I do not look like most serious cyclists. I wear biking sandals (god’s gift to me), running shirts (I wear these instead of biking shirts for at least 4 reasons, including looking like a regular person), and biking skirts (they’re a bit more flattering than just shorts and again, help me look like a regular person). I almost always have a bag that attaches to my seat post. Since I ride alone a lot and often go for 40-60 mile rides, I bring a bit of stuff with me, including sunscreen, food, and tools. And since I don’t have pockets on the backs of my running shirts, I need my little bag.
I also seem to have a habit of riding unconventional bikes. I’ve had 3 different recumbents (a semi-recumbent, a long-wheel base ‘bent, and a high-racer) and am now back to a “wedgie”. I do too much hill riding (so why am I not better at them?) to stay with a ‘bent. Even though they fly on the flats and downhills, they’re so doggy on uphills that I just can’t keep up with a group.
My current unconventional love is my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro Custom. Rather than calling it a folding road bike, I prefer to call it a road bike that folds. This bike (please don’t call it “little” – it’s a full size bike with small wheels) is an amazing piece of machinery. It was custom made for me and is tricked out with all SRAM Red components, a Chris King headset, and Alex rims. It weighs 17 pounds and flies. I only wish I could do it justice. Those who have ridden with me have heard this a few times – small wheels are lighter, stronger, accelerate faster, and climb better. This bike is incredibly agile and nimble. Think of it as a high-end road bike that folds and packs into a suitcase for travel. BF’s motto is “Performance that packs, bicycles that fly”.
So, I get a lot of interesting comments:
*“Will you be able to keep up on that bike?” Yes, as well as I could on a big wheeled bike. Tests have shown that up to 16 mph, the small wheel is more efficient than a big wheel. Between 16 and 33 mph there is little difference. Over 33 mph the gyroscopic effect of the big wheel makes it more effective. Most folks do not go over 33 mph.
*“Do you have to pedal more?” Nope. It’s all in the gearing. (To read more, go to https://www.bikefriday.com/bicycles/faqs. It’s interesting stuff. No, really it is.)
*“Why don’t you have another bike for road riding?” Don’t need one. This bike is a dream.
* “It looks so much like a clown bike.” Okay, that hurt.
*“It just looks so funny.” Honestly, after riding this bike for a few years, along with my BF New World Tourist, I find these bikes beautiful. Big wheel bikes look rather clumsy and awkward to me. Sorry.
*“I thought all small wheel bikes were commuter bikes.” Well, a lot of them are. There are many models of “folders”, including Brompton, Dahon, Tern, and Alex Moulton. I don’t know much about those brands. But Bike Friday has a commuter model (Tikit), light touring (Pocket Crusoe), loaded touring (New World Tourist), mountain (Pocket Lama), tandem (Twosday), and quite a few models of road bikes or Pocket Rockets. So why did I choose a Friday over those other brands? What completely sold me is that the Samsonite suitcase into which you can fold your bike for travel, converts into a trailer that you can haul behind your bike. Brilliant! No more problems flying into one airport and flying out of another.
*“Are there any downsides to riding a small wheeled bike?” Good question. Yes, there are two downsides. When screaming down a monster hill or mountain (we’re talking miles of downhill, not like anything in this part of New England), I generally will stop at some point to let my rims cool down, as smaller wheel rims heat up faster. And smaller wheels are a little more susceptible to pinch flats. I consider both of these a small price to pay for my favorite riding experience of all time.
Interestingly, I’ve had people say that they felt sorry for me at the beginning of a tour. They didn’t conceive that there was any way I could complete a hilly two week trip on my bike. By the end, however, they were completely convinced otherwise.
So the next time you see me on my beautiful “Glacier” green Bike Friday, please don’t assume that I’m a newbie on a heavy commuter folder and feel sorry for me. Just yell out, “Awesome bike!”
Karen was our most recent Featured Woman Cyclist of the Month! Check out her profile!