customers are men and thus they have not had enough experience sizing women correctly. Simply asking the buyer to supply their preferred top tube length, when known, would go a long way towards achieving an appropriate frame size.
However, I have to hand it to the Bike Friday folks. They truly do honor their "fit guarantee". I packed the bike back into its case (not difficult to do, and good practice for traveling), and they took the bike back (paying FedEx shipping both ways). The customer service manager called to ask some questions to understand what went wrong, and I explained to him my need for a true “WSD” bike with a very short top tube. I’m not completely sure that he really “got” the whole WSD thing, but he was very pleasant, and assured me that they would make the changes required. The frame was rebuilt very quickly, and after the bike was returned to me, the service department called to ensure that the fit was right. I will say that the top tube was still not quite as short as I'd asked for; after the rebuild it measured about .4” longer than I’d requested, leaving me with a 7 cm stem, but I decided I could live with that as the bike handling was much improved, and I was not going to send it back again. The fit and handling has proven to be fine as is on the several rides I’ve taken so far of up to 44 miles.
There were a couple of other small technical “glitches” with my Crusoe. I discovered after riding it a couple of times that the Salsa Poco handlebars were actually 36 cm, not the 38 cm bars I ordered. Apparently they were mislabeled. I am sure that Bike Friday would have replaced them for free since the error was on their end, but I decided that the 36 cm bars fit me just fine, so I didn’t request they be corrected. Also, when my pretty swan-neck custom stem arrived from Portland, it didn’t fit into the notch on the head tube exactly straight. When inserted, it pointed slightly the right, resulting in my handlebars not being perpendicular to the front wheel or top tube. Fortunately, my handy husband was able to file down the notch in the head tube enough to straighten the stem and solve the problem without having to return it for modification.
Okay, I’ve pointed out the “bad”, now for the good: My Crusoe is a dream to ride! Despite the fact that it has small wheels, it rides like any other "big wheeled" bike. I never even know I'm riding a bike with 20" wheels unless I look down. I had fairly fat tires put on it (1.35") and, along with the sweet steel frame, the ride is very plush and forgiving, even without a carbon fiber fork or rear triangle in sight. It's simply not needed, and I ride some rough and gravely country roads. It’s just plain fun to ride, and I find myself smiling even more when riding this bike than my carbon-fiber whiz-bang racing bike!
The bar-end shifting is crisp and I quickly got the hang of it. Because of the small wheels, I do end up riding in my largest (53-tooth) chainring quite a bit, and my 42-tooth middle ring ends up serving as a "granny". I haven't needed to shift to my true granny, which has 30 teeth, yet - I'm saving that one for pulling a load up a hill (or mountain)!
This bike gets a lot of attention! Everywhere I ride it, people come up to me when I am stopped to ask questions. Unfortunately, the most common question is "how much do they cost?" And Bike Fridays definitely aren't cheap. All told, with various upgrades (such as a Chris King headset) and options (including the must-have hard-sided Samsonite suitcase, a collapsible rack, and a soft-sided bike bag), my Crusoe set me back $2550 before the 5% League of American Bicyclists member discount. However, lower-priced models are available, especially for those who don't need as many gears or covet as high-end a component line. And it’s worth a bit more in my book to have a bike that was custom made to fit me and suit my specific needs.
The bike folds easily, and although I haven’t needed to do that much, it’s simple and quick enough for a non-mechanically inclined person like me to pull off.
I haven’t done any loaded touring on my Crusoe yet, but I feel confident that it will be up to the challenge of our upstate New York tour this fall. And if any motel proprietor gives us a hard time about taking our bikes into our room (my husband has a Pocket Crusoe as well), we can just fold ‘em up and stash them in the soft-sided bike bags and carry them right into the room as luggage!
I'm giving the Pocket Crusoe an overall rating of 4 flowers, which is an average of 3 flowers for the sizing/build process and 5 flowers for the bike itself, now that the fit has been corrected. This is a high quality bike that performs very well and is a blast to ride. I can recommend a Bike Friday to anyone looking for a folding or travel bicycle. However, don't settle for less than a perfect, custom fit; you deserve it!
Travelling without moving
from Cycling Today
Bike Friday were born out of their founder, Hanz Scholz, wanting a high performance bicycle that would travel easily. Seven years after recognising the problem, the World Tourist was born, followed later by a road racing version and the off-road model you see here.
Bike Friday's concept of the ultimate folding bike has its foundations in a very different camp to the Airnimal and the Reise und Müller. While the other two bikes rely on aluminium's inherent stiffness to fight the forces of flex, Bike Friday have to be a little more inventive with their choice of steel as the main frame material. The 4130 cromoly is unglamorous and bumps the bike's weight up to 27.5 lbs., but the material is strong and easy to work with. Each Air Llama is custom built in the USA to the specific requirements of the customer, using either the rider's dimensions, or measurements from their current bike. Bike Friday have made Air Llamas to fit riders from 4'6" to 7'1', so nobody should have a problem getting the right fit. A 90-day money-back guarantee should help ease any fears about getting the wrong fit.
Tight tubular triangles at the bottom bracket and downtube/toptube junction replace the aluminium drainpipes of the other two pedal-powered packages. Creative cross-bracing dissipates forces around the frame and there are considerable joints between many of the tubes such as the headtube junction, pivot area and chainstay bridge. Stiffness is optimised by the use of ovalizing throughout the Air Llama's frame, from the cantilevered chainstays to the toptube and downtube.
Whereas the Reise und Müller and the Airnimal concentrate on suspending both wheels independently, the Air Llama isolates the rider while everything behind the headtube moves around beneath them. This is done with a huge cantilevered titanium beam inserted into a socket on the toptube, and is the complete antithesis of complication. As a material for Bike Friday's beam, titanium is an obvious choice; it's light, naturally flexible and its high yield strength means it can sustain repeated movement without fracture. When a bump is ridden over, the unsupported end of the tube flexes under the weight of the rider and the force of the blow.
The Air Llama's front suspension is made by Action-Tec, and looks and functions much like a pocket-sized Cannondale Headshok. The spring (a steel coil) is housed within the steerer tube of the fork and the 2.5 inches of travel is controlled by an oil-damping cartridge. To prevent the telescopic steerer from spinning, the interlocking steel tubes are splined. The fork blades are clamped to the steerer with cinch bolts, allowing them to be removed during folding. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the Air Llama has two bottle cage mounts and eyelets to fit a standard pannier rack.
Like its other small wheeled stable-mates, riding the Air Llama was an exercise in suspending disbelief. The idea of being able to tackle any serious off-road seemed laughable, until we actually shrugged off our inhibitions and got out into the dirt.
We rode the Air Llama on one of our favourite loops, one that we know every root, every hole, every rut, and even with the trail in a saturated condition the bike coped with everything.
The front suspension was faultless, giving excellent flexfree steering and a very effective, controlled performance within the limits of its travel. We could detect some flex from the 11 inch stem extension but the Air Llama was still stiffer than the Birdy. The tracking felt as good at the back as it did at the front and the whole bike felt surprisingly solid out of the saddle.
Your arms aren't the only part of your body that the Bike Friday pampers; the titanium beam completely eradicates all of the small, high-frequency stutter bumps that are so good at interrupting your pedal stroke, meaning we could stay seated and spinning on fast singletrack. As effective as it is in these situations, the simplicity of the beam runs into problems as the bumps get bigger; medium sized hits cause the undamped tube to rebound with equal force, which would see us bucked out of the saddle like a smalltime rodeo rider. Instinctively, we would stand up to tackle most downhills, rendering the suspension idle, and essentially making the bike a hardtail.
Although the 20 inch wheels are larger than the Birdy's, they still suffer from similar problems to the German bike. Momentum was always hard to maintain and the ground would push and shove the wheels around much more than a normal mountain bike set, dropping into ruts and sliding down cambers without warning.
Unpacking the Bike Friday, we felt like Edward Fox in the Day of the Jackal in the scene where he builds the rifle out of the crutch. Flicking open the combination lock of the hard plastic suitcase (wheeled at one end, with a pulling grip and a carry handle) reveals the Air Llama, packed in tighter than a tin of sardines in the queue for Madame Tussauds. All of the major components of the bike are individually packed in their own custom bags, and further probing of the black case produced an instruction booklet and video, and a tool wrap with everything needed to put it together including a pair of black gloves, to complete the cloak and dagger experience.
The case is strong, and the addition of an aluminium spacer prevents the case from being crushed. It's easy to wheel around, making airport life much less stressful, although at 431bs with the bike inside we wouldn't want to lift it around too much. There's also enough extra room inside to stash a pair of shoes and some cycling clothes.
Assembly is basically a matter of bolting on the wheels, seat tube, seat post, fork legs and stem combination. The gears and brakes remain adjusted even when the bike is packed so there's no need for fiddly adjustment at either end of your journey. From box to bike, the entire process takes about five minutes when you know what you're doing. Once built the Air Llama feels as solid as a standard mountain bike, which is testament to its build quality. Packing the bike is a bit more difficult because everything has to go back in the right bag, and although there are several ways to fit it all in, getting the right order still takes a bit of experimentation. On average we were putting the Air Llama together in between 10 and 15 minutes.
Our Air Llama is the cheapest of the three in the range and comes with Shimano LX shifters and rear derailleur with a single ring chainset and SRAM 3x8 gearing. While we liked the pedal-less gear change on the Birdy, off-road it meant we had to back off on steep climbs to shift down, which often made the difference between riding and walking many hills. The inclusion of a seat-tube stub on the Air Llama gives the option of using a standard triple chainset, though.
Without a doubt the Air Llama is very well built and thought out, and the depth of the concept becomes apparent when you unpack it. The fact that it is so compact when folded almost completely removes the hassle of travelling with your bike, however this also makes it the most time consuming to pack. The small wheels are something of a disadvantage on the trails, but, the bottom line is that despite these problems the Air Llama handled almost everything we threw at it, and more importantly, it was great fun to ride off-road.
Copyright 2000 Cycling Today . Reprinted with permission.
Bike Friday Air Llama
from Mountain Bike
October 1999 by Chris Burgeson
Air Llama - Mountain Bike Magazine
HITS: It's a real bike; it does real bike things; you can ride whenever and where you go MISSES: Handling of 20-inch wheels; geeky look
Green Gear Cycling is the company that gave birth to Bike Friday. And it's also run and staffed by a bunch of bike geeks.
The Bike Friday concept began in '72--prompted by a request to build a bike for touring the Himalayas--as a road/touring bike that folded for easy traveling. Late in '94, Green Gear began producing a fat-tire version that folds into a suitcase and can be used off-road. The Pocket Llama was born. As more people began doing "real" off-roading, the need for a more-advanced design grew. The Air Llama tested here is the third round of evolution for this new design, and we found it was easily up to the task of serious mountain biking.
HOW CUSTOM IS CUSTOM?
Green Gear tries to create a bike with the exact fit and ergonomics of your favorite bike. To do this, the company sends each customer a form that captures the rider's physical dimensions as well as their riding style, from recreational to racer. The key dimensions from a currently ridden bike are also requested.
With these dimensions in hand, the company builds a custom bike. Eight labor hours later, the transition from raw tubing and hand-scribbled measurements to rideable bike is complete.
AND NOW, THE BIKE
The use of 4130 chromoly steel in the two-piece main frame allows Green Gear to keep tubing size small. (Remember, this bike has to fit in a suitcase.) The seating arrangement is much like a Softride beam bike, with some key differences. Instead of the sandwiched carbon fiber beam, the Air Llama's beam is an 18-inch piece of oval-ized 3/2.5 Haynes straight-gauge titanium tubing. This beam slips into a receiver on the top tube. Two cinch bolts keep things in place.
Front suspension is supplied via an Action-Tec system. This steerer-tube-type suspension consists of a beefy splined steel stanchion that rides into the head tube. A steel coil handles the spring duties while a damping cartridge keeps movement under control. The fork is a welded steel unit that separates from the splined steerer tube at the crown. Two bolts cinch the assembly together. We haven't heard from Action-Tec in quite some time, but this latest offering works nicely. The addition of a damping cartridge has helped the action of this system considerably. And as with the other steerer-tube system, Cannondale's HeadShok, steering accuracy is excellent.
Part spec is a rather imaginative custom blend. SRAM 9.0 series shifters work an XTR rear derailleur and an Ultegra road bike front derailleur. Ultegra crankarms and the required hollow-splined bottom-bracket axle are also used. The 20-inch wheels are built from XTR hubs, with titanium spokes and Sun CR18 rims, and make for a light and stiff wheelset. Real Design brake levers actuate a great-working set of Paul Components Moto-Lite top-pull brakes. The headset is a rather ingenious arrangement of a Chris King threadless headset and a locknut from a threaded headset. Because you have to remove the stem and handlebar to pack the bike, the locknut is there to keep the headset together during travel. A 7-inch removable stem riser provides the proper height extension for a Dimension threadless stem. A Titec titanium straight handlebar finishes off the front end.
HOW DOES IT FOLD? The entire bike folds up into a hardside suitcase. After a couple of practice runs, we were able to go from a closed suitcase to pedaling down the trail in 10 minutes or less. Once the case is opened you pull the main part of the bike out. This consists of the folded frame with drivetrain and rear wheel still attached. The pivot is a simple bolted affair near the bottom bracket. You unfold this main assembly and secure it with one allen bolt. The driveside crankarm must be installed. With the self-extracting bolt, this is easy. The rest is simply a matter of slipping the fork over the splined, suspended steerer; sliding in the Ti seat beam and seatpost, bolting on the stem riser and installing the stem and bar (which stay together in the case). Half the fun is performing this ritual for amazed onlookers.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT TRAVELING WITH A BICYCLE? Most airlines charge $40-$55 one-way to ship a bicycle. Once tucked anonymously inside its case, the Air Llama looks like any other suitcase, and thus can be sent as another piece of checked baggage. (The case has three positive latches, one of which has a combination lock. To finish off the case, there's a spring-loaded handle on one end and a set of wheels on the other.) We logged more than 40,000 flight miles with the Llama over 15 round-trips, saving us $1,500 in oversize baggage fees in four months. With this admittedly insane (but real) travel schedule, we could save the total cost of the bike within the first year. Any Wall Street venture capitalist would kill for an investment payoff this quick.
HOW DOES IT TRAVEL? Rolling the suitcase through the airport is a piece of cake. At 24 pounds, extended jaunts can be a little tiresome. To keep the size of the case reasonable, there isn't a lot of extra room inside. Green Gear says you can stash a helmet in there, but we were never able to get one in and easily close the lid.
With all the miles traveled with the bike, only twice did we experience any damage. The first incident resulted in a slightly bent rear derailleur hanger, which was easily straightened. The second caused a ding in the chainstay that tweaked one of the brake studs (the rear brakes are mounted on the chainstays). This required a little more creative rebending, but it was also accomplished fairly easily with a borrowed crescent wrench. Both incidents were a little surprising given that each Bike Friday case has a brace inside to keep travel damage to a minimum. You never know what goes on behind the walls of the baggage claim area.
HOW DOES IT RIDE? This bike is the real deal. It will do everything a full-size bike can do; some things it can actually do better.
Does this mean that you can replace your full-size mountain bike with a new Bike Friday? Not so fast. The main difference between riding this bike and your current bike are those 20-inch wheels. They can handle a tight switchback with incredible agility; however, at speed you better pay attention. Rapid descents on a loose, rocky trail require full focus. Your first drop-in will also make you stand up and take notice. The smaller wheels mean you get over the top of the front wheel sooner.
Where a 26-inch wheel will roll across ruts and trail depressions, the smaller wheels drop right to the bottom so you feel more of each bump. This is where the Action-Tec front suspension and the titanium beam are called into action. The Action-Tec does a good job of suspending the front end of the bike, although we could do with more on-the-fly adjustability. The Ti beam does an incredible job of isolating the rider from small, high-frequency bumps and stutters. You usually find yourself standing on the pedals for anything bigger than that, which renders the beam useless. If you do find yourself seated as you hit something big, prepare for a rapid, undamped rebound. As with other beam arrangements, this one suffers from a certain degree of lateral flex.
THE AIR LLAMA MADE ME A BETTER BIKER. Okay, so it's not the bike that makes you a better rider. It's the fact that you can ride wherever you go. I've taken the Bike Friday on more than 40,000 flight miles, qualifying the bike for Premier status on most airlines' frequent flyer programs. That also means that I've been riding while on all these trips. And riding is what it's all about, isn't it?
If it comes down to a choice between coolness and no riding or geekdom and saddle time, the Bike Friday makes the latter choice an easy one.
PRICE $2,995 (as tested)
DISTRIBUTED BY: Green Gear, 3364 W 11th Ave., Eugene, OR 97402; 800/777-0258; www.bikefriday.com WEIGHT: 24 lbs. SIZES: Custom MANUFACTURED IN: U.S. FRAME MATERIAL: 4130 chromoly; 3/2.5 titanium FORK/TRAVEL: Action-Tec/2.5 in. COCKPIT: Dimension stem; Titec handlebar; Thomson seatpost; Avocet Air 40R saddle DRIVETRAIN: Grip Shift 9.0 SL shifters; 9.0 rear derailleur; Shimano XTR front derailleur; Shimano Ultegra crankset; Shimano LX cassette WHEELS: Shimano XTR hubs; Sun CR18 rims; DT spokes TIRES: IRC Minuteman BRAKES/LEVERS: Paul Component Moto-Lite/Real Design GEOMETRY: 20.5-in. seat tube; 22-in. top tube; 73/70.5-degree head/seat angles; 16.75-in. chainstays; 40.75-in. wheelbase; 12-in. bottom bracket
An Affordable Alternative
from Mountain Bike
The $1,395 Pocket Llama
For most, a travel bike is a second or third bike. Your money is sunk into your primary mountain bike, with maybe a second standby off-roader or a road bike for training. This doesn't leave $3,000 laying around for an Air Llama. The Bike Friday Pocket Llama is an affordable alternative. A Softride suspension stem replaces the Action-Tec front suspension; a Tamer suspension seatpost replaces the titanium beam. The drivetrain is downgraded to a Sachs 3X8 system (single front chainring, eight rear cogs and three-speed hub). Avid in brakes and levers and Shimano Rapidfire shift pods are attached to a two-piece handlebar assembly that slides into the modified Softride stem. Run-of-the-mill 20-inch wheels and tires round out the mix.
We liked the suspension seatpost, but we would be willing to trade the Softride stem, with its funky motion and sloppy bushings, for a normal, rigid stem. The Sachs three-speed hub worked well but will not shift under load. Overall gearing with this system was a little high for technical singletrack climbing. Still, the result is a usable and much more affordable traveling mountain bike.
The Best Customer Service
from Recumbent Cyclist News
September 1999 by Robert J Bryant,
I am spoiled. In 1987, I bought an Easy Racer Tour Easy via mail order direct from Easy Racers, Inc. in Freedom, California. At that time, there were no Easy Racers dealers in the state of Washington and recumbent dealers were scarce anywhere back then. I guess you could say that this purchase changed recumbent history. I took my purchase seriously. I went beyond the call of duty. I bought a bike stand, manuals, tools and was ready to be 100% on my own without a dealer's support. Luckily, my purchase experience was fantastic.
In the tradition of Easy Racers, there is a new kid on the block who also believes that customers are #1 and seeks long term customer relationships. Owners are part of an exclusive club. They will feel appreciated, and special. Most models come with identification plates that say, "Custom made for..." attached to the frame. Dealing with this company was an exceptional experience.
The Bike Friday model is an upright New World Tourist (my only wedgie). The bike order was taken by one of the knowledgeable experts at Greengear in Eugene, Oregon. I outlined my riding style, body size, and a few rants about components and upgrades and that was it. I was given a delivery date. Not a ship date mind you, but a date on which the bike would be delivered to my door. So, they weren't exact, but it arrived via Fedex before I could call. And their intentions were good.
The box was small. As most Bike Friday's are shipped in suitcases. I happened to be home spending some time my son, Dan. We opened the case and were amazed at how carefally the bike was wrapped and placed into the suitcase. We picked up the bike and pulled it out of the box looking for some instructions. I don't usually get my hopes too high as with most recumbents, we are lucky to even get an owner's manual--let alone a well put together package of every bit of info I could hope for-as came with my Bike Friday.
First we found a video. We headed off for the VCR to watch, "a bike movie." The Bike Friday video music is a mix of an original score with a James Bond theme. The video walks the new owner through opening the box, removing the suitcase, the vital wrapped parts, the TOOLKIT (yes, the bike has its own toolkit, providing every tool I will need to set up my Bike Friday). Any place some part of the Bike Friday might get scratched is careflilly wrapped in felt or specially cut plastic pieces. The video was 55 minutes long. It went through the different models, how they differ in assembly, and even a carefully choreographed lesson in how quick releases work. Next the video discussed accessories, special features and the really cool Bike Friday suitcase trailer kit and hitch (these cool trailers will work on any recumbent and have an ingenious bolt-on hitch).
Next we got into the packet of printed goodies: First came the warranty card which lets me rate the bike (yeehaw!); I got an invitation to a Bike Friday Rally; Two brochures for European tours; A brochure on the suitcase the bike came in; A cool Bike Friday manual written in MY language about how to take care of my 3x7 hub (now who else does this?); A color brochure on the bikes; A color brochure on the options; A Bike Friday Newsletter; A BicycleR Evolution trailer brochure; Another bag full of component instructions; Some extra parts (6 spokes); Some cool stickers to personalize my Bike Friday; And yet another note about quick releases, with an invitation to call Bike Friday if I had ANY questions whatsoever. Last, but certainly not least is the 28-page owner's manual, complete with Polaroids of MY bike in its case and personalized with my name and bike's serial number. There are some cards so that owners can get a commission on other Bike Friday's and even a Bike Friday pen to fill out the warranty card.
After watching the video, Dan and I set up the Bike Friday, installed the cool one-bolt 20" Bike Friday (Apex) fenders and 10 minutes later I'm zooming down the road.
On top of all of this stuff, Bike Friday has a service hotline and people on call to get you the parts you need if you are out on tour with a problem, need a part or even a tire or tube. Greengear guarantees resale value in trade anytime you want to upgrade to a new model. This keeps the prices of used Bike Friday's strong. This is my kind of bike company. It wouldn't be such a bad idea to suggest that recumbent manufacturers buy a Bike Friday to see how customers shouldbe treated when they are spending big bucks on a bike and to check out their customer-friendly manuals, tools, parts, and accessories.
So, was the experience PERFECT? Well, you know me. Nothing is perfekt. I think Bike Friday welders could use a course in TIG Welding as Art The weld beads weren't as beautifal as the best we see, though the bike was perfectly adjusted and has worked very well. My bike has a wayward, sometime-squeak in the folding mechanism. My call to Greengear's 1-800 service was answered politely. I was told that somebody would call me back soon. After a few hours of waiting, I got impatient and called them back. Service made the diagnosis and offered to send parts that (hopefully) would solve the problem, though I may have to send my bike back to Eugene if the current solution doesn't work. They also told me this was a rare problem. I assume that it was because I wasn't broken down in some far off land that I didn't get the really FAST service, though it was better than most.
As for Greengear's new Sat R Day Recumbent, we are expecting a current version of the Sat R Day recumbent any day now. We understand that it has gone through several changes in the past year. We've heard from one reader who loves his (better than his V-Rex and Altitude), though we've heard of some glitches as well. We can only hope that the Sat R day will be as good as the Greengear Bike Friday upright models.
Copyright 1999 Recumbent Cyclist News . Reprinted with permission.
A bike that really travels
from The Boulder Daily Camera
June 1999 by Lisa Marshall
When bike industry veteran Hanz Scholz began planning his trip to Europe in 1987, he had visions of pedaling across the continent's scenic stretches and conveniently packing his folding ride away in a suitcase when it was time to board a plane or train.
When he began shopping for the folding bike, that idyllic vision began to fade.
"He was very disappointed by what was available," said Chris Rutkowski, of Oregon-based Bike Friday. "They concentrated more on the folding part than on the bike part and he didn't feel like they were real bikes, just interesting toys."
So Scholz — whose brother Alan Scholz invented the Burley trailer after the birth of his daughter — set out to build his own fold-up bike: one compact enough to fit into a large suitcase, but high-quality enough to tackle steep hills and long, rugged stretches.
Five years later, the first commercial orders for Bike Friday were rolling in, and today the company produces 14 different frame types, ranging from long-distance touring models to three-person tandems and recumbents.
Unlike its fold-up predecessors — often one-size-fits-all models available in retail stores — all Bike Fridays are custom made to meet the rider's size and component/color preference. Each model fits into "the maximum standard suitcase that an airline would carry without casting a glance at it" so its user need not pay an extra fee at the airport, said Rutkowski.
While initial prices prompted instant sticker shock amongst regular Joe riders, recent models such as the Metro, designed for bike commuters who need to bring their bikes on the bus, range as low as $675. On the other end of the spectrum, the Twinaire titanium-beam racing tandem runs for about $8,000.
While its tiny 20-inch wheels — about the only feature that differs from that on a normal bike — may raise the eyebrows of bike snobs, Bike Friday officials and fans insist that "improved aerodynamics" make up for the smaller wheels.
Several gear reviewers have backed them up.
Notes Susan McGrath, who took a New World Tourist model to Cuba for a recent review in Adventure magazine: "While the rider quickly forgets he or she is riding anything but an ordinary high-performance bike, nobody else does. . . . How did I manage? Beautifully. (It) has a climbing gear Granny could get up Denali in."
Copyright 1999 The Boulder Daily Camera . Reprinted with permission.
La Chiquitita takes Cuba
from National Geographic Adventure
June 1999 by Susan McGrath
For weeks before I went biking in Cuba, I lay awake at night, fretting. It wasn't the 50-mile days over the Sierra del Rosano that had me worried. Nor was it that line in the Moon guide about keeping your toes covered at night on account of vampire bats. It was something much scarier: It's next to impossible to rent a touring bike in Cuba.
That meant I would have to pack my own bike in a cardboard box, drag it through three airports, reassemble it when I reached Havana--and do it all in reverse two weeks later. And pay $50 each way for the privilege.
When I confessed my lily-liveredness to a friend who had written a guide-book on bike travel, she said, "Get a Bike Friday. It's a high-performance folding bike that fits in a suitcase and checks on for free." I tried not to smirk at the unlikely proximity of the words "high performance" and "folding."
The brainchild of Eugene, Oregon-based Green Gear Cycling, Bike Friday incorporates quick-release hardware, 20-inch wheels, and a three-speed internal hub with a gear ratio that compensates for the wheel size. While other folding bikes are one-size-fits-all with an emphasis on portability, Bike Fridays are custom-built, and designed for performance and long-distance travel. The bikes come in nine models, including the New World Tourist and a recumbent.
It sounded good to me. The suitcase, with a demo New World Tourist inside it, turned up the afternoon before I left. It looked like an oversize lunch box from Ikea. I pictured myself strolling through the airport, pulling it gracefully behind me, my fellow bikers looking on with envy.
When I unfolded the bike in Havana, however; no one exactly swooned. "¡Mira la chiquitita! [Look at the little tiny one!]" our hosts called. I began to worry. To avoid a schlepp, I had condemned myself to pedaling 300 miles on some flimsy, Chaplinesque device. I consoled myself with the knowledge that it had taken me only ten minutes to make my bike road-ready--versus 45 minutes for my compatriots and their brontosauruses.
Pedaling away from the decaying villa that had served as base camp, I found la chiquirita's steering a little twitchy--a product of the small wheel and long stem--but the bike proved adept at dodging potholes and skirting the turquoise 1950s Chevys beached on every block. I soon stopped feeling like an organ grinder's monkey and forgot all about the folding bike.