Saturday, September 17, 2022

Test Riding a Bike Friday All-Packa

The Bike Friday All-Packa is pure fun. I found myself seeking dirt on every ride.

Out of the blue, I was asked if I wanted to review a prototype Bike Friday All-Packa! Heck ya! I'm a folding bike lover, frequently riding my Dahon Boardwalk, so it didn't take long to set up a rendezvous, and the All-Packa was dropped off at my doorstep.

Described as "best suited for all-road, gravel, doubletrack, flowy singletrack due to the smaller wheels.", Bike Friday is not trying to convince people to replace their mountain bikes, but rather as an alternative for frequent travelers who are seeking an all-road, best handling, folding bike.

The Packalope bar folds in half should you need to pack the bike into a suitcase.

First impressions were pure delight. I love the frame design. The handling was stable; position was more forward, more like my hardtail mountain bike. The All-Packa easily handled the same local easy single track where I'd normally ride my mountain bike. In fact, it was preferable because of the short wheel base, 2.4" tires, and low stepover height.

It took me a while to get used to the Packalope bar: the width seemed perfect, but I had trouble with the grip angles and flat bar extensions. Even with that, the bar housed my bike light and supported two different types of backpacks - a handy feature for anyone who doesn't own bolt-on, seat post, or special front roll-type bags. 

For jaunts that didn't require much carrying capacity, I used a daypack to lug a few tools, pump, and my purse. I started off with a wider seat and later switched to a Terry Butterfly, which was better.

2003 Dahon Boardwalk vs. Bike Friday All-Packa

Interestingly, the All-Packa is only 3" longer wheelbase than my Boardwalk, so I immediately felt at home and could easily switch between both bikes. Of course the All-Packa is an all terrain wonder, lending confidence on dirt. Most striking, I could load up the All-Packa and not have to worry about stressing handlebars, folding mechanism, frame, or wheels. On asphalt, the All-Packa comfortably rolls over cracks, curb edges, minor potholes, etc. though that's where I missed the Dahon's speed and agility.

The 1X gearing was perfect for my travels, but as with any Bike Friday you can customize a bike with your preferred gearing, handlebars, brakes, frame color, racks, etc.

I rode the bike everywhere because it was so much fun!

At night.

For sunsets.

Even pedaling along a packed beach in the lowest gear.

Initial setup: sorting out handlebar height, installing seat, pedals, waterbottle rack. The All-Packa has numerous attachment points on forks and top tube.

I went on a simple overnight to test baggage handling. There's ample space behind the seat post for a bag, or in my case a tent that barely fit, but cleared the rear wheel. The backpack weighed 15 lbs. I wasn't surprised at the stability and handling, especially on dirt roads. The All-Packa supports tires up to 2.4" width (test version), but there's scant clearance. A rider would have to reduce tire width if planning to install fenders.

With mine and other testers' feedback, Bike Friday planned to tweak the handlebar shape and source lighter weight tires.

During the month-long, almost daily rides, what struck me the most was how the All-Packa allowed me the freedom to travel where my Dahon cannot. This was my first adventure with a Bike Friday, so I figured out their unique two-step fold. The All-Packa is likely not the best machine for the way I use a folding bike, but I could see myself someday owning a Diamond Llama. With similar frame, suitable for dirt roads, equipped with narrower tires, upgraded Packalope bar, and V-brakes, it could replace my Dahon.

I'm pleased to have had this wonderful experience!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Vincita Dutch-style Top Loading Skye Panniers Review


I am enamored with the budget-friendly Vincita Skye Panniers! I had wanted to replace worn, smaller panniers with something of equal volume, however what I got was double the size - and I couldn't be happier. 

Four hook and loop fasteners, secure the Dutch-style panniers to the rack with one at the bottom so the bag stays in place. When empty, the bag remains flat. There are additional hook and loop fasteners along the top edge for expanding, yet secure for additional groceries, or leave the top open for maximum storage. The side buckles can also stay open, but the straps are short enough to clear the spokes. There is a zipper pocket to store valuables or, in my case, for a cargo net for additional rack top volume. 

I like the minimalist design, low cost, and color selection. The panniers are backed in black material, so I had no qualms buying a colored version. They also come with a rain cover of which I have not yet tested. The roll top design itself can withstand a light shower. I purchased mine on Amazon.

Look at the volume! Wedge-shaped when extended, cargo tends
 to stay in place without a top closure.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

What Bicycles Catch your Eye?

Red bicycles are classic, in whatever style!

We all have our own preferences for bicycles. What I'm curious about is what captures your fancy? When out riding, or driving, what makes you look twice? Is it a particular style, color, or is it a special accessory, or combination of several things? 

I used to be over the moon when spotting a step through bicycle, especially a loop frame. Nowadays, it's harder to spot those gems in a sea of commonplace, easily mounted ebikes.

Folding bikes turn my head. In our region, they are still rare, fortunately, highlighted by riders in upright posture, spinning faster on smaller wheels.

A wire basket on the front makes me smile. If a bike has a basket it generally means someone has an old bike that they've repurposed into a commuter. I enjoy seeing older bikes given a new life.

For color, red trumps all! If the cheery red frame is also one of the above loves, even better. Lookout, I may be the wacky rider stalking your red machine for a closer look!

What type of bicycle(s) turn your head?

Monday, July 18, 2022

Bye Bye Rivendell Clem!


My Rivendell Clem is on it's way to Connecticut, where I hope the new owner will love it's smooth ride and easy step through design. I liked the wide low double gearing - something that may grace my next bike! Panaracer Pasela tires are old favorites, plus the new Soma Oxford bars were A-1 comfort, a definite improvement over the stock Boscos.

Trying to make the Clem my forever touring bike, though, had it's drawbacks. It's long. It's heavy. In the end, those two factors were not something I could live with and avoided even riding the Clem, barring a multiday trip, where low gearing was needed. In the future, I will never order a bike online - especially an expensive one - without trying it first.

I do have a replacement in the queue, building from the frame up - first time for everything! I won't be doing the work myself but rather providing input. Light wheels for starters. More on my Beaujolais babe later.

For now, goodbye Miss Clem. May you provide the next rider with lots of smiles.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Reimagining a Randor Terrain Buster Mountain Bike


Randor Terrain Buster, a tank in this condition.

Our son recently acquired his grandfather's bicycle, a Randor Terrain Buster. A Randor? Both my son and I Googled the brand, only coming up with several Randor BMX bikes, but there is a distinct lack of information on this particular model. We knew it was most likely some low end department store brand, possibly that didn't catch on in a sea of  better equipped Treks, Bridgestones, Marins, Gary Fishers, etc. What caught my son's eye, I presume, was the slack 80's geometry, square fork crown, and bullmoose handlebar. The clean frame - nary a scratch - made it all the more attractive for the bicycle's age. I'd been eyeballing the bike for years, and enough time has passed since my father left this world, that my brother was finally willing to part with it. 

Initial inspection in the basement, our son loved the head badge, "Randor Par Excellence". He removed the wide sprung saddle, composed of at least 20 small steel springs. It must've weighed 5 lbs.! He discovered the steel wheels, and at first glance liked the pattern stamped on the brakes. He noted the rack had to go. My son had a vision, but he's a man of few words.

I figured it would make a great simplified commuter bike for him - he already had 26" winter studded tires. I didn't doubt he would fix up the bike to his satisfaction; what I couldn't foresee was all the amazing details and effort he would put into his grandfather's bicycle to make it his own.

The gorgeous Terrain Buster! 

The bicycle disappeared for a month, stored at the shop where he's a bike mechanic. Without updates along the way - I think he wanted to surprise me - he'd come home late almost every evening. He stripped the bike to the frame and fork, in the end those were the only original parts - as he built wheels, had eyelets brazed by a coworker, set up a dynamo front wheel, added cantilever brakes, and red bling up the wazoo! His coworkers affectionately called it the "Terrain Buster" - one of those silly names for mountain bikes (like my Trek Antelope) that made you laugh. I never imagined the effort he would put into a seemingly low end frame, yet like his other bikes, he spares no expense.

I have to admit, the end result is sweet!

He is not stopping there, it seems. There are and will be more improvements. He's since swapped the brakes for ones with more efficient braking. He's considering a handle bar extension to lift the bars a bit higher. Technically, the frame is too small for him. He's continually learning and experimenting.

I know my father would've been proud of his grandson.