Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Bike Friday Tikit

The Tikit is Bike Friday's first really compact folder, and uses 16 inch 349 wheels in place of the 20 inch ones used on previous models (apart from the old Satrday recumbent, which also used 16 inch wheels). The Tikit can be folded without undoing any catches - a smart tap on the back of the saddle allows the rear traingle to be folded underneath, and cables free the front stem catch as this is done. The bike was announced a few months ago, but the first ones to reach UK distributors Avon Valley Cyclery only arrived here a few days ago. I went down to Bath today to look at the bike, and test it. The weather was not good - it rained (drizzle, heavier rain and VERY heavy rain) throughout the test, but I did manage to ride from Bath to Kingswood on the cycle route (tarmac, along the old railway), then took to the roads to go across to Keynsham, railway path back to Bath, local roads,towpath to Bathampton and then roads back to Bath. I took in one longish, steep hill (Bathwick Hill) to see how well the bike (and I) climbed. I also tried folding and unfolding a couple of times. Briefly:
Frame etc: steel, nicely made, no sign of flex in the frame, just the faintest sign of stem flex when applying a lot of effort climbing, but only a slight fore and aft movement, and unlikely to be noticed in normal riding.
Gears: 8-speed derailleur, 11-28 cassette, didn't count the front ring, but probably about 54. Twist grip has quite short movement, which like most twist grips makes it a bit awkward changing down in the wet (difficult to grip it, and then difficult to avoid changing down by more than 1 gear). Not a problem if it is dry. The front ring has a guard, and the ring could be replaced with a smaller one if required.
Brakes: Tektro V brakes with Shimano levers. Excellent, very powerful, meaning a little care is required in using the front brake.
Wheels & tyres: 349 wheels, Schwalbe Marathon tyres. With about 85psi in them, these rolled very freely.
Racks and luggage: Nothing fitted, and I need to check on the options here.
Folding and unfolding: the ingenious cable system means no catches to release when folding. The sytem seems to work well, but personally I think I'd prefer to have a manual catch for the stem, and do without the complexity of the cables. Folding should be quick and easy (see the Bike Friday web site for links to a video), but a bit of practice required to do things in the right order. When folded there is a positive catch to hold the package together. This needs to be released before a similarly simple (with practice) unfold. Bike can be wheeled along on one road wheel when folded - there is even a handle specially for holding it when doing this! Folded size is certainly larger (longer in particular) than a Brompton or Mezzo, but pretty compact.
On the road: Very free running. The small wheels, high pressure tyres and lack of suspension mean that the ride is not as comfortable as say a Birdy (with suspension) or the Dahon Curve (small wheels, no suspension, but Big Apple tyres), but not unduly harsh. Very stable - taking a hand off the bars to signal, get out a handkerchief etc does not cause any worries. The bars are about average length. Gear range is what you would expect, thugh ust a fraction high overall for me. I tested the small framed version - there is a medium (none in stock) and a large frame as well (large was too big for me). Subjectively, it did not feel quite as light when lifted as I expected, though certainly not a heavy machine (I will confirm the weight later).
Overall, a very impressive new machine.
A rather more detailed report, filling in some gaps and providing some more figures, should appear on the web site in a few days time. Many thanks to Avon Valley Cyclery for allowing me to take out the bike for 4 hours to test it.
Bike Friday:
Avon Valley Cyclery: