Category: Bikes

Editor’s note: Once again, we bring you an excellent guest article from Andrew “Doc” Li — looks like we’ll be giving him his own place on the staff real soon. Today’s review is of the Biria folding bike; longtime readers may remember we had ANOTHER guest review of a Biria bike a few years ago. You may also notice that Biria didn’t give Andrew much time at all on the bike; less than a week. And we had to talk them into that…they wanted to give him only three days to try out the folder! In any case, he handled the short time frame with aplomb. Andrew, let it rip!

I think that people either love or hate folding bicycles. Regardless of your personal views on the topic, folding bikes have definite benefits and applications that may come in handy. What follows is a review of the Biria folder.

Over a period of a week, I had the opportunity to test out the Biria folder. Biria, originating from Germany, is better known in Europe and introduced its line of bicycles to the US in 2002. The company’s focus is producing comfortable, commuter oriented bicycles, and its claim to fame is its easy boarding “step in” frame design. The Biria folder that I tested out (the one that is currently advertised on their website has the following features:

FRAME Aluminum, folding
FORK Steel
RIMS Aluminum double wall with CNC
TIRES 20 x 1.20
GEAR Shimano 7-speed Revo
STEM Aluminum, folding
BRAKE Front and rear aluminum Tektro V-brakes
COLORS Black, red, white


I measured these specifications (which I did not encounter on the website):

Weight: 24.5 pounds
Dimensions: ~24 x 20 x 14 inches
Comfortable speed: ~15 MPH (pedaling at 90 rpm, this is obviously variable)
Set up time: ~40 seconds

I arrived at Bike Attack in Santa Monica who provided the Biria folder. The first thing I learned from the friendly staff was how to fold and unfold the bike. The mechanisms are similar to other brands (e.g. Dahon), and involve a handlebar hinge, a frame hinge, folding pedals, and collapsing seatpost. A notable difference is that while the Dahon uses a quick-release clamp for the handlebar hinge, the Biria folder uses a screw-down clamp, which in my view adds some time to the folding and unfolding process . Some Dahon models come with magnets to help keep the bike folded (though I have heard of some complaints about their inefficacy). The Biria does not have this magnet feature, but the frame hinge was relatively tight such that I did not have a problem with the bike unfolding unexpectedly during transport.


After some small talk at Bike Attack, I headed back to work. I folded up the Biria, and it fit nicely in my trunk. It took up more space than I thought it would, about 1/3 of the space. Overall, the Biria helped me save time; instead of setting up a rack and strapping on a full size bike, I just folded up the Biria and put it in the trunk. The folder also allowed me easy access to the trunk, unlike a trunk mount. The bike was also more secure as I was able to store the folder in the trunk, instead of having a full size merely strapped/locked to the rack.

From Bike Attack, I drove to a parking spot about 2 miles from my work. Parking at my workplace is excruciating and expensive. So for the past year, I became a hybrid commuter (part drive, part bike). This time however, when I arrived at the parking spot, instead of having to unstrap everything, lift off my full size, disassemble my rack, and put the rack in the trunk, all I had to do was open the trunk, lift out the folder, unfold, close trunk, and ride away.


And ride away I did. The 2 mile trip from the parking spot to work was a good preliminary testing ground for the Biria. I also took the Biria for a grocery run. The Biria felt strong and solid, and when I didn’t look down, it rode nearly like a full size.

Small wheels made for fast acceleration and ease with uphills. The steepest hill I climbed during the testing phase was about 500 meters of 10% grade and it felt great. The braking and shifting components on my Biria folder were of good quality, well tuned (thanks Bike Attack), and felt precise and responsive.

However, small wheels also made the Biria very sensitive to even the smallest bumps in the road and created significant oversteer. These two combined meant that when I rode down hills, one particular bump caused me to veer off unexpectedly. Another issue was that the maximum extended length of seat post is just right for my height of 5’ 9”. So it might be a bit small for bigger people.

When I arrived at work, instead of locking the bike outside, I saved more time, folded it up, and took it inside. I will say that 24 pounds is not insignifcant to carry, and moreover, the limited space in my office made storing the Biria a challenge (but obviously easier than a full size). When I went grocery shopping, I actually forgot my lock, so I folded up the Biria and put it my shopping cart. Easy enough. But good thing I was only shopping for a few things, because the bike took up about the whole cart space. Brompton folders have innovated the concept of rollers and “Eazy wheels” which allows the rider to push and use the folded Brompton much like a shopping cart.

Overall, the Biria is a well built folder with standard features. It rides nearly like a full size, and is easy to fold and unfold.

From my past experiences and brief time with the Biria, I feel that the following situations would make the Biria useful, and in some cases, more advantageous than a full size:

1. Park away from a busy (e.g. downtown) area, then bike in, avoiding parking nightmares and often expensive fees.
2. Bring with you on vacation in your car, RV etc. Great for short range exploration without the hassle of trying to find parking or storing a full size on a rack.
3. If you bike to work and then go out to dinner after, you can easily put the folder into your friend’s trunk, and then after a night out, then bike back from that location. In contrast, I have never been able to store my full size in my friend’s trunk. In these situations, I either had to bike to the restaurant from work or carpool with my friend and then have him drive me back to the workplace where I parked my bike.
4. Store the folder in a car that needs to be dropped off at the mechanic and bike back home (if your mechanic is near your home).

Do good and ride well.

Following the theft of my beloved commuter bike – Toro – last summer, I had the good fortune to test ride some bikes…. and at long last I’m letting you know my thoughts on this Torker bike that I previewed for you.


Torker graciously sent me their T300 step thru model to ride for review. (After a bit of a snafu, I was finally up and running on this great new ride!) Quite a snazzy set-up. Almost reminds me of a Dutch-style bike.

I must admit that I was initially a bit skeptical of the sloping step through configuration. While I have always loved the look and comfortable feel of the bike, I never bought one of my own. Both the heft and the awkwardness of carrying such a steed up and down the rear steps to my apartment have led me to prefer a bike with a diamond frame so I could haul the bike up by the top tube.

Now for the specs:

• Stylish alloy twin top tube frame in 2 styles.
• Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub.
• Dependable rear coaster brake.
• Includes fenders, chainguard, & rear rack.

Available sizes: 15”, 17”, 19”,
15” step thru, 17 step thru”.

Torker sent me a 15″ step thru to fit my 5’4″ stature. This bike also comes in a more “unisex” style diamond/mixte style frame.

You’ll notice that this bike comes with a rear coaster brake and front hand brake. Since this is a Friday review, I’m including a Friday musing with this review….. “how did I ever ride a bike with a coaster brake?” After many years of riding free wheel bikes with hand brakes, I missed being able to reposition the pedal after I stop so that I can push off again (known as the power pedal position). And I think I’ve forgotten “how” to get started (without some awkward shove off) after I do stop when I ride with coaster brakes. Oops. Is there a trick I’m missing or have forgotten?
Note: I didn’t let this forgetfulness slow me down with my riding and I did adapt.

But this bike is fun and riding it around Chicago made me feel like a lady.

Riding in style (and value)

My friend rides the T300 around the parking lot; the 15″ frame bike accommodates a wide range of heights and even comes in a larger size.

Its upright riding position is suited for city navigating and being able to see around traffic.

the cockpit

View from the saddle (riding along Chicago’s first 2-way protected bike lane)

This bike already comes standard with fenders, rear rack and chain guard, so you could wear your suit or dress to the office without worry. Its plush saddle means you don’t have to worry about needing padded shorts; plus, the rear of the saddle is reflective, which is a great safety factor after dusk. The pedals also nicely work with any shoe – even dress shoes – as they are not made with sharp metal edges that could scuff or damage nice shoes. As an added bonus, the pedals also have reflectors built in, so they’re noticeable in headlights when out pedaling after dark.

plush saddle with reflective material facing rear and pedals with reflectors

The upright position maybe slowed me down from the speeds I’d grown accustomed to attaining on Toro which was more of a road bike. For my usual sub-5 mile bike commuting route there wasn’t a considerable time difference. I did notice the difference when I pedaled to a further work location and it took longer.

With 3 internal speeds this bike is suitable for most conditions, especially in the flatlands of Chicago. But the gearing gaps are sizeable and I sometimes struggled with finding the best gear. In most cases I stayed in the middle gear (the usually “just right” sweet spot).

Internal gearing and rear coaster brake

Front rim brake

For carrying my work necessities, the rear rack accommodated my panniers – and I tested out multiple brand panniers with this bike’s rear rack – without an issue.

The Detours Ballard Bag easily clips to the rear rack

Out of the box, it was such a convenience to not have to worry about equipping the T300 with the necessary commuting accessories of fenders, rack and chain guard, plus reflective accents on the saddle and pedals.

Ready for urban riding right out of the box – with fenders, chain guard and rear rack

At the pricepoint of $439 for this Torker T300, I recommend it to anyone seeking a comfortable entry level urban bike.

While it was challenging at times to haul this bike up and down to my apartment, I did find a manageable way to carry it. By simply grabbing the bottom of the sloping tube with one hand and the handlebars with the other to steady the bike, I could lift it just high enough to carry it down the steps.

Some evenings I was able to haul it back upstairs in the same manner. Other nights (maybe I was too tired) I had to implement the technique I used to use to haul my old Schwinn mixte frame upstairs — by turning the bike around and hauling it upstairs rear wheel first; in this case I would grab the seat tube and the sloping down tube and be lifting the heavier rear end up first.

Bottom line — I have enjoyed riding this Torker T300 bicycle around town, especially for its comfort and style. And that makes this bike a winner for me.

Surly Ogre

Surly is a brand that everyone seems to love. I have yet to meet one person that has anything negative to say about Surly. Its reputation, at least from what I’ve read online and from a couple of fixed gear friends, is that Surly is “The Stuff”. That said, the Surly booth was packed and everyone wanted to demo their bikes! It was hard to get the attention of one of the booth employees but I didn’t have to wait long to give my ID and to sign my waiver form to try out one of the bikes. After that, the guy asked me what bike I wanted to demo. Now RL had strongly suggested to try out one of the fat-tired Surlys but I was curious as to what the Surly booth employees would recommend if I asked them for a commuter bike.  I figured any of the bikes would be fine to commute on but the Ogre was quickly recommended because it was a geared bike.

Installing Pedals

Commuter Friendly? Or just bag friendly?

I tried medium-large as I like the ride and feel of a larger framed-bike, although normally I ride medium-sized bikes. My first impression within a few minutes? It was stiff and jarring. To be nice, perhaps “jarring” would be too strong of a word but I cannot say that it was anywhere near comfortable. Harsh words perhaps, but for its off-roading looks and supposed capabilities, the bike was not very comfortable to use and I never even took it on dirt paths–I just maneuvered it from the booth, which was on dirt and gravel, to the pavement marked out for those wanting to try out bikes on smoother surfaces.

Downhill fast!!!

Considering my experience with the bike on dirt paths, I wanted to see how it would perform on pavement. The route I took led me down to this hill pictured above and it rode much like a mountain bike. Totally not what I would expect from a so-called “Commuter Bike” unless of course it IS a mountain bike. On the other hand, the weight of the bike allowed it to pick up speed very fast although the tires prevented it from going faster. I wonder if the bike is a mountain bike that Surly fashions to be a commuter bike?

Avid Brakes, Shimano Deore 3×9, Salsa Handlebar

Aside from the bike having a harsh ride, there are plenty of positive things about it. One is the 17-degree bend Salsa Motoace handlebar. It was comfortable and because of my arm reach (I’m 5’10” and according to doctors, I have normal arm reach), I had a very comfortable arm bend that didn’t stretch me out. For me, if I’m on a bike that I’m stretched out on, the bike’s ride can be harsher that it should be so I’m thankful that the effective top tube was within my arm’s length reach.

160mm rotor disc brakes

As for the brakes? The brakes were mighty strong. Too strong perhaps. I don’t know if that’s a plus as it caused me to mis-handle the bike at times but I think with more practice on bikes with disc brakes, having really strong brakes is a plus. I’m used to riding with caliper brakes and disc brakes are far more powerful, as I found out, so you can see why I didn’t expect to have such a short stopping distance.

3×9 Shimano Deore, Truvativ Firex

The bike had 3 speeds in the front and 9 speeds in the back and the Shimano Deore-equipped Ogre shifted smoothly. At first, it wasn’t shifting smoothly, but after tuning up via the barrel adjuster on the trigger shifter during the ride it was all good. The top gear was a 44/11 combination. So with different tires, I’m sure that the bike can be a capable speedy bike. You may have to work out your legs because the bike is heavy but at least the gear range won’t stop you.

So overall, the bike has plenty of characteristics that would indeed make it worthy of being called a commuter bike. It’s got an upright position and is super-friendly to accessories like racks, bags, fenders as you can see below IN BOLD.

Tubing: Surly 4130 CroMoly steel. Main triangle double-butted. TIG welded
Rear dropouts: Horizontal slotted with derailleur hanger, 135mm O.L.D. Features Rohloff torque arm slot and threaded eyelets for fenders, racks and Surly trailer mounts
Brake compatibility: Disc and rim brake compatible. Disc mounts are 51mm IS Rim brake pivots are removable. Note: rear disc brake is limited to 160mm maximum rotor diameter and requires the use of Surly caliper adapter
Braze-ons: Full-length Surly Trip Guide housing line guides for derailleurs and brakes; two sets of water bottle cage mounts, removable post cantilever pivots; upper seatstay threaded barrels, mid- and low-blade fully threaded through-blade fork eyelets; threaded holes for racks, fenders and trailer mounting nuts; Rohloff OEM2 axle plate mounting slot
Chainring clearance: 26/36/46t
Tire clearance: 29 x 2.5″. Individual tire and rim combos affect tire clearance
Fork: TIG-welded 4130 CroMoly, 80mm suspension corrected, tapered straight blade. Low- and mid-blade fully threaded through-blade rack eyelets; fender mount eyelets at dropout; 1-1/8″ x 260mm threadless steer tube, 51mm disc mount (203mm max. rotor diameter), removable cantilever pivots, line/housing guides


Bottom line? Because of the straight-blade fork and the way the frame is designed, the ride quality is hard to ignore. I like the bike fine but I would look elsewhere for a commuter bike to purchase unless of course you outfit the bike with a Thudbuster seatpost and installed a fork with better damping quality.

Sorry Surly…I didn’t mean to take away anything from your otherwise stellar word of mouth reputation.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Look what arrived at my doorstep Friday morning!

Can you guess what I’ll be riding around town in the coming weeks… and what I’ll be assembling?

In the aftermath of the theft of my beloved Toro, I really have been without a good around-town bike – complete with fenders and rack – and one that is built for the rigors of getting around the urban jungle of Chicago on two wheels. So, to keep me rolling, I’m now on the job reviewing a bike for our friends at Torker. (Thank you, Torker!)

Stay tuned to see how she looks once unwrapped and in motion. Brownie points to readers who guesses which Torker model I’ll be riding.

Not too long ago, I met up with the folks at Motiv Electric Bicycles. They gave me one of their bikes to test out for the site. But before I get into that, I wanted to talk about how you could customize your very own e-bike.

If you were to visit Motiv’s website:, you can actually pick and choose the colors for your frame, rims, tires/cockpit and battery pack size. Below is what I went with. I had thought about going for the hot pink…but decided to stick with something more conservative.
motive shopping

Here she is in all her glory. Not bad eh? Ya I noticed that the tires didn’t quite match the photo above, but I was pretty happy with the overall look of it.
Motive Electric Bike

To view the specs of the bike, click on this link: Specs

Motiv comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame (as long as you are the original owner). The battery carries a 2 year warranty as well. More warranty information can be found by clicking here:Warranty

Originally Motiv Electric Bicycles set me up with a 36v battery pack. This actually rode well — very smooth — and gave me distance of 23 miles per charge with a top speed of 20mph. Then, at the 3 week mark, they provided me with their bigger battery pack, the 48v. According to Motiv, this pack would let me go faster. Sure enough, they were right! I hit a whopping 31mph and traveled 21 miles in one charge.
Motive Electric Bike
Rear motor has good torque and mated with the 48v battery pack, I was cruising up the hills un-assisted (no pedaling).
Motive Electric Bike

Motiv’s frame is pretty unique when it came to the battery placement. Other e-bikes we’ve tested either have the battery pack in the back or between the head and seat tube. The problem with the rack pack design is that your center of gravity is…well…off centered. To me, those types of bikes feel less stable. But Motiv placed their pack directly behind the seat tube, which basically sits it in the same location as the rider would. This in turn gives the rider (me) a more natural feel. Having the pack in this location makes it feel less squirrely when riding.
Motive Electric Bike
Motive Electric Bike

I think the best thing Motiv did was spec their bike with 7″ disc brakes. With the added weight of the motor and battery pack, you’ll need decent braking power. Again I dare compare it to the other E-bikes that I’ve tested. The 6″ disc brakes on the OHM Urban XU700 was ok, but not great. But these 7″ rotors mated with Tektro levers and calipers…this bike literally can stop on a dime. Just think about it, when you’re rolling at 27MPH and need to stop right away, you NEED those big brakes!
Motive Electric Bike

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and answer a few questions you may have. “How does it ride?” Well, it rides like a beach cruiser. The upright riding position is great for leisure riding. It surprisingly corners really well with its Schwalbe Fat Frank tires. No flat tires during the testing period, wheels stayed true and no mechanical issues ever occurred. Oh did I mention it comes with a bell? Ding Ding!
Motive Electric Bike

How much does it cost? The test bike I had retailed $1929.99 (with 48v battery pack). Though it may look like a beach cruiser, the Motiv Electric Bicycle can easily be outfitted with fenders and racks since the frame has eyelets and mounts for them.
Motive Electric Bike

Who should buy this bike?
The Motiv Electric Bicycles actually sell more to Baby Boomers than any other demographic. Truth be told, this e-bike is a ton of fun. Not only is it cheaper than the Ohm XU700 and Urbana Current that we tested, but it’s faster too!

Our review disclaimer.