Our StartEngine campaign just came to a close, and what a success! Over $220K was raised through investments and we’ve begun implementing key improvements already- Woo Hoo! We continue to be amazed and humbled by the incredible support for Bike Friday’s mission. To everyone who supported our campaign- thank you! Because you believe in us and the wonderful things that we offer the world we now have the opportunity to expand a grow our business in ways not previously possible.
Here’s what happens next!
With the Working Capital from this campaign we will begin (and already have begun) making many valuable improvements to our business:
Utilizing the slow season to build popular bikes into inventory for peak demand
Purchasing materials in larger quantities to get better margins
Ramping up our R&D of a variety of e-assist options, available for sale or retrofit onto existing Bike Fridays
Hiring additional engineering and sales staff
Expansion of new income streams like consignment, leasing, and rental
Partnering with Big Box retailers like REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and West Marine
Stay tuned for more updates!
We have some exciting news to share with you about the progress of our e-assist options, but we’re not quite ready to unveil it. We’ll keep you posted on the developments as they “unfold.”
Thank you again to everyone who invested or helped to spread the word about our investment campaign. We are just so grateful (and excited) to be able to jump in and start making these big improvements here at Bike Friday!
After cutting his teeth on the pakiT in NYC, Newton D. couldn’t resist taking his new bike to Europe
Newton wasn’t the very first pakiT owner, but he sure is the most excited, “I love the pakiT, it’s my Lamborghini! It’s so lightweight, this thing can really move.” Newton was so eager to get his hands on the pakiT that he ordered one before he had even finished paying off his Pocket Rocket. “I just kept watching the video of Hanna packing and unpacking the pakiT, and I thought, wow, I really need that bike,” he said.
Newton’s love of Bike Friday began in New York City, where he’d meet up for group rides using his titanium Brompton. After a number of rides with the group, he was chatting with a fellow Brompton owner about touring with a Brompton, and they told him what he really needed was a Bike Friday. Several months —and many website visits— later, Newton ordered himself a Pocket Rocket. When it arrived, Newton could hardly wait for the adventures to begin. He rode to City Island. He rode to NJ and back. He rode to Connecticut. Every time, he got a little bolder, included more people and before he knew it, he had unintentionally created NYC’s Bike Friday riding club. To make it official he gave it a name, The Bike Friday Society, and created a Meetup group. He was hooked.
Newton with his Pocket Rocket in NYC
The original vision that Newton had was to tour locally with his Bike Friday, doing longer multi-day rides through the northeast. But it didn’t take long for that vision to expand beyond our borders, “Now I’m much more interested in doing climbs and long distance rides between countries. There’s this great site, EuroVelo, with routes to go between countries in Europe and the Pocket Rocket would be perfect for that,” said Newton.
Then Along Came a pakiT
When we made the pakiT, we designed it to be the ultimate city bike- lightweight, belt driven, highly compact, and able to fit into a backpack. We imagined liberating commuters from the drudgery of the “last mile” by shaving 15-20 minutes off their commute, and doing it without getting any grease on their work clothes. Maybe, these riders would occasionally take a longer trip across town, but surely no one would ever think to tour on one of these bikes. Boy, were we wrong.
The pakiT quickly supplanted the Pocket Rocket as Newton’s favorite bike. It’s faster than his Brompton and folds more compactly than the Rocket. It didn’t take long before Newton was using it for everything, even touring Europe. “It packs up lighter, and smaller, so why not use it?” said Newton about his decision to take the pakiT on a 7 day tour with him to Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia. The tour, discovered on biketours.com, was going to be self-guided, with luggage support, and all lodging (and some meals) included. This would be Newton’s first overseas tour- he could not wait!
Billy Corgan is the name of the bike- Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan’s band) gives Newton the power to ride hard with the bike!
The Impossible Bike
Day 1, Vienna to Bratislava- Joseph was the tour guide, though really more of a “launch guide” since he didn’t actually come along for the tour. A tall guy with broken english, he could not believe that Newton was about to attempt a 370 km tour on a 16″ wheeled bicycle, “impossible” he said while laughing. Newton was brimming with questions, mostly about safety, Joseph replied with amused skepticism, “on that bike, good luck!” Not exactly what Newton wanted to hear on his first day of a long solo bike tour in a foreign land, in which he didn’t speak the language. But he’d come this far, and he wasn’t about to turn around.
When they handed him a map and told him to go, he got butterflies in his stomach, it was really happening. All of the planning, the prep, the late nights poring over maps and looking at touring websites, here he was, about to take off on his first multi-day tour and his first overseas tour all in one! Since he didn’t speak the language, any of them —German, Hungarian, or Czech— Newton’s only option was to follow the signs. Understandably, he was a little turned around at first, “there are two signs on the Euro Velo 6, one west one east. I started heading west, but needed to be going east. Something felt wrong, so I stopped to ask people, no one spoke english at first, then I found a news stand where the guy spoke very basic english, eventually he understood me and told me to turn around.”
The first stage of the tour took Newton through 19 miles of forest, but not just any forest, this was the most densely wolf, bear and bobcat populated forest in all of Europe. Newton read this on the internet, but it didn’t really sink in until he was there. Newton is cycling through the forest on his pakiT and it just kept getting more rural and remote, and eventually he was all alone, not another cyclist in sight. “Great,” thought Newton, “I’m in Slovakia and there are bears and wolves and bobcats. This isn’t the discovery channel!” Feeling a little nervous, Newton waited for some people to show up, a French couple, and they stayed together all the way to Bratislava. Once in the Slovakian capital, Newton where they checked into his provided lodging, luggage already there. That night he tried the national dish of Slovakia, Halusky. Halusky is smoked sheep cheese in a cream sauce with fried bacon and dill sauce. It was “Ooey gooey delicious!” he said.
Day 2 Bratislava to Mosonmagyarovar- With the scariest part (or so he thought) of the trip behind him Newton hit the road early after a hearty breakfast. Jumping back onto the Euro Velo 6, he met a couple on their way from Paris to Serbia and the three rode together for a while. One of them had a large touring bike and he and Newton switched bikes for a while. The Parisian gentleman was impressed by the pakiT, but after about 5 miles Newton said “Okay, I want my bike back!”
Still early on the day’s ride, as Newton was passing through the town of Rajka a big ferocious barking dog started running toward him, and picking up speed- it wasn’t on a leash! Newton pushed it hard on the pakiT and “left that dog in the dust!” Riding on his high of adrenaline, Newton cycled as hard as he could until he got to Mosonmagyarovar. “I just kept biking and biking, I really wanted to get the most time in the city to explore. I got there before the luggage arrived!”
Earlier that day riding along the country roads, a farmer almost crashed his tractor because he couldn’t stop staring at Newton on his little bike. “Outside of the cities, no one had ever seen a black man before, or a bike with such little wheels. I guess I was pretty unusual,” said Newton. Though, he was quick to clarify that “people were very respectful, very warm.” For instance, later that night he was he trying Hungarian cuisine in a small restaurant, and they just kept bringing him additional food and beer on the house. At first he was confused and told them that he hadn’t ordered these things, but the little old lady running the kitchen waved and smiled as if to say “eat up!” Newton continued, “humanity and diplomacy goes along way, even without a common language,” though eventually he did have to tell them to stop, patting his full belly with a big grin. “I wanted to eat more, but I just couldn’t eat another pierogi! The food they make is with love, hand made, fresh ingredients, it’s the soul food of Europe.”
Day 3 Mosonmagyarovar to Gyor- Gyor is a Hungarian city right on the river Danube. The city is halfway between Budapest and Vienna—situated along Eurovelo Route 6, one of the important roads of Central Europe. The city is the sixth-largest in Hungary, and one of the seven main regional centers of the country.
The city is littered with gorgeous historic buildings, many of which were restored in the 1970’s following decades of neglect. Newton stayed the night in one of them, a Monastery turned boutique hotel. His room was a originally a prayer room, giant statue of Christ on the wall; a very simple, spartan, contemplative space. The highlight of Gyor, however, was the duck, oh the duck! Sült töltött kacsa is a traditional Hungarian meal, it consists of a deboned duck, stuffed with paprika, garlic, onion, and fennel with a side of garlic whipped potatoes. “Very tender meat, amazing…” Newton raved, and “it only came out to 12 euros!” This may very well have been Newton’s favorite meal of the entire trip (he did mention it several times).
Gravel and Grit
Day 4 Gyor to Komárom- This was hands down the most challenging day of the entire tour, and for one reason, and one reason alone- the roads. As you move closer toward the eastern bloc the roads are progressively less developed. At points they are virtually impassable, at least on a bike. But did that stop our small-wheeled protagonist? Heck no! Newton persisted in the way that only a Bike Friday owner can. Thankfully, he wasn’t caught completely off guard- a cop warned him that he’d have a long stretch of terrible riding. So he pumped up his tires, braced himself, and started in. “I was weaving the bike like a figure 8 to avoid the sharp gravel, and rode through 12 miles of grass,” said Newton. “It was nerve racking, I’m not going to lie,” Newton continued, “but I ran the tires at 115 psi, took it slow, and I didn’t get a flat the entire time! On Kojaks!” Boy, there’s nothing like that Bike Friday Spirit.
Eventually, Newton made it to the pavement, where he met a Swiss couple on the same tour. The three rode together until they got to Komárom to make sure that he didn’t have any issues with his bike. To reward himself after such a stressful ride, Newton stopped at a cafe, famous for its homemade raspberry cakes, and dove in! It was a mom and pop organization, and the daughters wanted a picture with him, it was like “being a celebrity!”
A Royal Visit
Day 5 Komárom to Visegrád- Compared with the previous day’s riding, biking to Visegrád was a breeze. Visegrád is a very small and beautiful town up in the hills of Hungary. One of the coolest parts of the town is its namesake, the Visegrád Castle up on the hill (Visegrád translates as upper castle). It’s a beautiful structure with a long wall stretching along the ridge line of the hill. Initially built as a fortress, the castle was converted into a palace and royal residence in the 14th century. And speaking of royalty, Newton’s lodging that night was fit for a king- a full complimentary spa, with an onsite masseuse, and natural hot springs.
The Final Stage
Day 6 Visegrád to Budapest- The final stage the next day was from the quaint, small town of Visegrád to the bustling metropolis of Budapest, Hungary’s capital of more than 1.8 million. The riding from between the two was bucolic and (thankfully) uneventful- no more unchained dogs, lurking bobcats, or razor sharp gravel. It was paved roads pretty much all of the way, except for the two ferry rides on the route! Newton woke up early and rode hard to Budapest (didn’t even take a bathroom break!), wanting to capture as much of the city as he could on his final day. When he arrived at his final destination —before anyone else— he was met by a stunned Joseph, the tour guide who laughed at the pakiT on the first day. “Impossible!” he exclaimed, his jaw hung open. Joseph could just not believe that Newton made it, let alone first!
Budapest is an incredible city with beautifully preserved historic buildings. Having given himself the whole day, Newton did a lot of exploring on his pakiT. He was particularly struck by the war history of Hungary’s capital, having been an ally of the Nazis throughout most of the war, only to betray them with a series of armistices with the UK, US, and USSR. The most powerful visit of the day was to one of Hungary’s holocaust museums- The House of Terror. The House of Terror was where the Nazis had their headquarters in Hungary, as well as the Communists who followed. The building, with torture chambers in the basement, serves as a stark reminder of the horrors of that time. “It was a very visceral experience,” said Newton.
Of course, no visit on this trip would be complete without a major culinary experience. For his final meal Newton went big. His stop was the Trofea Grill- an all you can eat (and drink) buffet. They had everything, all of the food that Newton had come to love, plus wild boar, shark meat pancakes, and tons of paprika. Paprika. On. Everything.
Paking a Punch
When we asked Newton about his overall experience with the pakiT this is what he had to say:
I feel like I won the race of a lifetime with that bike, it’s not just a bike, it’s a part of me now. I would give my parents updates on Facebook, having the duck, having those really good meals that was the result of the pakiT. Even in the rain and tough roads, she held up, I got a lot more out of the bike than I ever thought I would. I want to tour on it again, in fact I’m going to next summer from Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark. Also, wondered, how well I could climb with the pakiT, there were some serious climbs and the pakiT did great.
And, besides dumbstruck Joseph, how did people react to the bike?
People loved the bike, it got me free beer, more food than I could eat, and most importantly lots of smiles- a universal language. I even got hit on a couple of times! The thing that amazed people the most, they’d say ‘where is the chain!?’ A group of French tourists were impressed how easily, effortlessly it climbed hills, they were very excited.
Had some good laughs with it too, at one place I was putting the suitcase in the room and came back with the bike. This old man, who looked like Dracula’s butler, was vacuuming more intensely than anyone I’ve ever seen… I was just waiting for lighting to strike in the distance. I came back hours later and he was still vacuuming!
Any advice for people traveling with the pakiT?
I bought an Ortleib bag that extends out from the seat post, it had a spare tire (foldable Kojak), a pump, inner tubes, tools, patch kit, GoPro cameras, a map and a cold beer on occasion. Ortleib seat bag- fasteners, no zipper, maybe 16.5 liters, great bag, attaches to the seat rails – absolutely recommend it 138%! It protects everything inside, doesn’t feel like it weighs down the bike. You could even put a decent amount of clothes in there too. I think it could hold all of your gear for a 2-3 day credit card tour.
I am a firm advocate of this bike, it was battle tested, this bike knows how to flex its muscle. Its going to make the challenge of NYC seem like a disney movie. After being on those hog trails in rural Hungary, and now to be curising the streets of NY i’m going to feel like King Kong on that bike.
Hanna Scholz Leads Bike Friday Out of Crisis and Into the Future
Written by Randy Kirk
She lives in a tiny house. She bikes or walks almost exclusively. She recently took over as President of Bike Friday in Eugene, Oregon, where she manages one of the last bicycle factories in the US. But this story started 25 years ago when Alan Scholz and his brother Hanz decided they had a better way to build a folding bicycle.
Way, way back in 1992, folks were more worried about Y2K than they were about climate change, but the Green movement was alive and well. The country had been working to clean up the air and water for a few decades, and a sizable percentage of the population was talking about sustainability. The Scholz brothers were part of that group. They had also been intrigued for over 20 years about the idea of putting a high performance folded bike into a suitcase for airline travel.
Many cyclists love to travel, but they find almost every transportation provider to be disinterested or even hostile to bicycles as luggage. Their idea was to offer a quick folding bicycle that would fit easily on public transport and would also be “as fantastic to ride as your favorite bike.”
In the beginning – Bike Friday is born
The first Bike Friday
The Scholz brothers were running a small manufacturing facility designing and building tandem bicycles as a partner for Burley Design, a cooperative started by Alan and his wife in 1977. Alan’s first big product success was the original Burley child trailer, it set the standard for all future child bike trailers in North America.
Alan and Hanz proposed three hot new designs to the cooperative in 1992. Alan Scholz explains: “We had a slick lightweight folding bike that would fit in a suit case, a new trailer design, and a tandem that could be easily disassembled for travel. We were shocked when the cooperative board turned down all three. The board members complained that no one was making anything like this and that bike shops would not sell these types of items. At that moment, my brother and I decided to set off and sell these items direct to consumers.” The corporation was established as Green Gear Cycling Inc. with the dba of Bike Friday.
The original Bike Friday crew in 1992
Bike Friday grew and prospered. The folding bike concept was over a century old, but the new design offered a groundbreaking level of performance that developed a substantial and loyal following. Alan continues: “We were directly in touch with the consumer. Burley Design had wanted us to stop talking to the consumer. We knew this would end our innovation. Now we were dealing direct with the folks who knew what needs they had, and we were able to supply those needs. Listening carefully to consumers became the underpinning of everything we do today.”
While the company grew so did Alan’s family. His three daughters all were involved in the family business. “We started them lacing bicycle wheels when they were preteens. They were paid for their work and happy to have the extra spending money,” explains Alan. “Later we would step them up to doing mailings or even working in the paint room. Hanna built a bike from scratch when she was about 16. It served her well for over a decade.”
Hanna learned to braze as a teen, she’s held practically every job at Bike Friday
Storm clouds over Eugene
Over the last 25 years, the company experienced ups and downs like most businesses. Changing tastes, recessions, and 9/11, all had impacts on the company. But in 2013, with Bike Friday still recovering from reduced sales after the Great Recession, the company found itself in a perfect storm.
The company had borrowed heavily from the City of Eugene in to finance the tooling and startup costs for the most revolutionary folding bike ever, the tikit. The tikit was very well received and sales were ramping up dramatically. But then the first of three disasters hit.
A supplier error resulted in a recall of the the tikit. Not only was the recall expensive, but it was a blow to the reputation of Bike Friday and its leading model. Sales tanked. Then, just as the company began to recover from this disaster, the whole bicycle industry began a prolonged slump also felt at Bike Friday.
Alan sighs: “We had made the mistake in 2011 of laying off qualified and seasoned staff too quickly. This time we made the bigger mistake of waiting too long to let people go.
When Alan’s daughter Hanna took over the in late 2015, Bike Friday was struggling. Sales were down and headed even lower. Losses were mounting. However, Hanna wasn’t in the dark about the challenges:
“My friends, family, advisors, and even some employees thought I was a little crazy to take over when I did. They were not shy about telling me so.”
Hanna struggles with her career path
But let’s back up a few years. Why was Hanna taking over now? Company transitions from one or both parents to their children is a big deal for any company, and this type of transition is often fraught with emotional struggles on both sides. Hanna tells her side of the story…
“For a long time, I wasn’t really sure that I had any interest in taking over. I had tried working for other organizations in the sustainability movement, and I even considered starting my own business in some other industry. My dad started asking if I wanted to run Bike Friday when I was just 25 years old (so they could design and build and not have to do administration) but I couldn’t picture myself giving orders to my dad and uncle, or believe they would actually follow them — could not fathom it at all. Even as I moved into my 30’s and was taking on various responsibilities in inventory and then marketing and other parts of the plant, even as dad kept suggesting I start running things, I couldn’t picture it. I only had this one picture of my dad and uncle as my examples of managing a factory, and I didn’t see myself fitting into their place in that environment.”
Hanna’s educational journey had been unique. She calls herself a pretty good multitool, but not an expert at anything, with plenty of stubborn determination. She honed those skills into a strong combination during a stint at the National Outdoor Leadership School or NOLS. If you head over to the curriculum page for NOLS, you’ll start to understand something about the grit that currently defines Hanna. To take just one excerpt:
NOLS teaches risk management by applying leadership and wilderness skills and facilitating experiences to develop judgment. Students will be able to:
Identify and assess hazards and understand risks in the wilderness
Use technical skills, leadership, judgment, and situational awareness to manage risks
Use risk management terminology and models to assess and communicate decisions and actions
Create and implement contingency plans
Hanna felt that “NOLS was my greatest single source of training after middle school. The foundational principles of how to live simply, to lead, to work as a team, and to overcome adversity by wit and grit have served me well ever since. It has informed my decisions to live simply and to be clear on what are the essentials to live, and see everything beyond those essentials as luxuries. So I live the tiny house approach and I don’t rely on a car for my daily life.”
The second half of 2014 found the company with a full slate of problems to solve and actions to take. Alan Scholz once again asked Hanna to take the title: “We don’t usually put a lot of stock in titles at Bike Friday. Never have. However, it just seemed that in this case we needed to make a statement.”
Hanna still wasn’t ready. But the truth was that she was effectively running the day-to-day operations, and Alan was doing what he loved…inventing and designing. Simultaneously, the company had just used one of Alan’s favorite approaches to solving sales or cash flow issues. He invented a new product and it was ready to be announced. The new product also provided a new category for the company. The Haul-a-Day is a sport utility bike designed for anyone who needs to carry larger loads on the bike, but still wants the bike to perform and handle like the lightweight bikes we all know and love. And its one frame can adjust to fit a whole family of people.
The Haul-a-Day adjusts in size to fit riders 4’6″ to 6’4″
Hanna decided to use Kickstarter for the bike launch in November 2014. “We’d been watching this idea for a little while. A lot of bike ideas were raising substantial money on Kickstarter, and we felt the Haul-a-Day was so unique that the Kickstarter platform would really be a perfect way to introduce it to the world. We had no idea just how much work it is to do crowdfunding the right way. We ended up devoting massive time, energy, and emotional resources into the campaign.”
The company really needed a win. The tension was palpable when the Kickstarter campaign launched. Employees who had computers handy were checking the progress throughout the day. Less than half of all Kickstarter campaigns reach their funding goal. And if you don’t reach your goal, you get nothing.
By the end of the first day, there were a lot of smiles at the plant. It seemed that the Kickstarter community was loving the bike. By the end of the campaign, the Haul-a-Day had raised over $130,000, putting this campaign in the top 2% of all the successful Kickstarter campaigns, and close to the 1% level of all campaigns.
The huge cash infusion would be a great help as the company exited 2014, but all was not well. Hanna says she “has thought a lot about the lowest point over these last three years. Dealing with unhappy vendors, explaining difficult days to employees, having an unexpected slow sales month – these are all difficult. But right in the middle of the heady days of the Kickstarter campaign, my personal life took a huge hit.”
“When my partner left, I was devastated. It took a toll on my ability to be fully present on the job. Ironically, he was also our web developer and running the Kickstarter with me, so we ended up having a deficit to fill at Bike Friday as well. My survival training had prepared me for much of what I was about to go through in the business, but somehow, we are never prepared for a broken heart.”
“Fortunately, there was little time to think. I just had to focus on the business and that’s…eventually…what I did. I was also lucky to have good friends and family to offer emotional support and wonderful employees who stepped in to give their all to keep Bike Friday going as I struggled through these dark days.”
Burn the boats
The turning point in Hanna’s career path came in 2015 when she became involved with an organization dedicated to helping startup businesses in the Eugene area. “RAIN (Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network) was a second time where my education came in a very non-traditional way. I was not the actual target client for RAIN. They were looking for young startups. But they took my case anyway.”
“I was immediately placed under the instruction of seasoned business owners who dug deep down into the details of how to start, manage, finance, and grow small businesses. My eyes were opened in many ways, but chief among them was the realization that I didn’t need to be like my dad and uncle in order to effectively take the reins of Bike Friday.”
“My concern had been that Alan and Hanz were both very creative at designing, tinkering with, and eventually crafting the various inventions that had been the core of Bike Friday. I saw that as fundamental to the job of president of Bike Friday. In some ways, I thought I’d need to give up who I was as a person and as a woman in order to be president. Through my instruction at RAIN I began to see that I could be authentically myself and also fully female while running a predominantly male steel fabrication business. From that moment, it was only a matter of time until I would relieve my dad of a responsibility that he really hadn’t prized for a long time.”
Hanna finally agreed, “I knew dad was right about the title change to President, and I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. I was surprised at the change it made in the employees’ relationships with me. But the bigger challenge was how to change the relationship with my dad. Even though he was much happier having me run things, unsurprisingly, he didn’t always want to totally let go.”
We have now come full circle. In late 2015, Hanna is now the president of the struggling manufacturing company her dad and uncle founded 23 years earlier. She ignored the advice of most around her and committed to finding a path to sustainable success. “I believe in recycling, so I didn’t want to throw away an entire company that was doing so much good. I love our employees and customers, and want to continue serving them.”
Unfortunately, even with the cash infusion from the Haul-a-Day Kickstarter campaign and the new sales created by the new product, by early 2016 the company edged towards crisis, again. Sales were still moving lower. Losses were eating into cash flow. Something needed to give, and fast.
Hanna decided on a philosophy that would lead her through this crisis and start turning the ship around. She collected advisors and mentors around her that she could lean on for advice. Her relationships at RAIN represent one part of this cadre of consultants. Alan is still her first resource, and often her last. She feels that outside help, consultants that have no vested interest, will provide a new way to look at old and festering problems.
January 2016 – The Marketing Manager is laid off and Hanna takes over as Marketing Director for the second time. A whole new online marketing strategy is created.
March 2016 – Staff and manufacturing employees are cut back. Alan and Hanna’s last available personal funds are loaned to the company. A solution is needed, and soon.
April 2016 – The old Bike Friday website is replaced by a mobile-friendly site, the Bike Friday Facebook page has a new active manager and an Instagram account is created for the first time. A marketing consultant is called into action. Alan suggests someone he has known about in the bicycle industry for decades. The sales team is retrained, new approaches are tried.
May 2016 – Alan has another new, world’s first bike in the works and Hanna starts planning the second Kickstarter campaign in less than a year. The first one raised almost $140,000. This time the company will introduce the lightest folding bike in the business.
August 2016 – A massive advertising and social media campaign is launched to support the new pakiT folding bike’s Kickstarter campaign, and the results are impressive. Orders flow in for over $150,000 worth of the new bike. This puts Bike Friday in the upper 2% of all Kickstarter campaigns for the second time. It would be like winning the Tour de France back to back. The cash infusion gets the company through the fall season and into 2017.
January 2017 – pakiTs are shipping and the public loves the new bike. But the bicycle industry slump continues and the company is still losing money month after month. The losses are not sustainable.
February 2017 – Hanna turns to the consultants again. With determination Hanna’s team digs and cuts deeper and finally finds the best mix of skills and knowledge at a company size that matches sales to ensure a profit going forward. Decisions are made and the losses are stopped. From February on, the company either breaks even or makes a profit. But the losses already booked force Hanna to consider how she can raise more funds for investment to grow.
March 2017 – Consultants suggest several possible solutions. Go to the venture capitalists and see if the company can find a VC partner to buy into the company. The City of Eugene had loaned the company money in the past. Maybe they would do so again.Use the new online equity crowdfunding method that would allow Bike Friday to raise equity online.
April 2017 – Hanna decides to try the city. The City of Eugene loaned the company $300,000 several years before and that loan was almost paid off. Maybe they would rewrite the loan for another $300,000. The city said they were interested and Hanna scrambled to put together a financial package for them to consider.
June 2017 – The city comes back after reviewing the package and offers Bike Friday $175,000 while requiring substantial new collateral. Hanna decides to try another route and makes the decision to use StartEngine.com to raise working capital through a crowdfunded equity offering. Equity crowdfunding is in its infancy, so Hanna’s team does research to ensure that they have selected the right online platform for the job.
July 2017 – Hanna and her team continue to keep sales steady, and keep the company at break even or slightly profitable. Unfortunately, cash flow is dropping due to repayments of loans. Hanna, Alan, and others on staff work long hours to create the crowdfunding offer. A major supplier is getting angry and sends a troubling letter. Hanna meets with him and calms him for now. Something close to a miracle is needed very soon.
August 10, 2017 – The StartEngine.com site is completed and goes live. Emails go to the Bike Friday fans – over 20,000 and growing. Facebook ads go to selected audiences likely to respond, including their 12,000 followers. Tweets are Tweeted. A few hours go by and there’s no activity. But then someone makes the minimum purchase of $300. More investments come in for $500, $1000, and then one for $5000. By the end of the first day, a total of $27,000 is posted on the dashboard at StartEngine.com. The number is substantially above what most online crowdfunding equity campaigns achieve in the first day. There’s excitement in the air at Bike Friday.
August 11, 2017 – More success overnight and the flow of new orders is looking good again. By the end of day two, over $50,000 is in place and the initial goal seems very doable. Hanna had elected not to spend the $2,000 it would take to have her financial statements reviewed before the first offering. On Friday, she puts in a call to a CPA and sets up the financial review that will allow Bike Friday to raise the offering goal substantially.
August 12, 2017 – Another fantastic day, the total now moves close to $75,000 largely because of a couple of large investments. The investments are averaging over $1500 per investor, unheard of for 95% of StartEngine campaigns.
August 13, 2017 – Less activity on Sunday, but another $5000 comes in. Hanna agrees to pay a bit more to the CPA in order to expedite the review.
August 14, 2017 – A continued lull and by the end of the day, the number is just under $90,000.
August 15, 2017 – Large investments come in and the total is now $109,000. Hanna puts a plan in action to start the 2nd round on August 23 if everything is ready. Everyone on the team is ecstatic!!
August 18, 2017 – Raising a larger amount is a much heavier lift than raising the first portion, but the speed of the initial raise indicates a serious potential to achieve substantial additional funding. Hanna meets by phone with her outside marketing consultant to strategize the 2nd round launch. They agree to a very aggressive campaign designed to prove that with additional funding, the company has the vision that could pay off for the new investors. They also agree that there are some specific targeted investor types and groups that will be interested in a US manufacturer run by a young woman that has an obvious environmentally positive business.
August 24, 2017 – The campaign goes live again. During the lull, orders for stock have continued to accumulate and the total is now $141,000.
Now the story continues and you can be part of it! The fundraising effort has already helped to stabilize Bike Friday to focus into the future. Hanna Scholz has recognized the value of outside counsel, and combined with her innate talents, personal enthusiasm, passion, and just plain grit, (plus talented dedicated team) has turned the company around in under two years. She has set a vision for the future and has communicated that vision to her team, the fan base, and investors. The company’s foundation was already strong and the products enjoy a great following. With the focus, persistence, authenticity and vision of the founders daughter, Hanna Scholz, Bike Friday is launching into a new, more sustainable era.
On fire! That is the only way to describe the current US eBike business.
While much of the US bicycle business has been in a slump, one category is showing good growth: eBikes. By some estimates, electric bike sales grew as much as 70% in 2016 and may have reached 250,000 units. Based on researching the current state of the market we believe that combining electric assist capability with our folding, utility, and tandem bikes is a niche we can fully leverage. If Bike Friday were to capture even .5% of the US market in 2018, annual sales of eBikes could reach 1200 units or $2.5M in sales, doubling our current sales. This is also an opportunity for Bike Friday to take advantage of clear interest from our 30,000 Bike Friday owners in offering electric assist kits that can be retrofitted on existing Bike Fridays as well as new bikes.
To take advantage of this growing opportunity we have undertaken a multi-stage project with the goal of a complete line of electric assist products. We’ve completed the first two stages, and because of the great success of our StartEngine campaign we now have the resources to really dive into stage three. But before we get to the latest developments, here’s a quick overview of what we’ve done so far.
The Haul-a-Day cargo bike equipped with BionX e-assist
The BionX system uses a brushless, DC, rear hub motor and can be fitted with either a 6 amp hour or 11 amp hour, 48 volt battery. The system has an impressive pedal-assist feature that monitors your pedal stroke and seamlessly adds power at just the right moment. The amount of boost is determined entirely by the rider, with 4 levels in total. The setup even includes a little red button to give you full power without any pedaling! A backlit LCD display screen shows you your battery life, level of assist, speed, and distance. Another great feature of the BionX is its regenerative braking- great for use as a drag brake, especially on tandems.
Alan Scholz, Co-founder of Bike Friday and Lead Engineer, in combination with eBike experts Grin Technologies, has come up with an outstanding e-assist system for the pakiT- the LiGo system. The LiGo system is revolutionary for traveling as it is the only electric assist battery that you can easily (and legally) ship by air, or take with you on an airplane!
The pakiT with the Ligo e-assist system from Grin Technologies
The pakiT with the LiGo system easily converts between e-assist and non e-assist, it’s lightweight even for an e-bike, and its unique battery system allows it to be safely transported on airplanes– because each battery is under 100Wh it meets the safety requirements of most airlines. The system has a Bafang G01 Front Hub Motor that delivers 250-500W of power at a top speed of 18 mph for up to 20-30 miles on a single charge, with a 2+ hour charge time. Speed levels are controlled by a combination of a twist-grip throttle and the Ezee LED console. And because weight is a determinant factor for many, we’ve designed the heaviest parts of the system to be easily removed in under 4 minutes. It’s practically like having two bikes in one- a light weight folder and a speedy e-bike!
The stackable LiGo batteries stow easily in a small saddle bag
Watch this great video of a pakiT in Costa Rica with LiGo e-assist!
The current stage of electric-assist development at Bike Friday is the creation of a mid-drive system to round out our offerings. Alan has identified the market, selected outstanding suppliers of motors, batteries and controls, and alpha tested several products over the past year. With the surge of enthusiasm and support from our StartEngine campaign, we now have the resources to begin beta testing the new Bike Friday Mid-Drive system.
Here are the key features of the new Bike Friday Mid-Drive:
Powerful 350W mid-drive motor
Wide range of 36v Li-ion batteries available
Climbs better than rear or front hub e-assist
LCD display with MPH, battery life, assist level, and distance meter
Self contained controller
Can meet the legal speed limit in any country
We are very excited about the possibilities of this new system under development! As we continue to test and refine this new mid-drive system we will be sure to keep you posted with updates as to it’s eventual release. Can’t wait to get your hands on it? We are currently seeking beta testers to try out this experimental new mid-drive system. To learn more about becoming a beta tester for Bike Friday fill out this form.
Here’s another way you can help us develop this system- share our StartEngine campaign with your friends and family. We’ll be using funds from the campaign to finish up the R&D on this newest model.
We are expanding our business using the newly available platform of Equity Crowdfunding. We are offering the community a chance to become a part of the company in a way not previously possible. Join us as we jump into emerging markets, grow our team, expand our production capacity, and refine our offerings. Learn more about how you can invest in American Ingenuity and the future of sustainable transportation.
Aiming for a Major Expansion in Local Manufacturing
The Scholz Family, Founders of Bike Friday
Tapping into the Power of Equity Crowdfunding, We’ve Set our Sights on an Ambitious Undertaking
We’ve always thought of the Bike Friday community more like family than customers. One big worldwide family of commuters, component geeks, triathletes, tourists, bike moms, gravel grinders, and road riders all joined by our common love of performance that packs. Many of you have been with us since the very beginning when Bike Friday was just an idea with an ad in Bicycling Magazine. Since then, we have grown from a small garage operation to an internationally recognized brand with tens of thousands of loyal followers. Along the way we’ve shared meals together, met up for long rides, and some of you have even stayed in our home!
Now we’re inviting you to truly become part of the family in a way not previously possible, Crowd-Funded Equity.* With recent changes in the Federal regulations on investment, you can now invest in a company without being a certified (i.e. fabulously wealthy) investor. We’re thrilled to be making an offering through the online platform StartEngine. We are inviting the Bike Friday Community to join us in launching into a new era, and sharing in the results!
When Alan and Hanz founded Bike Friday, George Bush (the first) was president, everyone used VHS tapes, and no one had heard of the Web. For many years Bike Friday was part of a very small group of folding bike companies and the only company building high performance bicycles, including the first ones designed to pack into airline checkable suitcases. People bought bikes over the phone or in person at our small shop. Our marketing at the time was almost exclusively word of mouth. As word spread, a community of enthusiastic riders built up around us. We had arrived. But then others starting arriving too, and our niche got smaller. Meanwhile the internet exploded, smart phones became ubiquitous, and the entire game changed. In the age of Amazon and Google, people’s expectations have shifted, fueled by algorithms and instant-everything.
As Hanna stepped into the pilot’s seat, succeeding her father and co-founder Alan, she plotted a new course for the company. Hanna’s vision boldly embraced the changing of the tide, she’s streamlined our offerings, and focused on the emerging markets of family bikes, city friendly bikes and e-assist in addition to our famous travel bikes. She’s rebuilt our website from the ground up to be simpler, sleeker, and mobile-friendly. She’s grown our existing online social media presence by over 150% in the last 2 years, introduced new channels like Instagram, and tripled our efforts in digital marketing. Hanna has jumped on the new opportunities that crowd funding platforms offer. In the last three years she has run two successful Kickstarter campaigns, and now, a new equity crowdfunding campaign. With our newest campaign we are on the verge of a major transformation in our core business structure – building an inventory of bikes to be available on demand, thereby increasing our profitability and responsiveness to spontaneous market opportunities.
Our plans for expansion are to:
Vastly increase production output by building streamlined models into inventory during the off season
Capitalize on the popularity of e-assist by becoming leading experts on folding e-bikes
Explore the emerging markets of bike leasing and bike consignment
Grow our team, increasing our sales staff and hiring an additional engineer
At Bike Friday, we are committed to the long term, to serving you, to changing with the times, and building and delivering bicycles in the ways that people need. The name Bike Friday references Man Friday, of “Robinson Crusoe”, because, like Crusoe’s loyal helper, we want our bikes to always be at your side.
As we stand on the edge of making some big changes to the business, we’d like you to be by our side. We’d like you to become part of the company and share in a larger way.
Equity crowdfunding is the online offering of private company securities to a group of people for investment, in other words, it’s a way to allow a community to invest in a business they believe in!
In exchange for giving money to a business, investors receive ownership of a small piece of that business. If the business succeeds, then its value goes up, as well as the value of a share in that business—the converse is also true.
Regulations- Because equity crowdfunding involves investment into a commercial enterprise, it’s subject to securities and financial regulation by the SEC. This means that there are a lot of rules as to what, and how, we can communicate with you during this campaign. Red tape galore. The best way —really the only way— to ask questions and learn more about our campaign is directly on the campaign page itself. Federal law requires that everyone be given access to the exact same information, and the only surefire way to do that is through our page on StartEngine.
About Bike Friday: Bike Friday is an innovative folding bike manufacturer based in Eugene, Oregon. Founded in 1992, Bike Friday has built tens of thousands of custom bicycles to individual order. Bike Friday specializes in high performance bicycles meant to easily pack and have with you ready to ride where ever your days travel takes you around the world. Bike Friday claims many world’s firsts, including the first suitcase travel bike, the first folding tandem, and the world’s lightest folding bikes. All of Bike Friday’s bicycles are hand made in the USA.
Naoki Kawashima saved New Year’s gift money and has a part-time job, on top of his busy academic schedule, in order to buy a Bike Friday.
The following is an interview with Naoki Kawashima, who at only 18 years of age, bought himself a Pocket Rocket, making him the youngest Bike Friday owner in Japan! Naoki is a student of a technical college in Japan, which will provide him a five-year education and an associate degree upon graduation. He is studying architectural design.
This interview was conducted with Naoki at the time of his bike-fitting by Mutsuko Nagatsuma, co-owner of ehicle bike shop in Tokyo.
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. Bike riding. I have a hybrid bicycle and ride it along the riverside bike path. Seeing that I got my bike, my father also bought himself a new bike, perhaps feeling that it is nice to have a bike. He is 49 years old. My father and I get up early in the morning and ride bikes together.
Before having had a hybrid bike, I had a comfort bike (granny’s bike or everyday bike). When I was 11 years old, my father told me to try to ride up to the sea by bike. We pedaled tens of kilometers, and I first became aware of the power of a bike. It never crossed my mind that I would be able to do something like this with my bike.
Q. Do you participate in extracurricular activities?
A. I used to belong to the basketball club, because of Manga. I have to work very hard, but I found I like to run. I love to run at my own pace. I also pedal at my own pace.
Q. How did you come to hear about BIKE FRIDAY?
A. I started to ride a hybrid bicycle when I was 15 years old and made a lot of friends through bike riding. Around at 16 years old, I started to learn more things about bikes and I discovered BIKE FRIDAY on the internet. I don’t remember exactly how I found my way to BIKE FRIDAY. After one year of researching their bicycles, at 17 years old, I came here to ehicle and I decided to order it one year later.
Q. Why did you like BIKE FRIDAY?
A. It just so happened that, when I was using the internet, a picture of a BIKE FRIDAY caught my eye. I knew that that was it, I loved BIKE FRIDAY at first sight. Though my friends bought other road bikes, I thought, my bike must be a BIKE FRIDAY!
Q. When buying a BIKE FRIDAY became part of your future cycling plans, what did you imagine yourself doing with it? Where do you want to go with your BIKE FRIDAY?
A. I would like to try something like riding my bike as far as I can and then taking the train home with my bike. I don’t like racing, but I want to try to attend bike events in rural areas.
Anyway, I want to visit many places in Japan. During my life, I want to go to every unfamiliar place in Japan.
Q. What do you think so far, after the bike-fitting?
A. As I’ve never had a custom road bike … I don’t quite know exactly what to expect, but I expect that my order and my frame size are checked in detail. I understand that BIKE FRIDAY will give me exactly what I like … I am still having a hard time selecting a color.
Q. Final word.
A. I’d like to ask BIKE FRIDAY’s staff to continue to make great products for years to come.
I can only speak Japanese, but I want to go abroad. I also take interest in visiting the BIKE FRIDAY factory and want to meet Mr. Alan Scholz.
The first test ride and fitting!
Looking over the design options
New bike day! Naoki’s bike arrives in Tokyo
Going over the folding and unfolding
And, finally, the first ride!
To learn more about the bike that inspired Naoki, check out the Pocket Rocket!
We’ve teamed up with some of the best brands in the PNW to offer the ultimate summer-escape bike package! You could win over $2,000 in gear and finish out the summer with all the tools you need to get away from the daily grind.
Check out these gorgeous photos to see what you could win. Enter at the very end of the post!
It is hard to believe, that a month has passed since my custom made, pakiT arrive. Yep I picked Pink and White, because I could and because I love how vibrant the colour is. I have never “named” one of my bikes before, but I really can’t help myself with this one… she is “Polly” pakiT 🙂
Over this past month I have put Polly to the test including flying her to Ottawa on Air Canada. The performance of this bike is both amazing and unexpected. I really knew very little about folding bikes but in just one month of riding I have learned a ton!
Dresses Work: Because of the low frame the bike is perfect for cycle commuting in a dress.
Travel Time: Was essentially the same as riding my hybrid.
Performance: The bike provides a very solid, steady and comfortable ride. One Facebook friend asked if it was “wobbly” as it looked like it would be. The answer was a very clear no. It does not feel wobbly at all.
The Fold: My work colleagues could not help but comment on how small the bike was folded. They are accustomed to seeing my other bikes and were very surprised at the small footprint of the pakiT.
Air Travel: That is a story for another Blog. Suffice to say it worked, it worked better than I could have hoped and I was so happy to have my pakiT with me during a conference in Ottawa, Ontario Canada.
Travel Commuting with Non-Cyclists: The pakiT is the bike of choice when I know I am meeting people and then traveling together by car. No special bike rack is needed, the pakiT folds and fits in the trunk.
The bike was made, just for me, by “the Green Bike” company in Eugene Oregon. They are marketed under the brand of Bike Friday.
I would like to expand a bit on the travel time. The following is from the Bike Friday website and describes the travel distance very well as “Better Gearing”. The website goes on to say “Small wheels don’t equate to slower speeds, or having to pedal more. What gives you speed when you pedal is the distance that the wheel travels for every full revolution of the pedals, this is called gear inches. It’s understandable to assume that a smaller wheel would have fewer gear inches than a conventional bike, because with the exact same gearing it does. But folding bikes compensate for this by using higher gear ratios. Take for instance a folding road bike like the Pocket Rocket, which uses a 53 tooth chain wheel and 9 tooth cassette cog to achieve 116 gear inches. That’s nearly 10 feet of travel for every full rotation of the pedals, which is just as good, if not better, than any standard full-sized road bike.”
The Bike Friday website also addresses the “wobbly” question as follows “Another feature that makes small wheeled bicycles great for touring or transporting kids is the low center of gravity, which is the balance point of the bicycle. With small wheels, the balance point is naturally lower to the ground, and the lower it is to the ground the more stable it is.”
It was one thing to read the above on the website and quite another to test drive it personally. I was expecting wobbly, I was expecting that my ride would be slow, I was expecting that this bike would be my travel bike and in between trips be used less…I was wrong on all accounts. Polly pakiT is so pretty; she is hard to leave behind for any reason!
Touring Tasmania on a tikit (26th April – 7th May 2017)
By Aaron Lim
Since I bought the Bike Friday tikit back in 2013, I have done some solo trips on this well made folding bike. Seoul to Busan in winter, Round Island of Taiwan, ascending almost 3000m to WuLing in Taiwan ,300km in a day from Singapore to Kluang & back home, and doing a 2000km ride around Iceland. So I was wondering what’s the next adventure and I chanced upon some information about touring in Tasmania. Just nice that I found a time slot without work commitments to bike tour this beautiful island south of Australia.
Coming from Singapore, I flew to Melbourne, then change to a domestic flight to Hobart. The plan is to cycle an anti clockwise direction from Hobart towards the east coast of Tasmania, Launceston, Cycling to Cradle mountain and to do some short hikes, Queenstown, Lake St Clair, Mount Field national park and finally back to Hobart which is approximately 1000km.
Instead of using a hardcase to pack my Tikit, I was trying to figure out if the Tikit could go into a soft case made for the Brompton. By following the exact same method of packing a Tikit in a suitcase as featured on the Bike Friday youtube page, I was able to successfully pack the Tikit into the Soft bag made for the Brompton! It’s a little squeezy on the sides but it works and thankfully the bike landed in Hobart safely! I even stuffed in my camping tent, haha!
Cycling out of Hobart is a challenge and to get to the east coast drive of Tasmania, you need to cycle across a massive highway bridge packed with heavy traffic! Thank goodness for a bike path that leads to a shared bikeway along the bridge and thus my adventure begins.
One of the things I love about Tasmania is that, once your out of the cities, there really ain’t much traffic to worry about. Most drivers were friendly and they keep a lookout for me. After bypassing a small village Richmond, which had a very nice historical bridge, it’s all the way east and cycling along the beautiful east coast, soaking in the beautiful blue hues of the Tasman Sea.
It’s tough to meet other fellow cyclists during this period of time. The weather hasn’t been really kind. There were days of nice sunshine and then it rains out of the blue. And unfortunately autumn season turning to winter, temperatures range from 16 – 1 degrees celsius. Besides the weather elements to deal with, Tasmania is a pretty hilly place to bike tour. Glad I did meet a German couple whom were doing their world tour on bicycle and we had a nice chat along the way and even shared campsites. There are times where I am alone and more than happy to discover free campgrounds that still offer toilets and the occasional hot shower! Kinda fun to have a campground almost all to myself under a big tree, haha. If there’s a campground I love the most, it would be at Mole Creek. What better way to camp to be surrounded by mountains, seeing the stars at night and just having my tent next to a stream of water! Just 10Aud!
Transiting from the eastern coast drive into the hilly forested roads of Tasmania, tough the climbs maybe, but I am indeed wowed by the beautiful greenery. I was greeted by much tall rainforests that line the roads. As I gain higher altitude, I start to discover many huge ferns that line the forest roads. The best part of this bike trip is that I can just park my bike somewhere and there’s a rainforest walk, the entry point just being along the road. Walks like the Weldborough Rainforest walk allows me to get up close to a very Jurassic era rainforest and observing these big ferns up close! Just think of the movie Jurassic Park! Some walks lead you to beautiful waterfalls like Nelson Falls & Russel falls.
With rainy weather, the chances of me spotting rainbows is really a lot. Cycling around Mt Roland was definitely a very memorable experience as I could see the rainbow right before my very eyes in full arc! To me the appearance of rainbows does encourage me to keep going during my solo bike tours. It really can be lonely at times but rainbows just make me happy, pause to admire it, and feeling the presence of the God of creation.
The toughest climb will be towards cradle mountain and that’s where I was really worn out and started pushing my tikit. It’s interesting to know there’s a plain called Middle Sex plains, that’s where I start to discover what has been all rainforest previously is now an alpine wasteland. That’s the beauty of Tasmania, landscapes are an ever changing tapestry here. I took a cycling day off for Cradle Mountain national park and did some hikes there. Sadly the weather was cloudy but still lovely to admire the grandeur of the lakes & mountains. Other attractions will be the massive Lake St clair.
The round trip of Tasmania on 2 wheels was done in 12 days , a total of about 1000km. I still tried my best to pack light but of course when I reached the hilly sections of my Tasmania ride, I really do wish I could just get rid of my tent. Pretty happy to have an extra 10 litre backpack at hand when I did my groceries and the small bag just wrapped around my saddle bag securely, no issues during ascent and high speed descent! There wasn’t a case when I felt the tikit with it’s 16 inch wheels lacking during the bike tour. Most of the roads were all paved except the occasional gravel roads when I needed to take shortcuts. I mounted Kojak tyres on my tikit and thank God not a single tyre puncture and no mechanical problems with the bike at all. It’s quite funny as riding a small wheeled bicycle to bike tour does get other people/tourists talking to me, haha. I would definitely recommend Tasmania for bike touring, abundant places to camp, well paved roads, beautiful tapestry of forestry, it’s really a haven for bike tourers 🙂
The “Ripio” is the Carretera Austral’s road surface made from rounded riverbed gravel. Ripio is used from Cerro Castillo to Villa O’Higgins and makes enjoying this amazing region by bike it’s greatest challenge.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Coyhaique to Cerro Castillo
96 Km or 60 miles
6 hours, 25 minutes riding time
We did well for our first day – 100 Km. Up hills, down hills, tailwind, headwind, cool (cold) rain, rainbows and great scenery – high rocks and blue streams. The last climb was significant and the descent down switchbacks.
Around 3:00 a pickup stopped in the middle of the lane to tell us they had a cabin they would hold for us. It’s called Ma-Ju for Marrisa-Juan. Considering the rain and how tired we were – the offer was perfect. Two hours later we arrived. Marrisa said she had her husband stop because she felt sorry for a wife out in the elements.
We are now snug in our cabin in Cerro Castillo. During the night Kay had a dream that it wasn’t rain we heard – it was the cabin being power washed. It rained all night long.
Gordon in the doorway of our cabaña in Cerro Castillo – “Ma-Ju”
There is a Chilean phrase – “Quien se apura en la Palagonia, pierde el tiempo.” Anyone that hurries in Patagonia, wastes time. We kept this in mind – often
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Cerro Castillo to Puente Cascada
33 Km or 21 miles
4 hours, 29 minutes riding
Started at 10:30 AM. Made lots of stops at Miradores for photos. The climb out of Cerro Castillo was arduous. The “ripio” was horrible – large stones, loose with washboard and potholes. Also the headwind was so strong, we had to dismount and walk the bikes, fighting the strong winds and inch at a time. Kay’s bike handling skills improved as the day progressed. Kay fell twice and had one miraculous save. Gordon almost crashed into the guardrail but managed to remain upright – his skills are adjusting as well. Lots of rain in the afternoon. Challenging day all around; the wind making it particularly so. Met two nice young men heading north who started at Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) and were riding to their homes in VT and NY State!!
Ready to call it a day by about 4:30, we found a place to wild camp near a roaring waterfall and the river in a nice stand of trees. Made hot beverages after putting up our tent. Edgar who lives 1 Km down the road came by for a visit and a chat. He and Gordon shot the shit for about half an hour. We made pasta and sauce for dinner. Gordon made whacking big pancakes for dessert and breakfast tomorrow. Edgar came back to ask if we wanted to stay with him because of the “Feo” weather. We thanked him but declined. We were in the tent by 9:20 and the rain hadn’t started yet.
After we got in our sleeping bags for the night, we heard dogs and a racket going on outside – We reluctantly opened the door to find a herd of cattle with two gauchos and four dogs going past right next to the camp site.
No rain tonight! Great night of sleep. Up at 7:30 with a start when a vehicle passed and seeing how light it was, Kay thought it was a meteor.
Our first campsite near Puente Cascada outside of Cerro Castillo. This turned out to be a great camp with a beautiful river close by with clear water. The water is glacial water and although safe to drink, we did treat it with a UV purifier.
This was the view from our first campsite early the next morning!
Monday, February 20, 2017
Puente Cascada to Bahia Murta
69 Km or 44 miles
6 hours and 1 minute riding time
We left at 9:30 AM after a good breakfast. A group of four cyclists passed just before we left. We ended up catching and passing them – young Chileans from Santiago. We climbed out of the Ibañez Valley (10-12 Km of climbing) and then down into the Murta Valley. There is less wind today but steady rain – never too heavy, although we wore our rain pants all day. We decided to drop down into the little town of Bahia Murta even though it is 4 Km off the route. We are back in a comfortable cabaña with a hot shower. We made pasta with tomato sauce with tuna and a huge salad – onion, tomato, cucumber and avocado (called “Palta” in Chile). Stocked up on cheese and good homemade Patagonian bread from a nearby home. We are snuggly tonight and tired.
Kay in our campsite Monday morning. Yes, it was a little cold, but we warmed up quickly once on the road.
This was our small but comfortable cabaña in Bahia Murta. As Bahia Murta is off the Carretera route, not many cyclists go into the town. It had a small store, which also owned the cabañas, and we were able to get food and very basic fresh veggies.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Bahia Murta to Puerto Rio Tranquilo
32 Km or 20 miles
3 hours riding
This was an easy day as we planned to spend time in Pto. Rio Tranquilo. We left at 10 AM – favorable weather and wind with mixed ripio surfaces but some bad! Ups and downs as we went on the side of General Carrera. Met a lone cyclist – Israeli. He wanted to know if Gordon felt he could make it to Coyhaique with 3 missing spokes and no brakes! Gordon told him “no problem” – what else could you say? Scenery and more scenery – beautiful.
We arrived in Pto. Rio Tranquilo around 1:30 PM and had a little scare – the first 4 places we checked were full. The university students are still on break – Pto. Rio Tranquilo is a great place for excursions and backpacking – students are everywhere. However, we found a B&B at the entrance to town. We rested, changed and walked about and then took a boat ride to the Capillas de Marmol. We had HUGE chicken sandwiches and French fries for dinner.
A view of the Capillas de Marmol. They are extensive.
The view of Lake General Carrera from our room. It is about 45 minutes from here to the “Capillas de Marmol.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Puerto Bertrand
68 Km or 42 miles
6 hours, 51 minutes riding
Our goal today was to get to Puerto Bertrand – 68 Km – a little ambitious from the description we had of the road. We left at 8:30 and the first 20 Km met all the expectations of difficulty – mostly climbing on bad surface. We met a couple from Poland who seemed to be on a perpetual ride. When off the bike, they would stop and work when Wi-Fi was available (nice work if you can get it). Kay took a spectacular spill setting up for our lunch break – nothing seriously injured, but it was close. The middle section of road had some relatively flat sections but bad ripio. After the split in the road with an easterly route going to Chile Chico (the three lakes region) it was climb and climb again. We made it to Puerto Bertrand around 5:00 PM – happy to be there but tired.
It took awhile to figure how to contact Kay’s brother’s friend Jim. We had a Movistar (cell phone provider) phone chip from recommendations in Coyhaique but south of Coyhaique you needed an Entel chip. The result was that we had an unusable phone. Kay found a tourist who let her use his phone. Jim was just across the lake with his friend, Mary Ann and her four dogs. They came across the river in an inflatable boat and took us up to Mary Ann’s house. It turned out that, next to her house, she had built a cabaña for her mother (who is younger than Kay) who visits for three months every year. Since her mom wasn’t visiting, we were able to stay in this fabulous cabaña for two nights. There was a restaurant in town (this is a very small town) run by friends of Jim. After cleaning up we went with Jim and Mary Ann to the restaurant and had tomato soup, grilled salmon, plain potatoes, bread and custard or crepes for dessert. Jim and Mary Ann had wine – a great meal. Back home to bed at 10:30. Boy, were we ready.
Ripio on the way to Puerto Bertrand. Wonderful views.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Lazy morning – coffee with Mary Ann’s homemade organic whole-wheat toast. She came by and we chatted about our plans. What a font of information!! She has contacts for everywhere we were going. She knows someone who can drive us up from O’Higgins!! We walked around town and checked out the two grocery stores and bought pasta and veggies. The pizza place was closed so we came back and made a huge lunch of pasta, sauce and salad of fresh chard, parsley, chives (from Mary Ann’s greenhouse), tomatoes, carrots, avocado, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper – absolutely heavenly. A long siesta for Gordon while Kay started planning the rest of the trip (using Mary Ann’s suggestions) We have enough time to do everything we want plus now know we could spend extra days in Tortel, O’Higgins and Los Antiguos in Argentina. We’ll be going back a slightly different way than we came! Jim came by and took us on a boat tour of the lake, the rapids and his primitive house. We walked up the road and had pizza for dinner. Home to bed.
Mary Ann’s Cabaña
Friday February 22
Puerto Bertrand to Cochrane
46 Km or 28 miles
5 hours, 37 minutes riding
This has been our hardest day to date. We took the “shortcut” to Cochrane. This was described on one of the blogs and recommended by Mary Ann. The route veers off the CA to the right at 17 Km and descends to a suspension bridge but then has a 5 Km uphill that was mostly bike pushing. This route is a little shorter than the CA with less traffic. However, the scenery doesn’t compare with the CA route and with the hills, probably not worth it. Just before the shortcut, we stopped and hiked to see the confluence of the Baker and Neff rivers, which is a spectacular blending of glacial waters. The shortcut continued up and down over ridges before descending to a ferry across the Baker River. It was incredibly sunny and hot – Gordon thought his head was going to explode. From there it’s still up and down into Cochrane. We were out of it with fatigue by the time we found a place to stay – Cero a Cero – very basic but a bed.
We saw the four Santiago youths from day 2 in front of the grocery store in Cochrane. We didn’t recognize them at first, being out of their biking gear. They had finished the biking part of their trip and were heading to Tortel by bus. They intended to celebrate tonight – beer and wine.
The suspension bridge just after the beginning of the “shortcut” to Cochrane.
The ferry (balsa) crossing the river Baker just before Cochrane.
Note: a lot of the English names are from English Admirals: Cochrane, Baker, Neff and others. The British helped establish the Chilean navy. Cochrane was an admiral in the Chilean Navy.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Cochrane to about halfway to Tortel
62 Km or 39 miles
7 hours, 25 minutes riding
We had a minimal breakfast at Cero a Cero (not our favorite place to stay). We stopped by a panaderia for water and picked up a bread pudding cake, which turned out to be great for snacking during the morning. There was lots of climbing in the morning and sucky ripio. We stopped for lunch at 2:00 PM. Passed a cyclist who was stopped on the left. He told us that it was downhill from then on. There was a huge downhill to a lovely flat and shady section. We stopped at a little house offering tea/coffee, bread and plum jam. Bought some jam and gave the señora a big tip. A dog started following us around 40 Km and spent the night sleeping next to our tent. We found a great camping spot by a river at 62 Km; another cycling couple arrived at dusk and camped across the river from us. We made pasta and sauce with tuna. We also had some bread and butter, hot milk and tea. There were more headwinds today but they kept us cool. These last two days turned out to be the only warm days of the tour.
Our “dog” slept about twenty feet from our tent. One good thing about having the dog follow us – cars gave us a much wider space as they passed and slowed down. They seem to be more worried about the dog than of us!
The “Tea House”
View from our campsite
Another view from our campsite
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Finished the road to Tortel
65 Km or 41 miles
5 hours 48 minutes riding
We left our wonderful campsite at about 8:30 – Nice road for maybe 20 Km. The dog is still with us. We took the detour road to Tortel. Half way to Tortel our dog started getting a little crazy and started chasing after cars. In one spot, he got in front of Kay who had to break hard to keep from running into him. That was it for the dog. We managed to get rid of the dog. There were long stretches of flat road into Tortel. For cyclists, Tortel is hell. It’s hard to adequately describe. There are no roads. The first area you run into is an upper parking lot. There are about 20 flights of stairs to get down to a boardwalk. After about a quarter of a mile our lodging was to the right and up about 10 flights of stairs to “Entre Hielos”, our hotel. At least we were above the Tsunami zone! All deliveries are made up and down the stairs and along the boardwalk along the water’s edge. Due to the distance and stairs, we had to leave our bikes with most of our gear on them in the upper parking lot. The information office said they would be safe. Note: we never locked our bikes while in southern Chile and never had any safety concerns – people were very open and honest. The hotel was architecturally interesting but necessarily compact. As soon as we got there and got on Wi-Fi, Gordon checked the weather forecast. Our beautiful weather was headed south quickly with our departure date being right in the middle of the forecast storm: rain, cold and strong winds. Kay and I had a minor melt down just after getting into our room. After a lot of deliberation, even though we planned on two nights with a rest day in Tortel, we decided that the best thing we could do would be to spend only one night, leave before the rain and take whatever happened. Otherwise, we risked staying a third day and getting stuck in Tortel. The other thing about Tortel was a lack of food to eat in the restaurants and total confusion about when they were open or closed. It seemed totally random. We finally found a place to eat dinner that was barely OK after about six attempts.
Entre Hielos was lovely – the beds heavenly. Hot shower! But Torte itself had little to do, unless you took a long boat trip to see the glaciers. Nothing to eat. Worried about bikes alone and in the weather. Kay had a little cry. She didn’t mind the idea of riding and climbing in the rain, but the idea of trying to set up camp/stay warm/eat if it was raining terrified her. Staying in Tortel, though, felt suffocating. We had to get out of there, come what may.
The main boardwalk in Tortel. An interesting town, but hard to say if it will be sustainable. It would be hard for it to grow.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Tortel to Rio Bravo + 12 Km
55 Km or 35 miles
5 hours, 28 minutes riding
After a good breakfast at 8:00 AM, we got organized to leave. We needed to reprovision, but on our way to the parking lot with our stuff, we found nothing open. At 9:30 AM, finally found one place that sold us a nice loaf of whole wheat bread. By now it’s after 10:00 and one mini mart finally opened. Bought 2 packs of cheese, butter and more tuna. Because of hiking up and down the Tortel stairs, we left at 10:30 AM. Down the road we went and within a few Km – there was our dog! Gordon chased him away. At least he went from being abandoned to getting near Tortel – a better chance for food. We were then joined by a small herd of cattle, but finally lost them as well.
We arrived back on the CA and started climbing immediately. Lots of bike pushing was required but the road surface was good! We arrived in Yungay at 3:07 – Seven minutes after the ferry left!!! The next one would be at 6:00 PM. Nice little restaurant to wait in – empanadas, coffee, tea, cake and rain.
A Canadian couple (Doug and Karen) showed up and helped us pass the time until the 6:00 PM ferry. Crossing was fine and one hour later we were finally in Rio Bravo. Back on the bikes for about 12 Km. We found a campsite and made chili just in time for the rain to start. Into the tent by 9:00 PM. We’ll see about tomorrow. Doug and Karen stayed at the ferry terminal.
The ferry from Yungay to Rio Bravo. The ferry is run by the Chilean government and is free. The cost of building a road that would take the place of the ferry is so costly that it makes sense to run the ferry instead of building the road. Unless traffic would increase, it works out just fine.
Our camp just down the road from Rio Bravo. Waiting for the storm!
Rio Bravo + 12 Km to Villa O’Higgins
88 Km or 54 miles
8 hours, 37 minutes riding
We didn’t have the greatest night – lots of wind and rain. The bottom of the tent had lots or water – bags wet, clothes wet. High winds, off and on sleep. Worried the river might rise – it didn’t. Up and at-em early – 7:15 AM. No breakfast – just stuff the wet things as best as possible and ride away into the rain. Strong tail wind! At 10 Km we found a bridge and got under it for a good breakfast – a Birthday breakfast! Still raining, but back on the road. The blog we used for information talked about 30 Km with four ridges to cross – they were right – tough climbs with the ripio. Glaciers, rocky mountains, waterfalls and Condors – too cloudy and rainy for pictures. After the climbs there is a “refugio”. The owner of the land had left it for cyclists to use – it used to be for passing gauchos. No sign – just a gate. Somehow everyone finds it. We found it only because a Brazilian was standing out on the road eating from a pot and hoping to find a ride to the ferry. He had been there for two days, waiting for better weather and possibly a ride and spent the time cleaning it up. We only stayed a few minutes, ate a quick lunch and left just in time to see our Canadian friends arrive. They may have stayed to spend the night there. Even though it was raining and cold we took advantage of the tail wind and made it all the way to Villa O’Higgins at about 6:30 PM. We took the first available cabaña we came to in O’Higgins. The cabaña was reasonably priced and comfortable. We had a good meal in the comedor for my birthday – salad, bread, salmon or chicken, hot sauce, potatoes and semolina pudding dessert with “Calafate” sauce – wonderful!!! All followed by a good night’s sleep.
NOTE: Calafate is like a blueberry but grows on a large bush. The local saying is that if you try Calafate – you will return to Patagonia.
70th Birthday breakfast under a bridge
A tanned, tired and wet Kay under the bridge
VILLA O’HIGGINS TO COYHAIQUE
We spent four restful days in Villa O’Higgins. We had picked up two extra days from our schedule; we had spent only one night in Tortel and we went from Tortel to Villa O’Higgins in two instead of three days. We had arranged for a driver to pick us up on Saturday in O’Higgins and take us to Puerto Guadal with an overnight stay in Cochrane. We would then pick up Carretera 265; head to Chile Chico then take the ferry to Puerto Ibañez and back to Coyhaique. Carretera 265 is ripio from Puerto Guadal to Chile Chico but paved from Puerto Ibañez to Coyhaique. Kay and Gordon came to a compromise about the return and decided to start in Mallín Grande instead of Puerto Guadal.
The time in O’Higgins was spent walking and riding around town, eating, clothes washing, drying equipment, getting an Entel phone service, hiking and even some shopping. There is an artist in O’Higgins with a wonderful little shop. We kept going back there for souvenirs. We also spent a lot of time in the library. The library has free Wi-Fi and the librarian was the perfect information person. She told us who could cut Gordon’s hair, where we could have our clothes washed and how to get to trail heads for hikes.
Our driver picked us up at 8:00 Saturday morning. He had a twelve year old Mitsubishi, crew cab pick-up that was in great condition. Gordon looked it up and that model of pick-up is not available for sale in the USA – too bad – it is a great little truck. We spent the night in a hotel in Cochrane, “El Ultimo Paraiso” a little pricey but otherwise OK. Sunday we were off to Mallín Grande.
Our comfortable little cabaña in Villa O’Higgins.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Mallín Grande to Fachinal
38 Km or 24 miles
4 hours, 33 minutes riding time
We had a good breakfast at Ultimo Paraiso. Our driver, Juan, picked us up right at 9:00 AM and off we went. We made a quick stop in Puerto Bertrand to visit Mary Ann and her mother, Anne. It was a short visit but good to see them. We started in Mallín Grande around 12:30 PM with the goal of getting as far as Fachinal. The road winds along next to General Carrera Lake. We knew it would be slow going with several climbs – it was – but at the same time it was just spectacular scenery. We ran into two Belgian cyclists around 5:00 PM. We had briefly seen them earlier when we were headed south and they were going north. We met them while we were looking for a campsite. We had found one by a bridge but decided to continue to Fachinal. We made it to town, which was on a detour off route – a ghost town. We were about out of camping options and sites – it looked rather bleak. While I was looking for a better section of irrigation ditch, Kay found an ideal site in a manger that would protect us from the brisk wind. We headed to the nearest house and found la señora home – it had looked deserted. She said it was OK for us to stay. She got her water from a small earthen irrigation ditch. We set up and got water, which we treated. Kay, tired of eating the same meal, made a tuna caserole – pasta, milk, tuna with beans and corn and curry powder – Yum, followed by cookies and tea. We went back to la señora to give her some pesos. She reluctantly took them. Into the tent at 9:00 PM – hopefully for a “tranquilo” night.
Our tent-in-a-manger campsite in Fachinal
Monday, March 6, 2017
Fachinal to Chile Chico
48 Km or 30 miles
5 hours, 10 minutes riding time
We spent a cozy night in our tent, however, the wind howled and blew all night but no rain! We were up at 7:15 AM but didn’t leave until 9:30. It looks like the dogs found our trash bag and took it. The first 20 Km of the day were hard!! On one hill, it took two to push one bike. The last 20 Km were great – smooth – no large hills. Chile Chico is a nice, clean town – best looking so far. Services, though, lack a little – meals were slow. We stayed at Hosteria De La Patagonia. The topography has totally changed! It looks like the western US!
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Road around Chile Chico and into Argentina
42 Km or 26 miles
3 hours, 12 minutes riding time
We got off to a slow start today. We went to the ferry terminal to make sure there wasn’t another ferry other than the one at 4:00 PM. Nope. That is the only one so tomorrow we wait until 4:00 PM to get to Puerto Ibañez and we’ll have to spend the night there. After the trip into town, we took a leisurely flat ride into Argentina into the town of Los Antiguos. Cute town and we ended up eating lunch at Taura. We met Carla who owns the restaurant and is a good friend of Mary Ann.
When we arrived back in Chile Chico, we stopped at the Hosteleria and went back into town. We were met and stopped by a group of officials on the side of the road. The group included carabineros (police) and the local health department. They were giving our frees safety vests to cyclists. We even had our picture taken. Gordon used his vest the rest of the trip – can’t be too safe. We returned to the Hosteria where we had a wonderful meal. We’ll see what adventures we have mañana.
View of General Carrera Lake from Chile Chico
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Chile Chico to Puerto Ibañez
Mostly a ferry ride
We still weren’t real sure about the ferry other than it left at 4:00 PM. We arrived early and were with the first group to purchase tickets. We had time enough to watch the entire boarding process. The bikes were no problem, but they squeezed as many vehicles on board as possible. We found a nice cabaña just as you are leaving Puerto Ibañez after the one hour ferry ride.
Vehicles squeezed onto the ferry from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibañez
Thursday, March 9 2017
Puerto Ibañez to Lago Chiguay campground
56 Km or 35 miles
4 hours, 40 minutes of riding
We had a strong head wind on the climb out of Puerto Ibañez climbing up to meet the Carretera Austral. Clouds hid Cerro Castillo again so we never got to see it. We did pick up a tail wind that helped us climb into Cerro Castillo. Our day was spent back on asphalt and climbing over the pass after Cerro Castillo. This climb has more than twelve switchbacks – I lost count. After the pass, more climbing follows to get up to the CONAF (Corporacion Nacional Forestal) campground. You have to walk up a hill on the roadside opposite the campground to get to CONAF office and pay the camping fee – $5,000 Chilean pesos. However, I’m not sure anyone else but us ever paid the fee. Volunteers built the camp in 2004 and NOLS was somehow involved. They could have used a professional plumber. At the office they told us how to heat the water for the shower. In the bath house there is a tank (about 20 gal) that has a small space below where you can build a fire. Small sticks are provided – no other open fires are allowed. You light a fire and in about an hour you have hot water??? However, the valve for the hot water in the shower doesn’t work and it stays wide open. To control the hot water in the shower you have to use the shut-off valve at the tank. Taking a shower would be a two-person job. We skipped the hot shower. All the valves in the camp were threaded valves and to get them pointed in the right direction, you had to loosen them. The valve at the sink, when tight, pointed straight up. The sink had no siphon – just a straight drainpipe. After rinsing off a few dishes, the water built up without draining. The next morning the water had not drained at all. The men’s toilet was locked. The women’s toilet was the only thing that worked well – we skipped it anyway. The campsites themselves were great for us. Each had a shelter with a table inside. We could cook out of the wind and if it had rained there would have been some protection. Each shelter was a unique design. There were maybe six sites.
Our site in the CONAF campground
Friday, March 10, 2017
CONAF Campground to Coyhaique
63 Km or 39 miles
3 hours and 53 minutes
We started out from the CONAF campground in 35 degree temperature. We were all bundled up. We had a wonderful downhill at first and many Km went by quickly – then the rollers began. There was a lovely valley off to the right. We stopped in a small town just beyond the turn off to Balmaceda. We had bananas, some sort of sweet fried round bread and nuts. Then it was on to Coyhaique. Lots of ups and downs and our legs were still sore from climbing up the switchbacks the day before. Kay was happy to be able to stand going up the hills – she was never able to do that on the ripio. We arrived to the outskirts of Coyhaique but still had at least three climbs to get over before town. There had been some traffic on the Carretera but not bad until we got into town – crazy drivers. We rode straight to Rui Bardo for an incredible shared lunch of grilled octopus with pumpkin, calafate salad, pasta primavera and Tres Leches Cake! We researched recipes for this desert – will have to try it at home – delicious. Then it was off to get back to our wonderful Home Base – Belisario Jara.
Our “Home Base” in Coyhaique – the Belisario Jara
Some quick notes on gear and all:
We flew on American from Washington DC to Miami and then on to Santiago, Chile. We flew from Santiago to Coyhaique on Sky – a Chilean airline. We had a comfortable layover in Santiago that allowed us plenty of time to retrieve luggage and bikes and get them through customs to Sky. Sky airline turned out to be a positive experience. They took very good care of our luggage and us and were very reasonably priced. Gordon rode on a Bike Friday “New World Tourist” and Kay a “New World Tourist Light”. Our Bike Fridays performed just as they should. Packing, flying, security and assembly all went smoothly. The one non-issue was going through Chilean customs; an agent asked Gordon if he had receipts for the bikes. He didn’t, but told the agent that the bike was twelve years old. That was good enough for the agent. The next time I travel with the bike, I might consider bringing a receipt, just in case. We used Schwalbe Marathon Plus 1.5 tires without a single flat and no broken spokes. There was enough brake wear that I had to adjust them a couple of times. There were many different bikes used on the Carretera. I never determined the “perfect” bicycle and set up – the “ripio” evened out the playing field – it was hard for everyone. We took a lightweight two-person tent that was not free standing. At this point I think we could have used a larger freestanding tent even if it weighed more. We carried enough equipment that another pound or two wouldn’t have made a big difference. We did not use cleated shoes. We both used light Solomon hiking shoes. Gordon used mountain pedals with aggressive pins. Kay used touring pedals with a strapless toe clip. This set up kept us from needing a second pair of shoes. It was just right and we wouldn’t change it. Mixed feelings about the UV water treatment, but I’d probably use that again.
Once we were back in Coyhaique, we did take an unloaded ride out and back to Puerto Aysen. In total we rode 1044 Km with 635 Km on ripio.
Have questions for Gordon and Kay? Shoot us an email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it along to them!