Chandlery: Bike Friday Road Tested

For the serious cyclist, the Green Gears lineup is worth a good look.

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In February 2006, we compared four folding bikes, the Dahon Helios, the Dahon Cadenza, the Montague Paratrooper, and the West Marine Port Runner, with the

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Dahon Helios rated as our Best Choice. After the article ran, we received a pile of mail from readers offering their insight into folding bikes.

One company mentioned several times was Green Gear Cycling, whose Bike Friday line of custom folding bikes (named after Robinson Crusoes faithful companion) has an almost cult-like following.

Green Gear makes more than two dozen different folding models, ranging from their versatile touring bikes, to full-suspension mountain bikes, to tandems (and even triples). Each bike is custom built, so you can specify details like gear ratios, handlebar style, seats, and even frame size. The accessory lineup is similarly impressive. As a result, these bikes are relatively expensive.

Curious to see how one of these high-end custom bikes compared to the bikes in our last evaluation, we tested the Bike Friday Pocket Tourist. At $700 list price, this is Green Gears most basic model, available only through dealers. Green Gear sells most other models direct from its website, with prices starting at just under $1,000.

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The Pocket Tourists frame is powder-coated aluminum alloy, with a 40-inch wheelbase. Wheels are 20 inches in diameter. Our bike featured eight speeds, but you can opt for as many as 24 speeds. The brakes are side-pull Tektro brand with independent, fork-mounted calipers. Even in this bottom-of-the-line Bike Friday, a high level of quality is evident throughout.

Out of the box, it took us 17 minutes to assemble the bike with the tools provided. All we needed was a double-ended 5mm/6mm hex wrench and a pedal wrench. Once assembled, the bike folds and unfolds in less than a minute. The key to the bikes quick folding is an angled hinge that lays the front and back halves of the frame side-by-side. One handy option that came with our test bike is the folding back rack, which only slightly increases the stowed size.

The bike ran smooth right out of the box. Even with the 1.75-inch wheels and just seven speeds (13:8 ratio in high gear to 13:3 in low gear), our fit tester was able to cruise the flats at 13 miles per hour and hump up a couple of steep bridges without dismounting. Wed opt for an additional small front gear to attack hilly terrain.

Our bike weighed in at 24 pounds, and with the wheels still on, it folded down into

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a 35-inch x 22-inch x 13-inch package. Removing the front wheel and opting for folding pedals (recommended) further shaves the stowed size.

Bottom Line:

We recommend it. The Pocket Tourist is right up there with the Dahon Helios in price, weight, and size. The main difference is that the Pocket Tourist keeps its main tube intact, which we like. Our only gripe is that the bikes handlebar stem is too easy to install backward. If you do this, then youll have no steering. The manual warns about this, but it could be more prominent. Better yet, make it impossible to install the stem backward.

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Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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