Posts filed under ‘News from the Road’
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bike Friday owners Pamela and Nateon Ajello captured the adventure of a lifetime to India on film, and created an amazing short feature.
By Nateon Ajello
When we made the decision to tour 1,300 miles across India, Nepal and Bhutan, we knew we need a bike that was tough and could handle the varying terrain.
We also knew we needed a folding bike, because chances were we would not be able to cover all of that distance in our one month off without having to hop on a few trains or buses. So the search began.
We looked at all types of bikes, from tiny 16-inch wheeled Bromptons, to big 26-inch folding mountain bikes. We had never owned folding bikes, so it was all new territory. The bike needed to be able to hold a lot of weight, ride on dirt roads, have a sturdy steel frame, and fit into a suitcase for travel.
We had done a few previous tours and tried all other options besides packing a folding bike. We had tried buying bikes when we got to our destination, renting them when we got there, or bringing our bikes from home in boxes on the plane.
All of these options ended up being a pain in the neck for some reason or another, whether it was because you would spend three days of your vacation when you arrived somewhere looking for a bike, or the price of shipping a bike on an airplane ($200 dollars each bike each way for International travel!)
After all of our research we discovered that a company had thought this through already called Bike Friday.<br><br>
They design very sturdy folding bikes, specifically for bike touring in countries that need to be accessed by plane, with all of the things we needed in mind. <br><br>
We tried all kinds of folding bikes out for our tour, and in the end they felt wimpy and cheap compared to the Bike Friday. Bike Friday felt like a real bike, just folding bike proportions.
So we got them, and they held up like champs for 1,300 miles, on all kinds of roads, being crushed on top of Nepalese buses and under Indian train seats.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please watch their short film here. It is an amazing 26-minute film, well worth your while.
Add comment October 16, 2013
As soon as I saw the first announcement for a Bike Friday Silk I knew I had to have one.
I have been a fan of folding bikes for awhile because I tend to travel a lot, but was getting rather fed up with the seemingly inevitable layer of grease that seemed to cover me, my clothes and every available surface following each dismantling and reassembly of the bike.
A belt drive and internal hub? This was the solution and I put my order in almost immediately justifying it as a special birthday present to myself.
Now, I live in Tasmania, which is just about at the end of the civilized world. My Silk was produced in Oregon, the other side of the world’s biggest ocean. And I decided to take it on its inaugural tour to Europe.
So, before I even turned a wheel in anger, the bike had travelled two thirds the way around the globe. Nonetheless, the logistics worked; the bike arrived in Tasmania in time for my birthday in May. I assembled it, admired it (and had others admire it), tried it out on a few short rides, then packed it up for transport to Europe.
I arrived in England in mid-June and managed to squeeze in a few rain-free days during which I could try the bike out in touring mode.
I accidentally put us both through a very long day in the saddle (140km) cycling around London and we both seemed to cope.
Then I cycled half way across the metropolis, which was an interesting experience. London is emerging as a very bicycle-friendly city (despite the weather) and there are now vast networks of cycle lanes, bike tracks and bicycle super highways. However, the signage is yet to catch up with the rest of the infrastructure. So I found myself directionally-challenged on several occasions. Then it was time to pack the bike up again for a short flight to Milan to begin the European phase of the operation.
Firstly, my wife Dianne and I were taking part in an organized tour from Bolzano in the Dolomite mountains in the North of Italy to Venice on the Adriatic coast – mostly flat or downhill, a good warm up.
Everyone but me was on full-sized bikes supplied by the organizing company, and there were many raised eyebrows over my use of a small wheeled bike.
One of the guides was particularly skeptical of the ability of the Silk until he took it for a spin and he returned a convert.
The bike completed phase one flawlessly and coped with stretches of dirt road, cobbles as well as the heat and humidity. I found the Silk to be comfortable for long days in the saddle, but I’d not yet tried it fully loaded and going uphill.
Having reached Venice, the tour ended. Then I turned around and retraced my route back into the mountains.
The North of Italy is crossed by some amazing bike tracks (pistes cyclables) and it is possible to ride from Verona to the Austrian border (and beyond) almost exclusively on dedicated, beautifully constructed and signposted bicycle paths.
These paths are incredibly well used by day trippers, families, commuters, pelotons and long-distance tourers.
I followed the Adige River cycle path, which is part of the Via Claudia Augusta a long-distance path across the Alps to Germany.
The scenery is spectacular as the glacial valley narrows toward the mountains and every outcrop seems to sport a castle or monastery. The valley floor is heavily cultivated with vineyards in the South and apple orchards in the North.
At Bolzano, the path turns West from the spectacular Dolomites towards the Alps.
I cycled past the entrance to the infamous Stelvio Pass with its 48 hairpin bends in favour of the much more accessible Reschenpass that goes from Italy to Austria. I only stayed half an hour in Austria as the route immediately took me down a series of hairpins into the Inn valley and the Swiss border – three countries in less than an hour – this must be Europe!
Once in Switzerland I followed the impressive network of Swiss National Cycle Routes that use dedicated bicycle paths, minor roads and gravel tracks.
I started by following Route Number 6 that heads up the Inn valley almost as far as St. Moritz before taking a sharp right turn up into the high mountains at the Albulapass.
I envisioned cycling gently up a scenic valley for a few days but the route planners had other ideas. In an attempt to avoid the main roads they often took the route high onto the sides of the valleys sometimes on rough dirt tracks more suited to mountain bikes and frustratingly these steep sections always seemed to come late in the afternoon after a long day in the saddle. Then it was time to tackle my first serious mountain pass and the gateway to the Alps proper.
The Albulapass started with a sign indicating a 625-metre elevation change over the next 9 km and commenced with a series of hairpin bends that I shared with other cyclists as well as with a large number of people on high-performance motorcycles and drivers of expensive sports cars.
The climb began at 1600m and I felt a bit breathless as I plodded up the pass pausing at each hairpin to let my heart rate retreat from the danger zone and cursing the 5 kg of camping gear that I was carrying, which I was destined never to use.
The air got cooler and crisper as I approached the summit only to find the road blocked by a herd of cows that seemed impervious to the honking of horns and multi-lingual encouragement of motorists. It took a local cyclist to ride into the herd, swatting the cows out of the way to clear the road and allow me to reach the summit and a high altitude cup of coffee.
I am glad I didn’t have anything stronger at the top of the pass because the descent was hair-raising. Although the ascent had been a hard 9 km uphill slog, through some bending of the laws of physics the downhill section on the other side was 49km of hairpins, suicidal drop-offs and gorges on a busy road. I elected to use the excellent Swiss railway system for the last 20km section to avoid heavy traffic and a series of tunnels.
Now I was in the true Alps with snow-capped peaks and picture-postcard mountain villages on every side and the constant soundtrack of the ringing of cow bells.
I took a day off in Chur to give my legs a rest but elected to go hiking instead, which only made them even more sore, so I arrived at the base-camp for the Oberalpass in serious need of a rest.
Feeling like a cheat, I once again took a train over the pass then holed up in a hotel for the rest of the day so that I could prepare myself for the frightening Furkapass which followed the next day. This one climbed 890 metres in 13 km and consisted of two series of hairpins linked by a high alpine climb up the side of the treeless valley. At the summit there were spectacular views back down the valley I had just ascended then an awesome view of the massive series of hairpins that would take me down into the Rhone valley, past the fast-receding Rhone Glacier.
Once in the Rhone Valley it was a straightforward but very scenic week’s riding down Route No. 1 to reach Lac Leman and Geneva where my daughter lives.
I had amazing luck with the weather it was mostly hot and at times humid with thunderstorms most evenings, but there was only one day where it rained by day – and I sat that one out. The bike probably performed better than I did; I could have used another gear or two on the climbs, but then again I could have carried less redundant camping gear which would have had the same effect!
I suffered no punctures (thank you Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires!) and few adjustments were needed en route (other than the brakes after several massive descents). After a very hard 1000+km the belt now needs tightening, the gears have run out of adjustment and the wheels probably need some attention but otherwise my Silk has been as trouble free as I hoped – and no grease!
6 comments September 30, 2013
The most recent issue of Bicycle Times magazine has a review of the Bike Friday Tandem Traveler XL by Trina Haynes, a staff member and mother who wanted to test a tandem to ride with her 11-year-old daughter, Darby.
Here are some excerpts from the review. Pick up a copy at your bike store:
Editorial Review of Tandem Traveler XL by Trina Haynes
“[My daughter] Darby and I rode the Traveler XL mostly on mixed-surface rail-trails and city bike paths. Right out of the gate, the bike was super-easy to manage. I didn’t have much experience riding a tandem, and Darby had none, but we were able to get up to speed easily and manuever well without incident. The 20″ wheels combined with the low-slung frame made for a super-low stand-over height, which was totally user-friendly. In fact, my six-year-old son — he has to learn forward a little, but is still able to pedal and experience the awesomeness that is tandem riding.
“Stability is the key component here. Because the bike is so long and low, the center of gravity is also very low, making the Tandem XL handle easily, even with us newbies piloting.
“The 24-speed drivetrain offered more than enough gears to get over short hills and long climbs alike. Darby and I consistently made it up grades that surprised us and could hit some really good speeds going downhill and on flats.”
Add comment September 25, 2013
Here is an independent review of it, with gobs of information.
And yes, the Gates Belts are Made in the USA, in Kentucky.
Add comment September 24, 2013
Bike Friday owner Randy Comer has been riding his new <i>Silk</i> all over the South, and everywhere he goes, he’s pretty sure his is the first <i>Silk</i> there.
Randy rode the bike tour at the Chickamauga Battlefield near Chattanooga, TN.
He then took his <i>Silk</i> to the site of the headquarters for Gen. Longstreet and Hood of Gettysburg fame.
‘It was a great day for a bike tour and the rangers took an interest in my bike,” Randy said.
Add comment September 20, 2013
[Editor's Note: We recently got this note from our Angel Investor, Jeff Linder]
“I just finished Rebecca Rusch’s first annual “Rebecca’s Private Idaho Gravel Grinder.”
“It’s a 100-miler on unimproved back mountain roads. I have never been so “jack-hammered” in all my life.
“The memory of Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are too blunted by time to make a substantive comparison, but I’m thinking this might have been the most gruelling century of my career.
“I can’t begin to tell you how many people, all with sincere motives and concerns, tried to talk me out of doing it on a Bike Friday.
“I don’t think I saw but one or two bikes out of the 230 or so that weren’t either ‘cross bikes, mountain bikes or a smattering of Roubaix’s with disc brakes and ‘cross wheels.
“My concession to the course was to drop my gearing to a compact crankset with the standard Capreo hub (9-26) and a 1 3/8 BMX tire on the front and an 1 1/8 BMX tire on the back.
“I heard more than one tale of woe centered on five flats. Even the SRAM service car got two flats out on the course.
“I haven’t seen my official time, but my running time according to my Garmin was 7:58 hours. So I’m guessing that my pedalling was under 7.5 by a fair amount.
AND no flats! Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.”
Add comment September 15, 2013
My nephew is on a business trip to Germany, and caught a glimpse of a Bike Friday parked in Pfortzheim Germany.
Add comment September 13, 2013
Denny Fuhrman looked out across the tarmac at the Independence Airport, splattered with a decent number of airplanes and declared that was only a nibble of what’s to come.
“This will be packed with planes,” Fuhrman said in the wee hours of the morning as cooks began preparing flapjacks for the pancake breakfast at the Independence Fly-In and Van’s Homecoming. “Just wait.”
Sure enough. One by one, small planes descended upon Independence, Oregon, under clear skies and a bright morning sun.
Most of them were Van’s kit planes. Usually hand-built by the pilot at the controls.
“They take about 2000 hours to build,” Fuhrman said, “and usually cost around $70,000 — or more — by the time they are finished.”
Van’s has been a great promoter of Bike Fridays over the years, and has one on display at their facility.
Eventually a pilot came to the booth and wanted physical proof that the 2014 Pocket Companion could fit into the storage area of his RV4.
I’ll be honest. The owner of the plane pulled the seat back, looked at the folded Companion and shook his head.
The pressure was on. But …
5 comments September 9, 2013
I got up early Sunday to run some errands.
Early to rise, early to bed.
My goal for the day was simple: Chill in my chair.
I had no other plans. Nor designs.
But I made a huge mistake when I finished my errands. I didn’t close the back hatch on my SUV.
As I settled into my chair, my wife walked in with disturbing news.
“You know Ridgely is in the truck,” she said.
Dang that dog.
If we are ready to embark on an adventure, she goes nuts. Like a caffeine addict at a Starbucks Grand Opening.
The only solution is to open the hatch, and let her in. She’ll sit there for hours if she has to. Her message is clear: You ain’t leaving without me!
Only this time, I wasn’t planning to leave. Period.
I tried to ignore her. I really did. I wanted to rest and relax. It’s been a long month.
No such luck. So after cursing her under my breath, I folded my Aerospoke Llama and put it in the back of the truck.
Suffice to say, Ridgely was pleased.
We headed out near Oakridge to ride the Middle Fork Trail.
It has been ages since I rode the Middle Fork Trail. It’s a mountain bike trail, but extremely well groomed.
I’ll tell anyone who listens that you probably wouldn’t want to ride a Llama on a real technical mountain bike trail. On well-groomed trails, well, it’s a blast. Kinda like BMXing with real mountain bike gears.
The last time I rode the Middle Fork was on my regular Llama. The big difference on this ride would be the disc brakes.
I haven’t spent a huge amount of time on disc brakes. And fewer miles off-road with them. The question is what impact they have.
Since I haven’t been mountain biking in a long time, at least not serious, push the limits mountain biking, it took a while to get adjusted.
The disc brakes take a little adjusting, too. They stop you in a hurry.
Once I got the feel for the brakes, they were super.
In and out of water crossings, the brakes were there, ready to respond, the same way they did the first time.
Not hearing a little grinding of sand and dirt mixed with creek water on my rims helped showcase the value of the disc brakes.
Wet or dusty, they stopped me the same. Everytime.
Maybe it’s just me, but on a very steep descent, I felt like I had much more control over the braking.
This particular descent usually turns into a no brake let’s walk, or drag the back tire affair.
Instead, with the discs, it was a sweet, slow, controlled event.
And listen, control and mountain biking aren’t two things that often come together for me. I’m average at best.
As Ridgely took a couple of dips into the Willamette River to cool down and hydrate, I snapped a couple of photos.
It struck me that it has been a really, really long time since we’ve ridden this trail.
And I LOVE this trail.
So I started searching my memory. When was the last time we rode this.
Oh, yeah, the LAST TIME!
It was an early spring ride. Since I wasn’t sure how folks would handle it, I never published the photo of why we turned around.
We came up a hill and, whoa, check it out!
[The photo appears at the bottom for those of you who would prefer not to look.]
A half-eaten Bull Elk was down in the middle of the trail.
Suffice to say we turned around at that point, and headed home.
This time? No Elk. No worries.
We’ll be back. Sooner than later.
Add comment September 9, 2013
OK, that’s a lot of letters. Alphabet soup. What’s it mean?
Well, it means that the Bike Friday OSATA [which stands for One Size Adjusts To All] was a smashing success at the SRTS [Safe Routes to School] National Conference in Sacramento.
On Tuesday morning, LeeAnne Fergason of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, and our local Eugene Safe Routes to School Coordinator Shane MacRhodes took a number of cycling advocates on a ride around Sacramento to share some of their teaching techniques.
MacRhodes brought five of his fleet of 40 OSATAs for some to ride. When they were still short of bikes, Dan Allison from the San Juan School District just outside Sacramento loaned eight more OSATAs from his fleet of 30-plus.
After some quick adjustments, the group of more than 20 was off and riding.
With Shane leading the way in his top secret prototype Bike Friday.
Judging by the response of the riders, the OSATAs are just the type of bike they are looking for to use as fleet bikes.
For educational fleets, the OSATA offers a simple design with 8 speeds and front and rear hand brakes.
In the Safe Routes to School programs, instructors got into a school with bikes and teach an entire class how to ride safely. MacRhodes says it’s very beneficial to have a fleet of identical bikes, to avoid the fight over who gets which bike.
3 comments September 2, 2013