OK, I've had 2 somewhat short rides on my Air Friday, so I'm going to do a little bit of a review. I have 2 other bikes that I'm going to compare it with, neither of which is really a good comparison. The first is my Downtube FS IX, the second is my Cannondale road bike.
1. I gave BF a call and talked to them about my bike. After I gave them the serial number, they were able to tell me about the original owner, and all sorts of stuff about the bike. It's pretty impressive the records they keep. Hugh was the guy I talked to and he had all sorts of advice for me. Keep in mind, I bought the bike used...BF hasn't made of dime off me.....but they will. If you are buying a used Friday, get the serial number and talk to someone at BF about the bike. They'll probably know a lot about it.
2. My bike is a 1997 model. It has Shimano 600 (Ultegra) components. The bike itself doesn't really look like it has that many miles. Everything feels pretty tight and I don't notice many squeaks or areas of concern. It seems to have been well taken care of. It's pretty amazing that a 10 year old bike has held it's value as well as this one has. I think that is the biggest testament of the BF quality. If you were to buy a $20k car in 1997, it might be worth $5k now. I'd say I paid about 1/2 of what it was originally purchased for. It's held it's value well.
The 600 shifters take a lot of motion to change gears. I think that's just part of the design, but that's the biggest thing I notice about it compared to my road bike with newer Ultegra components.
3. I was concerned about the Air Friday seat beam. People talked about the bouncing that you can get into with them. Well, it does exist. At certain cadences, the beam does bounce a little. That cadence is a bit above what I normally ride at (it happens at maybe 110 rpm), so I only hit is when going downhill and I should shift. The beam really smooths out of the road. I road for 45 minutes on Tuesday and Wednesday on an unoccupied car racetrack. No traffic, but it's a little bumpy. That beam really soaks the bumps up. It also seems to soak up the stuff from the front end as well as the rear. Having said that, it doesn't feel like it soaks it up in the same manner that a suspension bike does. It's as smooth as my DT FS over bumps, but it does so in a much more controlled manner. The DT seems to 'pop off' over bumps a lot. This doesn't. I think because the pedaling loads contribute to the problem on the DT.
I didn't have any big hills to climb, but if I did, I'd guess that there is a fair bit of flex in the handlebar/stem area. It's fine when you're just cruising (even at road bike speeds), but in a sprint or on a steep hill out of the saddle I could see it being an issue. The rear triangle / frame is pretty stinkin' stiff. The actual frame of the bike is pretty solid. In a completely unfair comparison, the DT frame moves around _a lot_ more than this does. I've always felt like my DT frame clamp was pretty solid, but the swingarm is an issue. Like I've said many times, if I were to do it over, I'd have gotten a hardtail DT.
4. The Downtube folds faster and more completely. It wins this competition hands down. The Air Friday seat beam slides out of the frame after loosening a couple bolts, and then the rear triangle folds around after undoing another bolt. All in all, I had it in my car trunk in about 2 minutes without taking the handlebars off (2 more bolts for the handlbars and a QR for the stem). The DT would have taken 20 seconds and included the handlebar fold. The difference of this is that the Friday is more of a 'packable' bike than a 'folder' that you'd use on a daily basis on a train. They're meant for different uses. The Friday fits better in a suitcase for air travel because it's disassembly is more complete and designed around that criteria. The DT is quicker and more meant to stick in a bag and hide on a metro train. In this they are just different horses for different courses.
5. The Friday is a fast bike. Forget fast folder, it's a fast bike. I'm not sure if I'm a quite as fast and on my Cannondale, but it's got to be close. The 451 tires roll smoothly and beg to be ridden at full speed. The gearing is good road gearing. I'd be just fine on a group ride with all varieties of high dollar road bikes. I'm one of those that don't believe smaller tires are faster, but I will say that these are about as close as you're going to get to a 700 wheel.
6. At medium speeds (Maybe, 8-12 mph) the DT is probably the better handling bike. It feels maneuverable, but not twitchy. At that speed, the Friday is twitchy. You're in a road bike posture, with the front having a lot of weight on it. The front feels twitchy compared to the more upright position of the DT. Once you get going, the Friday smooths out nicely. At around 20 mph it's handling is similar to my road bike and the ride is smoother. I think this is a bit of a testament to how well thought out the DT geometry really it. In the range of speed that a DT spends most of it's time, it's a very nice handling bike. When trying to make time on a DT, though, I'd only get to 15-16 mph. On the Friday it's going to be 19-20 for a similar ride.
7. By having suspension front and rear the DT has some pretenses of being an off-road bike, which it's not. The Friday makes no bones about it. Don't ride me anywhere but on pavement.
So there you go. That's what I've figured out about my bike so far. I can see upgrading to newer Ultegra shifters and new tires (the old ones are showing minor dry rot). The gearing has already been discussed, but that's about it. Oh ya, and a seat. Right now it has a Bontrager that I don't care for. I'll need a Terry Fly to make me happy.
So there we go.