Dilip's Bike Friday Bike Friday logo

February 18, 1995

My Bicycle Touring

I enjoy bicycling to sight-see and commute. I love putting together 40-50 mile day trip Bed-n-Breakfast loops and have organized trips for myself and my friends all over New England (I love Vermont!!), Florida, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and Hawaii. I am already planning a bicycling trip to Alaska and hope to at some point have a bicycling vacation in Europe. My favorite cycling spots? Hawaii for sure - biking down Haleakala, western Maui (esp. the road to Lahaina and the ride up Iao Valley), Molokai, and the southeastern portion of the Big Island.

Current Bike: Trusty but Heavy Panasonic

I have had a trusty Panasonic 10-speed since probably around 1985, and it certainly has served me well with little problem. However, it is heavy, probably around 34 or 35 pounds, and it makes me slow as molasses up hills. I have been wanting to get a new bike for a few years, but until some recent small frame bikes like the new Cannondale compact, I really couldn't find any good touring bicycle that I would fit on. Then came the Bike Friday!

Bike Friday

I saw an advertisement for the Bike Friday, a custom-built folding bike with 20-inch wheels that packs into its own Samsonite suitcase, and wrote for some information. I got their material and duly filed it; surely a folding bike couldn't be such a good way to go, though it would make travel easy (what a pain it is to pack my Panasonic when I fly -- and then the airlines charge $45 each way!!). Well, Bicycle Magazine had a rave review in their June 1994 issue and Adventure Cycling, a bike touring magazine I also subscribe to, had a very strong review soon after that.

The Bicycle Magazine reviewer initially found the steering to be "overly responsive" but was assured by Bike Friday to give it a few hundred miles to get used to. "He's right. Once you learn to climb and sprint with less animation ... everything feels right again. You might even begin to wish your full-size wheels lasered through corners with the ease and accuracy of the Pocket Rocket's. At other times, when cruising through flat or rolling terrain, there was absolutely nothing in the ride to remind me that I wasn't on a normal bike." I was really impressed to read the conclusion: "Now, THE QUESTION: Compared with riding my custom full-size road bike, do I feel in any way disadvantaged when I'm on the Pocket Rocket? Honestly not. The first 300 miles have proven that it can handle everything I ask of a bike. The fact that I can stuff it into a suitcase and take it anywhere I travel makes it darn near perfect."

I started seriously considering the Bike Friday and test rode two New World Tourist touring bikes that happy customers had bought (the two I tested were in Washington, D.C. when I was there on a bicycling weekend, and one close to my house in Chapel Hill, NC). The steering was a bit squirrelly, but I could imagine getting used to it. It was so light and easy to climb hills with!

So I have a Bike Friday on order!! I'm expecting it in mid-March 1995. The people at Bike Friday are fun to deal with and have worked with me to customize the bike with the components and look that I want. The first person I dealt with was Alexi Grewal, the winner of the Gold medal in the 1992 (?) olympics for cycling! I expect a superb quality bike, fitted to my dimensions, and easy to travel with.

Gearing on my Bike Friday

I am excited to have a bike which will be around 10-15 pounds lighter and have 1995 components on it. In terms of gearing, I will go from 10 gears to 24. Gearing is measured in gear inches; a gear inch is the distance travelled with one rotation of the pedals and is calculated by dividing the number of teeth in the front chainring by the number of teeth in the rear cog and multiplying by the wheel diameter. My Panasonic goes from a low gear of 38.57" to 87.75" for downhills in 10th gear. The Bike Friday I specified will have 54-44-34 chainrings in the front with a 11-28 rear cassette, resulting in a gear inch range of 24.29" to 101.8" -- 16% higher and 37% lower!!! I'll be able to climb very steep roads and be able to really speed downhill!


Here are several pictures; when I get mine, I'll be sure to include at least one of it! I do have shots of bikes I test rode in Washington D.C. and Chapel Hill ... maybe I should include them ...

from Bicycling Magazine, June 1994, page 124:
Picture of the racing version of the Bike Friday called the Pocket Rocket. I'm getting the touring version, the New World Tourist. They also make a tandem that packs into two suitcases and a mountain bike.

Here is a picture from that same Bicyle Magazine article (page 134) which shows the bike packed away in its suitcase.

Bike Friday sent me this picture; here you can see the suitcase attached to the bicycle. Everything fits in the suitcase except for two wheels that can be affixed to the suitcase. When you get to your destination airport, you can put the bike back together (they claim it takes about an hour), attach the suitcase wheels and the suitcase to the bike, and bike away! I actually tried this out - it is so smooth a linkage that I couldn't tell I was towing anything!

Pictures of me with my own Bike Friday! I received my bike on March 29th! (It came in a suitecase with wheels for the suitcase-as-trailer and a seat bag in a second small box.) Here are three pictures, two showing me riding the bike and one of me standing with it (with my forsythia bush in full blossom in the background!). (These are my first pictures of my bike and they are dark; I hope to replace them with better pictures soon.)

First reactions? It is much easier uphills, and I find that I stick to the middle chainring almost all the time. However, on the first moderately long (25 or so miles in a few hours) ride that I did in early April, I found I was quite tired out - is it because I'm out of shape (it's early in the season) or because of the wide tires? I am a bit frustrated with "roller coaster" hills; I find the bike doesn't keep the momentum long from a downhill. Also, folding isn't (yet) trivial and the brake cable sometimes gets stuck between the bottom bracket and crank. But the bike is light, very responsive (too much ... it is difficult to ride for long with one hand off the handlebar), and I like the bar end shifters. I guess I need to spend a lot of time getting used to the bike!

Followup: December 1996

I liked my Bike Friday, but something was missing. I really didn't like how the bike would lose momentum on hills, and it seemed I was working harder than I should on straightaways. So I upgraded the wheels to thin 20 x 1 1/8 tires - what a difference that makes! The bike is now everything I wanted in a new bike - it is more responsive and faster. And the ride isn't rough! It feels great! I would think for somebody a lot bigger and heavier, the thinner tires may be difficult when towing the suitcase, but I think it will work great for me.

Green Gear Cycling

By the way, you can contact the makers of Bike Friday, Green Gear Cycling, in Eugene, Oregon at (800)777-0258 or by email at info@bikefriday.com (tell them Dilip sent you!). As of early 1997, they're also on the web! I hope this doesn't sound like a marketing or sales pitch - I'm just very excited about my new bike!!
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Last updated: November 23, 1997