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Bike Friday Tikit: A Great Solution to a Very Occasional Problem

by Josh Lipton

While Ted has been delving deep into the psychology of the folding bike and the various marketing positions and ploys surrounding them, I’ve been tooling around on a few of them.  The first one I got my hands on was this nice-looking Bike Friday Tikit that I first brought on my trip to the 2011 NAHBS in Austin.
Bike Friday
My initial reaction when working with Bike Friday to get a bike was similar to the warm feeling that one might get when purchasing a suit at a department store when all of a sudden a knowledgeable sales person whips out their measuring tape and begins tucking and nodding.  Bike Friday sends you a form asking for your body specs as well as the specs of your bikes.  It was nice that Bike Friday took the time to extend the full customer service experience for my six-week review.

Bike Friday, FoldedI received the bike a few days before heading off with it to NAHBS in Austin.  And while I had some previous experience traveling with bicycles, this was my first time traveling with a folding bike.  So rather than following the typical bike reviewer modus operandi of fumbling and figuring it out as I went, I did a full practice run through before my trip.

Setting the bike up for the first time out of the box was not the casual experience that I was hoping for.  The bike comes carefully packed into the Samsonite suitcase along with its bike racks and included bike trailer parts carefully snugged together.  A few moments after wrangling the Tikit out of its case, I kicked myself for not taking a photo.  It was tough enough to get it out of the case and I had a sinking feeling it would be that much harder to get this mess of bike parts back in.

Bike FridayFrom here on I took learning the art of unpacking and unfolding seriously.  I got out the lengthy instruction manual and pulled out the video.  While clear and well written, the lengthy set of instructions did not extend the warm-fuzzy feeling that the Bike-Friday was going to gently slide into my life like a well fitted suit.  I was going to have to take some time to get to know its temperaments to get to know its value, a fleeting investment in that I only had the bike for six-weeks.

While the written instructions were a bit ponderous, the included DVD got me going.  Following along with the smooth-talking, fast-folding pro got me into the folder mindset though I had to hit rewind more than once while learning the fold and quite a few times when figuring out how to pack it back into the Samsonite suitcase/bike trailer body.

Having unpacked the Tikit, put all the pieces together, figured out where the handlebar and seat-post should be set, and folded and unfolded it a few times, it was time to get it back in the suitcase for my trip.  Sigh, this looks like work.  Actually, it wasn’t so bad until it came to some of the final details.  When I was stuffing the final pieces of the assembly into the case, I could not for the life of me figure out how the rack could stay on the bike and fit in the case.  I wasn’t going to be needing that rack in Austin so I solved my problem by removing it and leaving it at home.

Bike FridayGetting the bike on the plane and lugging it around Austin with me was just as easy as carrying a suitcase. (It was a suitcase.) It sure was nice having a bike that felt pretty much like a normal bike for riding around Austin.  The ride of the Bike Friday is really quite good.  It is actually a little bit surreal in the sense that it essentially feels exactly like you are on a regular, full-size bicycle — but you are Shaquile O’Neal.  No matter how you slice it, 16-inch wheels just feel a quite a bit different than 26-inch or 700c wheels.

Among folding bike connoisseurs, Bike Friday is known as the bike that is set apart by its full-size bike ride.  Working off this strength, Bike Friday goes the extra mile with their excellent service in fitting the bike to you.  Within their goal of producing a full size bike ride that folds in half in 15 seconds, I think they hit the nail on the head.

Bike FridayBut my problem is that when I use a folding bike it is really more about the fold than the ride.  Surely, I don’t mind that the Bike Friday offers the function and fit of a regular bike.  But if the cost of having a folder that very closely imitates the geometry of a full-size bike, is a somewhat unwieldy fold where compactness, transportability and storability are compromised, then I would prefer the scale be tipped towards superior folding.

Bike Friday Packing

Perhaps a full-size ride combined with an elegant fold is on the near horizon.  But not having seen such a development, I’m inclined to think that these are mutually exclusive characteristics.

I don’t intended to completely tread upon the utility of Bike Friday’s focus on fit and ride. When would you want a folder that emphasizes the ride over the convenience and usability of the fold?  We seem to say the “right tool for the job” a lot around hear at the Bike Shop Hub.  The Bike Friday is the right tool for a job that I think is quite rare among folder users.  But there is a job, specifically, long distance bike touring with frequent uses of other forms of transportation.

If I was bike touring  and typically riding between 40 and 80 miles a day and then perhaps between every three to seven days catching a bus, train, plane, boat or car, I would choose a Bike Friday Tikit as the right tool for the job — especially in combination with the Samsonite Suitcase/Bike Trailer.  Outside of these fairly specific parameters, I think there are other best tools for the job.

Bike Friday Packing

If I was doing extended touring with occasional needs for packing the bike, I would go for a full-sized touring bike with S&S couplers.  And if I was mainly bike commuting or even bike touring with lots of transitions between other forms of transport and quick short days of cycling, I would choose folding bike where the fold-ability was the focus.

But perhaps the Bike Friday really shines as the folder that does it all.  Perhaps it is the folder for the cyclist who wants one high performance bike that folds up and still maintains the feel of a full-size bike.

I forget this cyclist being someone who seems to have a bike for every occasion.  But there must be enough cyclists around who are particular enough to choose a Bike Friday yet not particular enough to have a bike for all occasions.  This should be Bike Friday’s  target market.  These guys alongside the previously mentioned bus-and-plane-hopping cycle tourist.

Bike Friday Packing

The Bike Friday Tikit will do its basic fold very quickly in fact quicker than almost any other folding bike.  And once unfolded the ride is more enjoyable and confidence inspiring than any other folder I’ve been on.

But comparing this fold to the other folded bikes we’ve had through the shop recently, it looks like the Bike Friday achieved its rapid fold and full-size ride by skipping a few steps.  Whenever I folded it up, I felt like giving the bike a shake and the scolding, “Really that’s the best you’ve got?”

 
BOB Trailer Sale

11 Responses to “Bike Friday Tikit: A Great Solution to a Very Occasional Problem”

  1. Karen lueken says:

    I’m going to be in the market for a bike fairly soon, I hope. I appreciate that you analyze different bikes and their accoutrements for different types of riders. I still don’t know what type of bike that I’m going to need, but I appreciate all of the variety that’s currently on the market

  2. matt says:

    I would note that the Xootr Swift is another, cheaper folder that has a fabulous full sized ride.

    It is my daily commuter of choice for the 26 mile round trip into Boston each day. It chews up the miles beautifully just like any other Bike ( my road bike isn’t really any faster on the commute). But if the weather turns nasty and I don’t want to ride home, it fills up nicely to take on public transportation.

  3. Karen says:

    I was told by a local bike shop guy that if you’ve got the money Bike Friday is the way to go. I definitely would prioritize the fold if I used public transit a lot so maybe someday it will be worth the investment. I’m currently addicted to The Path Less Pedaled so the question of touring on a folder is intruiging.

  4. Paul S. says:

    I use my Tikit primarily as an urban go-everywhere bike. The fast fold and the ability to easily roll it around on one wheel are what makes this work for me. When I cycle with friends, I’ll end up waiting for them at at a shop door, fully folded and ready to go, while they’re still locking their bike. Then I roll the bike in taking no more space than one of those tiny upright shipping carts and and the racks make it easy to carry whatever I buy at that shop home,

    I’ve never done this with a Brompton or a Dahon, so I cant directly compare, but I have folded and unfilded both of those bikes and I cant help thinking the extra time it takes would be a hassle for me. the others also seem significantly less easy to get around when folded. This doesn’t seem to hurt their prospects as commuter bikes, but I might fold and unfold my tikit half a dozen times on an errand trip, pushing it around on the front wheel easily for 20 min, and I have a hard time picturing this going as well with another folding bike.

  5. Josh Lipton says:

    @paul

    The fast fold is an advantage over the Brompton. That said, I found after spending a little time with a Brompton, the difference in time spent folding became negligible. That all said, with a dozen folds in one trip, the seconds do start to add up.

    I would argue that the Brompton is far easier to deal with once folded. It effectively feels like it’s folded profile is half the size of the Bike Friday making it easier to stow and tuck into corners. Also, a Brompton is very easy to carry by the saddle/handle or roll around with the handlebar out.

    This stuff starts to boil down to personal preference though and I’m glad that the Tikit is suiting your bike commuting personal preferences well.

  6. Pedro Boucher says:

    Bike Friday is a premium bike that cost bucks. For travel with suit case is best. The Tikit is one bike Friday that is designed for commute in city.

    I have Giant Expressway 1. I am too heavy for Dahon and Bike Friday, but not for long. I enjoy riding for 2 hours plus. It is not perfect. The tires are narrow so Target does not have that size. The tires are high pressure so patches hold only for that ride. It has double rims and the holes on the inside caused flats.

    I installed fabic rib tape instead of rubber, Mr Tuffy liners, just for grins and new tubes. It works OK now; no more flats.

    Shifting is good with very few half shifts. First gear is good for city hills only, no alps. Brakes are good. From and rear tires can come off with quick release. I removed the spare from my Miata trunk and tucked this bike inside. Most of the time, it goes in the passenger seat.

    Fold on bus or commuter train is less thatn 30 seconds. Some times I put it into its bag. It is not light weight, but I carry it while my backpack is on with no problem for me; a big man. Get a Dahon Vector 10 for lighter weight.

    For true commute, will need fenders, rack, water bottle and lights. Do not forget the good quality lock.

    Pedro

  7. how much does it the bike cost ?

  8. Rich ireland says:

    I have heard great things about the Bike Friday folders, though I just finished traveling to Germany with my Dahon Speed TR which is designed for touring. I was able to disassemble and pack it with racks and fenders into an airline legal suitcase (I found a samsonite at a TJ Maxx for 79 bucks). The Speed TR has 24 speeds and is a really comfy and stable ride. We rode 4 days basically touring the small towns of Franconia to visit many of the small breweries. We climbed plenty of hills (no mountains)and the thing was a pleasure except for Schlepping the suitcase and my gear to get there. I also traveled with it to Seattle in May for a bike ride out and back to Redhook Brewery. The equivalent Bike Friday (New world Tourist)would have been over twice the price of my Speed TR.

  9. Foo says:

    So… in short you’re saying that you’d prefer a bike which folded tighter over one which had a better ride, more options, better fit, and better gearing. In other words, you want a Brompton.

    Um, okay.

    There are people who are looking for folding devices that are ridable, and there are people who are looking for bikes that are foldable. You’re in the former category, i’m in the latter. I need a high-quality bike that fits me right, but which I can put in my trunk, or in my closet, or occasionally in my suitcase, and which I can cover and sneak into stores and restaurants without complaint. The Brompton’s a poor choice for that, but the tikit’s great. I have absolutely no use for an ultracompact fold filled with compromises.

  10. Josh Lipton says:

    @Foo

    One man’s compromise is another man’s solution. Or in other words, each to their own.

    We’re on the opposite end of the spectrum on this one. So while you consider that the ride of the Brompton is full of compromises, I can respond that the fold of the Tikit is full of compromises.

    I’m glad that there are two high quality folding bike companies that have dedicated themselves towards the opposite sides of the ride/fold compromise.

  11. Jon Waterman says:

    You are overlooking one excellent reason to use a Bike Friday. I travel internationally frequently and like to tour cities by bike. When in Amsterdam or Germany I rent bikes which are relatively inexpensive and good quality. but in many countries it is impossible or too expensive to rent a bike. A good example was a recent trip to Valencia in Spain. I did research before arriving and went to the “best” rental shop in the city and all the bikes were total junk. I rented the “best’ one available and it was so bad had to stop every few miles to patch it together. I brought it back to the shop and asked for adjustments and the owner told me to come back the next day. He acted very annoyed. When I came back he did a horrible job and the bike was still a piece of junk. It kind of ruined the trip. The great thing about a bike Friday is the suitcase is just small enough to avoid excess baggage fees.

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