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  1. #1
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    Best folders for touring?

    Following many years of overseas travel where I have been limited to hiring local bikes for touring I have decided to purchase a folder. I decided that for the type of travelling I usually do it would be impractical to take my touring/mountain bike unless I was going to use it almost exclusively. With all the hassles associated with air-transport, getting from the airport to a city centre, travelling by bus/train, storage of a bike when I was engaged in other activities like hiking, getting into hotel rooms, etc. I put the whole thing into the 'too hard' basket.

    It was really the internet that opened to me the full potential of folders, and though initially I only considered full-size ones from the point of view of comfort and durability, I have decided that the ability to pack a bike into an airline acceptable case it as important. There are smaller-wheeled bikes which appear to have the ability to handle rougher terrain without falling apart; I had previously considered 20" wheel machines as mere 'commuter bikes'.

    Having made that 'leap of faith I'm now investigating what the various manufacturers have to offer. I am based in Australia but have spent the past 5 northern-hemisphere summers working in the UK, taking a stopover in both directions and seeing some fascinating parts of the world. I shall probably be in the US during the spring of 2007, and this seems the ideal opportunity to both purchase a folding bike and do some touring. I may well return in the autumn for some more travelling. Probable areas are southern Utah, Oregon, and California - with some travel on dirt roads of unknown quality. I'm not really into mountain biking but will take rough roads to reach areas containing fine scenery. I'd expect to be camping most of the time so would be carrying a fair bit.

    Over the next few years I'd like to do some touring in various parts of India, including the Himalayan states, travelling by train to cover some of the less interesting (to me) areas. Add to that Nepal (if the improving politial situation makes the country safer to travel in the mountain areas), also northern Vietnam and Laos. I have travelled in all of these countries previously, in some cases extensively, so I know the kind of terrain/road-conditions I would have to contend with.

    Having looked at numerous websites I have provisionally narrowed my choices to the following, with some of my perceived pros & cons. I'd be interested to hear the views of those who have had first-hand experience with the bikes or companies involved.

    BIKE-FRIDAY: Their Pocket Llama looks pretty good for the kind of touring I'd anticipate.

    Pros: excellent quality, standard replacement parts in the main, seems like good company support, enthusiastic riders who can offer advice (user groups in UK & Australia), good reputation, custom built to size

    Cons: price (hardly surprising considering it's made in Oregon - not Kaoshung or Shianghai) - unfortunately for me this is important, folding takes a bit of time

    DAHON: modified Speed P8 (see below)

    Pros: price - relatively cheap, simple fold very fast, many Dahon users seem quite satisfied

    Cons: the bikes seem to have a number of quality problems (like spokes breaking), sometimes poor finishing. I'd be buying from a dealer rather than mail-order, and would expect to spend some time in the local area so as to get the teething problems sorted out before setting out on a major trip. Many components seem to be non-standard.

    A number of Dahon forum entries have stresses the importance of a good dealer/supplier, and in this regard, Gaerlan have been mentioned on a number of occasions. They sell a modified/improved version of a Speed P8 aimed at touring cyclists.

    GAERLAN: their own bike - the "Gotravel'

    Pros: like the Bike Fridays, manufactured by folding-bike specialists who should be aware of design problems & limitations. Designed to accept standard components.

    Cons: seems to be something of an unknown quantity, presumably they haven't made very many. I've never come across one mentioned anywhere.

    I notice that their Speed P3x9 has a 3-speed dual-drive hub, but not their own 'Gotravel'. Comparison with the PF Pocket Llama may not be reasonable, but it is a good deal cheaper.

    I've written a fair bit, hoping that this level of detail will yield some useful advice.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Have you test ridden any of these bikes? You should be able to find the Dahons and Bike Fridays pretty easily.

    What put me off the Dahons are the proprietary parts. The front hub, for instance, is a non-standard size (74mm wide?). Most of the Speed models still have an adjustable stem; but I recall that the high end models do not. (As you imply, J GAerlan can take care of that) Someone else will have to tell you whether the bike is appropriate for mountain biking.

    I have never met anyone with the Gaerlan GoTravel. But I would assume that it is quite good. But both the Gaerlan and low-end Bike Fridays are fairly standard. So you would be able to upgrade them easily in the future. In regards to price, you can regularly check the BF used section on their website for deals in addition to EBay. If you join their YAK group, people regularly sell their bikes there.

    BTW, if you read through the Downtube thread, you will find some people that use their downtube off-road and for touring.

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    It depends what you mean by touring. 10 hrs a day of riding, with heavy packs, possibly at night, hill climbing, on unpredicatable road surfaces means larger diameter wheels. If you are looking to ride around town, and don't mind a bit of a rough ride, smaller diameter. Steering systems of smaller dia wheels seem to have flutter problems.

    Selection Criteria:

    Wheel size 16 18(birdy) 20 26(full size)

    Folded size, carrying weight, ease of transport.

    Is the bike comfortable for you to ride, do you lean foward, sit straight up ect.

    suspension system?

    Finally all bikes have their trade offs, use the bike for what it's best at. For example if you bought a Brompton you could more easily use local buses for transport. Doing a century on a Brompton would not be as enjoyable as doing it on a Bike Friday.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  4. #4
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Gaerlan is a great place to get a touring folder. They will rebuild the wheels on a Dahon for you, and make sure the wheel is true before shipping it...critical on the mid-range Dahons, which have poorly built wheels. When they went to Austria, they took a Birdy and a Speed P8 (check the pics), rather than their own custom bike. You might ask about that.

    Having had a Downtube NS for a month now, I would say it's a pretty decent touring bike. It's a fair bit heavier than a Dahon, but a fair bit sturdier, too. It's also the best deal out there at $250-$350 including shipping. And very adjustable. However, if you are planning on going in stores along the way with the bike and do the light travelling thing (a credit card and not too much else), you are best off with a small, light folder like the Birdy. Dahons also fold better than the Downtube.
    Last edited by pm124; 10-21-06 at 10:41 AM.

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    I bought a Speed P8. Returned it to the LBS hours later after i rode it up the first hill. The steering felt way to twitchy for me. Soon after I called Bike Friday up and ordered a NWT. Brought it for a month long tour in Sweden and it rode great with 30 lbs of gear, but ride was a bit too rough on the gravel and cobblestone roads. So when i got back i ordered a really plush suspension seatpost and softride stem and that took care of the harsh ride. Now i'm pleased.
    I also had a chance to ride a Pocket Llama for a day. First I took it out unloaded and I was impressed with how well it coped with bumpy singletrack, but i had to ride much slower and needed to watch the terrain much more carefully than with 26” wheels.
    Later I loaded the Llama up with 30lbs of gear and again with 50lbs. It felt a little squirelly for me, didn't feel as stable as the NWT. I concluded (for me) that the NWT's more stable ride was more important to me than the Llama's rougher terrain capability. But your mileage may vary.
    Last edited by bokes; 10-22-06 at 04:15 AM.

  6. #6
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bokes
    I bought a Speed P8. Returned it to the LBS hours later after i rode it up the first hill. The steering felt way to twitchy for me. Soon after I called Bike Friday up and ordered a NWT. Brought it for a month long tour in Sweden and it rode great with 30 lbs of gear, but ride was a bit too rough on the gravel and cobblestone roads. So when i got back i ordered a really plush suspension seatpost and softride stem and that took care of the harsh ride. Now i'm pleased.
    I also had a chance to ride a Pocket Llama for a day. First I took it out unloaded and I was impressed with how well it coped with bumpy singletrack, but i had to ride much slower and needed to watch the terrain much more carefully than with 26 wheels.
    Later I loaded the Llama up with 30lbs of gear and again with 50lbs. It felt a little squirelly for me, didn't feel as stable as the NWT. I concluded (for me) that the NWT's more stable ride was more important to me than the Llama's rougher terrain capability. But your mileage may vary.

    The Llama has a higher center of gravity and a slightly different geometry than the NWT. Those differences probably explain the qualities of the two bikes expressed above.

  7. #7
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    Bike Friday New World Tourist, Gaerlan, and Peregrine Bicycle Works all make well-designed folding tourers with 406mm wheels. Airnimal pretty much makes the best 24in folding tourer. Among 26in bikes, choices are broader, but most examples aren't folders rather are separable with S&S couplers, which is for air travel in a case. R+E Cycles has a standard-size-case-transportable line. Other specialty builders could probably do something similar for you.

  8. #8
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    Ritchey Breakaway

    Another option for 26" separable is the Ritchey Breakaway frame; there are several options:

    http://www.ritcheylogic.com/web/Ritc...ain/20789.html

    Looks like 2 bolts and 2 cable connectors to break it down.

  9. #9
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    The best folders for touring are, afaik, the Bike Fridays. Steel frames, geometries designed for touring, lots of standard parts, fully customizable in terms of fit and componentry. I'm sure if you call them up and say "I've got $1000 to spend, this is how I want to tour," they can hook you up.

    Another alternative is the Swift. It's a light and stiff frame and the Xootr Swift is around $700 USD, although for serious touring you'd need to put in $200-300 USD to really optimize it for touring. Or, you can get it customized if you want something like drop bars, internal hubs etc.

    I was not thrilled by the handling of the Swift with 20 lbs of gear on rear panniers (although this may have been my arrangement of the luggage). Also the frames are currently aluminum, which I wouldn't recommend for extended touring.

    I'd only recommend a Dahon if you're doing short trips (e.g. 2 weeks at a time), mostly due to (as previously mentioned) the excess number of proprietary parts and issues of flex in the handlebars. What CrimsonEclipse may not realize is that the handepost flex can eventually cause the handlepost to crack. It's also a highly proprietary part and one that Dahon has changed in the past, so it's possible that you could get a Speed TR, have it for 4-5 years, experience a handlepost failure, and have to scramble to find a replacement part.

    I've also noticed on the cheaper Dahons that the rear derailleur hanger isn't exactly fixed into place, so it can get out of position fairly easily. (This is not a problem on the Swift.)

  10. #10
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    Welcome to this forum, In Transit.

    As you probably noticed, there are a huge range of folding bikes in several different wheel diameters. I faced the same problem and this is how I approuched it.

    I decided how easy and fast the folding option is for the things I planned to do with the bike. Both my Dahon Boardwalk and the Brompton is considered easy and quick to fold. The parts stay together in a compact, neat package rather than separate or break apart. This is important to me as I go about my business, I don't have to trouble myself where did I put that pedal or where did that allen wrench go?

    I tour with the light load possible and prepare for boarding or using alternative transportation if needed. So the feature above is still important in this way too.

    I tend to customize my chosen bike to fine tune it to what I like. I have eliminated derailleurs from my present group of bikes and don't miss that part in the least. See my World Of Folding Bicycles photo gallery on Flickr to see what exactly what I did to each bike at:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/world-of-folding-bicycles/
    to get a better visual idea of the steps involved. Depending on what is involved, it might be more expensive than you would be comfortable in spending on a particular bike (especially the cheaper models).

    I tended to start at the basic models of the particular make (Dahon, Brompton) and go from there. When I am ready, I do move up and buy a bike that is truly is for me and my needs.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bangkok
    Another option for 26" separable is the Ritchey Breakaway frame; there are several options:

    http://www.ritcheylogic.com/web/Ritc...ain/20789.html

    Looks like 2 bolts and 2 cable connectors to break it down.
    Agreed.

    The OP looks as though he wants to do single track and there is no way I would do that on any 20' inch wheel bicycle especially one that is loaded. I was going to pick either the Ritchey Breakaway or the Dahon mountain bike as alternatives.

  12. #12
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    From what I understand, the Ritchey Breakaway (and its slightly cheaper sister, the Dahon Allegro) are road bikes, not touring bikes. So the geometry and tube-choice will be sub-optimal. Not sure about the braze-ons etc.

    Besides, if the guy doesn't want to spend $1400 on a Bike Friday, I think a $2000+ separatable may not fit his budget....

  13. #13
    Member, Schmember DaFriMon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe
    From what I understand, the Ritchey Breakaway (and its slightly cheaper sister, the Dahon Allegro) are road bikes, not touring bikes. So the geometry and tube-choice will be sub-optimal. Not sure about the braze-ons etc.

    Besides, if the guy doesn't want to spend $1400 on a Bike Friday, I think a $2000+ separatable may not fit his budget....
    Agreed, although you could have a steel framed touring bike retro-fitted for S&S couplers. Same general idea as the Breakaway, and the additional cost would be a lot less if he already had a suitable bike.

    Note to the OP about folding bikes for longer tours. Decide in advance how you're going to handle the suitcase. Are you going to leave it at the town you fly in to, and come back to pick it up later? If you're flying out of a different town, can you ship the suitcase to that town and have it held for you? Or are you going to go with Bike Friday's travel case system where the suitcase becomes a trailer, and you tow it? One other alternative, use some sort of soft case that you can fold up to carry. Some people report doing this without serious damage to their bikes. I have my doubts.

    I've read mostly good reports on the trailer system, but a few negative ones too. Myself, I've always been able to leave the suitcase and come back for it, but that does restrict my choices for itinerary somewhat.

    Based on what the OP says, I'd be pretty confident in recommending either a Pocket Llama or NWT. Not sure how my BF Crusoe would hold up to an expedition tour on really bad roads.

    BTW, I returned yesterday from a trip with my Crusoe. As I waited by the baggage carousel for my Samsonite case to come around, five regular bike containers came by. Four were large cardboard bike boxes, the other was a hard case. They were picked up by a group of younger people, late teens or early twenties. No point, I'd just never noticed non folders coming through on an airline before. $85 each, I think, unless the price had changed.
    Last edited by DaFriMon; 10-24-06 at 12:04 PM.
    You're right, I do have more bikes than I need.

  14. #14
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    On international segments, NW does not charge for a bike. Domestically, it's a different story.

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    Many thanks for the replies/advice. My original post probably suggested I was leaning towards a Bike Friday, and as I don't anticipate getting another folder in the future I'm now more inclined to pay the extra for the quality & upgradeability (sp?). The Pocket Llama still looks about the best option.

    I've sent detailed emails to Dahon, Gaerlon and Bike Friday. Somewhat disappointingly none of them have replied so far.

    To answer a couple of Qs posed, my idea of touring is relatively short days (not 10 hrs. in the saddle), early starts, having a tent giving me more flexibility regarding places to stay. I'd rather take public transport to the edge of a big city (unless there are dedicated cycle paths) than cycle out - guess I just don't like traffic very much!

    I originally considered 26" wheel folders but decided that the 'airline suitcase package' was more important. I'd anticipate riding on rough tracks mainly for day trips with a light load. I am attracted to the BF suitcase/trailer concept due to the flexibility - you can do a one-way trip towing, or a circular one with the case stored. I don't have a bike that would be suitable for retro-fitting couplers.

    Any opinions on the pros & cons of the 'dual drive' hub system?

    Once again thanks for your time & opinions. Hopefully I can report back next year on my own experiences.

  16. #16
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    If you prefer bigger wheels, have a look at an Airnimal with 507 wheels.

  17. #17
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    I have a Bike Friday NWT. It's been a great commuter bike; the only problems I've had have dealt with (1) the cables being tangled up--I have a cycle computer that I put on it and it stopped working b/c the cable was too tight, etc.; (2) more than ocassional flats, which hopefully have been rectified. hve to be very careful watching the roads!

    Other than taht, I'm very happy with the way it rides. Also: BF will customize the frame to your weight on a NWT, which is good for those of us who are taller and, consequently, heavier...

    I'm planning on taking it to CA to ride it between SF and LA on HW#1. I'm thinking 2 back panniers, instead of the trailer, given that I already have the panniers.

    has anyone else done this ride on a folder??? Any recommendations?

  18. #18
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by in-transit
    Many thanks for the replies/advice. My original post probably suggested I was leaning towards a Bike Friday, and as I don't anticipate getting another folder in the future I'm now more inclined to pay the extra for the quality & upgradeability (sp?). The Pocket Llama still looks about the best option.

    I've sent detailed emails to Dahon, Gaerlon and Bike Friday. Somewhat disappointingly none of them have replied so far.

    To answer a couple of Qs posed, my idea of touring is relatively short days (not 10 hrs. in the saddle), early starts, having a tent giving me more flexibility regarding places to stay. I'd rather take public transport to the edge of a big city (unless there are dedicated cycle paths) than cycle out - guess I just don't like traffic very much!

    I originally considered 26" wheel folders but decided that the 'airline suitcase package' was more important. I'd anticipate riding on rough tracks mainly for day trips with a light load. I am attracted to the BF suitcase/trailer concept due to the flexibility - you can do a one-way trip towing, or a circular one with the case stored. I don't have a bike that would be suitable for retro-fitting couplers.

    Any opinions on the pros & cons of the 'dual drive' hub system?

    Once again thanks for your time & opinions. Hopefully I can report back next year on my own experiences.
    I am surprised that neither Bike Friday nor J. Gaerlan replied to your e-mails.

    Pros & cons of the Dual Drive system:

    + Provides a very wide drivetrain and it is easy to adjust the system for small wheels.

    + Easy to adjust the gearing of the drivetrain. Either change the cassette or change the single chainring.

    + Hub has minimal maintenance and high degree of reliability.

    + Change gears while stopped.

    + No front derailer.

    - Adds about 1 pound to overall weight.

    - Small loss in efficiency.

    - If something does go wrong, then you have a lot of work on your hands.

    We seriously considered the Dual Drive system; but in the end, we went for a more traditional drivetrain with the Capreo cassette.

    If you are seriously looking at the Bike Fridays, then you may want to sift through the Bike Friday YAK group (see the BF website).

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    I did settle on a Bike Friday, picking it up from the factory in Eugene, Or. and doing a 2 month camping tour in Utah/Colorado (heavily laden with winter gear - panniers & suitcase/trailer). This wasn't the type of trip I primarily bought the bike for, but I've been wanting to return to that part of the world since my first visit. It handled the considerable weight with no problems and seems mechanically sound. I was glad to have the 27 speed range and was pleased I didn't go for the dual-drive hub.

    I have every confidence in taking it with me for the travelling I intend doing in SE Asia & Nepal next near, using the suitcase/trailer system on occasions, sometimes storing it temporarily for a shorter side-trip. Packing the bike in the case takes some time, but the quick fold for a bus/train journey takes only seconds.

    I flew from Denver to London 2 weeks ago & was concerned about possible damage to the bike during the security check - with good reason. Though it went through with no extra charges (Lufthansa) it was suggested by a TSA supervisor that I get it x-rayed & inspected at the 'oversize' section so that I could watch the inspection. Even though I had put photos on the inside of the case with instructions stressing the importance of replacing parts in their correct location, the inspector tried to force the case closed with parts of the bike sticking out. I yelled out somewhat aggressively & was told by his supervisor to come & sort it out myself (even though the signs indicated that members of the public were not allowed in the inspection area). The bike was packed properly and apologies made by all concerned. Had I not been there the bike would almost certainly have been damaged.

    A full trip report should appear in another more appropriate section of this forum when I have the time.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Zonker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand
    I am surprised that neither Bike Friday nor J. Gaerlan replied to your e-mails.

    Pros & cons of the Dual Drive system:

    + Provides a very wide drivetrain and it is easy to adjust the system for small wheels.

    + Easy to adjust the gearing of the drivetrain. Either change the cassette or change the single chainring.

    + Hub has minimal maintenance and high degree of reliability.

    + Change gears while stopped.

    + No front derailer.

    - Adds about 1 pound to overall weight.

    - Small loss in efficiency.

    - If something does go wrong, then you have a lot of work on your hands.

    We seriously considered the Dual Drive system; but in the end, we went for a more traditional drivetrain with the Capreo cassette.

    If you are seriously looking at the Bike Fridays, then you may want to sift through the Bike Friday YAK group (see the BF website).

    I recently ordered a NWT and the sales rep raved about the dual drive system, and I went with it. Now, I'm getting nervous! My GF and I am looking to do the GAP Trail and the C&O combined, about 7-8 days of riding, in the Fall.
    waiting for a (Bike) Friday!

  21. #21
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Glad to hear that you went with the Bike Fridays. We have been happy with ours.

    A word of warning regarding the front derailer ... be careful while folding the bike. Almost always, the chain falls off during a fold causing the chain to hang on the front derailer. Consequently, if you spin the wheel during the fold, you can put a lot of force on the derailer and derailer mount.

    Long story short, after on careless incident, I have learned a great deal about bending derailers and derailer braze-on mounts.

    You might want to ask about the chain keeper for the NWT. Essentially, it prevents the chain from falling of the small chainring from underneath during a fold preventing front derailer damage.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Zonker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand
    Glad to hear that you went with the Bike Fridays. We have been happy with ours.

    A word of warning regarding the front derailer ... be careful while folding the bike. Almost always, the chain falls off during a fold causing the chain to hang on the front derailer. Consequently, if you spin the wheel during the fold, you can put a lot of force on the derailer and derailer mount.

    Long story short, after on careless incident, I have learned a great deal about bending derailers and derailer braze-on mounts.

    You might want to ask about the chain keeper for the NWT. Essentially, it prevents the chain from falling of the small chainring from underneath during a fold preventing front derailer damage.
    It looks to be included as a freebie, this is from my confirmation email: Chainring Protectors 10204
    BF Pocket Bike Chain Retainer (specify chainring 1 $15.00 gift ...$15.00 is subtracted from the total.

    Also...no front derailleur, as I went with the dual drive system...maybe that's why the sales rep recommended it for touring/traveling?
    waiting for a (Bike) Friday!

  23. #23
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zonker
    It looks to be included as a freebie, this is from my confirmation email: Chainring Protectors 10204
    BF Pocket Bike Chain Retainer (specify chainring 1 $15.00 gift ...$15.00 is subtracted from the total.

    Also...no front derailleur, as I went with the dual drive system...maybe that's why the sales rep recommended it for touring/traveling?
    Hey Zonker,

    I did not know that the chain retainer came with Dual Drive. But it will be useful since the chain would fall off the single chainring in the same fashion as it falls off my granny chainring.

    Quick folding a Bike Friday with the Dual Drive is much easier--perhaps I should write more robust instead of faster--so it makes sense to use it for touring since weight is less of an issue and quick folding is more useful. One can also get a wider gear range with the Dual Drive than a standard Shimano triple setup.

    We are thinking of doing the whole Pitt-DC ride later in the year. Although a few other things look like they will interfere with those plans.

    -G

  24. #24
    Senior Member Zonker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand
    We are thinking of doing the whole Pitt-DC ride later in the year. Although a few other things look like they will interfere with those plans.

    -G
    So are we!...which prompted me to sell the Birdy Mono (9 speed only) and go with the BF for more gears/bigger wheels, not to mention that I am in love (lust?) with the idea of flying in, popping the BF out of the travel case, attaching the trailer, and riding off.
    waiting for a (Bike) Friday!

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    They do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by maunakea View Post
    On international segments, NW does not charge for a bike. Domestically, it's a different story.

    NW airlines now charges $150 each way (Europe) for a bike. New rules 2007.

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