Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Way Tikit: a Bike Friday Folder

Bike Friday Tikit
For some time now I've been curious to try a Bike Friday folding bike. They are pretty unusual around these parts, so an opportunity never presented itself. Imagine my delight upon discovering that someone I knew owned one. Hidden deep in her bike cave, this single speed Tikit stood mostly unridden since the owner, Pamela, stopped commuting to a downtown office. But hearing of my interest she dusted off the machine, and soon I was over to examine the rare specimen. 

Bike Friday Tikit
Made by the family-owned Green Gear Cycling in Eugene, Oregon, Bike Friday folding bikes have been handbuilt in the USA since the early 1990s. The range of models includes road, touring, mountain, commuter and tandem folding bikes - and all are highly customisable. Most of the models are designed around 20" wheels, with the fold optimised for packing the bike into a suitcase. However, the Tikit commuter models are made more compact with 16" wheels, and are designed to fold quickly for multi-modal transportation.

Bike Friday Tikit
Welded in steel, frame and fork, there are 9 Tikit models in all, offering different drivetrain and handlebar setup options. The One Way Tikit is the single speed/ fixed gear version. 

Bike Friday Tikit
It is set up with a flip-flop hub, 

Bike Friday Tikit
v-brakes, fenders, built-in chainguard,

Bike Friday Tikit
straight handlebars, 

Bike Friday Tikit
a handy carry handle (could be a bottle cage here instead),

Bike Friday Tikit
and a low-rider style front rack.

Bike Friday Tikit
Being a fan of generator lighting, Pamela had set up the bike with a dynamo hub wheel (unattached here, as it had recently been loaned out).

Bike Friday Tikit
A bike bag also comes with the Tikit, which can be stowed away into a tiny packet when not in use.

Bike Friday Tikit
Unlike most other folding bikes, Bike Fridays are available in different sizes. I am unsure what size this Tikit translates to, but its virtual top tube measures an inch or so shorter than the Brompton's (which is approximately 59cm). The seat tube is quite tall, with the saddle barely low enough to accommodate myself and the bike's owner (we are both just over 5'6"). However, as I understand it, the seat tube is modular and can be cut down or replaced with a shorter one.

Bike Friday Tikit
Bike Friday Tikits have had a couple of modifications over the past few years. The area over the bottom bracket is now made stiffer, with older models retrofitted with a stiffener bar. They have also recently made a beefier stem for the Tiket, the older one having been recalled (the bike pictured here has the new stem). 

Bike Friday Tikit
The fold is fairly quick, "less than 9-12 seconds after loosening one twist-locking fastener," according to Bike Friday.

Bike Friday Tikit
It is Bromptonesque in sequence, except for the seat tube - which gets folded over, rather than slid down.

Bike Friday Tikit
Notably, the front pannier can be kept on the low-rider rack as the bike is being folded.

Bike Friday Tikit
The folded bike can be rolled along, using the wheels themselves, with the bag still attached.

Bike Friday Tikit
It can also be carried by the handle - though Pamela notes that carrying the bike gets heavy and uncomfortable quickly, particularly when stairs are involved. Picking up the single speed Tikit, it did feel slightly heavier than an all-steel Brompton similarly equipped. And the fold is not as compact. However, the carry handle is quite comfortable compared to how a Brompton must be carried, and being able to roll the Bike Friday by its actual wheels (rather than by the tiny roller-wheels on the Brompton) is a big help. 

Bike Friday Tikit
With its hub flipped to freewheel mode, I rode the Tikit around Pamela's neighbourhood. My first impression was that the front-end handling was not dissimilar from my Brompton's. In fact, I would describe the Friday as feeling like a "less extreme" version of the Brompton in that sense. As a result of this similarity, I immediately felt familiar and comfortable with the bike. While the Tikit is Bike Friday's commuter model, with less focus on performance than the others, I certainly found it lively enough - a fun, quick, maneuverable ride. This makes me want to try a smaller size - I bet it would be even more responsive for someone of my stature. With the 16" wheels, there would be no danger of toe overlap no matter what frame size I chose. 

On pothole ridden streets, the Tikit's ride quality felt a bit harsh. Riding over torn-up pavement I felt vibrations in my hands and jolts throughout (an impression the bike's owner agrees with). However, on decently maintained roads the ride quality was smooth and pleasant. As an aside here, where we live the roads are particularly poorly maintained; just have a close look at the picture above to see what I mean - the entire street is like that. One could certainly argue that these are not "normal" commuter conditions. 

Bike Friday Tikit
After my initial spin on the Tikit, I then rode it again - this time loaded with some weight. We attached a pannier to the low-rider rack, in which Pamela placed a 10lb bottle of antifreeze. This is about the maximum weight she would typically carry on this bike, she said. The Tikit's low-rider will accommodate most standard panniers, including the one shown from Ortlieb. On a small wheel bike, it is actually not a "low" rider, since it sits above the wheel. This is also how it manages to lift the pannier high enough to keep from dragging along the ground. Little notches along the rack's tubing prevent the pannier from sliding, so it sits securely. The rack is one-sided (right side only), and rolling the bike along I could feel the weight of the pannier pulling to the side. However, once in motion no such thing was discernible. The Tikit handled great with the unilateral front load - I could not feel it at all. This system does limit how much weight one can carry on the bike, but it is handy enough for commuting. I believe that a rear rack is also available for this model. 

While I would not switch from my Brompton, I liked the Bike Friday Tikit and would feel comfortable riding it for transportation. A particularly big advantage, as I see it, is the variety in sizes and customisation options. Being able to roll the bike by its wheels is handy as well. And being able to use a standard pannier, as opposed to having to buy a proprietary front bag, could be another plus for those with multiple bikes. Careful tire, saddle and grip selection could compensate for the rough-road harshness I experienced. 

Bike Friday Tikit
When I was over to test ride this bicycle, the owner surprised me by announcing that she plans to give it away. That's right: Pamela Blalock's personal Bike Friday One Way Tikit pictured here could be yours - complete with flip-flop freewheel/fixed gear hub, fenders, front rack, spare generator hub wheel and a spare set of tires (pannier not included). For details of the give-away, please visit The Blayleys blog

And if you are in the market for a folding bike, visit the Bike Friday website and prepare to be dazzled with their myriad of stock and custom options. The history of the company is pretty interesting as well. Folding bikes of all types made in Oregon, USA, with prices starting at $1,400 and around a month lead time. Pretty neat!  

28 comments:

  1. Indeed, Bike Fridays hold front loads extremely well, and their tandems hold front and rear loads very nicely. Here's my Bike Friday tandem with front and rear panniers (same color as Pamela's!). Often when doing an outing with the tandem, all four panniers will be filled:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/8113314663/

    I also notice that the ride quality of the BF tandem is a little harsh, but I always attributed it to the Schwalbe Marathon tires. But maybe there's also an element of it inherent in the design...?

    That's very nice of Pamela to give it away!

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    1. I recently test rode a Bike Friday Llama and did not find it harsh. Is it the 16" wheels on the Tikit, I wonder.

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    2. "Pocket Llama" is a cool model name : )

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    3. I attribute the harsh ride to the 16" wheels. A few years ago I had a long term loan of an "air friday" with 20" wheels. I did several 200km rides on it and found it to be quite comfortable - admittedly the beam isolates some road shock. I also found it to be a "performance bike" - in that I rode just as fast on it as I did on a bike with larger wheels. The Tikit is a different beast. My Boston commute used a long section of the Charles River path. Sometime near the end of that job, we got indoor parking and I switched over to my (700C) Cielo - what a difference, rolling over all those frost heaves on the path with the big fat tires. Make no mistake, the Tikit is a commuter, designed for multi-modal transportation, emphasizing the quick fold. The performance aspect of this bike is the fold. I can say that it serves as a good training machine! I definitely got stronger! But I used to joke that granny's with walkers could pass me! It's not quite that bad, but this is not a bike for long rides. At least not long ones where you are in a hurry. But it is awesome for multi-modal transport, or "stealth" entrance into office buildings. It will serve someone with these needs well!

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    4. Tire volume, includes diameter, BF history of catering to go fast roadies. Stiff frames for men - joke. True. Joke.

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  2. So, it sounds like Pamela has at least a couple Oregon made bikes...cool!

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    1. I think the top number was three: Co-motion, Cielo and Bike Friday. But I believe they are slowly being replaced by Mass.-made bikes. Interesting how many of the bike builders and small manufacturers are clustered in these two regions.

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    2. Indeed. We have or have owned quite a few Oregon made machines - Co-Motion, Cielo, DeSalvo, Bike Friday and Burley! And we love to travel there and visit their various birthplaces!

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    3. Even better, you sampled machines from up and down the I-5 corridor -- Portland. Eugene, and especially beautiful Ashland! Love your blog.

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  3. Thanks Velouria for another informative post. Sure Pamela will get a lot more hits now. I'm certainly interested in what she has to say.

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  4. Not a fan of these - harsh ride, big fold, ridic position to load panniers for errand use.

    For a minute there I thought you were going to stop reviewing bikes.

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  5. Maybe it's coincidence, but I am noticing a connection between randonneurs and Bike Friday. The Chasing Mailboxes gal has two!

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    1. Randonneurs gravitate toward Bike Friday because BFs are more suitable for distance riding than Bromptons. The trade-off is the somewhat larger fold.

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    2. Bike Friday makes different models, and I'm sure the ones with drop bars and 20" wheels, designed for road/touring, are indeed superior to the Brompton as far as distance. But the commuter-oriented Tikit did not strike me that way. I also do not get the impression that the online rando personalities use their Tikit for distance - it's their city transport bike. Pamela has never ridden more than 10 miles at a time on hers.

      I've done hilly 50+ mile rides on my Brompton, and others have done multi-day tours. Based on my initial test ride, I would not want to do the same on a Tikit. The other Bike Friday models I cannot say, as I haven't tried them.

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  6. Cool bike! Any idea when it was made?

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    1. I understood mid-2000s, but I don't know the exact year.

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  7. I've been dying to ride a folding bike lately. Borderline obsessed. Also, I love the green color!

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    1. Hey, you're kind of close to them - would be great to see a Bike Friday shop visit on your blog!

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  8. I love my Bike Friday Tikit! I started out with a garage full of city bikes, but the Bike Friday is now my only commuter. It was tough choosing between Brompton and Bike Friday. Ultimately I went for the bike with the lesser wait list!

    Obviously I am not entering the give-away. But thanks to your links, I have been following The Blayleys since they launched the new blog. The original website goes back decades and contains an amazing wealth of information! It also serves as a cautionary tale of an all-consuming obsession :)

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  9. I've owned my purple Pocket Rocket for years and use it pretty much exclusively for touring and century rides. This year it will join me on the Furnace Creek 508. I also have a Co-Motion Americano but unless the ride involves a heavy, heavy load the Pocket Rocket is easier to ride fast, very very fast.

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    1. "This year it will join me on the Furnace Creek 508"

      Whoa!

      I may be there actually, as support.

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    2. I crewed the event last year for Team Rott-Wheeler. It was a total blast - although not having sleep for nearly 48 results in the occasional hallucination (to wit: snakes dancing across the roadway on their tails - fun). As far as I or race creator / organizer Chris Kostman knows, my Pocket Rocket will be the only folder in the history of the event. I recommend crewing on it most highly.

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  10. We purchased a pair of custom New World Tourists last year and just love them! We've already knocked out our first century ride on them and have done a casual, multi-day, credit card tour from our home in Pasadena to the Mexican border. While these bikes definitely do not fold down as quickly or compactly as the Tikit or Brompton (especially when loaded with accessories and luggage!), they ride very much like our full-sized Treks and are very comfortable on long distances. Since getting them last August, we've already put over 2000 miles on them. Great bikes and, though a little on the heavy side, very well made for touring trips.
    At the risk of making this post a bit long, we can share a few tips that worked well for us: These were going to be our "premium" bikes and, not wanting to drop 3k apiece (with all of the accessories and components) on something we haven't even had a chance to try, we flew up to Eugene and the Bike Friday folks lent us a couple of floor models to ride for the whole afternoon. We put about 40 miles on them and knew that they were everything everyone said they were. Since we were buying them for touring, we did order ours set up for comfort rather than speed; a relaxed riding position, ThudBuster seat posts, and wide range of ratios in the gearing. As a lot of reviewers have said, the people at Bike Friday are very attentive and we feel that the customer service is top-notch. For us, going up to Eugene and doing everything directly with the makers was definitely worth it. We also got a very nice tour of the factory and were shown how our bikes would be made. Finally, Eugene has a great biking culture, is easy to get around in, and the restaurants were just fine!
    If anyone has any specific questions, we will be happy to do our best to answer them...

    --Nik & Jo

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  11. I was deciding between Brompton and Tikit last year. I love Brommie's looks and the tight/clean fold. However, there is only one shop in the whole area that sells/services them and that, combined with many non-standard parts, made me choose the Tikit. The longest ride I took it on so far was just under 50 km in a hilly terrain out in the country. As the country roads are of a much better quality than our Toronto roads, the small wheels didn't matter. The only inconvenient thing was the lack of low gearing for steep hills. I also rode it on gravel roads and a forest path with plenty of rocks and roots (though not huge ones) in a provincial park and found the rides more comfortable than if I tried them on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. The long stem soaks up road imperfection quite well, plus I have a Thudbuster seat post. The LHT has much stiffer frame and transmits the bumps much better, so on rougher surfaces I have better steering control on the Tikit. Seems weird, but it's true. (Of course, if the bumps get too big the 16-inch wheels can't cope.)
    The size of the fold is OK for the GO train and
    off-peak-hours street cars, but I wouldn't dare to bring it on a streetcar or bus during the busy rush hour - too big and messy.
    I got the Tikit with the folding rack so I can, and do, carry two full-size panniers. I also got the trailer suitcase, but haven't tested it yet. I can see myself taking the Tikit on long rides no problem, and some are coming. Pics of my Tikit including some of the roads are here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/89721835@N05/8161577710/in/photostream/

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  12. I have a Bike Friday touring bike with 20" wheels. I think the small wheels do make for a harsh ride (short spokes make a stiffer wheel, don't they?). But I have improved mine over time by using wider tires and running them at lower pressure (per Sheldon Brown), and I find the bike very comfortable now. It seems solidly made, handles well, and loves cargo.

    I agree with the comment that they like front loads. Unloaded the handling is quick, compared to a big bike; with front panniers and a small load that feeling goes away.

    Another good point about Fridays is that they mostly used standard parts -- brakes, hubs, shifters, etc. -- which makes them easy to service.

    I like mine a lot. It's great in the hills.

    Chris

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  13. I have a BF Express tikit and and Pocket Rocket. I use the tikit for shopping and around town. Being able to fold/unfold in 15 seconds means I can enter a store faster than locking a bike, and I have no worries about theft or do I have to carry a 3 lb lock for a 20 lb bike. And when I unfold it, the bike is the same and when I got off. No adjustments need to be made. You should hear the comments.
    I don't find either bike harsh as the long stem absorbs some vibration. These are steel bikes. I do find that tires are more important in transmitting road texture. Lowering pressure even 10 lbs makes for a much smoother ride. Of course, I can't imagine anyone riding without gloves.
    You also get a bike with parts that are common to the industry. The tikit has a 10 speed in the rear that gets me close spacing but good range. I use a bar end shifter.
    You can get them with standard bars or any other type. My only complaint for all of the 16 inch wheel bikes is that the best tire, the Stelvio Light, is no longer made. Admittedly, it was not a tough tire, but it was fast. The Kojack is not bad, but a wider tire.
    Best comment I ever heard: Dude, I never knew those bikes could go so fast!"

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  14. This morning we rode 91km including some fun hills - me the one woman with 8 guys (on road bikes + 1 recumbent). the Pocket Rocket Pro always holds its own with the big guys - and is a joy to ride.
    We also have a Tikit - 6 speed - a great little bike for on the train and short distances, and manages most hills pretty well too.

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