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bike friday vs S and S couplers

Old 12-17-21, 11:19 AM
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bike friday vs S and S couplers

RE: bike friday vs S and S couplers
I"m leaning towards bike friday based on what I assume bike friday is smaller, somewhat lighter, and somewhat easier to get into a regulation suitcase for flying.

Are these assumptions correct?

your thoughts, one vs. the other?
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Old 12-17-21, 12:00 PM
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You are correct that Bike Friday is smaller, somewhat lighter, and easier to get into a regular suitcase than a full-sized S&S coupled bike.

I have had both Bike Fridays and S&S coupled bikes. Part of your decision needs to be what you plan to do at the destination and for how long. Based on what you want to do, the S&S frame may be a better choice, or it could be that the Bike Friday is the better choice for you.
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Old 12-17-21, 12:54 PM
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I own and have ridden both a Bike Friday (Air Friday) and an S&S coupled steel bike on multi-day tours and event rides (Italian granfondi, French sportif and US centuries).

The Friday transforms more easily between its riding and collapsed states than the S&S bike, so is easier to stash in the trunk of a small car or take on board a train. The small wheels essentially give you a 20% lower gear in the same gear combination as a "full size" bike; conversely, it's a bit harder to get high gears on a Friday, though you can get a Shimano Capreo hub with a 9-tooth high gear (9-speed in stock form, but Bike Friday sells a version modified for 10 cogs).

On the flip side, all the folding parts make for a vaguer feel to the Friday. My first reaction after I haven't ridden it for a while is, "Do I have a flat tire?". And, of course, it can be harder to find tires and tubes (406 or 451 ETRTO size).

The S&S couplers are very secure and rigid. Their website even has a page of tests showing a coupled tube to be more resistant to twisting and bending than the same tube w/o the coupler.
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Old 12-17-21, 12:59 PM
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How hard the S&S coupled bike is to pack depends in part on how large it is.

Most of the time I can disassemble and pack my 62 cm (about as big as will fit into the standard 26x26x10" case) in an hour. Sometimes, it just doesn't want to fit. After an hour and a half I've been known to give up and put the saddle and seatpost in my clothes bag.

OTOH, I've watched other people pack their 48-54 cm bikes in awe. They don't have to take everything apart! And there's still room in the case when they're done!
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Old 12-17-21, 03:12 PM
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Is this for frequent flying to business destinations? To long tours? Is it for domestic travel or internaional travel? For getting to and from tours in the continental US and even some international travel you may find that a regular bike and a cardboard box makses sense with the current rate structures that allows flying with no extra fee and no requirement to fit in a 62" case on many airlines that previously charged large fees.

The main reason to buy couplers was to avoid those fees, but if you can fly on airlines that don't charge them there may be no reason for them.
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Old 12-17-21, 03:21 PM
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or change bike if wanting larger wheels.
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Old 12-17-21, 03:59 PM
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I have both an S&S coupled (Waterford) touring bike and a New World Tourist Bike Friday. I have toured on both of them on over 4 week trips. I've written articles about both of them, as well. One is a look back at 10 years of touring with an S&S coupled bike the other is my review of the Bike Friday New World Tourist.

I like both of them. When I have both of them in the same place, I prefer to ride the Waterford as it just feels better to ride. Normally, I keep the Bike Friday in England with some relatives for any tours I might do in Europe, which saves me from flying over to the UK with it. I still have to fly from the UK to Europe with it, however.

There is no question that the Bike Friday takes less time and effort to pack and unpack. For me, it is about 30 minutes to disassemble and pack and a bit longer to unpack and reassemble. The Waterford, on the other hand, takes more like 90 minutes to both pack and unpack.

One important difference between the two is the cases they pack into. The Bike Friday is a regular Samsonite case that has a pull-up handle and 4 wheels. Moving it around is greatly eased by these case features. The case for the Waterford, on the other hand, is square and 26x26x10, the exact dimensions allowed for checked luggage on (domestic) airlines. It has two small wheels on one edge and a metal handle on the other. To move it requires lifting on the handle, tilting it and rolling it on the 2 wheels. This puts a fair amount of strain on my arm and gets tiring after a relatively short distance. While this works OK on flat surfaces, on anything else, it is hard work.If you plan on traveling with the bike (versus "on" the bike) the Bike Friday is, by far, the easier case to deal with. Note that I bought the case for the Waterford in 2003, so it is possible that a newer style case is available. Also, I believe the case for the Bike Friday is larger than the 62 linear inches allowed to fly without charge on US Domestic Airlines (I don't have the case with me to actually measure). I've never flown domestically with the Bike Friday so don't know if that is a problem or not. I have flown dozens of time with the Waterford in its case and not once been charged an extra fee.

While the Bike Friday looks funny (I always think of it as "clown bike"), it rides fine. It is a bit more "twitchy" than the Waterford. Another way to put it is that it is very responsive to small handlebar movements. This is unnerving at first, but something one gets used to. That said, I am very careful when I take one hand off the handlebars to itch my face. Also, going over bad asphalt or big bumps requires care. I have no qualms about taking a long bike tour on the Bike Friday. On my last tour, I rode it up and over the Grossglockner Pass (highest paved road in Austria). On the way down, I decided to get the bike over 40 MPH. It was scary but the bike managed without problems. However, I will never do that again. I'd have less worry about the Waterford and, in fact, once found myself coasting downhill at 48 MPH. In fact, I think it is a bit easier to climb with the Bike Friday.

One important issue with the Bike Friday is on-bike packing. While I suspect it is possible to put front panniers on the Bike Friday, I never have. The small front wheels would require careful research to find just the right combo of racks and/or bags. I carry 2 rear panniers (I neither camp or cook when I tour) on the rear rack sold by Bike Friday. It gives the bike a very heavy rear end, which I counterbalance with a large bag on a small front shelf. This likely affects the handling. If you plan to tour with 4 bags or bikepacking bags attached, you need to be sure that the Bike Friday can actually carry all the gear you tour with.

There doesn't appear to be a way to stand over the Bike Friday and not have the front wheel twist. I've tried all kinds of things and now, when I am standing over the bike and taking a photo and the front wheel begins twisting, I just let the bike fall down. This doesn't happen on the Waterford.

I really like being able to simply step over the low crossbar of the Bike Friday to mount the bike instead of having to swing my leg over the seat, like is required on the Waterford.

As to your specific questions, I would say that both bike weigh about the same. The Bike Friday is smaller but has more substantial metal parts. The Waterford is a bigger bike but the metal parts have a smaller diameter.

It certainly is easier to get the Bike Friday into its case. However, I'm not completely certain that it's case is "regulation." Someone else who has flown with the Bike Friday will have to answer that. I've never had a problem flying with it, but I usually fly on international flights, where the allowed dimensions are more generous.

One my next planned tour (that was cancelled in early 2020), I had planned to take trains on some sections of the route. Bike Friday sells a bag that the folded bike fits into for just this purpose. I bought one of these bags and plan to take it with me on the next Bike Friday tour. I have tried to put the folded bike into this bag and found that it is easier said than done and requires a few things removed from the bike before this is possible. There is no way to do a similar thing with the Waterford.

One last thing. I have found the parts that come standard on the Bike Friday to be of lesser quality than what came on the Waterford. On my first tour, the adjustment screw on the rear brake was stripped and I had to deal with it. On my second tour, this brake arm failed and required some MacGyvering. I've since replaced the brakes on the bike. In almost 20 years with the Waterford, I've not had to replace brake arms. I suspect the other components are not so durable, either. Thus, the Bike Friday requires more and more careful maintenance.

Last edited by raybo; 12-17-21 at 04:03 PM.
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Old 12-17-21, 04:42 PM
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On the mention of cases....
Not sure about your planned usage. For me a hard case would be a big hassle most of the time. I pretty much never start and finish a tour in the same place. My start and finish are usually at least 1000 miles apart so that would leave the problem of shipping the empty case. Soft cases or cardboard boxes may fill that need a little better depending on your specific needs.
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Old 12-17-21, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
On the mention of cases....
Not sure about your planned usage. For me a hard case would be a big hassle most of the time. I pretty much never start and finish a tour in the same place. My start and finish are usually at least 1000 miles apart so that would leave the problem of shipping the empty case. Soft cases or cardboard boxes may fill that need a little better depending on your specific needs.
I have sent my hard-sided bike case to my destination several times. While it is one more step in the process of preparing to leave, I don't find it all that much trouble. I've shipped things in the US, from the US to Canada, from one European country to another. The absolute worst was sending a case from Italy to Switzerland. Don't do that.

I've considered using a customized cardboard box to ship a bike, but I like the protection a hard-sided case provides. In dozens of flights, my bike hasn't been damaged once.

I consider shipping my bike's case as part of my planning process. There are several huge companies very good at shipping things from one place to another. I wouldn't let this affect my decision of what kind of bike to take or where I start and finish my tours. This can usually be done for less than $100 (Switzerland would be an exception).
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Old 12-17-21, 05:35 PM
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All good info in the replies assuming you actually need couplers or a bike friday, Just remember that for domestic travel you really don't need to pack in a 62" case these days. The major airlines have largely done away with the $$$ bike fees that were prevalent. The box flys as a piece of luggage without an oversize fee. You can take a full size bike as one of your bags and the setup time is very quick compared to a coupled bike. For many (most?) people you won't recover the cost of the couplers in saved fees like you would have in the past when bike fees were worse.

Again this depends on your usage, when where you fly, various logistics, and so on.
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Old 12-17-21, 06:28 PM
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I also own both a Bike Friday NWT and a coupler equipped bike with 26" wheels (there seem to be a lot of us -- I'm quite surprised). I'll just echo everything Raybo says, which is a good summary of both bikes. My NWT takes under 30 minutes to pack/unpack, and my Bilenky takes closer to 2 hours, all told. I really miss the top tube on the NWT, and the bike does fall over when I forget it's not there. Both bikes ride well, with the smaller wheel having quicker steering.

With the demise of the 62" luggage limit, the cost equation has changed -- you can ship pretty much any bike as regular luggage without an upcharge. Maneuvering a large case around is a complete PITA, especially if you need to transport it in a smaller vehicle, so there's still a use case for a bike that packs easily.
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Old 12-17-21, 10:05 PM
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I have never ridden a Bike Friday, but have a folder with 24 inch wheels. I assume the ride is comparable but teh Bike Friday should pack much faster.

I need about an hour and a half to pack or unpack and assemble my S&S bike.

You were silent on what type of tour, paved or offroad, camping or credit card, foreign or domestic, etc. I would expect that for some things a S&S will be better, some things the Bike Friday.

The tours I did with my S&S bike were four or five weeks long, thus those hours of packing or unpacking were minimal compared to the hours riding. And I built up the bike myself, so disassembly and re-assembly is time consuming but does not stress me out, but some that are less mechanically inclined could have difficulty or find it to be a bit stressful.

I did a ACA self supported tour, two people had Bike Fridays and pulled the case as a trailer on wheels. They did not need to have the case stored somewhere.

I use the S&S Backpack. I can take out the side pieces and collapse it quite flat for storage, a motel or hostel that has limited luggage space is less likely to deny storage when I can collapse it smaller.

If you were credit card touring on a 700c light weight bike, Ritchey Break Away is another coupled bike, but their bike case slightly exceeds 62 inches, but airlines usually do not measure their cases. Airlines are more concerned about weight.

If you travel by Delta or one of the other airlines that canceled their oversize fees for bikes, you may find that a full size bike is still a hassle to get to and from the airport, but not an additional cost.

ADDENDUM - added photo of bike packed in S&S case. A few things were packed in my other luggage to keep weight below 50 pounds (or 23 kg), pedals, saddle, few other bits. Also the rear rack was in other luggage, did not fit in the case with the bike. And can't fit full size fenders with the bike in the case. But, every bike is different and others may be able to pack more or less in the case. My bike in the photo has 26 inch wheels which fit better than 700c. I added a plywood center support, that was not included with the S&S Backpack case.


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Old 12-18-21, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeBaby View Post
With the demise of the 62" luggage limit, the cost equation has changed -- you can ship pretty much any bike as regular luggage without an upcharge. Maneuvering a large case around is a complete PITA, especially if you need to transport it in a smaller vehicle, so there's still a use case for a bike that packs easily.
The majority of my tours I like to ride right out of the airport. In that case a full sized bike in a cardboard box is pretty hassle free. The quick unpack and assembly is pretty nice. In some other cases I have used a soft case. It is a bit more hassle in that you have to do something with it when you get there. Mailing it home or to the city you will be flying home from (in my case that is pretty much never the one I start out from) is an extra step, but the soft case rolls up small and ships cheaply. If you aren't a weight weenie like me you could even carry it along on your ride. Carrying it until you get to a post office is a reasonable middie ground.

For an ultralight packer it is possible to get eveything, bike, clothing, camping gear, and all into the soft case and remain under the 50# limit. I have done that with a few items in a personal item sized backpack (18L REI Flash 18) that I carried with me on the plane. The backpack was used because I like having some stuff with me and I was real close on the weight limit and didn't trust the scale. I figured it was better to be under a few pounds on the soft case. Anyway it was pretty easy to carry it with the shoulder strap. I wouldn't want to walk for miles with it, but to catch shutles, buses, or other transport or to walk a few blocks it was fine.

I always figured a full size hard case would be a bigger hassle, but doable for folks who catch a shuttle to a hotel, unpack, and leave the case there until they are ready to fly home. That is supposition since I have never owned one.

BTW, my preference is usually to pay a bike shop to pack and ship my bike home rather than deal with all that in a strange city. At the end of a long tour I find I am ready to be shed of the bike and the details of shipping it home at that point paying a shop $40-60 to pack it up and another $40-60 for the actual shipping seems like a bargain at the time.
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Old 12-18-21, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
OTOH, I've watched other people pack their 48-54 cm bikes in awe. They don't have to take everything apart! And there's still room in the case when they're done!
Truth, Those of us in 62cm land....

If I had to do it again: 24in BMX wheels (you can always get rubber at walmart) and some type of "cheating" device to shrink the fork length.
On the Friday side: Taller riders I have chatted with are all over the place on weather like or dislike the bike. Never heard a bad review from under 6 footers.
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Old 12-18-21, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
On the mention of cases....
Not sure about your planned usage. For me a hard case would be a big hassle most of the time. I pretty much never start and finish a tour in the same place. My start and finish are usually at least 1000 miles apart so that would leave the problem of shipping the empty case. Soft cases or cardboard boxes may fill that need a little better depending on your specific needs.
Bike Friday has a trailer kit. I don't know about a 1000+ mile tour, but I've pulled mine on a few century-plus rides.

I took it on a train ride once. Clothes in a duffel. Duffel out of the trailer when the bike goes in. And, the duffel goes into the trailer when the bike comes out.

There is no reason a S&S couldn't have a similar trailer built, although packing the bike and trailer together might be tight. But, I often toss the trailer wheels and frame into the duffel anyway.
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Old 12-19-21, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Bike Friday has a trailer kit. I don't know about a 1000+ mile tour, but I've pulled mine on a few century-plus rides.

I took it on a train ride once. Clothes in a duffel. Duffel out of the trailer when the bike goes in. And, the duffel goes into the trailer when the bike comes out.

There is no reason a S&S couldn't have a similar trailer built, although packing the bike and trailer together might be tight. But, I often toss the trailer wheels and frame into the duffel anyway.
I have never heard of or seen anyone use a hard shell S&S case as a trailer, but I see no reason why that could not be done the same way that the Bike Friday trailer works.

In post 12 above I stated:
I did a ACA self supported tour, two people had Bike Fridays and pulled the case as a trailer on wheels. They did not need to have the case stored somewhere.

That ACA tour was about 350 miles. One of the Bike Friday riders approaching Logan Pass on Going to the Sun Road in the photo below.

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Old 12-19-21, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I have never heard of or seen anyone use a hard shell S&S case as a trailer, but I see no reason why that could not be done the same way that the Bike Friday trailer works.
I once considered rigging a way of using my Samsonite Oyster suitcase as a trailer. My Dahon Helios packs in it with some effort. The problems are:
  • I loathe the flexing of the tall masts on the Helios (and every small wheeled folder I have ridden)
  • The trailer wheels would need to be carried in another bag
  • The packing is a bit of a pain in the neck with the 62" case barely accomodating the Helios
  • It seems impossible to get the riding position I want with the Helios
I have never ridden a Bike Friday and wonder if I'd be satisfied with the rigidity of the handling. It does look like the cockpit can be tailored to a proper riding position, something that eludes me with the Dahon and probably would with many of the other folders.

I have used the Helios for travel where I wanted to take a bike for casual riding, but doubt I'll tour ever on it, so no need for a trailer. It is okay for shortish ride and running errands. I hate it where the climbing gets at all steep. The cockpit setup makes for poor climbing posture and the flexy masts really suck when climbing.

These days I am far more likely to just take a full sized bike in a soft case or box since most airlines don't have the heinous bike fees for over 62" bags. My 54cm frame with both wheels removed packed in a soft case makes for a fairly small and manageable bag. Packing and assembly are pretty easy.
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Old 12-19-21, 09:53 AM
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Have you considered Z Couplers? Lighter, cleaner, easier to operate in the field.

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Old 12-19-21, 03:58 PM
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For those that own bike Fridays. I understand they are custom made? Or just built as ordered? If custom made, is the horizontal tube that connects the seat tube to the down tube made to a custom length? This would be especially impoy for taller riders like myself. On a Brompton it's a fixed length and I've never been comfortable on a Brompton.
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Old 12-20-21, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by jpjuggler View Post
For those that own bike Fridays. I understand they are custom made? Or just built as ordered? If custom made, is the horizontal tube that connects the seat tube to the down tube made to a custom length? This would be especially impoy for taller riders like myself. On a Brompton it's a fixed length and I've never been comfortable on a Brompton.
There is a long list of choices that I had to make when I ordered my Bike Friday. I did mine at a LBS. But, you can see what the options are here (https://www.bikefriday.com/bicycles/models?select=17550), which is the order page from the Bike Friday New World Tourist page.
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Old 12-20-21, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Bike Friday has a trailer kit. I don't know about a 1000+ mile tour, but I've pulled mine on a few century-plus rides.
BITD I rode off and on for close to a week with a couple from Portland that was riding across the country on a drop bar BF tandem towing the suitcases stacked as a trailer. We met up in WY and parted ways in CO. Seemed to working quite well for them as they were animals on the bike. They even dropped me for a while climbing from Breckenridge to Hoosier Pass, but I recovered and caught back up just before the summit.
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Old 12-20-21, 01:35 PM
  #22  
gdlerner
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I own a BF Llama and I use to have a S and S couplers bike and in the end sold it and keep my BF.The S&S it is not a folding bike you need much time to brake on parts and the case is much biger,the BF fit on my suitcase Samsonite and many time when I travel I don t declare a bike and goes with my normal luggage, I don t use the suitcase as Trailer many of my trips end on the same city so L always leave the case on the hotel and if its not the case I send it with DHL to my final destination you can check my trips. lococoupleonabike.com
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Old 12-20-21, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by gdlerner View Post
I own a BF Llama and I use to have a S and S couplers bike and in the end sold it and keep my BF.The S&S it is not a folding bike you need much time to brake on parts and the case is much biger,the BF fit on my suitcase Samsonite and many time when I travel I don t declare a bike and goes with my normal luggage, I don t use the suitcase as Trailer many of my trips end on the same city so L always leave the case on the hotel and if its not the case I send it with DHL to my final destination you can check my trips. lococoupleonabike.com
Can I ask you:? Is your samsonite 62 linear inches? i.e about 30x20x10 inches? and if so I assume you can get the BF lama in there? I ask b/c currently the bike friday website sells a suitcase for bike friday bikes that is actually 69 linear inches and thus oversize.

Thanks for the info!
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Old 12-20-21, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jpjuggler View Post
Can I ask you:? Is your samsonite 62 linear inches? i.e about 30x20x10 inches? and if so I assume you can get the BF lama in there? I ask b/c currently the bike friday website sells a suitcase for bike friday bikes that is actually 69 linear inches and thus oversize.

Thanks for the info!
The suitcase I am using is the Samsonite S Cure Spinner 81cm 138L and you can get it much cheaper online
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Old 12-20-21, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by jpjuggler View Post
For those that own bike Fridays. I understand they are custom made? Or just built as ordered? If custom made, is the horizontal tube that connects the seat tube to the down tube made to a custom length? This would be especially impoy for taller riders like myself. On a Brompton it's a fixed length and I've never been comfortable on a Brompton.
I bought mine used. But, I think they are semi-custom. So, they have a few stock sizes of components that you specify. Then the frame is built to order and painted to order, then assembled and shipped.

If you order a gooseneck, they may ship you adjustable components until you get the size worked out.

Bike Friday does (or did) make a "OSATA" (one size adjusts to all) bike. I don't know how it deals with the taller riders. However, that may also be one of their cheaper lines of bikes.

The Bike Friday Haul-a-day is also designed to be highly adjustable.
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