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Reviews: Touring bikes (folding)

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Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
Rating: *****   (Average: *****  from 5 votes)
By Brian Ogilvie on Sun 22 Jan 2012 04:12 (US/Pacific) Edit Delete   Reply (9)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
The Bike Friday New World Tourist (NWT), from Green Gear, is a capable touring bike that happens to pack into a suitcase that most airlines accept as regular-sized baggage. I've used mine on two tours so far, as well as for hundreds of shorter rides, and I'm very happy with it. If you're a multimodal commuter and you need to fold and unfold your bike several times a day, it might not be for you, but if you want a performance-oriented touring bike that can be packed for airline travel and folded occasionally, you should give the NWT serious consideration. In this review I will discuss my bike's configuration, its handling, its carrying capacity, how it packs and unpacks, and a few of the consequences and quirks of having small wheels.

Configuration: I ordered my customized NWT as a touring and randonneuring bike, with drop handlebars (Nitto Randonneurs), a SONdelux (formerly SON-20) dynamo hub to power headlights and taillights, a wide triple crank (30-44-54), and a relatively wide 11-28 8-speed cassette. I have Shimano bar-end shifters: friction in front, and indexed in the back. A Microshift front derailleur handles the 24-tooth difference with aplomb; I'm considering removing the 44-tooth ring, moving the 54 to the middle position, and making a chain guard for the outer position so I can also use the bike for commuting without risking getting chain crud on my trouser leg.

The basic NWT configuration from Green Gear has touring H-handlebars and trigger shifters, with a 3x9 drivetrain. If you don't need or want drop handlebars, I strongly suggest getting the H-bars, which I have on my Tikit; they're quite comfortable for long rides. However, they are narrower than a standard flat bar, so if you prefer a wider grip, you might be better off with a flat bar plus bar ends.

I have a few pictures of my bike in this set on Flickr.

Handling and comfort: Bike Fridays are marketed as performance bikes that happen to pack or fold. I haven't tried other brands of folding bicycles yet, but the New World Tourist certainly lives up to the reputation of being a bike that handles like one with full-sized wheels. I took the dimensions of my Surly Long Haul Trucker and gave them to Green Gear to reproduce. They succeeded; aside from the narrower handlebars (which I requested), and a couple handling differences (see below), the NWT feels like the LHT if I close my eyes.

There is a little flex in the stem, due to the long stem riser, but only enough to dampen some light bumps. I also have a Bike Friday Tikit, which is a lot flexier in the stem (I initially thought the Tikit would suit my needs as an all-purpose travel bike, but for the moment I have put it aside). The bike has less trail than the LHT, which makes the steering a little more lively, but there's less wheel flop at slow speeds. With a handlebar bag on the stem riser, the NWT feels stable but nimble. And the 20" wheels mean that there is less steering effect from crosswinds, which was nice while I was touring in Ireland!

Aside from the flex in the stem, which is really only noticeable when climbing out of the saddle, the NWT feels just as comfortable as my LHT. I occasionally miss having a top tube to help me stabilize the bike between my legs when I'm stopped, but my U-lock can serve that function reasonably well.

Luggage carrying: With front and rear racks, the NWT can haul everything that a full-sized bike can take. I have Bike Friday from racks, which attach to braze-ons at the dropout and mid-fork, with plastic spacers to hold them far enough from the fork. I was a little concerned about the plastic, but they've held up well (though most of my touring has involved credit-card touring with little or no weight up front). BF also sells a folding rear rack, but it was out of stock when I got my bike, and a Racktime Foldit folding rear rack cost about a third of the BF rack's price. It is aluminum, not steel, and it takes longer to set up than the BF rack (an extra 5 minutes or so when packing and unpacking), but it's sturdy, seems durable, and was available when I needed it! Plus it has a taillight mount, which the BF rack lacks.

My full touring kit involves two large rear Ortlieb panniers, two small front Ortlieb panniers, an Ortlieb handlebar bag, a saddlebag with tools, and anything else I need strapped to the top of the rack.

One advantage of the small wheels and stem riser of the NWT is that I could put a Rixen & Kaul KlickFix adapter on the riser to hold an Ortlieb handlebar bag slightly below the handlebars. Since the 42cm Nitto Randonneur bars are much narrower on the tops, my hands have a lot more room with the top of the bag more or less even with the drops.

Since I use a Brooks saddle, I have loops for a saddlebag. At the moment I have a Carradice Zip Roll bag (2 liter capacity) mounted there. It holds most of my tools and spare parts; the handlebar bag holds food, phone, flashlight, maps, a monocular or binoculars (sometimes) and other things that I might want while riding, and with the KlickFix mount it's easily removed when I park the bike and go inside a store. I had initially hoped to be able to remove the rear rack when using the bike for day rides and randonnées, but the Zip Roll blocks the taillight mount that I attached to the seat post binder. For the present, then, the rear rack is a permanent fixture, which does make it easier to throw on a pannier if I need to carry more.

The NWT has braze-ons for three water bottle cages: one on top of the monotube, one behind the seat mast, and a third on the bottom of the monotube. I've used the first two, but so far not the third. As of January 2012, I've put a Topeak coffee cup holder on the seat mast; it's the perfect size to hold a half-liter stainless steel thermos for winter rides.

Packing and unpacking: The "pocket series" bikes from Green Gear, like the NWT, Pocket Llama, Pocket Rocket, etc. are billed as packable bikes, not as frequent folders. I find that it takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to pack and unpack my bike. About half of the time is required to remove racks, lights, fenders, and the second and third water bottle cages (the one on the top of the monotube can stay attached), and the other half to pad, fold, and pack the bike, including removing the seat post, front wheel, stem riser, and handlebars (which are split for easier packing). At the fastest, I have gotten the bike into rideable shape (without racks, fenders, or lights) in 10 minutes. I use MKS EZY quick-release pedals, which makes adding and removing pedals a cinch.

In the Bike Friday travel case (a 31" Samsonite Flite hardshell suitcase), the bike fits snugly but with room for pump, water bottles, tool bag, and some other stuff. These days the 50 lb. limit for checked bags is more of a challenge than getting stuff into the suitcase. I have not tried the trailer option, which lets you convert the travel case into a trailer.

Quick folding: The NWT has a "quick fold" mode: you can undo a quick release that holds the rear triangle and seat mast in place, then swing the rear wheel under the monotube and fold the seat mast forward. To make the bike even more compact, you can then remove the stem riser and nestle the stem and handlebars next to the rest of the bike. A strap with a Velcro closure allows you to connect the parts together. Green Gear now sells an optional folding stem riser, which I ordered with my bike. It allows you to fold the handlebars down while keeping them attached to the bike. However, with drop handlebars the resulting package is quite wide. I almost never folded the bars, so I ended up ordering a standard stem riser, which is lighter and looks more elegant.

The quick fold allows you to store the bike in a smaller space, put it in the trunk of a car, or bring it into an elevator or public transit. However, the bike has to be carried; it doesn't roll. If you remove the stem riser, you have two parts to handle. And because of the pivot design, the chain is liable to fall off when the bike is folded (Green Gear sells a chain retainer which makes that less likely, if you plan to fold your bike often).

If you need to fold and unfold your bike regularly, especially as part of a multimodal commute using public transit, the NWT is probably not for you. In that case, consider a Tikit, a Brompton, or one of the smaller Dahon folders. The NWT is better suited for those who want a bike that feels like one with full-sized wheels, but packs into a suitcase and can occasionally be folded when necessary.

Small wheels: The small wheels of the Friday are sturdier than larger wheels, other things being equal, and they catch less wind. Because they are smaller, they need larger chainrings in front: my 54t ring gives the same gear range as a 36t on a 700C bike! Note that it's possible to use a Capreo rear hub and cassette, which gives you a 9t small cog, but Shimano is the only source, and the Capreo hub isn't compatible with other cassettes. A lot of Bike Friday owners use Capreos on fast bikes like the Pocket Rocket, and I have one on my Tikit (whose wheels are even smaller), but for a touring and randonneuring bike, I prefer the standard freehub. The 54x11 gear is about 93 inches, plenty high for me.

The main problem of small wheels, though, for touring cyclists is that replacement tires can be hard to come by. The 406 mm bead seat diameter (which produces a wheel that is around 19" in diameter, depending on the tire, though they're usually called 20" wheels) is the same as used by BMX bikes, so you can usually find a tire that works, but not necessarily one that's great for touring. In western Ireland, I had to trim the knobs off of a BMX tire to make it clear my chain stays.

Schwalbe and a few other manufacturers make a nice range of tires for 406 rims, including some folding tires. I recommend tourers on Bike Fridays bring one spare tire, and some tire boots, especially if you're touring on new tires (that may have unknown defects) or old tires that are near the end of their lives.

The small spokes can be hard to find, too, but the tires are sturdy. Green Gear includes a few replacement spokes with your bike. I carry a Fiber Fix kevlar spoke or two when I tour, but I've never needed to use it.

Finally, small wheels will wear out faster than larger wheels, other things being equal. Braking will cause more rim wear (since there is only about 2/3 of the rim surface of a larger bike), and tires will wear out more quickly for the same reason.

A couple quirks: There are just a couple quirks that I'd be remiss if I didn't mention. Because the frame is designed to fold, it can occasionally squeak at the hinges. A little oil from time to time takes care of that problem. It's a good idea to regularly verify that the hinge bolts haven't come loose and that the stem riser is firmly attached. Finally, because the bike has a monotube, not a diamond frame, and because the rear triangle can be opened, it's a little trickier to lock the bike. I put Pitlock anti-theft skewers on my wheels and seatpost binder. I usually use my U-lock to lock the bike through the rear triangle so that the "seatstay" bridge keeps the lock in place even if the rear triangle is opened. But with the Pitlock skewers, I can also lock the bike through a wheel and feel reasonably secure. Even locking around the monotube works for a short period; someone with a socket set or a few adjustable wrenches could take the frame apart, and someone with an Allen key and a headset wrench could remove the stem riser and fork, then slip the frame through the U-lock. But most bike thieves don't carry those tools around. If you are in a high-risk area, you can always quick fold the bike and bring it with you.

Conclusion: My NWT is a great bike. It does everything I need a bicycle to do, it fits just like my 700C tourer, it handles well, and it comes with me when I travel. I've relocated temporarily to France, where the NWT is my only bike; I can't say that I really miss the rest of my stable. If mine were wrecked or stolen, I'd almost certainly replace it.

Addendum by Brian Ogilvie on Thu 2 Feb 2012 12:27 UTC -08:00:
By the way, I wanted to add that I have no relation with Green Gear/Bike Friday other than as a satisfied repeat customer, first as a purchaser of an Express Tikit that was technically pre-owned but never actually delivered to the person who ordered it, then as a purchaser of the NWT that I reviewed. I did not receive any compensation for writing this review, and I was not solicited to do so; I just decided to post it because I thought it was weird that there were no reviews of the NWT in the folding touring bike review section!

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#2: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Steve Miller on Sun 22 Jan 2012 07:45 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Oh, where were you when we were researching and setting up our two new Bike Fridays? We love them but it sure would have saved us time and decision making agony if we had had your excellent review ahead of time. Seriously, great review!! We will be touring in Europe this year (Grampies on the Go-Again) using the Fridays and your tips and comments will be very helpful. Thanks Dodie Miller

      
#3: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Sun 22 Jan 2012 09:15 Edit Delete in reply to #2     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Dodie: thanks for your kind words! I was looking at the reviews section a few weeks ago and was a little surprised that there were no reviews of the NWT, which is why I decided to write one. Hopefully it will help others out too.

      
#4: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
Rating: ***** 
By Graham Smith on Sun 22 Jan 2012 10:36 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Your review is spot on Brian. I would add one more positive and that is the customer service provided by Green Gear in Eugene. It is exemplary in every respect. We have 3 Bike Fridays in the family and have been very pleased with all of them. The ride quality is what sets them apart.
My loaded shakedown tour with the BF to see if the getting on and off other other transport was really more manageable is journalled here:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/turpentine

      
#5: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
Rating: ****_ 
By Steve Miller on Sun 22 Jan 2012 11:05 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (4)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi Brian, I am the "Steve" part of the Grampies on the Go. Dodie woke me up early this Sunday morning and basically recited your entire NWT review. What fun! I have now read it for myself, and we have looked at your pictures, magnified as much as possible, with great interest. We are left with these questions:

1. We are still wondering how your locking scheme works. With the quick release for the rear assembly, and the monotube, where can the frame really be secured? If I read you right, you are using the Pitlock seat stem binder, which would prevent the rear frame from being opened. Is the BF quick release at that point a standard size, so that the Pitlock just went in there? Is the Pitlock a "bug" when you want to quick fold?

2. Just a comment - a Pitlock set seems to cost about $75 -$100 - ouch!

3. BF told us that the relatively economical Dahon generator hub would not fit our forks, and that all other hubs were really costly. Was this your finding? What was the cost and model of your hub? Can it supply power for charging a smartphone?

4. Our sets of Ortlieb bags cost as much as some bikes, and themselves are wonderfully quick release. Do you have any thoughts on securing them to the bike, or do you think they should come with you, in those cases where you are accepting to leave the bike somewhere, locked. Ortlieb seems to sell cables for the QL2 system, but not for our QL1s?

5. You can see in our blog (Grampies on the Go - Again) that we were temporarily bent out of shape by the low quality/low "trade in" allowance of the stock BF parts and the high prices they set on upgrade parts. We now think we would have been $$ ahead to have ordered the NWT in the stock configuration, discarded the wheels, cranks, brakes, bar, shifters and put on independently sourced upgrades plus racks and fenders. Even after "trading in" our stock parts, we each paid BF $800 for the needed upgrades and accessories. $800 can buy you a rather lovely entire bike elsewhere. Comments?

6. It is often said that the BF is a "real" performance bike that happens to fold. And yes, with our eyes closed we feel like we are on our regular bikes. Actually, we find the BFs more maneuverable and sort of friendlier. On the other hand you usually recognize a "real" performance bike by its light weight, shiny paint, elegant forged parts, advanced frame materials, etc. Since BF has none of these, why do we always call it a real performance bike? What exactly differentiates it from a cheaper folder or from an $800 regular bike?

7. Rust. We were shocked to see the rusting of our chain, bolts holding the rear rack together, kick stand bolt, lower collar of the stem riser, inside the trailer attachment braze on, and other areas, very quickly after the bikes got wet for the first time. We pulled the chain, wire brushed it and relubed with wet lube. It still looks rusty. We disassembled the rear rack and painted the bolt heads (then greasing the whole bolt), mega greased the riser collar, etc. We did none of that (except normal maintenance) with $800 bikes used for years. Comments? p.s. The long bolt holding the BF rear rack together seems to be cobbled together from a short bolt and a threaded extension. The welded join looked fragile and felt like the twisting action of unscrewing could twist it apart. Looked much more homemade that would be expected in an accessory that they are charging $139 for.

      
#6: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Daniel Santamaria on Sun 22 Jan 2012 12:14 Edit Delete in reply to #5     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi Steve,

I have a NWT that I bought back in late 2010. It's done a lot of kms since that time. I (like Brian) also have a Surly LHT and modelled the fit based on that bike.

1. i slip my ulock around the monotube, through the frame strengthener - that rounded piece that provides a small amount of triangulation. You can also slip it around one side of the seat stay, and the chainstay bridge will stop it from being slipped off. It sounds like that's what Brian is doing.

2. I have pitlocks on my LHT. they are expensive. They're a quality piece of gear though. 5 years on my LHT, in the rain and sun, and they're as good as new.

3. I avoided the schmidt on the NWT because of the cost. I have one on the LHT and it's awesome. On the NWT i went with the shimano generator hub. It was about $100 (hub only). It's less efficient on a small bike, but it is still pretty good. I don't have any regrets. I made a homemade circuit for charging my smart phone a while back. http://dmsantam.blogspot.com/2010/05/phone-and-ipod-charger-for-schmidt.html

4. I slip a thin kryptoflex cable through the handles, and it hooks to the ulock. Yes, the handles can be cut, but the thief would need to have a knife. I haven't had any troubles yet.

5. I thought the same thing. What can you do. I was buying the NWT for the frame, and would have much preferred being able to get my own parts.

6. It's geometry, the steel used is high quality, the quality is high and it will last you a long time.

7. A few of the bolts are a bit cheap. I found that to be the case for the kickstand bolt, and brake bolts. These are probably aftermarket options. You can change them out to stainless bolts. Not a big deal. I wouldn't worry about the welded bolt. A good weld is as strong as the original material.

Hope that helps.

      
#7: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
Rating: ***** 
By John Fleckner on Sun 22 Jan 2012 13:17 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Excellent review. I'm on my second NWT and second Bike Friday Tandem. We've travelled a good bit in USA and in Europe on the tandem with the trailer -- see two journals on this site. I can recommend it as a way to remain self-contained and convenient.

My NWT is the go-to bike at home for touring as well though I love it too much to be my beater/commuter bike.

I second comments on BF service orientation. They came through big time on our cross country trip when I needed an odd sized seat stem and new bike and trailer parts far from the big cities.

      
#8: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Judy Norris on Sun 22 Jan 2012 19:26 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Thanks for writing this review.

I have a NWT built to the measurements of my Rivendell Atlantis. It fits me perfectly and is all-day comfortable. A couple things that I believe contributed to the comfort are 42mm tires (Schwalbe Marathon Supremes) and a Nitto Albatross handlebar.

I toured on it this Fall for 1,966 miles (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/SoTierFall2011) and it rides loaded just like a full-sized touring bike. When I finished the trip I weighed each bag as it came off the bike and was horrified to discover that the wee thing had been carrying 83 pounds of gear, not including water! Obviously I'm going to pare that down for the next trip.

The next trip is planned for next summer and although I have a lovely touring bike I could use, I'm taking the NWT again. It's small, step-through (I'm 72 and appreciate that) and just easy to work with.

I've never had a rust problem on my Bike Fridays like that which the Grampies have encountered. This is my 3rd Bike Friday. I've previously owned a Pocket Rocket Pro and a Pocket Crusoe.

Here's a picture of the bike touring this Fall. There are other pictures of the bike on the crazy guy journal linked above.

--Judy

      
#9: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Mon 23 Jan 2012 02:22 Edit Delete in reply to #5     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi Steve, a few quick responses:

1. To lock, I usually put my U-lock through one of the seatstays (if you can call them that on a NWT), behind the bridge. By putting it through only one, the bridge prevents it from being removed without cutting through the rear triangle (or the lock). I still have the QR on the seat mast; the Pitlock is on the seat post binder (the ring that clamps the seat post into the seat tube), to make it harder to steal the saddle and seat post.

2. I figure the peace of mind the Pitlocks give me is worth the money, especially since it means I can lock the bike up through a wheel and feel as if it's reasonably secure.

3. I got the Schmidt SONdelux dynohub. It was a $311 upcharge over the standard BF front hub. Expensive but it is the best dynohub out there and should last a lifetime with an overhaul every 30,000 miles. You can get an inexpensive Shimano dynohub; the front dropout spacing on the NWT is the standard 100 mm. (The Tikit is different.) I got a new, hand-built 26" wheel with a Shimano dynohub last year, for my commuter bike, for about $140. Schmidt makes the eWerk, which will charge a smartphone, though some models of phone require a cache battery to provide uniform current. Peter White's website has more information.

4. I have the Ortlieb QL2-equipped panniers and I use the optional security cables. I figure that they keep honest people honest. Anything really valuable (camera, phone, passport, etc.) comes with me in the handlebar bag.

5. I thought the upcharges on my bike were reasonable. Mine were for the SONdelux hub (over half the total), bar-end shifters, Greenspeed Scorcher tires, Nitto Randonneur split bars, folding stem mast, better rims, and a custom set of chainrings. Even if I could have gotten all parts cheaper myself, I would have to factor in my time in assembling them all. I hesitated on whether to spend the money for the Sapphire Blue powder coat, but I'm glad I did--it looks so nice!

6. For me, a performance touring and randonneuring bike is one that is comfortable to ride all day, has braze-ons for the racks and bottles I need, and responds efficiently and predictably to my steering and power input. It's not a racing bike, where weight is at a premium, since it needs to be strong enough to hold a rider and touring gear, and even for randonneuring it should be sturdy enough to stand up to bad roads. I don't care about "advanced frame materials" (i.e., carbon fiber?), and I find the paint plenty shiny. In terms of value for money, I think my NWT is comparable to my Surly LHT, which cost $1100 plus the money I put into upgrades. The base price of the custom NWT was only $200 more than that.

Other folders: I considered getting a Brompton, because I really like the design and the compact fold, but it uses a number of proprietary parts, drop bars aren't available for it, and based on what I've read (especially Vik Banerjee's comments), the handling isn't really comparable to a full-sized bike. The Dahon Speed TR is a competitor, but again, no drop bars, and I think the Dahons are ugly (except for the Smooth Hound folding mini-velo, which I find strangely attractive). The Airnimal Joey Explore Drop would cost more than the NWT and uses 24" wheels, which are hard to find tires for (at least the NWT can use BMX tires in a pinch). Any of those is going to have a final price tag that's comparable to the NWT, if not higher.

7. I have no rust problems, and I've cycled in the Irish and English rain and left my bike sitting outside in the rain. I don't think Green Gear can be blamed for a rusty chain, unless for some reason they removed the factory lube and forgot to put something else on. As I noted in my review, I don't have the BF rear rack, so I can't comment on that.

      
#10: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Mon 23 Jan 2012 02:24 Edit Delete in reply to #8     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi Judy--now that's a loaded NWT! I'm glad you enjoyed the review. I've bookmarked your journal and look forward to reading it.

      
#11: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Mon 23 Jan 2012 02:34 Edit Delete in reply to #4     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi Graham - thanks for your comment. I too have found Green Gear's customer service to be quite good. When the Velocity Aeroheat rims that I initially requested proved to be on backorder, they contacted me to ask whether I wanted to wait or substitute other rims. I ended up getting Sun CR-18 rims, because my departure was approaching soon. GG did somehow misplace my replacement stem riser order, but they caught their mistake before I did and they did a rush job to get me the part on time.

Thanks for sharing your journal. I should try a soft bag with the quick fold the next time I take my bike on a train.

      
#12: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Mon 23 Jan 2012 02:38 Edit Delete in reply to #7     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi John--thanks for your comment. I'll take a look at your journals. I might give the trailer a try the next time I do a point-to-point tour.

      
#13: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Graham Smith on Tue 24 Jan 2012 01:51 Edit Delete in reply to #11     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
You are welcome Brian. There are quite a few Bike Friday tourers and their journals on CGOAB. Just a few I have enjoyed, for example, include:

Bill Hoadley
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/Billh

Suzanne Gibson
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/suzannegibson

Gerardo Lerner
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/gdlerner

      
#14: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Dave Butansky on Wed 25 Jan 2012 01:59 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I ended up building a folding tour bicycle but on a Dahon Speed8 frame. In the end after replacing the aluminum fork for steel, new built front and rear wheels, spring seat, adding bar ends, better folding pedals, an improved front chain retention system, front and rear racks, fenders, Shimano 70mm dyno hub, dyno LED lighting, and dyno USB charging system I could have probably gone down and ordered a bespoke Bike Friday from the factory in Eugene. I have a narrower gear range with just the 11-32 cassette(the Swiss army also left out the front dérailleur on their final military bicycle) but I can do without the top end and while the Suntour dérailleur may not be the slickest new component from Shimano/SRAM the Mk2 version shifts well and its ultra low profile and short cage keeps it out of mud or water and well protected from shipping damage by the chainstay and wheel.
Having a folding tourer with a 20" wheel makes rear full sized pannier mounting more difficult for most racks especially if you have big feet due to heel strikes but the payoff in easy loading onto planes, trains, and automobiles definitely makes any minor difficulties worth the trouble.
It looks like you solved the rear pannier-rack issue, I will have to look into going that direction as long as it doesnt end up too big. Great looking bike overall, what dyno taillight are you using?

      
#15: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Wed 25 Jan 2012 04:29 Edit Delete in reply to #14     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Dave--sounds like you built up a nice bike! The Racktime Foldit rack can keep the panniers fairly far back, which prevents heel strike (though my feet aren't that big, US size 8.5). The tradeoff is that the center of gravity is slightly behind the rear axle, which can make handling tricky when going up steep hills, especially if you don't have a front load. I discovered that last fall while climbing a 17% grade with all my luggage (including a laptop and a few books) in back. I think the tapered bottom of the Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus panniers helps alleviate heel strike, too. I have to be more careful when using my Arkel briefcase pannier.

I use the Busch & Müller Toplight Line Plus rear light. I also carry a battery-powered backup.

      
#16: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By David Driscoll on Sun 5 Feb 2012 14:30 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Fantastic review of the BF.
What type of stem post do you have on it? It appears to shorter looking than the standard one that appears very tall on most. I like the shorter one showing on your blue bike. Is that black device towards the bottom of the stem part of it or something different?

Trying to decide on the BR NWT and as looking at the Llama as well. I was touring on a Surly LHT with Arkel bags and have been shipping and looking for a better way to travel through out the USA to do trips from 3 days to 2 weeks.
Thanks again, David.

      
#17: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
Rating: ***** 
By Eddie Jones on Mon 6 Feb 2012 09:11 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I had been toying around with the idea of getting a BF. After reading your review, I contacted them and talked with Aaron at BF. He and I agree that a Pocket Llama would be the best for me at my weight. (280lbs. Don't laugh, in 1999 I weighed 431lbs and started mountain biking in order to lose weight and get my health back.) He assured me that they would be able to build one that would handle whatever I threw at it. But it was your review that got me really fired up to make it a reality. As you know, a lot of times when someone reviews a product they have just spent lots of cash on, they will give it glowing reviews to justify the expenditure. I like the fact that you reported not only on the great attributes of the bike but also pointed out problems. Great review!

      
#18: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Wed 8 Feb 2012 05:23 Edit Delete in reply to #16     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
David: I have had two stem risers on my NWT. The first one was the BF folding stem, which you can see in this photo. In that, the entire riser is black, except for the short silver bit just below the stem. The bulge at the bottom (just above the blue collar and the headset) is the folding mechanism. The silver bit has a collar, which allows you to raise the bars. In that photo, I have them as far down as they will go.

The second stem riser, in this photo, is the BF aheadset-style stem riser. I ordered it to a custom length, so I could put the bars where I want them. I can lower them a little if I want, but for touring it's nice to have the tops a little higher than the saddle, so that I can enjoy looking around. The stock NWT with flat bars is designed for a more upright riding position.

The main advantages of the Llama are the higher bottom bracket and the shock absorbing seatpost. I use a Brooks Flyer with springs, which does a decent job on rough terrain. The latest Llamas have disk brakes, which could be a plus. Since the rear V-brake on the NWT is attached to the chainstays, it can pick up grit that's thrown from the front tire.

      
#19: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Brian Ogilvie on Wed 8 Feb 2012 05:37 Edit Delete in reply to #17     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Eddie: I'm glad you found the review helpful. I waited a year and a half after getting the bike to review it, so I would have some perspective, and a few thousand miles of use. I hope you enjoy your bike! The Yak mailing list is a good forum for asking further questions, if you have any.

      
#20: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Graham Smith on Wed 8 Feb 2012 16:46 Edit Delete in reply to #5     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"Since BF has none of these, why do we always call it a real performance bike? What exactly differentiates it from a cheaper folder or from an $800 regular bike?"
These are good, thought provoking questions Steve. They are not easy to answer directly. For context, my BF Tikit was about $900 and an off-the-shelf special. Our BF New World Tourists were custom-made and closer to $2000.
You are right about the description "real performance" being hard to pin down and it is not a description I would use. I would however say that the geometry of the BF frames, the material of the frames, and the ratio of the gearing are what makes them feel like a 'very good ride' and are what sets them apart.
And they have 'style' whatever that means. They just feel like competent, reliable, comfortable and fun bikes. They do not ride like what I expected a small bike to feel like. The only other folder I gave serious consideration to, and test rode, was a Brompton. It is also a very nice bike and does exactly what it is claimed to do as a bike to use with public transport on a daily basis. However, I could not see us using Bromptons as a tourer/travellers. People happily do so though.
The extra expense of our BF New World Tourists was partly in the custom-fit (worth it) and the better components (also worth it) but not essential.

      
#21: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
By Richard Hughes on Tue 8 Oct 2013 21:07 Edit Delete in reply to #5     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
My wife and I just returned from a 5 week, 1,050 mile tour of Austria and Bavaria on NWT's. When we started the trip the (almost new) bikes were completely rust-free but by the end of the trip there was rust in many places, most notably inside the seat and handlebar risers. The rust wasn't obvious until we disassembled the bikes ready for their journey home. The painted surfaces were fine, but any unpainted surfaces are really prone to rusting. There were also signs of rust on some of the chrome-finished bolts.

They're not new bikes any more!

      
#22: Re: Bike Friday New World Tourist (thread)
Rating: ***** 
By Graham Smith on Thu 31 Oct 2013 18:01 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
One more perspective on my Bike Friday New World Tourist Brian. Another example of its brillaint versatility.

In addition to the loaded tours already mentioned, I have just used it for a long, unloaded road ride event.

Recently I entered and finished the annual Around the Bay in a Day ride in Melbourne. I opted for the 210 km anti-clockwise route. I did train for the ride for about 9 weeks. In the training I included two 150km day rides on my Bike Friday NWT. Both of these training rides took about 7 hrs.

For the actual Bay ride I removed the rear pannier rack and fitted Schwalbe Durano tyres 1.1" @ 115 psi. Otherwise I made no changes to the bike set up which I usually do loaded tours on.

I finished the 210 km ride in a respectable 9 hrs 5 mins of actual riding time. This excluded a long wait for a ferry. I only saw one other small wheeler in the event. I easily kept up with and overtook many riders on super light all carbon bikes. My little brass bike bell was handy for overtaking moves :)

Full points to the Bike Friday (and Brooks saddle) for comfort. Even after 9 hrs, I could have kept going for a good while longer.

To get to the Melbourne ride, I had to use a bus and a lift in a friend's car. Being able to quick-fold the Bike Friday into a soft bag made this travel with the bike very easy.


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