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Owner Review: Bike Friday New World Tourist Folding Bicycle

24 Aug
Bike Friday NWTs

Our Bike Friday New World Tourists on the bank of the Rhein

We purchased these bikes directly from Bike Friday, custom built to our measurements in February 2011.

I based my measurements on my small Surly Long Haul Trucker. The bikes were primarily purchased for our tour of Europe in June – July & August 2011. We chose to get the New World Tourists with the Travelcase system, which consists of a Samsonite suitcase and a lightweight, bolt on trailer frame.

So far I have logged 1,400 kilometres on the Bike Friday, and it has performed admirably, comparing very well to the Oyama Lexington folding bike which I initially bought to see if I liked ‘small wheelers’.

My particular NWT is fitted with a Shimano dynamo hub, a women’s Brooks B17, and some flat pedals with ‘power grips’. It has SRAM X4 running gear and Tektro Mini V brakes.

The Good

Bike Friday promises that their bikes will ride just like your best bike. I was sceptical at first, but was converted quickly. The steel frame with longish chainstays and seat stays make it very comfortable over the bumpy stuff, particularly for the small 20″ wheel size. The bike handles well at speed, is easy to accelerate and could climb a vertical wall. I did find it hard to cruise on the flat over 25kph, but that is more than quick enough for a tourer.

The tyres are tough, without a single puncture on either the bike or the trailer. After 1,400 kms there is some wear on the rear tyre but they have a lot of meat on them so it will take many more kilometres to wear them out.

The SRAM X4 twist grip shifters are the best twist grip shifter I have ever used. They are comfortable to rest your hands on, and very easy to grab and twist, which is important when touring, as fatigue is likely to come into the game somewhere.

The bikes did well both on and off road, and some of the tracks were very muddy and rough. We also climbed the Col du Tourmalet on them.

Bike Friday Tourmalet

Me and the Bike Fridays on top of the Col du Tourmalet

I have front and rear racks for the Bike Friday, though I only use the front rack on tour. The chain stays are long for a folder, but there is a heel strike issue when my panniers are stuffed to the brim on the back of the bike. I have taken the Bike Friday shopping as it is stable and handles well under load.

The trailer hitch is ingenious – it is an air hose coupling which is brazed on to the frame. It is compact and efficient – just make sure you keep the trailer hitch clean and lubed, otherwise it will jam up and will be impossible to get off. It also may cause problems with your trailer bolts if the bike falls over and the hitch won’t rotate…. (see the ‘Bad’ below).

Packing the bike up and taking it ‘incognito’ was awesome, especially for the French trains where taking bikes is a hassle, and for the ICE train from Germany to the Netherlands where you have to pay extra for a bike. Having the bikes in such a compact form was also handy for catching taxis to and from the airport, as we could fit them both in a wagon (it would have had to have been a maxi taxi otherwise!), and we didn’t have to go to the separate ‘oversize luggage’ drop off at the airport as the Samsonites fit on the conveyers. It was also good for hotels who otherwise would not let bikes into the rooms.

The Bad

Initially the buzz from the tyres bothered me. You only notice it when in quiet areas with smooth riding surfaces though, so I didn’t notice it much on tour.

The ‘draw bolt’ which attaches the draw bar of the trailer to the Samsonite suitcase bent and snapped when we were dismantling our gear to put it on a train rendering the trailer useless until I found a new bolt. I did find a new one, but the way that the original bolt bent meant that the hole was widened when unscrewing it to get it out. This meant that the replacement bolt had to be periodically retightened on tour.

The suitcases, while stylish, were the weak point of the system. The handles clogged up with dirt which meant they jammed and did not extend easily. The main lock jammed a few times on tour, making it hard to open the case, and after a while they required a good, sharp whack in order to shut them properly. They were roughly handled on the flight back, and did their job well protecting the bikes, but I needed to use the claw part of a hammer to get the lock open.

In Conclusion

The Bike Friday New World tourist bikes were the perfect solution for our tour. I will also use mine in future for tours that involve the Australind or Prospector trains in WA which make taking full size bikes a hassle. The Bike Friday will also become my summertime commuter when the bike cage is overflowing, and I need to fold the bike, put it in a bag and carry it upstairs to keep in the store room.

Waiting for train in Lourdes

Our Bike Fridays and other luggage stacked on the platform waiting for a train from Lourdes

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6 Comments

Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Folding Bikes, Reviews, Touring, Touring Bikes

 

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6 responses to “Owner Review: Bike Friday New World Tourist Folding Bicycle

  1. Velophile Australia

    March 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Very cool. I own a Vivente World Randonneur, which is an awesome touring and commuting bike. However after my experiences cycle touring through France and Germany last year I am definitely considering to buy a good quality folding bike next time. It’s such a hassle packing a full sized touring bike for air transit, not to mention trying to get a train in Europe as only certain trains allow for bicycles are are often difficult to get onto. It was very interesting having to carry my ~35kg full-laden touring bike up and down these stairs in France with only minutes to spare to get onto a connecting train. Hectic! Folding bike + Samsonite case looks perfect!

    My brief trip wrap up is located here: http://www.velophile.com.au

    Thanks

    Karl

     
    • perthcyclist

      March 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      I guess the only thing to mention here is that folding bikes are more convenient to carry but they aren’t any lighter :) with my dynamo hub and front racks packed away in my Samsonite with the bike it was a touch over 20kg (it got the ‘heavy’ sticker slapped on it in the airport). I did find it hard at the start to lug the bike/case and my gear up and down the stairs! Especially during the first train-change we ever did, because we didn’t know which train we were meant to change to – we didn’t know what the end-of-line station was.

      It was so awesome to be able to go into ‘stealth’ mode and pack the bikes up for train trips though. It meant we could catch fast international trains, and probably saved us some money too. It was also good for hotels without bike parking, there weren’t many, but it was reassuring to be able to have the bikes in the room instead of parked outside in full view of the public.

       
  2. Lee Shipley

    March 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Perthcyclist, its all your fault, your well written review triggered our purchase is Bike Fridays for our latest European biking adventure starting in May. It was a confirmation of our own conclusions.
    On the two previous adventures we had been on guided and self guided tours where the bikes(normally well built late model hybrids) are part of the package.
    We also made heavy use of the near ubiquitous “city bikes”, a practice that made for cheap wanderings around inner urban areas like Brussels, Paris, Lyon and many others. However we love big long tours and it was an exersize in itself to steads for a traverse from Bordeaux to Montpelier via the Garonne and Canal Midi.
    We are now in shakedown mode with our Bike Fridays aredoing our first domestic flights with a weekend in Canberra from our base in Brisbane last week. We had to do some juggling to keep the bikes under the 23kg domestic limit but it meant we did not have to pay the expensive day hire fees for doing the cycleway loop of Lake Burley Griiffin.
    It was a promising start to what could be a major upgrade to our wanderings so thank you for this article.

     
    • perthcyclist

      March 13, 2014 at 11:13 pm

      Hi Lee! I hope you love your Bike Fridays and have a great tour! We are going to be doing some touring this year also from the French Alps through Belgium/Luxembourg and the Netherlands. I have moved on to self-hosting now though so if you wish to see any updates feel free to check out

       

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