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Tag Archive: small bikes

Andrew’s Biria folder review

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 Bikecommuters.com 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 www.biria.com) 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
HANDLEBAR Aluminum
BRAKE Front and rear aluminum Tektro V-brakes
COLORS Black, red, white

20130704_191742

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.

20130704_191922

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.

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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.

First Look: Jango Flik V9 Folding Bicycle

Remember that oddly-shaped bicycle box that came on “Brown Santa” last week?

box

Well, some of our guessers were right: it IS a folding bicycle. A Jango Flik V9, to be exact. Released in Asia and revealed to great interest at both Eurobike and Interbike 2009, the Jango Flik is a new player on the folding-bike scene. We’re lucky to have gotten a sample to test for a few weeks before it gets sent back to parent company Topeak, and I wanted to give you a look at some of the major features before we get down to testing it.

riding

First, a bit about the bike from Jango’s own website:

Frame: UniFit, single size
Folding Time: Shuttling, 2 seconds; Storage, 4 seconds
Weight: 12.9 kg/28.4 lb.
Maximum Rider Weight: 110 kg/ 242.5 lb.
Suspension: Front spring w/ 20mm travel, rear elastomer w/ 10mm travel
Shifters: Shimano 9-speed Rapidfire
Cassette: SRAM 9-speed (11-28)
Chainring: Single 50T ring with CNC chainguard
Brakes: Jango mechanical discs with integrated DiscBlock lock
Saddle: Allay Racing Sport
Grips: Ergon ergonomic
Wheels: Jango 16″ disc rims
Tires: Continental TourRide w/ reflective sidewalls

This bike is packed with urban-friendly features, such as
–a simple 1×9 drivetrain with disc brakes front and rear and tires with reflective sidewalls:

rear

–short-travel suspension both front and rear:

front susp.
(spring-damped with 20 mm of travel, non-adjustable)

rear susp.
(elastomer-damped with 10 mm of travel; preload-adjustable)

–an integrated rear rack that folds with the bike:

rack

integrated front wheel immobilizer (DiscBlock lock), and lightning-fast folding mechanisms. The folding mechanisms are easy to use and FAST. Jango claims a 2-second switch between fully-deployed and the intermediate “shuttle” mode, and this is quite accurate. Pull a lever and fold the bike and you arrive at this:

shuttle

You’ll notice that the integrated kickstand swivels to allow the bike to stand in “shuttle” mode. That’s a nice feature!

Two quick motions with the hand to undo the front-end folding mechanism and safety block, coupled with the above lever pull and you arrive at this, the fully-folded “storage” mode:

storage

As part of my review I will include a video or two of just how quick it is to fold this bike in both modes. It couldn’t be easier, and Jango has put a lot of thought and time into creating a system that makes folding effortless for the user. I will also compare this folder to a more “traditional” folding bike, both in terms of folding ease and final folded size.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with folding bikes — many of the people who know me and my cycling habits know that I’ve been clamoring to fill a gap in my bicycle fleet. Here’s why: although I’m not a multi-modal commuter, there are days when it’s time to go to work and it’s pouring down rain. With the vagaries of Florida’s weather, it is almost invariably sunny and dry within a few hours and after I’ve “chickened out” by having my wife drive me to work, I wish that I had a folding bike on hand to make the return leg rather than wait to be picked up. A folding bike would be awfully handy for such a scenario, as it would be for someone who does part of their morning commute via carpool, bus or train.

Besides, in the brief experiences I’ve had with folding bikes, I’ve learned that they are FUN to ride. Sure, they look weird, but once I get on something happens and I realize I’m wearing a huge grin.

I’ll be testing this bike in the urban conditions in and around Tampa — navigating the urban corridors and otherwise using the bike the way Jango intends it: as a handy, portable travel solution for city-dwellers. Stay tuned and in a few weeks we’ll have the full review.

Let the testing begin!

yeehaw!

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