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:
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.
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.