Thursday, August 16, 2012

Folding Bike Week 2012: The Bike Friday New World Tourist

It was last summer, during the height of Folding Bike Week 2011, that I purchased a Bike Friday New World Tourist.

And I didn't write about it.

By introducing the New World Tourist on a random trip to Boston last fall, I had committed the blog equivalent of switching Dick York to Dick Sargent in the middle of Bewitched. However, I promised to save the details of that purchase for Folding Bike Week 2012, and I'm keeping my word.

I almost bought the bike unexpectedly. I had been saving to buy a Brompton almost 90% of the time I was socking money away, but in the final months, I became conflicted.

If I was a sophisticated marketer I would have written about the savings goal a la Two Broke Girls, and if I wanted to shoot for the cover of Advertising Age I would have divided DIYBIKING.COM readers into two T-shirt slogan-ready 'Team Bike Friday' and 'Team Brompton' camps – a folding bike equivalent of a 'Team Edward' and 'Team...Guy-Who-Is-Not Called Edward' from the Twilight series.

In the end, I kept the conflict to myself. I knew a Brompton would fold easier and neater than a New World Tourist, but I knew I'd only fold and unfold the bike half a dozen or so times a year; the long distance travel credentials were more important than everyday convenience. I also knew that any kind of long haul travel bike needed to have parts I could find anywhere and share components with the rest of my fleet if need be. So I bought a used 1998 New World Tourist instead of a Brompton, but I still wish I could have chosen both: if there were a few more numbers on my paystub I'd have a Brompton on general principles (more on that in another post).

But there was a lot of excitement around getting this particular Bike Friday. I found it particularly attractive that the bike – which had a wheel upgrade years earlier - not only came with an airline-ready case (which the previous owner simply taped shut and slapped a UPS label on) but a bunch of additional parts: the original wheels, tires and brakes, as well as the original owner's manual, a VHS tape and assorted tools – which arrived later in another box.

The most difficult challenge I faced during the first day after I brought my new purchase home was remembering where I had put my VCR. After rummaging a few boxes, I found it and hooked it up to my $5 tag sale television. Though a little grainy, the narrator on the eleven-year-old tape congratulated me for buying a Bike Friday, which produces 'a line of comfortable bikes with nothing to be ashamed of.'

The video showed a Bike Friday-specific option that I didn't have: one could (and still can) buy a special trailer kit so that when you land at your destination, you unpack your bike from the suitcase, put a pair of wheels and a small frame onto said suitcase, put your other luggage into said suitcase and then you can tow said suitcase away from the airport.

There's a technical term for that. Ah, yes: brilliant.

After several minutes of watching glowing testimonials and reminicing about how hairstyles looked in the 1990s, I set to work assembling my bike. I first unfolded the main body and seatmast and set it on the workbench.

I did take several minutes to assemble, but I also thought the bike might need and endless series of adjustments to make the chain and shifters work properly. But they worked fine, and the rear wheel turned easily. I put the rear rack on, added a seatpost bag and a bracket for my Garmin Edge GPS. I set the bike on the floor, and despite the old tires and ugly handlebar tape (both would be replaced later) it really was a pretty good looking bike.

Since I was new to this whole Presta valve thing, I didn't have a pump, so I inflated the tires with a CO2 inflator, and made a note to myself to buy a Presta valve pump (and I would later regret buying a cheap one). I also added a DIYBIKING.COM branded bike box before setting off early one morning on a test ride to answer one question: how good of a folding bike is this?

The big adjustment was the U-shaped handelbars. Save for the ones that showed up on a few Saved from the Scrapheap bikes, I had very limited experience with them. The old-school shifters on the ends of the bars had something to be desired too: I found that I could ride with my hands in a comfortable position. I found I could ride with my fingers near the shifters. I also found I could ride with my hands at the brakes. I just couldn't do all three of those things at the same time. Thankfully, I got used to it, and as a chronic overshifter I found that having the levers where they were kept me from clicking too much into a new gear for no reason.

The bike was fast. The seat was surprisingly comfortable. The steel frame did a decent job absorbing some of the bumps. Crossing the train tracks the pass diagnally across Rt. 106 was a little intimidating because of the small wheels – until I remembered the recumbent's front wheel is even smaller than these.

After riding into New Canaan, I sat at my favorite coffee shop and thought awhile. Ten miles into the trip and I realized that all of my criticisms of the New World Tourist had to do with things that had nothing to do with the fact it was a folding bike: the unfamiliar handlebars, brakes, shifters, riding position and the Presta valves were all common road bike issues. The small tires and strange looking frame wasn't an issue at all; the bike feels solid and fast. Even though folding it into its case involved a little bit of time and some special tools, it looked like it was ready for travel. And it was: already it has been to Boston, Orlando, New York, Cleveland, Stamford (naturally) and Santo Domingo. And here's something: the wheelbase is so small, I can fit the bike, standing up, in the back of my Honda Element and bungee it to the wall, with no need to remove a wheel or use my homemade Honda Element bike rack. And because of the low top tube, it is easy to get on and off of it: a guy in his sixties I saw riding one in Massachusetts said that was part of the reason he was using his Bike Friday everyday.

I don't name my bikes (you know, so death can't find them) but I bonded with this one in a strange way. When I discovered I couldn't bring it on my trips to Britain and India, I hung it on a hook in my shop and apologized to it. “I'll bring you next time, I swear.”

Later, when I was picking up my Five Boro Bike Tour rider number at Bike Expo New York I ran into the Bike Friday booth, and even saw the newest New World Tourist and some of their other rides. I thought that the 1998 model I bought was good, but today's version looks even better, so if you're looking for a reliable long haul travel bike and don't mind taking more than 10 minutes to (correctly) fold it into the suitcase, check out Bike Friday any day of the week.


  1. Portable air compressor or tire inflator devices are the perfect choices for quick inflation. They are easy to use and connect directly to batteries. They are exceptional; contraptions for inflation and has the ability to pump up tires very quickly indeed that is off-course if the clamps are set correctly. Visit for the best compressor reviews.

  2. I realised that many tourists' motivation of dark tourism have been researched among researchers.

  3. "Bike driving is fast. The seat was surprisingly comfortable. The steel frame did a decent job of absorbing some of the bumps. Medical Marijuana and Memory is also making comfort to their patients."

  4. The Bike Friday New World Tourist is love and also i want to tell you that The Youth International is also provide the loving and interesting information about the world

  5. Great post i have seen ever dear i'll back for reading more stuff you can also use niagara-limothat Is the best traveling service provide have seen ever this will provide the safe riding services