Goof Proof Gearing



Bike Friday Eugene, OR– by Tim Link, Stephen Strickland, John S Allen
The Capreo has revolutionized many of the Bike Friday road models — you can pedal downhill!

With the plethora of gearing and shifting options offered on a Bike Friday, it helps to know what always seems to work well, shift after shift. The easiest way is to tell your BF Sales or Service Expert exactly what you plan to do with your Friday and let him/her do the figuring. To understand the thinking behind their decisions, an impromptu panel of Stephen Strickland (Sales), Tim Link (Service) and technically savvy BF customer John S Allen (the fold) present their thoughts.

But first, let’s get the #1 question answered
Steve Strickland
Stephen Strickland (Former Sales – Bike Friday)

1. You want to go fast? You’re looking for a high gear of around 110+” (gear inches) and a low end of around 23-30″. Order a 451-wheel bike such as Pocket Rocket Pro or Air Friday with the Shimano Capreo 9-26 cassette and STI levers. The Capreo gives plenty of high end using standard chainrings as follows:

a) Fast flats and rolling hills? Use a standard 53/39 double chainring, giving gear range 30-116″.

b) Alpe d’Huez? Get more low end with a standard 30/42/52 triple chainring, giving gear range 23-114″.

2. You want to go easy and/or carry lots of stuff? You’re looking for a 406 wheeled bike such as a New World Tourist, Crusoe, Pocket Llama, Air Glide (or a 451 wheel Pocket Rocket) with low end gears of around 20″. You’re not much concerned about the highs – they can be in the 80-90’s – that is, you don’t mind coasting down hill rather than pedaling, and you’re not trying to race anyone except to get to the next boulangerie before it closes. In this case:

a) Choose a Standard Shimano cassette 11-28 or 11-32. The latter requires a longer cage derailleur. See Tim’s comments below on that.

b) If you want REALLY low, go for the 11-34 “Megarange”, in combination with the double or triple chainrings as above, depending on how many hills you think you’ll be facing. The 11-34 with a Triple will give you all the low gears you’ll ever need to carry anything over any hill.

Thus, here are my recommendations:

Touring (406-wheel) Bike Friday – NWT, Crusoe, Llama, Rocket (451), touring tandems: Use Triple Chainrings, 30,42,52 with …

* 11-34 (Megarange): gives a 16″ low/88″ high – super low for climbing steep hills fully loaded, coast down the other side

* 9-26 (standard Capreo): gives a 21″ low/106″ high – good low similar to standard MTB; yet keep up with roadie friends on a friendly fast ride

Road/Racing (451-wheel) Bike Friday – Pocket Rocket Pro, Air Friday, road tandems: use the 9-26 (standard Capreo) with …

* Double Chainring: 53,39 teeth: gives a 30″ low/116″ high – strong roadies who like to hammer.

* Triple Chainring: 30,42,52 teeth: gives a 23″ low/114″ – for roadies who want more low end for climbing; great high for hammering

Tim Link (Service – pre-owned Bike Fridays)

Service Fanmail:

Timothy, Just returned to Hong Kong. We appreciated your excellent service on our Tandem Two’sDay on August 2. We are very pleased with what you did for us and your pleasant manner in doing so. If the whole company has your spirit of customer service then you belong to a winner of an organization. you made our 925 mile trip from Southern California worth the effort … much more from Hong Kong. Keep up the good work! When you come back to visit you have a place to stay. Gratefully, Lincoln and Drusila Morikone Hong Kong

In general I agree with Stephen, it’s good to stick with the components as designed by Shimano as they have been tried and tested. However, we’ve come up with some quite workable mods, usually in response to a customer’s pleas …


Stick with standard Shimano chainrings. 53/39 for a double, 52/42/30 for a triple. Nothing else is going to work as well. With the range on the Capreo, especially our tested and modified 9-32 Capreo cassette, that should provide all the gearing anybody will need – both high and low. The Capreo is a brilliant solution that enables our little wheeled bikes to use the standard 30,42,42 chainring combo found on regular bikes and stay in front of the pack!

UPDATE October 2007: We are no longer able to alter a 9-26 Capreo Cassette to a 9-32 or 9-23, due to unavailability of certain intermediate cogs.

Dura-Ace front derailleurs should only be used with Dura Ace chainrings – not Ultegra or 105. Ultegra and 105 parts play well together. But Dura-Ace should be kept to itself.

Capreo 9-26 for racing, standard Shimano 11-xx for everything else. Here, xx ranges anywhere from 21 to 34 teeth. For our purposes, xx is usually 28,30,32 or 34. For fast riders (Pocket Rocket Pro, Air Friday, road racing tandems), the standard Shimano rings won’t give enough high end – go for the Capreo 9-26 as Stephen says, but don’t expect a really low end.

If using the Shimano 11-xx, remember that TA brand chainrings rings work well with it up to about a 58T size.

We avoid jumps over 14T for a double, over 12T for a triple. If you absolutely must have specific sized chainrings the shifting quality will be uncertain. In that case I’d highly recommend:

a) using bar-end shifting (‘bar cons’ or ‘bar controls’) for the front derailleur – it gives you much better manual control of the derailleur position than an STI lever. In fact, I’d recommend the bar-end shifting any time chainrings larger than 53T, or non-Shimano rings, are going to be used


b) Modify your cadence and learn to love another gear.

We need to avoid the large chainring jumps because the chain has difficulty making the jump up to the larger ring. The more expensive TA rings have pins and ramps that help. Bar-ends can shift over larger jumps than than STI. However …

STI shifters a must for competition. The ability to quickly shift while out of the saddle is critical. STI gives you the shortest distance your fingers have to travel to change gears. Use them but stick to our recommended configurations!

Bar-ends are great for general riding. Bar-ends are lightweight, cable runs are minimized, and the levers are more crash-resistent – they mount on the ends of drop bars and H-bars effectively facing back towards you rather than the road. They are most easily fixed when in the boonies – they’re just a cable with a pulley.

If your legs can handle it, go for shorter cage derailleur. The 32 and 34 tooth cogs require a ‘long cage’ derailleur. This tends to hang quite low to the ground. It is not a problem for 99% of Bike Friday owners who tend to ride on paved or decent gravel roads; there’s simply nothing to hit it unless you roll into a deep narrow rut, in which case you are likely to crash anyway. And the chain deflects most objects coming toward it. Off-road riding has a way of tearing off rear derailleurs if you’re not careful; I’ve seen it plenty of times on bikes with great big wheels. A long cage with a very skinny tire on a 406, such as a Conti Grand Prix, can cause the derailleur cage to scrape when going around corners. Thus, if you will be riding rocky roads or pedaling deep in snowy slush often (in which case you’d want a Pocket Llama with its higher bottom bracket), you should try and stick with the 11-28 or 9-26. It all depends on how low you need those gears to go. BF aficionado Alex Wetmore shows the difference in these first two bike shots – the first is a long cage. Thanks Alex!


The discussion up to this point pertains to front derailleur shifting issues.

THE 3x HUB: The 3x hubs completely do away with front derailleur and double or triple chainrings; a single front chainring is all that is required. The downside is the extra 1 lb+ weight of the hub – most performance (Pocket Rocket Pro, Air Friday) riders are not OK with this. Some people have been known to use multiple chainrings as well as the hub! That’s a lot of gears – too many and quite unnecessary.

THE ROHLOFF HUB: We used the Rohloff hubs for a while. It’s a marvel of engineering, but most of our customers found it to be more hassle than it was worth. The Rohloff is heavy, a little noisy, and rough in some gears (even after break-in and oil change). It has a small proprietary cable that likes to break with Bike Fridays because it’s put under too much strain by the long and tortuous path of the cables. The Rohloff uses a push-pull two cable system, so the friction is doubled. Another issue is that the oil likes to leak out of the hub when you put it on an airplane because of the pressure change. To its credit, Lynette had one on her Bike Friday for a while, and her speed on rolling hills increased considerably. Despite the weight it added to her bike, and the fact that she’s a 99lb featherweight, being in the right gear all the time made her faster. That’s the key to performance riding, whether touring, racing or commuting – being in the right gear. There are other hub options we can discuss – like the 8-speed hub used on the World’s Most Traveled Man Heinz Stucke’s Pocket Llama. These are not standard offerings – talk to Stephen.

Half-Step gearing (for racers) On a double chainring the new stuff works fine. The new triple front derailleurs won’t cut it. The half step with the Capreo on my Pocket Rocket fills in the big jumps nicely to provide good gearing for typical road racing. Read about that here.

John S Allen interjects:

here is a downside to the very small cogs used on the Capreo. They wear faster, and so does the chain. So I prefer the big chainrings, even though they add a bit of weight.

Tim’s response:

Our small 20″ wheel changes the dynamics. The pressure on each tooth is lower, so the wear problem is reduced, and I’d guess the wear and efficiency on the Capreo’s 9-tooth cog is comparable to that of the 11-tooth on a 700c wheel.
John Allen jpeg

JOHN S ALLEN – New World Tourist owner, LAB NY Regional Director

I like bar-end shifters too- I can shift all the way across the cogset or chainrings with one stroke, rather than several. That’s nice for stop-and-go riding and rolling terrain.

Don’t cross-chain. Wide jumps between chainrings of a triple aren’t as much of a problem if the smallest chainring is used only where it’s really needed, with the two or three largest sprockets, and if the step between the large and middle chainrings is small, so the chain doesn’t drag on the large chainring. This is not Bike Friday specific – this applies to all bikes!