Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bike Friday Mystique Unravelled? 

Bike Friday holds an enviable place in the folding bike marketplace - so what makes it special compared to the raft of competing bicycles?

It comes down to a philosophy of simplicity, durability along with component compatibility in the marketplace and then a ride quality that is pure enjoyment on two wheels.

To be sure there are a raft of other technical factors relating to the different models offered - and about the best summary of all these - is by Sean at gmu.edu and while focused on the Tikit - there's a lot of general comments regarding Bike Fridays that I found insightful.

Like Sean I have migrated from a Dahon - in my case the Vitesse D8 with Nexus 7 speed hub to a Bike Friday Crusoe.  Now the Dahon still gets the edge for pure city use - its small size when folded is more Metro and Train friendly - but I'm sure a Tikit would be way better - my BF Crusoe is just a different beast - a pure sports bike - with wicked fast performance - which is a blast around town - easily outpacing most cars in city traffic - but its less compact and easy to fold.  The Crusoe is totally at home on weekend club rides out in the countryside.

This is part of the secret of Bike Friday success - when I first bought the Crusoe winning an auction on eBay - I had no idea what I'd bought - and neither had the seller - it was an estate auction item - and they thought is was a Friday NWT model.  Whomever had originally ordered the bike back in 2002 decided on a weird setup with trail style tires knobbly and just a clunky configuration.  The Crusoe is a thoroughbred while is was configured like a draft horse.

Even so it rode wildly better than my Dahon, so it took me over a year to figure everything out, and to slowly replace components.

For performance the Capreo cassette is a must have on 20" bikes.  Likewise good rims and tires.  So getting that right shaved 2lbs off the weight and transformed the handling.  Similarly the zero offset seat post means more power to the pedals, and mentioning which I just fitted a SRAM Rival group crank set with 175 cranks, again saving 1/2lb weight and upping the power torque.  End result is that the bike is now 4lbs lighter than originally at 22lbs kerb weight - and a ton faster - averaging 18mph instead of around 16mph on serious training rides.  Not that I'm a hard core weight weenie - instead I've equipped this Crusoe with practical components that are bargain priced compared to high end components.

So what is the lessons learned here?  Bike Friday ships mostly vanilla components on their bikes unless you order something boutique and top end priced from them.  They err on side of average and reliable parts that work worldwide.  Weight and performance less a concern.

What makes each Bike Friday so appealing is that you can make it your own.  Standard parts fit just fine and eBay is a treasure trove of these at reasonable prices that make experimenting affordable.

So when I look at pictures of other peoples Bike Friday Crusoe bikes and other models - they are all wildly different and personal - no two bikes are the same.  This reflects Bike Friday the company approach to assembling and configuring as well.  Which is very cool - personalization rocks!   It also explains the mystique and value of these machines.  This is like the old school marque car companies where people valued the ability to customize and the high initial build quality.  In the case of these bikes though they literally can last you a life time.

You can see the morphing of my Crusoe here - in reverse - current configuration working back to what it was when I first received it.

Enjoy and if you are considering adding a folding bike to your life I very much recommend what Bike Friday is doing and has to offer.

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