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!