Touring - Bike Friday vs Regular road bike
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So, I'm having a dilemna. I have a number of road bikes that I ride in So. Cal. However, I want to take my bike on trips since I'm doing more traveling now.
I've been looking into travel bikes and I have narrowed it down to either a Ritchey Breakaway or a Bike Friday New World Tourist. I have a dream of eventually do loaded tours (a far off dream will say) so I'm also considering a Dahon Tournado.
Everything I read about Bike Friday's is relatively positive. What do people think about the two types of travel bikes. I know there is a third type SS couplers but honestly converting my current bike to SS or buying a new one with them doesn't make sense do to the cost of the SS's alone. I'm trying to keep my budget under $2,500.
07-21-08, 04:02 PM
Non-standard wheel size can be a bit of a vulnerability in some parts of the world.
07-21-08, 04:28 PM
I've used folding bikes on a few tours, although I did not have a Bike Friday. BF's are well-made and pack down fairly well. If you expect to travel with your bike very frequently (i.e. more than twice per year) the NWT is a good choice.
However, as good as the BF's/folding bikes are for packing, I found that taking one along is not a casual exercise. It takes about 30-45 minutes to pack it, the same to reassemble it, and the resulting package is a bit bulky and heavy. IMO it's worth it if you're going to tour on it every day for a week or more, but not if you're on a business trip and want to ride for an hour in the mornings.
I only fly with my bike once a year or less, so I've actually given up on folding bikes. I'd have to fly close to 10 times to make the extra cost of a travel bike worthwhile, so to me it's not really worth the extra expense.
I have a Bike Friday New World Tourist bike and have flown across the USA several times with it as checked luggage. That is the real advantage of Bike Friday in that it packs down into an airline regulation case, so no extra fees. It is not particularly lightweight--the bikes are made of 4130 CrMo steel and thick stuff at that-- and with a couple of extras (shoes or a compact pump) the total weight comes very close to the current upper bag weight limit of 50 lbs. The ride is OK; I have compensated for the relatively harsher ride of the small wheels with a Cane Creek ThudBuster seat post, although many owners don't bother and use unsuspended posts. It is a nice bike with quality components, and I could imagine long touring with it but have usually used it mostly for local travel at my destination. The other nice thing is that it is easy to carry in your car without making a mess, which isn't true of separable bikes, S&S or Ritchey. But if I had to choose between a large wheeled bike and a folder, everything considered, I would go with a separable large-wheeled bike, for the slight advantage in ride quality and reduced weight (a Ritchey Breakaway Cross would come in at under 20 lbs) or an Airnimal 24 in-wheeled bike (but I don't need another bike at the moment.)
The other factor, which is true of any bike you pack around, is the packed size. Moving around the airport with a 50 lb wheeled case and other luggage with your clothing and personal gear and then maybe a briefcase is on the border of too much, especially under current air travel conditions. BF is as good or better than any other bike when packed (including Brompton, Swift and others) if you travel with it in a case. If you are going somewhere and want a folder to travel intermodally, other bikes besides the Bike Fridays are better and faster to set up and take down.
07-21-08, 07:33 PM
i recently had a positive experience with my 700c wheeled, non-folding bike on a plain. the ground effects tradis bag makes for an easy way to carry your bike. in the bag, it is relatively compact (for a non-folding bike) and, frankly, i think it confused the airline employee. they couldn't tell it was a bike, so i wasn't charged a bike fee. the bike and bag survived baggage handlers, flight time, and baggage claim with no problems whatsoever. took about 20 minutes for the dismantling and reassambling of the bike, respectively.
07-21-08, 08:03 PM
I like my NWT. I have done the Katy Trail and getting ready to do the Pittsburgh to DC thing. I flew from Sacramento to Salt Lake City to Seattle with it and no big problems, other than it is a 50 lb suitcase as was mentioned. It was nice to do some riding though. The parts are pretty much standard bike shop parts. I don't know about the NWT, but some of the models can use regular 20 inch WalMart mountain bike tires in a pinch as I understand it. I went to a shop that had some recumbents and was fine with tire choices. The rest of the bike is pretty much standard stuff. The Bike Friday has an active email list (YAK) that can be accessed and registered from the Bike Friday website that you might want to follow.
07-21-08, 08:12 PM
I've had my BF New World Tourist for over 8 years, and have handed it over to an airline about 30 times (i.e. equivalent of 15 roundtrips). I've toured on it on 4 continents, mostly on paved roads, but also on some long unpaved trails in Canada & the US. I haven't had to pay any bike fees to the airlines. Though I have concerns that TSA (Transportation Security Administration) in the USA will mess it up when they inspect it, they haven't yet. I found minor damage once after a flight, and after contacting Bike Friday, they explained to me how to fix the damage myself. I have also folded it up and taken it on trains which ordinarily wouldn't have allowed it (e.g. the TGV in France) and a few buses which had insufficient space to take a regular bike (e.g. Thailand--though many buses in Thailand have plenty of space for regular bikes) More importantly, I love the way it rides, so it's not really just an issue of recouping the cost by saving on airline fees. I almost never ride my other bikes anymore, because I prefer the ride of my BF. I commute on it almost every day, and most of that route is on an unpaved trail. I take it up the elevator and into my office because its smaller size makes that easy to do. A few of the trips I've taken it on were not really bike trips, but the relative ease of traveling with it plus the no additional airline fees have allowed me to bring it along and use it on short trips. It's true it takes a bit of time (it takes me 25-30 minutes to pack it or unpack it), so I'm not inclined to bring it if I'm going somewhere for just 2 or 3 days, but I've taken it on a few 5-day visits and was glad I had it with me each time.
07-21-08, 08:38 PM
I also have a NWT, and have flown with it a few times. In addition to avoiding the sizeable airline bike fee ($85 last time I looked), it's also a lot easier to trundle around the airport, and fits in the trunk of a compact car easily. I don't think the ride is quite the same as my road bike, but it's still pretty good (and my assembly time is definitely less than 20 minutes).
07-21-08, 09:30 PM
Not all bikes can be retrofitted, and, will need a new paint job after they are installed. Steel can be retrofitted, and, only certain tubing at that. Sorry, I don't know my tubing, you'll have to check elsewhere for those details. Also, are these bikes touring capable, i.e, can they handle loads? If not, then, a different bike, be it a folder or a standard bike, is potentially in order.
07-21-08, 09:41 PM
The new airline baggages surcharges make the old cost calculations obsolete. When the airlines charge for even the first bag, you might as well pay the surcharge and save money and riding efficiency by buying and packing a standard bike even without couplers.
+1 of course they don't necesarilly charge as much for the first bag. I agree though that the whole calculation is now different, and the old answers not necesaraly sensible.
On the other hand, in a touring arsenal, the first bike might be a serious road bike, then an offroad, then a NWT, then a recumbent. I think the NWT pretty much does stand out.
One has to think through the NWT. I am not convinced the trailer/storage case is a good enought load carrying solution. I have never used it, and I have come across a few that looked good. But on those same trips there were 40 mile rough sections I could easily get over on my 700c, but not convinced I could have on a 20 inch wheel bike towing a samsonite. The reason I bring it up is because I would want a system where I could unpack and roll away from the airport without any surplus stuff I would need to store. One can do that with an NWT in a samsonite/trailer, but I am not so sure one could on anything else. Of course one could with soft cases and non-comoed bikes, but that would also involve accepting limits.
07-22-08, 06:25 AM
I think you'd be pleasantly surprised, Peterpan, how well the BF suitcase/trailer worked on an unpaved trail. I've only converted the suitcase into a trailer once, but I was surprised both at how easy the setup was, as well as how stable and easy to ride the bike/trailer combo was. It happens that much of the time that I was pulling the trailer was on the unpaved Confederation Trail on Prince Edward Island, and part of that time, in the rain. I was impressed with how well it all handled. I was biking with a friend with his own NWT & suitcase/trailer.
As for airline charges, although most North American carriers now have baggage charges for their non-elite frequent flyer customers, many oversized bag charges have also gone up in the past few months. I think that some are now charging even more than $85 for a bike. And if you've flown enough miles on one airline and its partners to be an "elite" member of their frequent flyer plan, the 1st & 2nd checked bag fees are waved, but not the oversized luggage fees.
07-22-08, 12:19 PM
... I agree though that the whole calculation is now different, and the old answers not necesaraly sensible.
Agreed, so I went over to Delta (Excess baggage charges) ((http://www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/baggage/baggage_allowance/excess_baggage/index.jsp) to see what current economics are if the bike is a second piece of luggage:
Bag 2 $25, Bags 3, 4, and 5 $80 each
Weight: 51–70 pounds $80 each
Size: 62–80 inches—total of length plus width plus height $150 each
So, if your bike packs into a standard size suitcase, and the piece weighs under 50 lbs, it's $25. If it doesn't fit, it's $150. So, the extra charge for a not-small bike is up to $125 (unless you get hit with both a second bag AND an oversize charge, in which case, it's the full $150 [ouch]) at one airline. The economics of a packable bike seem to be even more compelling, at least for now.
07-22-08, 03:28 PM
Agreed, so I went over to Delta to see what current economics are if the bike is a second piece of luggage...
To further develop your analysis:
Many US airlines are charging $15 each way for the first check-in; a typical bike fee is $100 each way. With either type, going over $50 gets you an overweight fee. So, any sort of packable bike saves you $170 round trip.
I've generally found that you will have to shell out anywhere from $650 to $1200 -- and up -- for the ability to pack your bike into a suitcase. E.g. a Surly Cross-Check frame runs $400; the Travelers Check, which is the same frame with S&S couplers, is $1075, and a case will set you back another $200 easy.
Or, in another comparison: a BF New World Tourist with drop bars and a decent gearing range can easily set you back $1600, plus $200 for the case. Surly LHT, $1100.
(Not really sure how the BF's rack up to separatables in terms of cost, my impression is they're about the same.)
So if you don't already have a touring bike, and don't already have a car rack, and know you will travel a lot, a BF or separatable makes economic sense in a reasonable time frame. If you already have a touring bike, and sink $1600 into a BF, it's going to take a LOT of trips for you to earn that back -- and each time they bump up the price of that 1st check-in, you lose some of that cost advantage.
07-22-08, 06:26 PM
As to touring on on BF, go to the CrazyGuy category on folding bikes. Lots of them about. The issues with trailers are the same as with bigger wheeled bikes. Two wheel vs single wheel trailer and a trailer vs panniers. I only have the BF and an older mountain bike that I rarely ride. But when I do get on a big wheel bike, it feels very different. I feel it is like going from driving my Miata to a full size car. Not bad, just different. Smoother, but not as responsive. I prefer my Miata and BF usually. I toured the country in the Miata too. Different strokes I guess.
07-24-08, 07:15 AM
FWIW: I've only done one tour on my folder (Dahon Speed P8 - same concept as the NWT but less capable) but it was very enjoyable. I pulled a convertible suitcase/trailer with it for hundreds of miles on unpaved rail-trails and backroads and would constantly be surprised when my shadow or reflection reminded me I WASN'T riding a full-size bike.
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