Posts tagged ‘touring’
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
Add comment October 14, 2013
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of an on-going series on the individuals who make Bike Friday what it is: A collection of unique cycling enthusiasts spreading the word in interesting manners.]
Everyone has a story, but if you wander around the Bike Friday Factory you might be amazed at some of the tales of life that can be told.
Take one of the guys on the production team, Willie Hatfield.
When Willie starts talking about his life, it moves along as a somewhat typical story.
So, you might ask, how did he come to create something so amazing as the 8-foot- tall human pedal powered Dinosaur in the photo above?
He grew up primarily in the Midwest. Went to study engineering at the University of Michigan.
Then, well, like most people, his story takes on a life of its own.
At Michigan, Willie studied Naval Architecture. That eventually drew him to New Orleans, where he worked for defense contractor working on ship concepts.
That job and life isn’t what Willie had envisioned for himself. So, he hopped on his bicycle, and spent the next three years touring the US, basically circling the country.
One day his travels took him through Arcadia, California, where he saw a post for the Kinetic Grand Championship.
Well, it’s a race of Kinetic Sculptures. Their website says:
“Kinetic Sculptures are all-terrain human-powered art sculptures that are engineered to race over road, water, mud and sand. Kinetic sculptures are amazing works of art; many are animated with moving parts like blinking eyes, opening mouths, heads that move side to side and up and down.
“Kinetic Sculptures are usually made from what some people consider junk. But one man’s junk is another racer’s raw material. Each Kinetic Sculpture is a work of art and each racing team has its own theme.”
It piqued Willie’s curiosity.
“It is a combination of art and engineering, and that sounded neat,” Willie says. “I thought about it, and realized that I would need access to a full-time shop. So I just kept it in the back of my head.”
Fast forward four years later, when Willie focused on Oregon as a place to find a job in the bicycle industry.
He came to Bike Friday, and got hired.
“One day Julia [Findon] was talking about daVinci Days in Corvallis,” Willie says, “and I had an immediate flashback to that day four years earlier.”
You could say Willie dug up a fossil of an idea.
He went to work on his project for daVinci Days almost immediately.
More than 1,000 manhours of labor later, he was the toast of the da Vinci Days’ Graand Kinetic Challenge.
“No matter what it is that I’m working on, I try to offer a fresh approach to it,” Willie says. “That makes it more challenging and interesting for me.”
Willie entered his creation in the da Vinci Days’ Graand Kinetic Challenge.
The 8-foot-tall tyrannosaurus rex skeleton is made up of bones from recycled steel bike frames and buoyant foam. The wheels are attached to the legs and tail. It cost about $200 in materials.
While he didn’t win any of the major prizes at the event, he’s proud to say he won almost all the favorite awards.
“I was fans’ favorite, volunteers’ favorite and the racers’ favorite,” Willie says, “I won all the favorites, and that was neat.”
And Greg Alpert, safety judge and emcee of the event, told the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper, “I’ve been watching this race since the mid-1980s and participating, and I’ve never seen anything like this vehicle. This is really cool, very unique.”
So if you get a chance to stop by the Factory someday and take a tour, make sure to ask who the Dinosaur guy is.
Add comment September 30, 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!
5 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
Hey, did you charge your bike?
If Shimano — and now Campagnolo — have their way, this might become a more common question with the introduction of electronic shifting.
With battery life extending several months, charging will be a very infrequent occurrence.
For folding and travel bikes this actually makes a lot of sense — electric wires don’t care about tricky routing and potentially getting kinked during packing.
We have installed Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 on several Bike Fridays and it works very well. It even plays nice with the Capreo cassette.
We have done builds with a 56T chainring for a tall 56×9 top gear, and also with a compact 34/50 crankset for more mountain friendly gearing.
The frame does require a few special modifications.
First, we add braze-on mounts for the battery on the back of the seat tube. The battery then sits neatly tucked out of the way between the seat tube and rear wheel.
There is a mount for the junction box on the front of the seat tube.
The front derailleur requires additional bracing for the motor to push against, so we add some reinforcement to the hanger.
And finally we can leave off the gear cable loops on the mainframe, as there is only the rear brake cable to run.
Once it is all setup, shifting is perfect; the front derailleur even trims itself as the chain moves up and down the cassette.
Do we NEED electric shifting? Probably not, but it is pretty neat!
12 comments September 23, 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
By Rich King
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Last fall when Bike Friday faced the challenge of our tikit stem recall, Richard King appeared out of nowhere to lend his assistance. An independent engineer with experience in failure analysis and stress analysis, King came up to Eugene at his own expense, and visited Bike Friday.
He reviewed our testing procedures as well as our solution, and gave us valuable independent confirmation that our solution was sound. Shortly after that, Richard became a Bike Friday owner. He recently sent us this note:]
Instead of “what did you do on a Bike Friday,” this post is in its own category: “what did you do to your Friday?
I had a very nice Bike Friday Pocket Companion, minding its own business, serving me well as a travel and utility bike. I used to have a Rans Rocket recumbent, a double 20-inch short wheel base, which was fun to ride. They don’t make it anymore.
I now have a Bacchetta Strada, with bigger wheels and an aerodynamic laid back position. It was fast but not as manueverable as the Rocket had been.
Also ‘bents are not the best to travel with, of course (except for those fortunate enough to own a SatRDay).
I don’t remember when the seed got planted, but it occurred to me that if you removed the seat post on my Companion and put on a recumbent seat, then clamped a boom on the front for the cranks, the Friday’s geometry would be similar to the Rans Rocket’s. By angling the boom a little higher and reclining the seat more, you’d get a more aero position similar to the Bacchetta’s.
I’m not a machinist. I am a mechanical engineer, but a theory guy.
I can analyze things on a computer just fine, but actually working with metal in practice is more of a challenge (to put it kindly). Also the tools at my disposal are the typical suburban garage stuff.
So out came the hacksaw and I cut the boom off the Strada, after she served me faithfully for about 8 years. Sorry! I was able to recycle the steel from her frame and sell some of the components, and reuse the recumbent seat for my project.
I squished the end of the boom in a vice to mimic Friday’s ovalized main tube. I took an aluminum tube and also squished it, cut in half, and used it to splice the boom to the Companion with tube clamps from McMaster-Carr (a good source for general-purpose mechanical stuff).
Some “mending plates” from the hardware store served to improvise a clamp for the bottom of the Strada’s seat. The back support tubes (known in the ‘bent world as “sprint braces” — a bit of exaggeration if I’m the rider) fit nicely into the threaded eyelets Green Gear provides for a rear rack.
To finish it off, I used the Strada’s rollers and chain. “Chain management” is a big issue on recumbents in general. When you’ve got to replace your chain you use three conventional bike chains hooked together. The humongous length of chain flops all over the place and rubs on things if you don’t “manage” it. The x-roller system Bacchetta uses worked well for this purpose.
So here’s a picture of the finished prototype.
It rides great! Nimble like the Rans Rocket, but fast like a Bacchetta if I recline the seat enough. I rode it for a few weeks around my home in Morgan Hill, CA, and it did just fine. I got cocky and decided to enter the Oregon Human-powered championships, held May 24 and 25 at Portland International Raceway. That should be no problem with a suitcase bike!
Before you get to the Friday packing part, here are the extra steps: remove the seat, undo the master link on the chain, put it in a plastic bag so it doesn’t get grease all over everything, then unclamp the boom. Not too bad, about 10 minutes worth.
Now go through the usual Friday packing procedure. Then work the boom in around the bike. Dang, it won’t fit with the cranks attached. OK, undo the cranks from the boom and fit them in separately. Almost done, just fit the seat in on top of the bike and close the lid!
There’s no way the lid going to close without separating the seat in two. So out comes the hacksaw again, and off to the hardware store again for some more mending plates. The result works from an engineering standpoint, if not too aesthetically pleasing (nothing a little black duct tape won’t hide).
Now the two parts of the seat go in and the lid closes! With me kneeling on it while I strain my fingers working the latches, hoping I’m not bending anything critical inside. There’s a good chance if TSA pops this open to inspect, they’ll never get it closed again. All right, so it’s a two suitcase bike. Thank goodness Southwest Airlines lets you check two. The seat goes in the bag with my clothes.
I flew to Portland a day early so I could show it off to my friends at Friday in Eugene. It took less than 10 minutes to reassemble the bike! That’s aside from the recumbent part, which took a further 90 minutes, much of which was spent on reassembling the blankety-blank seat.
I finally made it to Friday’s facility. Now, I was a bit embarrassed showing off my kludged-together contraption to professionals, but it was warmly received. Alan Scholz and a couple of other guys took it for a ride and came back smiling. My favorite was when I tried to explain that the seat didn’t adjust, so only people with about the same leg length as me could try it out. Someone took one look at the bike, laughed and said “Rich, you don’t need to explain why the seat doesn’t adjust”.
So feeling nicely reassured that the folks at Friday didn’t mind too much what I did to their creation, I headed up to Portland for the event. I had scratched the decals during the conversion process, so they steamed them off for me at Bike Friday and gave me new ones to replace them with. But I managed to promptly lose them!
So I showed up at the Portland raceway with an unidentified bike, but at least I was wearing my Bike Friday Jersey. It was well received, and more than one person who fondly remembered the SatRday said they liked it. As I was zooming by (at least it seemed like zooming to me) in the time trial, I heard some “go Friday!” shouts.
I must say in this crowd I fit right in, in fact this was one of the tamer of the homebuilds. I think my favorite was a front wheel drive recumbent where you pedal with both your hands and feet. Quite a good workout, the rider was quite fast on it, but man was he huffing and puffing afterward.
As far as the racing results, the bike did pretty well, although it could do with a better engine. I’m working on that, but with a vintage 1953 engine there’s only so much you can do.
In the racing class of recumbents without fairings, the bike got soundly whupped by the “low racers” which are super-aero with the rider very low and almost horizontal — it’s a bad sign when you can see them balancing themselves by laying a hand on the ground while they are standing still.
The ‘bent Friday held its own, though, against more upright (and practical) “high racers.” So if you like a fast practical bike like the performance bikes by Bachhetta, Volae, etc, I think this design could be a travel worthy equivalent (if we can get the packing time down from 90 minutes).
Since the Portland trip, I’ve also ridden the bike in a human-powered vehicle event at the Hellyer velodrome nearby in San Jose. It was exhilarating riding it on the banked turns, which I had never tried before. I even played with swooping down from the banks into the straights like the track cyclists do in match sprints. I was glad to have brakes, though, unlike track bikes.
But I must say that, like most ‘bents, this bike shines the most as a comfortable cruiser. Lazyboy on wheels!
2 comments September 15, 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