Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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BF Pocket Llama in Ecuador
So I'm in Ecuador touring around on my new Bike Friday Pocket Llama.
The first test: how will it deal with some offroading? I signed up for a tour with "the Biking Dutchman" tour company out of Quito for the one day Cotopaxi tour. Cotopaxi is the worlds highest active volcano with jeep trails and off road parts. The tour company usually provides high end, but beat up bikes with front suspension. The Pocket Llama kept up with everybody else in our tour group with relative ease. By lunch however the headset needed to be tightened because of some of the rough terrain the bike handled at pretty high speeds. After tightening it I was back on track for the afternoon and had a blast.
Cycling through Cuenca: Today I rode from Cuenca to Banos which was mostly up hill on the way there. Some of the roads were quite steep and I had the Pocket Llama in the lowest granny gear for some parts. My girlfriend, a former bike tour guide was impressed with the bike's ability to tackle hills that her rented, full sized mountain couldn't tackle. Being at altitude it is especially difficult to tackle any incline. I found nothing that the Pocket Llama couldn't handle. On the way back from banos, the Pocket Llama handled the high speeds admirably. I had no problems keeping up with cars and decided to "play with the steering" a bit. It does feel a bit less stable with the smaller wheels but there were no real problems.
While riding down Cotopaxi there were certain portions of the road that were "washboard". With the 20" wheels this was particularly tooth rattling but easing up on the grips helped. By lunch some of the group was complaining of wrist pain. I had none. Still, I know that some of the bumps would have been easier with 26" wheels and some of the loose trails were a bit tricky with the 20" wheels.
In Cuenca, some of the curbs were very high. Not easy to "curb hop" as it would be with 26" tires.
The big problem: Flying. Every time I get on an airplane with the bike and the hard shell case I find that the large chain ring gets bent. I follow the packing instructions to the letter but still, bent chain rings. I'm a tall guy so my bike is as big as they come. This means less room for the chain ring and it bashes against the side of the hard case, bending. I've had the ring bent back in Quito and tried to get it fixed in Cuenca but can't find a replacement chain ring anywhere.
The ugly: Bike Friday is supposed to be known as a company that puts customer support first. This is not what have found by personal experience. I have emailed and phoned Green Gear cycling. Not only have they not provided me with any solutions to fix my problems. My first email was ignored completely. I phoned from Ecuador and was promised an email response, I received none. This is not exactly what I had envisioned when I made the decision to purchase.
I have sent Bike Friday a follow up email and will base my final decision on how to deal with the situation.