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  1. #1
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    I think the folding touring bike issue is resolved

    And a pair of Bike Fridays is in our future.

    We called in to the Bike Friday factory on Tuesday as we headed back to Canada, and spoke at length to Hugh in the office, as well as test rode a couple of bikes.

    Over the past several months we've had discussions here on the Touring Forum and between ourselves about what folding bike we would tour overseas with in the future.

    Basically, it came down to a choice between two bikes -- the Brompton from the UK, and the Bike Friday from the US.

    As I saw it up to Tuesday, the disadvantage for the BF compared with the Brompton was fast foldability when getting to a train station. The Brompton seemed so easy from what I had seen, whereas, from the information that I had gleaned about the BF was that it needed a take-apart akin to a full dismantle.

    Well, the misconceptions have been resolved. The take-apart for the New World Tourist relates to packing up for air travel.

    Otherwise, a fold-down of the rear triangle, the seat and the steerer, plus slipping the whole lot into the carrybag was needed for compact train travel.

    Really, it's not much different from the Brompton... although I am still a little uncertain whether a front rack would complicate things.

    The other distinct advantage of the Bike Fridays, as I see it, is that they aren't limited like the Bromptons in drivetrain options.

    Effectively, I can spec the bike with just about anything I would have on a full-size touring bike, including drop bars, cranks, shifters, derailleurs, and so on.

    Likely, however, that we will get the very basic NWT model, and swap out the parts we feel most comfortable with ourselves, if I can get them cheaper or pirate them from the parts bins.

    We did do a short test ride, albeit unloaded with standard, flatbar bikes. So I still don't know about the flex issues that some have highlighted. But among our other decisions for overseas travel is to tour lighter than we have on this trip, so flex might not be as much as issue. We also would prefer to have the bars wider than they were, but that's a minor option issue.

    The bikes also felt a little twitchy first time along the bike path in Eugene, but after about five minutes, we both seemed to adapted to it... something we do in switching back from the tandem to the singles anyway.

    Now all we have to do is organise the finances, and see how we can go about acquiring a pair of the NWTs. Seems like a trip back to the US in about 12 months' time will be in order so we can pick up some new BFs, and tour the joys of South-Western Utah's national parks, or the Pacific Coast... both!

    By the way, Hugh was great to talk to. He knew intimately about cycle touring and a bit about randonnees, so we weren't starting from a handicap in understanding there.

    As to the Thorns we've used on this trip, they have proved themselves enough to be used as domestic touring bikes, while my old Fuji Touring will likely serve as a commuter if and when I get to that point again.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  2. #2
    Senior Member tourer78's Avatar
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    Nice choice, I have slowly swapped components on our pocket sports over the last 18 months or so, partly for function and partly to have the bits and pieces just how I like them!! I think you will be pleased with the bike fridays whichever model/ setup you choose. Happy travels!!

  3. #3
    nun
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    Did you consider Tern?

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    The Tikit, is the BF for the folding commute Niche.. shares Brompton's Wheel size.
    fast fold, seat height unchanged, fold not telescope.

    The travel Bikes as described mix a slower fold,

    quite stiff, on my new to me P Llama,
    [ Buying someone else's BTO , (refused due to color) ] and a knocks Down..
    to suitcase pack.
    It came with a different fork to use an Aluminum fold down steering post..

    (as explained)
    The EZ pack fork steerer pinches the parts above, with a collar above the headset, they make .

    The folding one fits with a wedge like Quill Stems , [& Brompton] the bolt head
    inside the lower half,open hinge exposed..

    they don't slit the steerer tube on those..

    NB the front rack Comes off then the cross brace unbolts, to pack flat..

    I found getting (unplanned, as I said) the heavy rider frame
    gives a front triangle to lock thru onto racks..

    Sleeve lined hole welded in across the single boom tube, might be an improvement.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-20-12 at 11:54 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun View Post
    Did you consider Tern?
    The Tern (and Dahon) hinge mechanism just doesn't appeal to me. I would probably get a knock-off version (as made by Hasa in Taiwan) if we were commuting by train in Melbourne, for example.

    For the type of touring I envisage on a folding bike, I think the BF fits the bill nicely in terms of the folding mechanisms.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  6. #6
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Rowan, when I was touring down south last year, there must have been a half dozen people with Bike Fridays in the group and for what it's worth, they had nothing but good things to say about them.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I'm sorry I didn't know you were going to be in Eugene area. You and Machka would have been more than welcome to stay at our place.

    Some friends have a BF tandem, which they commute on daily as well as travel extensively with it. They have only positive things to say about it.

    While I don't have a BF, I do go into their shop occasionally. I have a BF trailer that I use for grocery and other light hauling needs. I have needed small replacement parts for the trailer, and the folks there are really good to deal with. Someday, I might just test ride one.
    Last edited by Doug64; 12-20-12 at 11:28 PM.

  8. #8
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    Love my NWT. Most comfortable bike I own, including my more expensive full custom, and while it certainly wasn't very smart, I abused the hell out of my BF when I lived in California and still didn't break it.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    I'm sorry I didn't know you were going to be in Eugene area. You and Machka would have been more than welcome to stay at our place.
    Thanks! We didn't realise you were in Eugene. We did pass through the area rather quickly ... but we took a moment to stop at the BF shop and test ride a couple bicycles.

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    Since you guys have much experience with traveling w/full-sized bikes, I'm kinda wondering the interest in folders? Sure they can be convenient but I had the idea that many folder fans were types that traveled on business & wanted the folder convenience for local riding/short touring. Only personal experience I have is riding a modest Dahon folder that a friend keeps at his Miami condo. Fun for shorter rides but no comparison to the nice BF tourers.

  11. #11
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    We'd buy them for overseas trips, and we have some ideas in mind for those into the future.

    The issues are airline transport costs, cost and convenience travelling on trains, security in keeping bikes in our rooms (some of the rooms and even elevators in Europe are remarkably small), and even taking them into pubs and restaurants (yep, we saw this done with folders, too).

    Machka and I have done a fair bit of international travel with bikes, and it's getting more and more difficult with airlines to get a clear run. We figure the cost of buying the BF would be offset with only a few trips...

    The security aspect figures very highly on our agenda after Machka's favourite bike was stolen less than three feet outside our tent two Easters ago.

    As to handling, stiffness and comfort, we can only be guided by what others such as friends and posters on various forums have said. And the vast majority have been totally positive. We shall see.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    What Rowan said above, plus ...


    We have a variety of touring styles. We like point-to-point tours of various lengths, hub-and-spoke tours, multi-mode tours, etc. etc.

    On our current RTW tour, we've gone with quite a mix of touring styles.


    For example, we flew into Taipei, then took a shuttle to the train station, then arranged to have our bicycles put on the train, then took the train to Hualien. There, we did a 4-day hub-and-spoke tour before repeating the journey in reverse back to Taipei. We were able to do that with our full-sized touring bicycles, but it was a hassle.

    -- It would have been so much easier to transport folding bicycles in the shuttles. On the way to the train station, we had to arrange a shuttle that did not have any other passengers, so our travel time was at the mercy of the shuttle availability. On the way back, the regularly scheduled shuttles were full and we had to pay for a special shuttle. If we had folders, we could have put them on any shuttle and they would have saved us money.

    -- On the train, it might have been possible to put the folders in the luggage area rather than having to make special arrangements for them in an unfamiliar language.

    -- The full-sized touring bicycles fit in the hotel we stayed in all right, but the folders would have been easier to transport up and down, and would have left us with a bit more elbow room.



    Another example, when we got to Hokkaido, Japan we found out that full-sized bicycles are not allowed on the trains. We had thought we might cycle northward or eastward from Chitose, and then catch a train back when our 10 days was up, but since we couldn't use the trains, that idea was out, so we had to come up with another plan. We'd like to have the option of catching the train on our next trip there, and I believe folding bikes are allowed on the trains.


    Folders could also replace the hassle of rushing to put the bicycles onto the bicycle car of the trains in Europe, hoping there would be enough room for them, paying extra for them, having to carry the bicycles up and down stairs when the lifts weren't there or were out of order or were too small, etc. etc. And ... I probably wouldn't have fallen out of one of the trains when we encountered a difficult bicycle storage situation (see the Switzerland part of my journal) if we had folding bicycles.

  13. #13
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I had a NWT many years ago and loved it. Circumstances at the time required that I sell it. Eventually I plan to get another one. The new ones have many upgrades that make them even better than the ones from the early 90's. If I were doing multi-modal touring like you the NWT would be my first choice. For multi-modal commuting the Brompton or possibly the BF Tikit.

    I think you have made a well informed choice for what you need.

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  14. #14
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    Rowan, I had a NWT with Llama front fork so I could ride with a 2.0 Fat Apple tire. Seriously worth considering as the contact patch was only about 3/4" wide but made for more comfortable handling in crappy asphalt with no real deficiency in speed given a touring load.

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    DBF, the BF travel bikes are less quick Fold. rather they are a partial folds and knock down combination,
    to pack small enough to go in a suitcase.

    406 wheel type is another planet wide spare tire to find in 'the sticks'

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    Rowan, I had a NWT with Llama front fork so I could ride with a 2.0 Fat Apple tire. Seriously worth considering as the contact patch was only about 3/4" wide but made for more comfortable handling in crappy asphalt with no real deficiency in speed given a touring load.
    Thanks for the tip. How does the rear triangle handle the wider tyres?

    One of the nicer things about BF compared with the Brompton is that there are all sorts of options that can be put on the order list, and of course the sky's the limit (both options and price-wise).

    I haven't got the Brompton brochure in front of me, but I got the impression that except for the handlebar configuration, the overall options list was quite limited.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Thanks for the tip. How does the rear triangle handle the wider tyres?

    One of the nicer things about BF compared with the Brompton is that there are all sorts of options that can be put on the order list, and of course the sky's the limit (both options and price-wise).

    I haven't got the Brompton brochure in front of me, but I got the impression that except for the handlebar configuration, the overall options list was quite limited.
    The NWT rear triangle could take a 1.75 tire, I had it set up with a 1.6 Supreme and 2.0 Big Apple front. Hopefully the QC on the 20" Supremes is better as one of the ones I got had an objectionable hop. I commuted a couple months 25miles a day with loaded front panniers and bag on rear rack. There's something about the high aft mounted rear rack that just looks wrong. I used a cheap Sunlite rear rack with the legs cut down so it rested right above the fender with an expandable Jandd rear rack bag occupying the space all the way up to the underside of the saddle. On smooth pavement the Big Apple felt faster than the stock Kenda Contact and PrimoVmonster(the ones with tight blocks). The BA also handled gravel better than the 1.95 Kenda handled speed, I mean the tight block tires were great going down fast curves and sticking to the road but on the flats pedaling fast you could tell they were a bit more effort than the BA.
    Something else, if you're riding on wet roads it really helps if the front fender extends forward of the fork. I had one of those front fenders that only mounted back of the fork and while it was adequate for spray up from the back of the front tire an unforeseen aspect of 20" tires is that it carried water forward of the fork and above 15mph it shot a stream of water up into the wind then back at my face. Not quite as bad as following someones wheel in the rain but almost.

  18. #18
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    Maybe you have mental telepathy. From what I could see, the fenders now are as you wished.

    I am not sure about the rear rack, but I didn't look extraordinarily out of place, and still have plenty of height above it to accommodate a Nelson Longflap or Camper. I wasn't so impressed with the flat alloy stock bar used as the front stays, however, and would probably fabricate my own tubular ones for greater stability.

    I liked that the bike could be folded down without the rear rack being removed, however. And I probably wouldn't opt for a front rack.

    I had blocked tyres on the bike I test road, and I know that as soon as I hear noise from a tyre, that's wasted energy. I would probably opt for a smooth tyre -- offroad riding isn't something we'd do much of, I think, except for short lengths of good gravel to access campgrounds like those in the Canadian Rockies (up to 2km), .

    Anyway, there is plenty of time between now and then to consider the options... plus save the money and plan our next North American trip to do the pick-up.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I got a Pocket Llama, rare But, Ive seen the NWT fatiguing the 'dropout' at the top of the seat stay.

    My P L joins as a Monotube on both ends of the rear end, upper and lower, and up top,
    fits a different 'dropout' on the sides of it.

    One thing is the NWT has a Lower BB , but I quickly got used to sliding off the saddle at stops.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    I got a Pocket Llama, rare But, Ive seen the NWT fatiguing the 'dropout' at the top of the seat stay.

    My P L joins as a Monotube on both ends of the rear end, upper and lower, and up top,
    fits a different 'dropout' on the sides of it.

    One thing is the NWT has a Lower BB , but I quickly got used to sliding off the saddle at stops.
    Hopefully they fixed the design because the exact same thing happened to the NWT I sold. The fellow called that afternoon and said it broke just as he put it together, I took the bike back and gave him his money. It's obvious the Big Llama is a more robust setup but itshouldn't have happened to begin with.

  21. #21
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    I travelled from Portland to San Francisco on my NWT this summer and was fairly happy with it. Only issue was that the rim brakes heated the rims quickly on long descents and seem to wear the rim more then I had expected.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    We'd buy them for overseas trips, and we have some ideas in mind for those into the future.

    The issues are airline transport costs, cost and convenience travelling on trains, security in keeping bikes in our rooms (some of the rooms and even elevators in Europe are remarkably small), and even taking them into pubs and restaurants (yep, we saw this done with folders, too).

    Machka and I have done a fair bit of international travel with bikes, and it's getting more and more difficult with airlines to get a clear run. We figure the cost of buying the BF would be offset with only a few trips...

    The security aspect figures very highly on our agenda after Machka's favourite bike was stolen less than three feet outside our tent two Easters ago.

    As to handling, stiffness and comfort, we can only be guided by what others such as friends and posters on various forums have said. And the vast majority have been totally positive. We shall see.

    Thanks for the answers--I've long been intrigued by folders but had thought air/train travel w/full-size bikes was fairly easy outside of US, somewhat wishful thinking I guess. Small wheels probably not a big problem unless one is trying to set records. I've thought folders can be a great answer for US commuters...drive the bulk of distance until hitting high-traffic areas & then yank folder out of the trunk to go last 3 miles! Dutch micro-folders let one ride to the commuter train & ride off to destination! Sorry to hear about the bike theft: I read about a German guy who rode 'round the world & was on last leg of journey in UK when his bike was stolen. Thievery is main reason I didn't order my pricey dream bike--I like an all-purpose bike that can be used for commuting/shopping etc. Once drove my car to the beach & buried the keys under a towel--a jerk stole the keys (got nothing) but it ruined the trip for sure.

  23. #23
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    Sounds like a great solution. I was hoping for something less glaringly obvious when I first saw the title, but it is good to have it confirmed from such a seasoned perspective. Plus what fun is it to come up with a solution that involves a piece of gear one already owns. I am willing to invent a trip the only solution to which is a BF, if I get to have one...

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