Posts filed under ‘News from the Road’

The 18th ABFC Gathering

The place to be

The place to be

By Robbie Dow / Bike Friday Sales Manager

The 18th Annual Gathering of the Australian Bike Friday Club (ABFC) took place in early April 2014, and I was quite fortunate to be a part of it.

Before the trip started, I was looking forward to meeting several Australian Bike Friday owners, people I’d only talked to via phone and email. However, I was a bit worried about the group rides, as it was nearing the end of winter in Eugene, and I really wasn’t in cycling shape.

Also, while I had ridden longer rides on other bikes, my experience with my Bike Friday Silk was limited to commuting and other short rides, so I wasn’t really sure how it would hold up to the 50km and 60km group rides planned for the event. There’s only one way to find out!

I flew from Eugene to Los Angeles, and then to Sydney, a day later than originally planned due to a visa glitch. The flight to Sydney was only about half full, and I was fortunate to have a row of three seats to myself. This meant I was able to sleep for about 8 hours total, which helped make the 15 hour flight a bit more bearable.

When I arrived in Sydney, Bike Friday owner George Leindekar was kind enough to meet me at the airport and ride the commuter train with me to Central Station in Downtown Sydney. George then helped me get set up on the train to Mt. Victoria. I had two Bike Friday travelcases (one with my Bike Friday Silk, and another Silk that I brought along for the trip), a third suitcase with my personal belongings, and a backpack. I am quite thankful to George for his help, as I don’t know how I would’ve managed with all of my belongings without him.

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The rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits

Even though I was exhausted and jet-lagged, I couldn’t stop looking out my window of the train and taking in the surroundings. The city gave way to countryside, and the train slowly worked its way up an incline through the Blue Mountains to Mt. Victoria. When I arrived at my stop, Bronwyn Laing of the ABFC picked me up, and we went over to her place for a short time before getting back in the car and driving to the town of Rylstone.

Here’s the interesting thing about the ABFC gatherings. The event originally started as a day ride, expanded to a weekend, and kept growing in size over the years. The 18th annual event spanned five days and attracted 138 attendees, mostly from Australia, but also a few people from other countries. Even still, the five days of riding weren’t enough for some, so a dozen or so riders planned pre-event rides.

I met the rest of the pre-event crew in Rylstone, and then I assembled my Bike Friday and prepared it for the next day. We had a fantastic dinner at the local pub/hotel, and I shared a room at the pub with fellow Bike Friday Silk owner, Mitsuo Tadokoro, who was visiting from Japan. The next morning I headed off on my first ride of the trip, a 55km outing to the town of Mudgee.

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So many Bike Fridays!

The ride was amazing — lots of grazing land, with beautiful rolling hills. Early on I saw a wallaby in a field along the road, and there’s just nothing like seeing a wild animal as you ride past on a bike. Riding on the left side of the road took a little getting used to, but by the end of the trip it seemed fairly natural.

We stopped for lunch at a small one-room school in the town of Lue. The teacher came out of the classroom and welcomed us. She said we could use the covered outdoor tables in the school yard (it had warmed up quite a bit, so the shade was certainly appealing) for our lunch, and she even offered us tea and coffee!

After we ate, 18 or so curious and enthusiastic grade school children came outside to meet us, and next thing I knew I was answering questions about Bike Fridays and America one after the next. One of the children asked why I talked so funny. Another boy was about as tall as me, and when one of his classmates pointed out that the two of us were the same height, the boy said, “Hooray, I’m an American!”

I didn’t know what to expect on my visit to Australia, but I certainly didn’t expect to interact with a group of eager school kids. It was a real treat.

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The gang

We rode some more, and eventually the rest of the pack pulled away from me as I began to lose steam. I arrived in Mudgee in last place (not that we were racing), and this is where riding on the left side of road became a bit more of a challenge for me, as there were numerous roundabouts running clockwise with quite a bit of car traffic.

Fortunately, the drivers were courteous, and I fumbled my way through the roundabouts to the campground, or as it’s known in Australia, “caravan park.” I’ve never seen so many Bike Fridays in one place at the same time, and I work for Bike Friday! I was also surprised to see so many tandems and tikits, but they performed on the long rides just as well as the other Bike Fridays.

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Bike Friday folks sharing their travel stories

The next several days were a blur of riding, meeting people, answering questions, and seeing what people have done with their Bike Fridays. The day rides around Mudgee were incredibly beautiful, with more rolling hills, and a plethora of wineries and grassy fields. The Aussie Bike Friday folks were exceptionally friendly, and everybody went out of their way to make me feel quite welcome. They’re also quite passionate about their Bike Fridays.

Often, I would forget I was on the other side of the planet. But then a car would drive past on the left side of road, or I would hear people would talk with an Australian accent, and I would realize where I was. One person corrected me when we were discussing the brake levers on his Bike Friday: “It’s not ‘levers,’ it’s ‘leevers.’” So I pronounced it “leevers” for the rest of the trip.

This year, the club set aside a time for people to sign up to give presentations and share their experiences traveling on their Bike Fridays. This proved to be a really popular event, and it was fun hearing about all the places people have gone, and the unique experiences they’ve had on their Bike Fridays.

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Outside the pub in Rylstone

Friday was the longest ride of the event, the “pub ride.” There was a shorter version of the long ride, but I missed the turn for that one and ended up taking the long ride, which ended up being around 70km. We met at a rural pub — the Cooyal Hotel — and I was ready to stop and relax with some lunch. It was fun to see all the Bike Fridays lined up outside, like brightly-colored, small-wheeled biker gang.

Saturday was “fancy dress day,” and several people dressed up in costumes for the day’s rides. That evening, we all gathered at the local country club for a banquet dinner. I gave a presentation about Bike Friday — who we are, what we’ve been doing, and what’s to come. This was followed by a charity auction that raised over $4,000 for Guide Dogs Victoria, an organization that provides services for vision impaired people, including assistance with tandems, so vision impaired people can ride a bike.

On Sunday, I skipped the group ride so I could focus on packing and getting ready to leave. I caught a ride to one of the area wineries where the gang had assembled for a final lunch. I was able to say goodbye to several people before I left. Unfortunately, I missed many people I would’ve like to have said goodbye to, but I guess I’ll just have to catch them next year.

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I think the horses like my Silk, too

So how did the Silk do? Smooth as Silk. The Alfine 11 hub gave me a nice, wide gearing range, and the only maintenance I had to do was a brief tweak of the shifter cable. Some of the riding was on rough, bumpy gravel roads, and I was surprised at how well the bike handled the terrain. I’m considering switching from a 60t to a 55t belt ring for better hill climbing gearing, as I only really used the top end gears on steep downhill slopes. I’m also considering a lightweight Pocket Crusoe for next year’s event, which will be held in the town of Mansfield in the Australian Alps.

After the event, I had a few days before my flight left, and I’m especially thankful to Bike Friday owners David and Jenny Ingham, who were gracious enough to let me stay at their beautiful house in Manly. I was also able to do a little exploring in Manly Beach and Sydney, which proved to be a lot of fun.

The night before my flight, I was invited to an amazing dinner at a French Bistro with a dozen or so Bike Friday folks, and it was a fantastic way to close out the adventure. I am just amazed at how something as simple as a shared interest in a travel bicycle can bring together so many people to become life long friends.

It’s the magic of Bike Friday.

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Stopping for lunch at the Coolyal Hotel

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At one of the wineries

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The Silk feeling at home in any hemisphere

4 comments May 8, 2014

Another Haul-a-Day post

 

hauladay.webHere is the second great post about our soon-to-be-released Haul-a-Day.

2 comments April 21, 2014

Bike Friday Vahana

Nateon Ajello enjoys a quiet moment during an adventure cycling in India.

Nateon Ajello enjoys a quiet moment during an adventure cycling in India.

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.

vahana.2All 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.

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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

First Silk Across the Alps

High altitude exhaustionBY STEVE NICOL

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.

nicol.alps.6The 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.

nicol.alps.9I 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.

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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!

8 comments September 30, 2013

Bicycle Times reviews Tandem Traveler XL

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:

Bicycle Times
October 2013
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

Gates Carbon Belt Drive reviews

Customers ask a lot of questions about the Gates Carbon Belt Drive system, which you can order on a Silk or Carbon Drive tikit.

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

First in Battle

Randy Comer just completed a bike tour at the Chickamauga Battlefield near Chattanooga, TN.

Randy Comer just completed a bike tour at the Chickamauga Battlefield near Chattanooga, TN.

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.

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Add comment September 20, 2013

Gravel Grinding Friday

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Jeff Linder preparing for 100 miles of Gravel Grinding on his Bike Friday.

 

[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.”

Jeff

Add comment September 15, 2013

It’s a Small World

My nephew is on a business trip to Germany, and caught a glimpse of a Bike Friday parked in Pfortzheim Germany.

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Add comment September 13, 2013

Bike Friday’s Air Show

Gail gave a couple of Bike Fridays a test spin around the Tarmac at the Independence Fly-In and Van's Homecoming. She loved the Silk so much she didn't want to let it go.

Gail gave a couple of Bike Fridays a test spin around the Tarmac at the Independence Fly-In and Van’s Homecoming. She loved the Silk so much she didn’t want to let it go.

By RAZ

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.

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This is an RV4, a typical example of the Van’s kit planes.

“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.

 

The challenge is to fit the Bike Friday in the compartment behind the rear seat.

The challenge is to fit the Bike Friday in the compartment behind the rear seat of the 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 …

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Viola. It fits!

Still room for a helmet and some other extras.

Still room for a helmet and some other extras.

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments September 9, 2013

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