Thursday, 7 June 2007

Bendy Bikes

A bicycle tour of Tasmania involves flying or boating in from "mainland" Australia, and the airlines can be as crappy with bikes here as they are anywhere in the world. The solution may be a folding bike.

My personal fave brand is Bike Friday because of value and design, while Dan has on occassion expressed interest in a Birdy. Both are fine, compact tourers, with Friday's offerings being billed as "performing like a conventional bike", while some Birdy test rides we did at last year's bike expo in Melbourne, revealed that to be a fast, stable and comfortable mount. So, what are the advantages of a "bendy bike"?

While often a little more expensive for a given equipment standard, and a little heavier overall than a good roady, a folding bike will carry your panniers as well as a conventional ride. This, coupled with the convenience of being able to bag it up and have it look "not like a bike" to airline staff, are obvious considerations on both sides of the argument. Then there's the fact that a quality 20 inch wheel is both stronger and lighter than an equivalent 700c and has a smaller centripetal mass (means it's easier to spin up) than a bigger one. On the downside, smaller wheels have a little more rolling resistance and are harder and a little more expensive to get quality bits for. Panniers mounted on a small-wheeler will result in a lower centre of gravity than on a similar conventional bike, too, and a lower centre of gravity can result in slightly better rolling resistance.

So, depending on your needs, a "bendy bike" may be more suited to your touring needs. As I already live in Tasmania, and don't need to argue with airline staff over when my bike will get to Tassy, I'll probably stick with my Giant Iguana 650c hybrid tourer, but if my budget this year allows for a road bike, I see a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket in my future.

Other brands worth a look, but a little lower down the price scale include...

The "brommy" is a little on the heavy side, but damned fine quality, while the Dahon, an affordable favourite can be a little flexy, but is a great performer.

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