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Pocket Rocket - 33
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Overall Experience Rating:
Date: November 23, 2012
Posted by: Scott Bernstein
Posted by: Scott
Pocket Rocket Custom

I have been cycling for more than 20 years and ride around 8,000 miles/year. I live about 30 miles from where I work in New York City and enjoy commuting by bike, in all four seasons.

I wanted a folding bike that I could ride to work in the morning, and easily take on the train to get home in the evening. I also wanted a folding bike that handled as close as possible to my usual 700c bikes.

I chose Bike Friday because of the reputation for quality and the all the custom options. I've had my Pocket Rocket for about 3 weeks now have ridden it to work almost every day during the week!

It has been a great pleasure to take on the train in the evening without having to worry about getting stares from the conductors or fellow passengers that I normally got when schlepping a full-size bike.

I expected it to ride well, and it absolutely has not dissapointed! It seems to be just as fast as a "normal" bike on my commute and it is easy to forget about the small wheels.

The ordering process was very easy and quite a lot of fun. The guys at Bike Friday where able to reproduce the positions of the saddle and handlebar from my other bikes and so the fit is virtually identical to what I'm used to.

It was clear the salesperson was truly interested in what kind of cyclist I was. He picked parts similar to my other bikes which would satisfy my expectations.

What are the disadvantages? Not that many, really. Because of the small wheel size, the gearing is not 100% identical to a 700c bike, although it is really, really close. The gearing is more than adequate on both the low and high end. Braking is also a bit different, but again not necessarily bad -- just different. The longish cable runs affect shifting and braking a little bit. But these are very, very small compromises that enable the bike to fold.

In comparison to my "normal" bikes, the Bike Friday is indeed different, but it is not as different as I would have thought. The biggest difference is acceleraion from a complete stop -- the 20" wheel bike slightly better.

I don't think climbing on the Bike Friday is any better, although I am riding a 700c bike that is around 5-6lbs lighter than the Bike Friday so it is not a fair comparison. Handling of the 700c bike is superior in high-speed corners and over rough surfaces. The 20" bike handles better at slower speeds and is more manueverable in tight spaces such as heavy traffic (we might have some of that in NYC...).

On balance I would not endorse the statement that the 20" bike is better all-around, nor would I agree that the 700c bike is better in all situations. I would agree, however, that both are great bikes to ride. If the Pocket Rocket were my only bike, I could be happy.

Overall Experience Rating:
Date: August 22, 2012
Posted by: Gareth Barker
Posted by: Gareth Barker
Everyday is Friday

I will be reviewing my Bike Friday custom Pocket Rocket in this article.

I should start by saying a bit about myself. I am a 36-year-old male residing in Korea. I have been riding recreationally for several years; it started as weight control but then it became just fun.

To date I have slowly taken off 25kg (55lbs) through occasional cycling and diet control. I still need to drop weight, but I plan on doing it the same way, slow and steady.

I'm not very serious about training. I just try to have fun and expect that if I have fun on my bikes and try not to eat too much I'll eventually get to an ideal size.

I usually ride casually and I enjoy mid to long distances. I'm interested in longer distance rides in the future. It would be hard to call myself a bike tourist as I rarely have the time to ride more than a couple of days in a row and I don't like camping that much :)

Although I am not a strong cyclist, I have a decent understanding of bikes and own a few. I own a carbon road bike and a touring bike.

I bought the Bike Friday partly out of pride as they are one of the nicer folding bikes made and it's always fun to have nice toys :)

But I also bought it specifically for weekend sports touring. In Korea, we have what I would consider very good public transportation. I can't put my big bikes in taxis or on some buses and trains. Some people don't allow bikes in hotels.

A folding bike takes care of a lot of these problems. In places like the subway, where a full size bike can be brought, a folding bike is that much easier.

A folding bike is also easier to bring into a restaurant and get up stairs or an elevator. This is a rather in-depth review, so I'll get to the point then expand.

I am happy with this bike. It does what it is supposed to do well. But there are things about it that I do not like. Overall, however I would recommend this bike to someone looking for a folding bike that performs extremely well.

Although I was skeptical about someone using this bike for touring I no longer feel that way. As hard as it is to believe, I feel this bike would be a great companion for a fully-loaded tour (although I would use a slightly different set up; notably wider tires and perhaps even lower the gear range slightly).

I would not be scared to use mine fully loaded as is, provided the roads were of decent quality.

A Bike when?

So what is a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket? It's kind of hard to say.

Every Bike Friday pocket model uses the same frame (unless it is a petite or ultra thin tubing frame). They can all be custom and probably somewhat hybrid.

You start with templates but you can really build it however you like. Want a touring bike with disc brakes, drops, off-road tires, Dura-Ace gearing and an aggressive riding position? Need a fixie folding MTB? They will send one to you.

You can make it fold a little easier with some options, you can make it lots of colors. You can put lots of different handlebars. They will use Campy, SRAM or Shimano.

They are all folding bikes that no matter how set up will break down in someway into a smaller size for transport. They are all secondly (with the exception of ultralight Rocket frames perhaps) full touring bikes.

The company

Dealing with BF is an interesting experience. The first time I called I made an error, it was 5 a.m. but they answered. I think I accidentally called the emergency hotline.

They are really good about communication (well the American company, the Seoul BF dealer is not like that I'm afraid). They are a kind of small company known for friendly service.

I can honestly say not only has everyone from the American branch I talked to been extremely helpful and knowledgeable but just generally cheerful and kind.

We had conversations about non-bike related things a few times. They tried to get my cost down. They are all really friendly. I should make this clear: They REALLY want you to get the right bike.

This is probably because they offer a full money back on custom bikes and also because as far as I can tell, they don't advertise. But it's also because they are all cyclists themselves and love their jobs.

How do they do this?

Well first you are given a consultant to talk to and bike homework. Then you need to provide measurements and numbers and information about your riding position and skill level.

The more information you give the better. After you do this they will start designing your bike and asking you lots of questions.

I already knew what I wanted, but I think my consultant and I exchanged around 20 emails. Even after the sale I have kept in touch with them. I hope to meet the Asian rep [Ruthy Kanagy] sometime if she does some touring in Korea. She's really nice.

If you want to purchase something from them ask me for my reference card please. I get a couple of $ towards part credit.

Overall they get 10 out of 10 for customer service from me.

The ride and performance

A lot of people have asked me about this so I'll cover it first. I really don't feel the twitchy sensation people talk about. I just got on it and rode it like any bike.

Just like a big bike, if you set the stem up short it will be twitchy; if you set the stem up long it's going to feel pretty steady.

I measured my Spec. Roubaix and used that as a starting point for the stem then went lower. It feels very similar to the Roubaix on a flat road.

Which one feels better? The carbon road bike of course. But the BF isn't uncomfortable. The BF is more agile than a big bike though, it takes corners like it's a roller-coaster on rails.

That said, if you lean the bike or try to hop at an angle you instantly feel how bottom heavy the bike is, you could drop the bike if not careful.

Gearing is an interesting thing for small wheels. A couple of things change when you drop wheel size. Firstly, you lower your gear inches. That's not so bad if you aren't racing.

In fact, I welcomed the fact that my 26t was a climbing gear. But smaller wheel also mean a smaller gear range. So basically the shifts are going to be cleaner on the same cassette with smaller wheels.

So my crazy 9-speed 9-26t feels like a tight 10 speed. Now that I know that I would have no qualms using an 8 -peed wide range cassette on one of these bikes.

One problem with gearing is that there seems to be way more adjustment needed as each fold has the potential to knock your gearing out a little.

This bike falls short on bumps, traction and road buzz. A bike without a top tube just can't take potholes like a bike with a triangle frame.

I have to really be careful on bumps with this bike. I'm adding a Brooks saddle to help a little with the buzz and bumps. The little tires are responsive and have a low rolling resistance. You take off a little faster.

There is flex on bumps but the crank on up through the seat tube is very stiff. But the little tires also loose traction fairly easy on even a small amount of irregularity and in the case that you encounter an obstacle don't expect these tires to roll over them like a 700cc.

You can forget about riding this bike on gravel. But on a decent road this bike shines. I'm faster on this bike ... I'm not sure if it's the smaller, lower bike size, the more aggressive riding position I used to design its fit or because it's red; but I seem to be a little faster on her than my other bikes.

Basically though, the Pocket Rocket does feel like an aggressive road-bike as advertised. You will forget you are on a miniture folding touring bike if you ride it long enough.

My design

I have a very tough competent touring bike already. I bought this bike for weekend sports touring, short tours, and faster rides. I wanted to take advantage of mass transit to be able to ride in new places.

While Bike Friday is famous for its New World Tourist, I built this bike up like a mini sporty road bike, it's even candy apple red. I did get a rack for sports touring or long distance rides.

I won't be bringing this bike to ride on dirt roads in China. This is a speedy asphalt bike. I went with a road design created by BF, the components all made sense. I

t's the same frame as all the rest but has a slightly bigger wheel size. The tires do not have wide options. It is a 9-speed 9t-26t rear cassette and a 52t, 42, 30t crank. The components are nothing fancy but they all seem durable.

The gear range is 23 to 115 gear inches. In laymen terms that's really close to a standard touring bike gear set. You can hit 50 kph (30 mph) with 90 rmp, anything faster than that requires gravity :)

I have not weighed this bike but it's heavier than my carbon bike. I'm guessing 25 pounds. The petite models come rack and tour ready with standard components at less than 20 pounds (pedals included) so I think those are really good options for shorter females.

But it also has rear and front rack mounts and fender mounts.

Here is a summary of the options I went with:

Custom fit Custom ultra stem

Front rack painted to match

Cut drop bars for easier packing

Touch up paint

Soft case Samsonite flight case with packing material

Candy Apple Red paint job

A chain retainer (added in Korea after I saw how difficult it was to keep a chain on the bike)

I did not take the fenders and I wish I had. I thought $60 was too high, but not I'm faced with double that in Korea.

I did not buy the kit that turns the case into a trailer. I think it's a great idea but I have read the trailer is a bit weak and I have no current plans to travel long enough to need a huge trailer. It was tempting though; a little bike towing a suitcase looks pretty rad.

Maybe in the future I might regret that but for now I'm really happy with it. I'm actually lower on this bike than any other bike I ride. If I have my computer set up right I'm just a little faster on it as well.

So it is playing the sporty bike role fine.

Components

The 2012 Select list can be found on Bike Friday's website. I used this component list. My afterthoughts on components are: While their component selection was good the component upgrade cost was way too high.

I could basically buy a 105 setup for what they were asking to upgrade it to 105. So I didn't see much of a reason to do so. the capreo 9t-26t cassette is an expensive cassette and requires a special hub. I'm locked into that cassette unless I purchase a second wheel really.

I had been warned by people that it is hard to maintain high cadence on a small bike. This is not true in my case and I don't see why it should be as my legs are the same distance from the crank on all my bikes.

Before climbing in Jeju I thought I probably should have gone with a Shimano standard hub and a 9-speed 11-28 or 11-32. But I managed to climb well enough and could stand to train in climbing quite a bit.

I also maxed out the gears a couple of times. It's not often I need to pedal more than 50 kph but it's useful if you are trying to maintain speed to propel yourself over an incoming hill. I should have upgraded my shifters to Tiagra. I do not like the weird Microshift shifters that came with the bike as I cannot shift from the drops.

The hand-built wheels are really nice. I wasn't expecting such a nice wheel-set on that little bike. The brakes work very well. The Comet tires have a low rolling resistance. But it is so low and the circumference so small they do tend to drift a little easier than I'd like.

All in all I think they made good choices on the components, but wish there was another option that allowed me to have the same gear range without putting on a special cassette and hub that aren't compatible with anything else.

The fold

I would say there are really three kinds of collapsable bikes. Those that the most important design goal is the fold performance. Those that the most important design goal is on bike performance. And lastly, there a lot that are a hybrid of the two.

A Strida or a Brompton are examples of the first. There are a lot of bikes in the middle, most cheap bike fit in this category but there are nicer ones as well.

The Bike Friday pocket bikes are the last category as would be a big Surly LHT Deluxe. I knew that going into the buy. This bike is not for commuting with lots of folds or for someone that wants a neat little bike folded under their desk.

I was very interested in Bromptons for a while; they are much different kind of bike. The fold is elegant and fast. You never get dirty with those little things. The Bike Friday looks like a broken bike when folded; it's a slower process.

It's also not that easy. And you have to watch the chain or it can get caught in two areas when unfolding. I had to add a chain retainer to keep the chain from dropping every time I folded the bike. To be honest it's a bad fold :)

If folding is really important to you buy a different bike. My wife's $200 little kid's bike folds 5 times better. But it's not really designed to be the best fold. However, after doing it for a while I am not pretty fast at folding this bike, I can sometimes perform a quick fold in less than 10 seconds (considerably longer if I'm strapping it together using the velcro strap that holds it firmly in place).

I'll give it a 4 out of 10 for folding. The only reason it gets a four is the designers built a bike that could fold but also kept it to a reasonable weight and made it a durable ride; the fold is also smart when you look at it.

The hard case pack

Bike Friday bikes break down into sturdy Samsonite travel cases for transport. This requires some practice, a couple of tools, a rough knowledge of how a bike works, some common sense and a little time.

People complain about the packing but I can't see why. You get faster every time you pack it. Even the first time wasn't bad at all. I watched a video in which a man took over an hour to pack his bike on YouTube.

The first time I did it I was reading an instruction manual and it took me maybe 30 minutes. I have packed this bike about 6 times now. I have done it in around 20 minutes. If I made some changes like a removable water cage and those quick disconnect pedals I could probably do it in 10 minutes.

I can reassemble it in like 5 minutes if the pedals thread fast and I don't have racks to put on. Is the 20 minutes worth the money saved on airline fees? For sure it is. But what is even better is a complete peace of mind you get once it's safely packed and locked away. you can forget about it, the only way something is happening to your bike is if it's dropped from the plane or something.

Also, the case has room for lots of extra stuff. I got quite a lot in on my trip to Jeju island. I had my bike, three water bottles, extra cages, two sets of clothes, cycling shoes, a full tool set, a saddle bag with tubes, patches, a lock and a pump; and there was still room in there (but I was reaching my weight limit).

If you were packing a touring model with wide tires and two racks it might get tight I imagine though. The case also has a special TSA key slot so you can lock it and not have to worry about TSA agents busting your lock.

The hardcase pack gets a 9 out of 10 from me.

The look

I got the Candy Apply Red paint job with matching rack paint. It looks great. But there is a reason the bike comes wrapped up with a million protectors. This paints scratches really easy. To be fair they warned me this paint chips but if you look at it wrong it will come off. Touch it with your shoe, bye bye paint. Hit it with a water bottle, there's a scuff.

I wrapped it with protective coating to keep it decent looking and so I could throw it around while packing (this speeds up packing and folding). It was sure to get scuffed up during packing. I'd suggest going with a black to future buyers. I'd suggest to Bike Friday to offer a 3M wrap option.

It was a bit difficult for me to do along and by the time I got around to it the bike already have several chips in the paint. Also, where the masting folds into the tube area the paint comes off the first fold. No doubt there is a better design idea out there for this, perhaps some thin rubber between the two areas.

A lot of the pictures don't do these little bikes justice. These are pretty bikes. They look sleek. They don't look silly to me. They are eye drawing to people that don't ride. Most people never notice my carbon bike, really only other cyclists. Everyone wants to look at a little BF, especially with panniers on it.

The drop bar versions look a little more serious and sleek than the flatbar BFs as well. The Pocket Rockets look like miniature racing bikes.

Considering buying a Bike Friday Pocket rocket? Review these pros and cons:

Pros

Feels like an aggressive roadbike.

Extremely compliant steering

Can't get a better fit than a custom fit

Hand-built

Looks good and quite unique

Lots of color and gear options

Very comfortable in the drops

Feels like crosswinds are less of an issue

Smaller wheels climb better and accelerate a bit faster

Can fold and be packed into soft and hard cases

Easier to mount than a big bike because the there is no top tube

Strong well built wheels

Can be used for fully loaded touring

Very supportive consulting service

Emergency Bike Friday parts service anytime worldwide shipping

Lifetime warranty

American made and a very green company (if you care for such things)

Cons

Costly

Poor paint durability presently

Fold is kind of difficult and cumbersome

Rough ride and obstacle clearing

Heavy for a road bike of that cost

Harder to secure as there is no TT and anyone with a socket set can completely disassemble the bike.

Perhaps harder for drivers to see

Looks a bit toyish

Overall Experience Rating:
Date: June 20, 2012
Posted by: Jason Schern
Posted by: Jason
Hooked for Life

I'm new to cycling. I'm a recreational cyclist who started six months ago for weight loss and now find myself addicted to the sport.

I started on a MTB and then moved to a Specialized Roubaix after dropping 30 pounds and consistently hitting 30+ miles on my rides.

I live in Korea but spend half my time traveling to Japan and the U.S. for work. I needed to find a way where my travel schedule would not interfere with my ability to get 100 - 200 miles in each week.

I had seen and tried all the usual suspects for folding bikes but they just didn't feel anything like my road bike. The Bike Friday Travel System seemed like the perfect solution.

I remained highly skeptical about the claims around performance but figured if it was half as good as people claimed, it would still be better than the folding bikes I had seen and tried. I received my bike while in the U.S. and for my first few rides I consistently destroyed my previous times and averages for my normal routes.

I chalked it up to favorable winds on my routes because I just couldn't wrap my mind around the Pocket Rocket being faster than my Roubaix.

The Bike Friday truly rides like my road bike. I was expecting a folding bike to feel loose and unstable but it's incredibly tight and rides with precision.

Returning to Korea (travel on the airlines was a non-issue) I continue to blow away my previous times on my road bike. It's still difficult for me to accept but I've got the Strava history to prove that I'm faster on the Bike Friday than I am on my Specialized Roubaix.

I'm training for the Gran Fondo in Vegas in September, my first event. I'll be running the event on my Pocket Rocket because there is nothing easier than traveling internationally with a Bike Friday and so far, every indication points to the Pocket Rocket as being the best bike in my stable for helping me put in my best possible time.

Peter Berra did a great job to make sure that the bike I ordered would match my needs. Everything was delivered as promised, on time with incredible quality of craftsmanship.

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