Sunday, June 3, 2012

My STRIDA folding bike

Personal friends are probably rolling their eyes and muttering something along the lines of, "You got another folding bike?"

Indeed, I have indulged again in the sin of folding bikes and picked up a STRIDA folding bike through a GROUPON special.  For quite some time I was eyeing this odd bicycle for "multi-mode trips": travel with Metro combined with some longer walking distrances.  Often these trips involve some visit to an office during the middle of the work day.

Some quick tidbits about the bike.  The singlespeed bike has a greaseless belt drive and consequently is very clean.  The hubs mount onto the frame on a single side making tire changes and flat tire fixes faster.  Disc brakes stop the bike, fenders come with the bike, and the saddle has two preset heights: Note that there is the Mini and SX versions for short and tall people respectively.  Last but not least, tubes and tires are generally available for the 16" (ERTO 305) wheels; although you will probably have to mail order high quality tires.

To be blunt, the bike's handling is quirky to say the least.  One can quickly get used to it but an ordinary task like riding without any hands is a fantasy in my experience.  There is a considerable amount of flex relative to any standard bike and even other folding bikes that I've ridden.  Moreover the STRIDA's geometry is quite unusual.  Both likely contribute to the unusual handling.  The bike's fit can also be awkward relative to a standard bicycle since it's designed to be an acceptable fit for those 5'0" to 6'4".  The saddle is has two preset height positions and there is no stem to alter the reach.  One can move the saddle forward and aft a limited amount.

In short, if a high level of riding performance is necessary for your tastes, you should look elsewhere.


The fold, however, is very robust.  The STRIDA's rather appealing feature is the tiny footprint of the fold.  Even though the folded bike is tall, it is quite compact in an appropriate way for a Metro car.  I'm no giant, but at roughly 6' tall and 190 pounds, I can sit in a row seat on a Metro car and fit the STRIDA between my legs.  Moreover it fits well in closets and coat check rooms since it is quite easy to lean against a wall or a corner; small elastic bands keep the brakes applied when the bike is stood on its wheels.  In the following video, I fold and unfold the STRIDA in a deliberate manner to make the process absolutely clear.  (click here for a higher resolution video)

video


The unfolding steps are straightforward:
  1. Unfold handlebars and lock them in place with spring-loaded buttons and quick release.
  2. Rotate drive-side crank forward.
  3. Break magnetic lock on hubs with a slight turn on the handlebar.
  4. Slide the front wheel forward. 
  5. Connect the horizontal bar with the male/female connection near the front wheel
Folding the bike is quite similar to unfolding it.  In the video, I also demonstrate the STRIDA's second appealing feature; the folded bike is remarkably easy to roll while folded and I have done so with long flights of steps and tight quarters.  While the factory settings were fine for me the magnetic lock strength is adjustable if the hold is too strong -- unfolding the bike is difficult -- or weak -- the bike unfolds at inopportune times.

After a month or so of using the bike, I've been quite happy with the STRIDA.  I've taken it on Metro several times during peak travel and never had to bag it nor experienced any annoyed looks/comments from other travelers.  I've taken the bike into several offices, doctor visits, and stores without a single hitch outside of getting past Secret Service around the White House.

At the doctor's office

At an ordinary business
I've used the bike for distances up to two miles over relatively flat terrain and, while no speed records were broken, the amount of time saved has been considerable for all of my travel.  Interestingly, I've received many positive comments on the bike and it is a general conversation starter ... which can be a positive or negative aspect according to your personality or mood.  It's not particularly good at carrying "stuff".  If I have something to bring I would use a messenger bag or backpack.  

While I have used the bike for riding with the kids, I don't imagine ever using the STRIDA for "fun rides" as opposed to utilitarian rides.  For the purpose I discussed earlier, it is an excellent bike.  If instead, one is looking for a casual bike for weekend rides on trails and so on, I would steer that person away from the STRIDA and towards a regular bike or a folding bike with 20" wheels.  

But what if one is looking for a compact folding bike for Metro, fun and/or utility rides?  At this point, whether one should purchase a STRIDA is about tradeoffs, in my opinion.  For context, I used to own a Brompton and have a Downtube Mini.  I've test ridden a Bike Friday tikit.  I could go into excruciating details, but in a nutshell I'd steer the ...
  • ... more performance-oriented or long-ride-oriented rider towards the tikit.
  • ... person who needs a super compact fold, travel moderate distances, and carry lots of stuff towards the Brompton.
  • ... person who fits into one of the above categories but is constrained by a budget towards a Dahon Curve or the Mini.
  • ... person looking for something simple and convenient for short trips to the STRIDA.
The retail price -- $650 when I last looked -- is a bit steep for me.  But for compact folding bikes with some resemblance of manufacturer support, the price is competitive and with a little patience one can find a better price.  Obviously, there is little for me to say about bike maintenance other than it appears that there is little to do other than periodically adjust the brakes.  The cables themselves are routed internally which should protect them from the weather but make it somewhat of a pain in the butt to change them.  


10 comments:

  1. I have seen those Strida bikes, and admittedly, I have not ridden one. When I was in the market for a folding bike, I tried a variety of small-wheeled models, but ultimately, I went with a Montague bike, which has full-size wheels and can still come on the subway with me during rush hour.

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  2. Simple is good. Looks like a very useful bike.

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  3. Thanks for this. I've been toying with the idea of a folding bike for a while. So, if the tikit is for performance, the ultra compact fold is the Brompton, and the budget-conscious is the Dahon or Mini, what are the advantages of the STRIDA? Seems to me you have all the bases covered already.

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    1. If you're not carrying a lot of stuff and you plan on biking in concert with public transportation, the STRIDA is the best bike, IMO. The best comparison for the above would be the Brompton.

      The utility of the STRIDA and Brompton fold are comparable. While the STRIDA clearly has a taller fold than the Brompton, the amount of space it uses on the floor is probably less and less obtrusive, in my experience, in a crowd. The STRIDA rolls better than the Brompton while folded -- we put roller blade wheels on the back of the Brompton such that it would roll while folded too -- so you never have to pick it up. Mind you, if you did have to pick up the STRIDA, it would weigh less than most Brompton bikes. The STRIDA is also about 1/2 the price of a base model Brompton. With regards to the fold and usefulness with public transportation, the STRIDA's advantages over the others is even larger.

      Broadly speaking, relative to the STRIDA, the Brompton is more useful, has a much more flexible fit, and better riding ... which is not saying much IMO. But indeed, people do tour with Bromptons and every now and then you read about someone doing a brevet or something with one. Realistically, I think that one or two miles is probably the max distance I'd take the STRIDA. The Brompton never fit me particularly well. Generally, the Brompton will not fit particularly tall or short people well. If you're between the extremes then it depends. Nonetheless, I would take it much further than the STRIDA ... say 6-10 miles ... if I had no other options. The nice thing of the Brompton fold is that it forms a compact box and can fit in many compact spaces like an overhead rack on a train.

      There are at least two nearby Bike Friday, Brompton, and Dahon dealers. It really pays to see one in person and test ride it.

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    2. That's helpful. Can you hook it up to a Burley or is that asking for trouble?

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    3. Without walking over the garage ... I seriously doubt it. The STRIDA has a single sided mount for the front a rear wheel. The magnets that keep the wheels together when folded is on the non-drive side for the rear wheel and drive side on the front wheel.

      I think that the frame is too flexible to handle that type of stress anyway. If you want a compact folder to handle like a big boy/girl bike and have the broad gearing for hauling stuff at a reasonable price, get a Bike Friday tikit.

      http://viktikit.blogspot.com/2007/12/tikit-bf-trailer.html

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  4. The Strida is the perfect bike for getting from your free parking spot far away to the crowded midtown office building you need to be at in 10 minutes.

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    1. Absolutely. The other day, I used the STRIDA to go from work to my dentist's office. A 20-minute walk was covered in five minutes. Everyone in the dentist's office loved the bike.

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  5. I am about to get a that can collapse without a single tool. I have been looking carefully at the Strida bikes but I finally chose to get a Montague because of the frame design. Anyway, thanks for your advice.

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  6. Love my strida- ride it about seven miles a day through Manhattan. The perfect Manhattan street bike- turns on a dime to avoid potholes, stops on a dime (disc brakes) and starts quick.

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