Monday, May 2, 2016

A Haul-a-Day in Ireland


A little while ago I wrote a post recalling with fondness the Xtracycle Radish I once owned and noting the many potential uses for cargo bikes. I speculated that in addition to machines optimised for transporting children and super-heavy-duty items in an urban setting, there was also a market for a nimbler, lighter type of cargo bike optimised for distance and terrain. Shortly after this, and to my great amazement, I was contacted by the folks at Bike Friday. They had recently introduced a bicycle designed to do exactly what I was describing. And they wondered how it would perform in the challenging landscape of rural Ireland. With stunning swiftness, they were able to arrange for a demo model to be sent here for a visit. And before I knew what hit me, I found myself face to face with a cargo bike of a most unusual sort.


To understand just how unusual, let me backtrack a tad and tell you about Bike Friday In case you are not already familiar with this cult brand (owned by Green Gear Cycling in Oregon), they make small wheeled and folding bikes. They have been making them by hand, in Eugene, Oregon, since the early 1990s. And without taking themselves too seriously, they make serious claims about their products. The headbadge features a cartoon winged suitcase and promises "bicycles that fly." With a stress on "performance that packs," they offer a staggering variety of models - including road racing, touring, mountain, commuter and tandem - in multiple sizes and with custom options to boot.


The latest model to join Bike Friday's lineup is the Haul-a-Day: a long-tail, small wheeled, disassemblable cargo bike designed for nimble travel with loads of 200-250lb.


Made compact thanks to the small (20") wheels, the Haul-a-Day sports a reasonable wheelbase and weighs 33lb empty, allowing Bike Friday to claim it as "the lightest long-tail cargo bike built today." And while not a folding bike, it disassembles into 3 pieces for packing, which makes it handy for travel.


Thanks to the sliding top tube, and the extendable seat post and stem, the frame adjusts to fit riders 4’6″ to 6’4″, with options for handlebar styles making it possible to dial in fit further. The standard model is rated for a 220lb rider limit, with a heavier-duty upgrade available.


The Haul-a-Day comes standard with disc brakes and wide (44mm) tyres, with different fender options available.


Standard options for gearing are an 8-speed vs 24-speed drivetrain (a SRAM/ Shimano medley),


with easy to operate twist gear shifters.


And as far as aesthetics, there is a range of standard and special-order colour combinations to choose from - the demo bike being in Cream Soda Blue, which I immediately nicknamed "tractor blue."


With a fair amount of standard configuration options and endless custom ones, it is easy to tailor a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day to suit one's preferences. You can equip it for the city or the country. You can make it look technical or quaint. You can fit it with drop bars, set it up with ultra low gears, equip it with dynamo lighting, or have it painted in your favorite colour(s) - lots of possibilities. The versatility this small and flexible manufacturer offers is pretty great.  And I haven't even begun to discuss the carry capacity yet.


But speaking of. As a long-tail, the Haul-a-Day works very similarly (identically, really) to the Xtracycle system. The truss-like, extended rear end of the bike is fitted with a long platform and a pair of specially designed, strong and expandable hammock-like bags/supports. With this system, a variety of long, large, or unusually shaped objects can be secured to the rear of the bike in a variety of ways. Objects that are long but not especially heavy can simply be strapped to the sides. For heavier loads, plug-in support platforms are available. For children, child seats or a "hooptie"-type rail attachment can be installed, and foot rests and platform-cushioners added. And thanks to the small rear wheel, even oversized crates, storage containers and other tall objects can be attached to the platform without sitting too high on the bike and making the rear end top-heavy.


In addition to this, the Haul-a-Day comes with a cycle-truck-style front platform. Affixed to the frame rather than the front wheel and positioned low - thanks once again tot he 20" wheel - the platform can support sizable loads without impacting steering or interfering with visibility.


Curious to try both front and rear load capacities, I attempted to procure a suitable basket... but instead found this monstrously large one. I attached it at first just for fun, certain that it would both feel too awkward and interfere with the handlebars turning... but it turned out to be just right! The basket is made of raffia ribbon, not wicker, so it is actually very lightweight when empty. And of course the front curvature gives it that desirable aero quality. A handful of zip ties and a couple of neighbourood test rides later, and it was clear the basket was destined to stay. I only wish I had read about the 35lb front load capacity before doing this to it!...


Today being my third day with the Bike Friday Haul-a-Day, this is not a review - just an introduction. I am going to have this bike for a month before it goes back to Oregon, after which I will post a detailed review. But as far as first impressions, here is a summary of my notes so far:

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FIT: This was the first thing I noticed. Usually with cargo bikes I find that I have to compromise on fit quite a bit. On the Haul-a-Day I found it easy to dial in my position so that it felt just the way I like it. The low stepover is much appreciated also.

HANDLING: In normal (non-gale force wind) weather conditions, I find this bicycle fast on the open road and easy up hills (under light weight load only so far). But the more surprising part is its maneuverability. Not only is turning radius not an issue, but the Haul-a-Day seems to excel at going through tight, twisty spaces.

FAT TYRES:The 44mm tyres are fantastically versatile on paved and unpaved surfaces, allowing me to take shortcuts through muddy farm fields and rough forest trails. The ride quality (unlike on the Bike Friday Tikit I reviewed some time ago) is also luxuriously cushy.

REAR CARRY: Works just like the Xtracycle Radish I used to own. Easy and intuitive for my use case scenario (carrying long/oddly shaped, but not overly heavy objects in the rear, and no kids).

FRONT CARRY: Considering it is primarily a long-tail design, I am impressed by the Haul-a-Day's ability to carry weight in the front.

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GOING OFF SCRIPT: My first impression of the Haul-a-Day is so positive, that I'll need to live with it a bit to start finding shortcomings. But the main problem I see so far, is that I like the front end handling so much, it is very tempting to ride this bike as a cycle truck while mostly ignoring the long-tail. Potential problem, as that is not really how this bicycle is designed to be used and it's easy to exceed the recommended front load capacity.


Well, I think that is enough for now! If you have any questions about the Haul-a-Day, feel free to ask. And if you're local and want to test ride this bike while it is in my possession, you are very welcome to pay me a visit - get in touch via email.

The Bike Friday Haul-a-Day retails from $1,190 - an attractive price as far as cargo bikes go in general. When you consider it is handmade in Oregon, highly customisable, and dissassemblable (have you checked on the price of couplers lately?...), the attraction turns serious. With thanks to Bike Friday for the opportunity to review this unique bicycle, I look forward to reporting my impressions in detail this summer.

For a complete and latest picture set of this bicycle, please visit here. And for lots of examples of how  Haul-a-Day owners set up their bikes (including custom long-tail bags), see also #hauladay on instagram.


46 comments:

  1. I love my BF and, if I needed to carry more cargo than I can currently, I would get the Haul A Day, for certain. The 20" cromo frame is ideal for city riding, bopping in and out of tight spaces and tight turns. One of the most tempting features of the HAD, to me, is that it stores balanced on its back end (upright). Super nice space saving feature for those of us with too many bikes and not enough space. Can't wait to read your further review comments.

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  2. Nice that you got ahold of one so speedily. I have wondered how these stack up against the newest-edition Xtracycle Edgerunners and the Tern Cargo Node. Your initial report sounds very promising!
    I did just see a woman riding a black one in St Paul this last week, so there's bound to be a local dealer...hmmm.

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    1. The Edgerunner is rated for heavier weight and (I am told) is better equipped for squirming human cargo. The Haul-a-Day is lighter and feels more responsive to ride. In both cases, the 20" rear wheel will keep loads nice and low in the back, but the Haul-a-Day allows for the same in the front as well.

      No meaningful experience with Tern Cargo Node, but maybe somebody else will answer that.

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    2. "TAKE NOTE! The Cargo Node is for cargo, not kids. While all Xtracycle family accessories are compatible with the Cargo Node, there are simply no established industry tests or standards we can use to confirm that it’s safe to carry kids on the Cargo Node." This would be enough to concern me, in addition to their recent frame recalls.

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    3. I might be the person you saw riding a black one in St Paul. Capital Deals is a dealer (and the owner rides one). I've put three kids on the back of mine-my understanding is that the deck and hoop have been tweaked since the original. Looks about the same kid capacity next to my buddy's edgerunner FWIW.

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  3. How do you like it so far compared to the Radish?

    Oh, and THAT BASKET!!!

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    1. It's too early to tell, but so far I prefer the Haul-a-Day's low stepover, fit, and front carry setup. I prefer the colour of the Radish : )

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    2. Going by the third photo from the top it kind of looks like the top tube is adjustable for length as well.

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    3. You are correct and thanks, as I forgot to mention this. It is not quite as easy to adjust as the seatpost and stem, but it does adjust (in 4cm increments) from 48cm to 60cm.

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    4. I've heard, but not verified, that with the top tube adjusted to be as short as possible, the Haul-a-day can fit onto bus bike racks and other places designed for standard-wheelbase bikes. That's really handy if true.

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    5. According to their specs that is the case, and although I won't be testing this specific feature I am sure I've seen some examples and will link up to them.

      I will check on the exact figures for comparison, but if I recall correctly the Haul-a-Day's wheelbase, even in its most expanded state, is actually not dissimilar from that of a typical Dutch city bike.

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  4. A long bike with short wheels. I don't know why somebody didn't think of this before.

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    1. They'd thought of small front, and small rear, so I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone tried both!

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  5. I'd like to know more about the gearing and electric assist options please (including costs, which I cannot find on their website). Thanks.

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    1. Noted. I suspect there are just too many options for them to list pricing for everything. But I will try to get some sample build quotes for the review.

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    2. Gearing and electric assist options are shown on the Bike Friday web site

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  6. I took delivery of my HaulaDay last December, and having ridden it through a western New York winter and into the spring, must report that it has become my go to bike. Mine is set up with the 24speed option, as well as extra long seat and steering posts to accomodate my 6'4" height. I also fitted a Jones H loop handlebar,and set up as such, have experienced the closest thing yet to bicycling perfection.
    The folks at Bike Friday were a delight to work with, answering my endless questions with good humor and great advice. Special thanks to Walter, whose technical expertise enabled me to get it right the first time!
    Enjoy your time with this gem of a bicycle. I certainly am...

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  7. Have not seen blue cream soda for thirty years and was surprised to find it then. The search engine says blue soda is still available, does anyone know if there is some locale where people still drink it? The best blue cream would, of course, be made on the spot by a soda jerk using blue grenadine and fresh cream. At a place called a soda fountain.

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    1. Closest thing I've seen in person are blue "slushies," I'm afraid.

      Be patient though, as surely soda fountains are due for a hipster comeback.



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    2. In Texas we have an appalling beverage called Big Red, It's the color Anti-Freeze would be if it was red and tastes vaguely like something familiar. People have been trying to identify the taste since 1937 when it came out but nobody really has any idea. It's awful and I can't get enough of it.

      They also have something called Big Blue which is nasty as well. It's a little darker blue than Windex but is pretty similar in most other ways, Like chewing my nails, I can't seem to break the Big Blue habit though I know it's dumbening me a little more every time I have some.

      I should try Bushmills, maybe that would be better for me...

      Spindizzy

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    3. It sounds like a relative of that great Scottish beverage; Irn Bru "made in Scotland from girders", which makes no claim of resemblance in flavour to any naturally occurring substance.

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  8. Come to Portland... The soda fountains never left. http://fairleyspharmacy.com The bike watching is very good as well.

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  9. Wow, that looks like a really intriguing bike! I'm curious how you'll like it once you've carried more loads on the back! (Our Tikit has me biased against BF, but....)
    I've got a few more questions that I'm sure you can't answer yet, but maybe after using it for a month you can. First is, how does it handle if your load is substantially longer than the long tail? I don't know if you'll be using it with any added platforms for stuff like that, which would certainly make it easier. I ask because the things I carry on the Xtracycle the most often are all longer than the long tail.
    Next, one thing that happens with the Xtracycle Free Radical we use is that bulky/oddly shaped loads in the sling-type side bags can sometimes bulge and hit the disc brake caliper, which needless to say makes you go not very fast. You can load so as to avoid that, but it's an occasional annoyance.
    And last, how quickly does it assemble/disassemble? The sliding top tube sort of looks like someone who needed to store it in a small space could slide it to its shortest position for storage, and then extend it again for use, rather than disassembling the whole bike. Would that work (conveniently)?
    Anyway, I'm looking forward to your detailed review. It looks like a neat bike!

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    1. The one thing I can answer now is the storage question. Both disassembling and even just altering the top tube length requires tools (2 bolts for the TT adjustment), so not exactly the sort of thing most people would probably feel comfortable doing on an everyday basis for the sake of storage. You might be different though.

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    2. It stores upright on the back end. Designed to take very minimal space. No rack required, and the space required is the width of the rear frame. Images on bike friday's page.

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    3. When I've carried long things on my Haul-a-day, it hasn't affected the handling much. You do need to watch out for ground drag if you're carrying them in the sling bags, so anything really long I usually put on the top of the rack.

      A few times I've had loads that have hit the disc brake caliper, but it's rare and usually when I had strapped stuff down too tightly, and wasn't using the Big Feet platforms to help stabilize the load and protect the caliper.

      I have never disassembled my Haul-a-day, but adjusting the size, which doesn't take too long, involves a lot of wiggling to extend it. One person can do it, although it's easier with two. It's way easier to slide it to a smaller size- I can do that on my own. It is definitely not a procedure I'd want to do more than once a week! As Unknown said, you can turn it on its end for storage. Sounds crazy but it is actually pretty stable, even with my dynamo light in back.

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  10. I'm glad you got a chance to test a Haul-a-Day, because I've been curious how your opinion would stack up against mine with my Haul-a-Day. I've had mine for over a year, and I had no idea when I first got it that it was so easy to ride that it would become my everyday "go to" bike. I commute to work with it daily, even if I know I won't be stopping anywhere to load anything on to it. I'd say your initial impressions match mine, except that I still see the bike as a primarily rear-hauler. True, I threw a big old Wald basket on the front platform and I use it for things that are convenient for dropping in a basket, but the huge carrying capacity of the rear platform is where the bike truly shines. With 100+ lbs on the back, the handling is virtually unaffected.

    I'm also curious how you will like the rear panniers. At first, I thought they looked cheap and flimsy, but they have held up perfectly, despite being left outside year-round. No fading, no rips. And I love the little flat side pockets-- perfect for small things like wallet, bike lock, etc... no need to secure them, just drop them in. I've not had anything ever jump out. And here's a neat trick if you haven't already discovered (it took me a few months): the three cinch straps on each pannier have clips that complement those on the opposite pannier. What does this mean? It means you don't need to carry bungee cords or rope with you if you happen to decide you need to carry something large on the rear platform! Simply unclip the strap from one pannier, extend it, and do the same thing with the strap on the opposite pannier. The two straps will lock to *each other* and create a strapping system to secure any load, small or large, on the rear deck! Pure genius.

    And if the rear deck is not enough for you, you can add a standard trailer. Here's my HaD set up with a converted old Burley:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/23154374525/


    Of course, it has a full integrated dynamo lighting system, DIY-lengthened fenders for full coverage, and a bunch of other extras. And it's still nimble and light enough to ride anywhere, anytime.

    Have I mentioned the kickstand? Best twin-leg kickstand I've ever used. Fully adjustable, and stable as heck. Completely integrated with the frame. And deceptively simple in design.

    One comment about the fenders: Bike Friday could have done a better job placing fender mounts on the rear. It's impossible to install a standard rear fender without DIY fabrication. Not a big deal for me, but for some this would be a big impediment to installing fenders.

    Also, Bike Friday has always considered it important to design their very different bike around using standardized parts, both for cost savings and for ease of repair, anywhere in the world you happen to be. The HaD is no different, and uses a standard 1-1/8" threadless headset, but the installation is non-standard and it makes replacing it or adjusting it difficult. BF's engineering team should take a look at getting a standardized star nut in there so adjustment becomes as standard as on any other bike.

    Lastly, the one thing that I did find intolerable right from the start was the stock handlebars, which were essentially flat, with a very slight curvature at the grips (not the ones on your test model). My wrists hurt immediately, so I swapped them for VO Postino bars, and those have been far more comfortable.

    Looking forward to your formal review!

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    1. Thank you for sharing this. Considering your exacting (in a good way!) standards, it is impressive that the Haul-a-Day gets a somervillain thumbs up.

      I asked for swept back bars preemptively, knowing I would not like the straight ones. If I were ordering the bike for personal use though (and assuming I'd remain living in the northwest of Ireland), I would probably get it built up with drops. The headwinds have always been difficult here, but this year in particular they've made it practically impossible to commute on upright bikes for a good portion of the time. Thankfully, on the HaD I can set the bars super low, so that I can still be fairly "aero" while enjoying the swept back shape.

      The rear panniers I like, but then I was already familiar with them via Xtracycle (they are literally the same system), including the "strap union" trick : )

      I have a lot more feedback, and suspect I'll amass a book's worth by the time I post a review. This is quite an impressive bicycle.

      One thing I would love to know is what you think of it in comparison to your BF tandem. I mean, I know they are pretty different as far as purpose, but I mean ride quality, speed, etc. Thanks again for the feedback.

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    2. Interesting question about the tandem comparison. It rides very similarly to and as fast as (if not faster than?) the BF tandem it replaces. Eerily so. I keep the adjustable top tube at its longest setting, so the long wheelbase no doubt contributes to that feeling, but somehow it is more than the wheelbase creating that feeling. Something about the 20" wheels, ultra low center of gravity, and way low trail (I never calculated it but it feels very low) makes it very comparable to the tandem's ride quality (from the captain's perspective).

      One thing I don't like about the handling, and which I suspect is just a consequence of the long wheelbase, is that rear braking into a hard turn can destabilize the rear wheel (the same thing happened with the tandem) if there's no load in back. I know folks (including Mr. Heine) will say you shouldn't use the rear brake at all, but I like a little bit of braking from the rear. Otherwise it rides very much like a "normal" bike. It's about 95% a normal bike, with 500% the carrying capacity.

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    3. I deliberately did not ask to see the geometry before trying the bike, but my love of the front end handling (with or without weight) has also led me to speculate about its trail properties. I suspect it's low, but somewhat higher than the Brompton's.

      Being a rear-brake-neglecter myself, I don't anticipate having the cornering problem you report, but will try doing this just to see how the bike behaves.

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  11. This looks like a nearly perfect cargo bike for kids. I always like the thought of the burlier cargo bikes, but I seldom need that kind of towing power. That low-slung frame and the frame-mounted front carrier immediately make it far more appealing to me than the competition. I have a Brompton, which is terrific for cargo, and if I had kids, this would be the logical step, as it looks basically like a long-tail Brompton without the fold. After riding a Brompton and European style bikes, I have decided I can't stand normal top tubes for city bikes; this bike looks incredibly practical.

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    1. As it is, I've been using my Brompton as a mini front-load cargo bike, (over)loading the front bagsket with all sorts of stuff that exceeds its recommended carry capacity. It works well, except in strong winds, and except when I need to carry even more. The Haul-a-Day does handle very much like a "long-tail Brompton without the fold" - but with the addition of fatter tyres and adjustable fit.

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    2. That fits with my perceptions of this bike, and how I use my Brompton, too. I've grown so used to the low-slung frame that my normal city bike with a high top tube has become much less appealing to me. Every time I get on it, I just think 'why on earth is this hybrid/city bike so hard to get on?' I tend to feel precious about my Brompton for some reason, so I keep looking for another comparable bike that would serve an almost identical purpose, but could also carry even more cargo, and for some reason I imagine I would be more willing to treat that one like a beater. Go figure!

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  12. Just to add a note of caution regarding the purchase from America. I bought a Bike Friday a few years ago via the Web Site. It's arrival via Fed EX was preceded by a phone call from the courier to say that I would have to pay the Importation Duty to Customs and Excise in the region of €300. This added considerably to the price of my purchase from Bike Friday. Not complaining but a factor to consider in making the decision to buy. A wonderful bike to own and ride.

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    1. Oh yes. Customs duties in the UK are 20% of declared value, and they are very diligent about this. In Ireland it is a bit more subjective, but also pretty bad in recent years.

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  13. That looks very impressive - and impressively adaptable; a 60cm top tube means that it would fit my 6'5" frame, even with the bars low or fitted with drops. I'd be interested to hear how it handles set up for a taller rider with some weight loaded up - I suspect it could get a bit flexy. Much as I love my bakfiets, once it gets retired from toddler-hauling duty this looks like it would handle 90+% of my cargo-carrying needs. And it looks like incredibly good value - $1,200 is less than the cost of (say) a reasonable Dutch bike, no?

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    1. Jakob, I'm not nearly as tall as you, but I'm 6'0" with a long torso and there's gobs more room to grow in the cockpit of my HaD. I do have the top tube at 60cm but I have a short stem, and the seat post has a long way to go before topping out. As far as load, I've ridden with my two kiddos on the rear platform, for about 150lb total. With that weight, it's a bit wobbly, but doable. With 100lb, the ride and handling are only minimally impacted. The bike is surprisingly non-flexy.

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    2. Re pricing: Oh yes, I would say it costs less than most quality non-cargo utility/city bikes on the market today.

      Consider that a Workcycles Dutch bike starts at $1700+
      a Surly LHT starts at $1300
      a Rivendell Clem at $1500

      I think the Bike Friday Haul-a-Day is an excellent deal.

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    3. For a handmade MUSA bike, the pricing is pretty amazing. I think one of the ways they got cost down was by ordering entire shipping crates full of components from Asia to their production facility in Oregon. Their Kickstarter campaign from a couple of years ago (from which I got my HaD) provided the upfront capital for this, among other things like expanding their production capability. They do use lower-end build parts, but they work surprisingly well. The Shimano Altus derailleur has never missed a gear change and the mechanical Shimano disc brakes stop well with excellent modulation. They are finicky, though, and require frequent adjustment.

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  14. I have no experience with these types of bikes but I think the price of the Haul-a-Day appears quite reasonable; it is a rather cheery looking little bike, perhaps even approaching the cuteness factor of the Radish. I looked at the Bike Friday link - the 'Pocket Rocket' road bike - now that is cute.

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  15. This is rather hilarious. I'm here, in Oregon, reading about a bicycle made in Oregon, by someone riding it on the other side of the world as both me, and the manufacturer. I'll have to go look into Bike Friday, and see more about their bicycles.

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  16. My biggest question about the disassembly of the Haul-a-Day is how long it takes to pack it down into something more-or-less luggage-sized. I don't necessarily mean airline-compatible; just plausibly suitcase-sized, to stow under a Greyhound bus or something. In other words, could I ride it to a bus station with a load on it large enough to require a cargo bike or trailer, pack everything under the bus, and unpack and ride away at the destination. Would this take, say, five minutes? Or forty five? I'd happily design my own case in which to do that if needed.

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    1. Hi Emily. The HaD doesn't pack down too quickly. It would take closer to 20 minutes than five minutes, but less than 45 IMO. There are four 10mm hex bolts that fasten the rear section to the midsection, and two 5mm bolts on the pinch clamp securing the front section (fork/headset/top tube "monobeam") to the midsection. There is a 5mm hex bolt securing the tall stem riser to the steerer. Then there is the wide double-leg kickstand which you'd want to disassemble because it is pretty wide. Each leg has a 5mm hex bolt securing the telescoping leg to the main hinge via a pinch clamp. It might take 10-15 minutes to undo everything, then you'd have to come up with a creative packing configuration. My guess is it can be realistically done in about 20 minutes total once you have a routine down. The reassembly would probably take about the same amount of time.

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  17. Bike Friday, has always been a seriously quality operation. They do things, their own way. They never sold out, and never compromised. As someone who's only bike, is a folder, They are one of the top in the class. I will have to check out this new model next time I'm in town.

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  18. This bike looks absolutely fabulous! I have a regular cargo bike which is bulky, but this mini cargo bike looks very convenient for storage and carry lots of stuff

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