Bike Friday NWT Review

You may have noticed some time ago that I posted on airline bicycle fees; that is the cost to air travel with a bicycle.  After examining those costs I concluded that it would be worthwhile to purchase a folding bicycle for touring on.  When using this bike, my touring will be typically 1-4 weeks in duration and will stick to at least 90% pavement.  I also plan on touring Europe next year and hope to add some trains to the mix to cover more ground.  Given this I settled on a Bike Friday by Green Gear out of Eugene, Oregon.

Now that I have spent some significant time with the bike (2000+ kilometers), I figure a full review is in order.  Around 1400 or those kilometres I was on a self supported tour down the pacific coast.  I’ll be reviewing my New World Tourist (NWT for short) model, however much of it will also apply to the Crusoe model, which my wife has, as they are similar.  I’ll do another post later that will outline the differences.

My NWT was custom with mostly what I would call mid-grade components with a few lower end items mixed in to save on cost.  The frame is 62cm, which is larger than the listed standard sizes.

As expected, the bikes draw a bit more attention than other standard touring bikes.  The majority of folks are curious about the bike, but in a very enthusiastic way.  A lot see their practical use right away and explain that they often find themselves traveling and thinking that a bike would be handy to have on hand.  Others are curious of how they handle, which I will touch on next.

The comfort and fit of the bike is great for both myself and my wife.  We both sent in measurements for suitable fitting bikes we already have and they were translated very well into the Bike Fridays.  I can ride for 8 hours a day on this bike with no significant discomfort.  I’m really happy about this.  The B-17 Brooks saddle certainly helps with this as well.

The ride quality is good with the steel frame absorbing a significant amount of vibrations from the road when compared to my aluminum cylcocross bike.  One item of note is the small diameter wheels become somewhat apparent in a couple of situations we’ve noticed.  The first is on rough terrain.  The small wheels do not roll over rough broken pavement or poorly maintained dirt roads nearly as well as a larger wheel bicycle.  These types of roads feel significantly more ‘harsh’ in these conditions.

The whole point of this bike is to be able to transport it easily and cost effectively.  To facilitate this, you can fold the bicycle in two ways.  The first is a quick fold.  Using this method you remove the stem, fold the seat mast down, and then fold the frame in half.  The second method is used to transport the bike in a suitcase.  In this case you do the quick fold but you also perform several other steps including taking the accessories off, removing the handlebars, removing the seat post from the seat mast, taking the pedals off, and several other similar actions.  

The quick fold would be useful for putting the bikes in the trunk of a rental car, on a train with limited room, or other such situations.  This fold is by no means the type of fold you would see with a commuter style folder.  It’s not elegant in the sense that it’s not that easy to handle folded and it doesn’t fold in a super compact manner.  Having said that, that’s not really the point of this bicycle.  You wouldn’t be folding it all the time so these limitations are a good tradeoff for its other capabilities, such as fully loaded touring.  Since I have not used the quick folding method for many practical applications I cannot really speak to how well it works in real life situations.

I have not had any mechanical issues with this bike so far after around 2000 km’s.  The only item of concern for me so far is that long downhill descents heat the rims up to a point of causing concern.  I stopped part way down large descents a few times to check on this and my rims were too hot to touch.  I’m about 185lbs and had probably 30 or so pounds of gear and food on hand.  My wife who has a much lower total weight, did not experience as much heat coming from her rims.  The other thing to note is that your tires will wear faster than a 26″ or 29″ bicycle.  It’s not a huge issue for me but take note that you will need to replace the tires more often.

Overall I am very pleased with the bikes.  They are high quality, well-built bicycles and I am happy to own one.  I am really looking forward to taking them over to Europe to see how well they work traveling both on roads, and onboard trains. I’ll be heading over to Quebec and New England later this summer for a one week tour so will have some further opportunity to try the bike out fully loaded for touring then.

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5 thoughts on “Bike Friday NWT Review

  1. Zeus February 12, 2013 / 3:37 pm

    Did you consider any other folders before choosing this one? Knowing what you know now would you purchase something different?

    I’ve been contemplating one of these myself, but also considering a tradition Touring bike or even a Brompton for it’s tiny fold.

    Your input would be helpful and appreciated!

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    • Mark February 12, 2013 / 7:20 pm

      I did some research to see which folders met my criteria. I wanted something that could have both front and rear racks while holding up over a several month tour. Being able to install off the shelf bike parts was important to me as well. The only folding bikes I found that met that criteria were the Fridays.

      Knowing what I know now, I would probably get the same bikes (mine and my wife’s). Doing it over again I would have paid to get the disc brake tabs welded onto my frame so that I could use disc brakes if rim wear became a problem (not sure if this will be an issue long term). I believe this was a $60 option. Part of my plans with these bikes is to travel overseas. Saving the huge airline fees is very attractive. In addition to the airline fees, the ability to possibly bring the bikes more easily on trains or in the trunk of a rental car is important to me.

      If I didn’t want to use other modes of transportation on a trip, I would have considered going with a Surly Long Haul Trucker DeLuxe frame with the S&S couplers and building up a more traditional touring bike. This would at least allow you to dodge the airline fees.

      Hope that helps!

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  2. Zeus February 12, 2013 / 8:48 pm

    Hey Mark, thanks for the detailed response! You brought up many good points I’d hadn’t considered, such as buying off the rack bike parts. That’s a big one!

    The rim brakes vs Disc, I’ve read pros and cons for both sides but I’m a larger rider like yourself and again you brought up some points from experience that are valuable.

    I was thinking of the 16″ wheel bike so I could get it into the trunk of just about any car, as it would be a more compact fold. Have concerns that the wheel size will be an issue coming up on a good size pothole or road imperfections.

    Again thanks for taking the time write a candid blog about your experience and your informative response! Truly appreciated!!

    Like

  3. brian martin February 27, 2013 / 8:05 pm

    I too purchased a pair of bike fridays for traveling. My wife and I flew to San Francisco an picked up bikes in Eugene. Then we trained it back to Syracuse via Portland and a stopover in Chicago. When we left the BF factory I put her suitcase on top of my mine with the tandem hook up. When we take the bikes to Europe I plan to be the carrier of both suitcases, it was part of the plan to get the bikes. BTW I took the train from Ottawa to Sacramento and rode the bike all over town. Was also thinking of using my Burley Travoy behind the wife’s bike.

    Brian (happy bike friday owner)

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  4. Fred Waltman June 22, 2013 / 8:45 am

    Congrats on you new NWT. I’ve had mine for 6 years now and I like it so much it has become my everyday bike. I’ve taken it at least once a year on a bike tour/bike vacation since I got it.

    The longest tour I’ve done with it was last summer, Dunkirk to Vienna, about 1800 km. We weren’t camping so it was a relatively lightly loaded tour. I had a great time but most people were surprised that I could ride that far on a “funny little bike” (especially since I am a fairly large guy).

    Like

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