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India, with Fondness

When I began planning my adventure to pilot my Bike Friday minivelo across the subcontinent of India, I was met almost invariably with the same remark: “Why India?”

While I was tempted often to cheekily answer “To find a wife!” (full disclosure: it has always been a dream of mine to marry a witty, family-oriented and beautiful Indian woman) the actual reasons were far more substantial. India has a long and fascinating history, is the birthplace of two world religions, and is a veritable banquet of sounds, tastes, smells, and emotions. I had heard tales of almost transcendental trips from other bike travelers who recalled their experiences traversing the country, and their zealous accounts only fueled my desire to explore this vibrant country on my own two wheels. As an intrepid explorer, I had also made it my goal to travel to at least one new country per year, and India would bring me to 47. 

My plan was set: I would fly into Delhi, take the overnight train to Bombay, and meet up with a friend. From there, I’d cycle South along the Konkan Coast to Goa, then head inland to Bangalore via Hampi – the ancient capital of a Hindu empire. I’d make a stop in Puttaparthi, home to an ashram famous for its rather well-known (now deceased) guru, then from Bangalore take another overnight train (India is massive. Like, massive.) to Hyderabad before heading back to Delhi. My Indian friends thought I was nuts. They voiced their concerns about my safety and the risk of traveling via bicycle. They told of relatives who had been clipped – or worse-  by traffic, and while I was touched by their concern for me  (while admittedly being scared to death), I knew it was something I needed to do. I love to explore the world from my bicycle, and traversing rural India on two (very small) wheels was guaranteed to be an adventure unlike any other. I had to do it. 

 Hello, Delhi, or, This City is a Beast

I arrived late at night and took a taxi (easy when you travel with a folding minivelo from Bike Friday that only weighs ____ and folds into an airline-approved suitcase) to my hostel. The atmosphere of the city was palpably electric, and I couldn’t wait to begin my adventure. 

The next morning, I hopped into a tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw) to meet with friends who had invited me to a traditional Indian breakfast. As the driver twisted the throttle, we were off! The colors of the city flashed by as we wove through the bustling morning traffic, stopping often to ask for directions, call my friends for directions, stop and ask for directions again, and finally, pull to a stop in front of my waiting friends. After an incredible breakfast, we went for a stroll to secure an Indian cell phone SIM card, so I would be  able to check in with my friends daily – in theory- and a new bike helmet, as I’d left mine on the plane the night before. I spent the next two days exploring Delhi – from the green oasis South of the city, to the hectic, brilliantly chaotic alleys of Old Delhi. The city seemed to me somehow amorphous – old and new flowed and intertwined – from the impressively modern Metro to the small temples and shops with patiently waiting owners leaning in shady doorways. Traditional met modern everywhere I looked, and the energy of a booming city bursting at the seams with life was thick in the air. I could have easily stayed and continued to eat my way through the cuisine on my search for Delhi’s best butter chicken, but I had things to do. 

After three days in Delhi, I assembled my bike.

I awoke early and headed to Hazrat Nizamuddin train station. As I arrived at the station, a porter approached, and after some haggling, took me, my bike, and two fully-loaded panniers to the waiting Rajdhani to Bombay train. As I settled into my 2nd class cabin, I was delighted to see my bike tucked perfectly under the upper sleeping berth. The train was dated with and not all that well maintained, my co-travelers were chatty and  inquisitive (not hard to imagine, seeing as I am a brown-haired German who was traveling solo with a very small bicycle), and the fresh sheets, flowing chai, and good service helped me to feel comfortable with a undulating feeling of adventure. I watched my fellow passengers move around the train, as well as the scenery going past as the city faded into the distance. I noted several Indian men passing had very red hair, and mused out loud about possible recessive Irish genes before another passenger kindly informed me that it’s supposed to be very healthy for the hair. As I made my way to the restroom, toilet paper in hand (it’s best to bring your own in India, I learned), I passed Indian men with their hair and beards dyed a bold red. The colors of this country were proving to be no less vivid than I had imagined.

 Bombay Bicycle Club

After the train steamed into Bombay (official name Mumbai, but referred to as ‘Bombay’ by the Indian friend with whom I was staying, hence adopted by me), I was delighted to find a refreshing shower and restorative breakfast waiting. We spent my time in the city as tourists, visiting the impressive sights and architectural marvels – The Gateway of India, a monument erected by King George V. that overlooks the Arabian Sea, as well as a breathtaking temple erected for Lord Babulnath. As we approached, a holy cow surrounded by fragrant flowers stands benignly bleated a welcome, and we ascended the stairs towards the intricately carved temple dedicated to the Hindu god more commonly known to Westerners as Lord Shiva. A large stone phallus (representing all the energies of the world and beyond) was centered proudly within, and I marveled at the peaceful atmosphere that prevailed here, 1000 feet above the thronging and eternally-congested city below. I ended my time in the city with a stroll along the sea and a final meal of Bombay’s best Indian burger, the intricately spiced Vada Pav, prepared right on the street in front of me. My first few days in India were already exceeding every expectation I had. But it was time to get pedaling.

Bombay to Kashid: The Rubber Meets the Road

The next day, I made my way to the Gateway of India, my departure point for a 45-minute ride on a ferry to Mandawa. I stepped off the ship, assembled my folding Bike Friday Pocket Llama, lubed my chain, and headed off. I pointed the head badge towards Kashid and followed Maharashtra State Highway #4 South. Traffic was tight to begin with but I soon grew accustomed to the bustle before it graciously mellowed, and I found myself confidently waving back at the encouraging locals who passed. I stopped at a roadside coconut stand for a refreshing drink and carried on.  

I had originally planned to cover 50 miles (80km) and make my way to Murud, but as I tend to start my bike trips slowly to allow my body to adjust to the pace, I decided to stay instead in the town of Kashid. After trying two hotels, I arrived at the third and asked how much. “1,500 Rupee a night.” At roughly $23, I felt it was a bit high, so I countered with 800, or roughly $12. “Can’t do that,” came the reply, followed by a quick “Alright.” after I suggested the sum of 1000 Rupee, or about $15. Securing my first sleeping place in rural India was a success! Next mission? Find dinner. I was a little nervous, as I’d heard stories of people getting violently ill while traveling. My Indian friends had given me some sage advice: eat where other people eat and eat what other people are eating. Seemed to make sense, so I headed out to look for a bite to eat. No luck. Most places seemed dead, and there weren’t many options. Dejected, I made my way back to the hotel and an on my way found a small restaurant. A few people were dining, and nobody seemed to be eating the same thing…this could be tricky. I sat down and the waiter appeared promptly. I pointed to a colorful tray on the table next to me. “Vegetable thali?”, he asked. I nodded my reply and was delighted by the spread he returned with. For 100 Rupees ($1.50), a silver platter laden with smaller bowls of fragrant chutneys, vegetables, and rice and warm naan was placed in front of me. Delicious. So far, so good.

 

Kashid to Harihareshwar: Gears?! 

I awoke to a dark Konkan Coast morning. With only 31 miles (or 50km) behind me, I was ready to get going right at 6 am, but the pitch-black morning made me think it might be wiser to start once the sun came up. At  7 I hit the road, still heading South, and made my way to the first of many idyllic fishing villages and towns, Nandgaon. These often-overlooked-by-tourists towns are often my favorite part of the trips I take, and one of the reasons I love making my way by bike. I wound my way through the towns, noting a temple and mosque next to each other. Later in my trip, I would ride by churches, traditionally-dressed Muslims, spend a night in an ashram, and meet Parsis who believed in the teachings of Zoroaster, the ancient Persian prophet. India truly is a land of many religions. 

As I pedaled on, I passed a huge statue of Lord Hanuman, the monkey god, and saw someone bumping along leisurely in a horse-drawn cart. The beaches were beautiful and the weather was perfect. As I pulled into the town of Rajapuri, uniformed schoolchildren gathered around me and my attention-catching minivelo. “Gears?”, they shouted excitedly, “How many?”. 

“Three times nine,” I replied, “You do the math!” 

I made my way to a ferry that was just about to embark, and I handed my bike over for loading. As I climbed aboard, three young men gestured at me to join them on the roof of the boat. As I jumped up, the anchor lifted and we set off, giving me a glimpse of an impressive fort just off the coast. One of the three men spoke a little English, and as we chatted amicably, the conductor showed up to sell tickets. 20 Rupees ($.30) later, I was no longer a stowaway, and two minutes after that another conductor came to clip my ticket. Nobody rides for free. 

After riding on, I arrived at Harihareshwar, my destination for the night and a small Hindu temple town. After checking into a hotel (and haggling a price) I ate a simple meal of Dal Roti for dinner and fell, pleasantly tired, asleep. 

Harihareshwar to Dapoli: We Do It For Love

122 miles down, I awoke ready to continue my adventure. After a long wait at the ferry station, it finally eased into view as a red school bus full of children arrived simultaneously. Once on the ship, they made a riveting discovery: a foreigner with a geared bicycle was aboard. Photos were taken, the bike was thoroughly inspected and my new friends chattered excitedly about my small-but-nimble bike. As I waved goodbye to them, I headed down a small road off the main highway that wound through tiny villages on unpaved paths. The bike handled whatever terrain I threw at it amazingly well, bumping down the road without complaint as I passed young men playing cricket,  and arrived finally to a riverbank with the remains of a bridge. I reached for my map which suggested a ferry. There was no ferry. Not a human was in sight. 

A young man arrived some minutes later, much to my surprise. He had come for the ferry too, which was a relief. As we waited, we chatted. He was engaged to a woman and planned to marry later that year. “A love marriage?” I asked. “Yes, “ he replied. “My family doesn’t approve, but I’m doing it anyway.” I high-fived him in congratulations as a tiny boat approached. The ferry! An older man jumped out, rolled a huge tire onto the riverbank, and began loading. I was graciously helped with my bike as another passenger joined and the old man grabbed the tiller. We were off. 

With another 37 miles (60km) on the meter, I decided to stay the night in Dapoli. The glorious chaos of India was seeping into me, and I was in love with the buzz. As I looked around my home for the night – a truck loaded with eggs, a flower stand bursting with color, and a smiling shop owner leaning in the shade of a cool doorway- I inhaled deeply through my nostrils. India was in my lungs, and in my blood, I felt. 

Dapoli to Ganpatipule: Sunset Over the Arabian Sea

Another early morning. I had clocked 196 miles (316km) by now and was battling feelings of exhaustion. In a wonderful turn of synchronicity, I passed a huge statue with some sort of warrior perched proudly atop the planet as I left the city. The road was deserted, and for some time I passed no one and nothing. The silence from the din of this country of nearly 1.5 billion people was a momentary respite, and for the first time since my arrival, I was able to hear only the rhythmic whirring of my cranks below me. But, I learned in India that the moment you think you have peace, a tuk-tuk will invariably show up. The driver honked merrily at me as he passed, and I returned the sentiment with a wave. After another ferry ride and obligatory photos with fellow passengers and the captain alike, I made my way by sunset along a beautiful stretch of beach with youngsters playing scratch cricket and fishing boats bobbing in the glistening waters. 

The road swelled with life almost alarmingly quickly. Suddenly hundreds of people were heading somewhere all around me. I pulled over and tapped a passerby on the shoulder who informed me that 8,000 people from the state of Madhua Pradesh were descending on the town for a meditation retreat at a local ashram. I could see the ashram in the distance, and as tempted to join the crowd of people funneling in, but pushed on to Ganpatipule, my stop for the evening. After finding a small hotel (and after a small kerfuffle over unchanged sheets) I drifted off into a restful sleep. 

Ganpatipule to Devgarth: A Sea of Honking

As I yawned and stretched and awoke to yet another gorgeous morning. I had traveled 277 miles by now (446 km) and felt I had found my groove. Even the relentless beeping of the traffic now seemed to fade into the background noise as my legs pumped away below me, weaving through the sea of honking.

As I pulled over to enjoy a chai at a small tea shop, I felt a sting on my ankle. I looked down to see a mosquito and quickly slapped it away. Though I was taking malaria medicine as prevention, I felt a slight flutter of worry – my first real one since the trip began. Mosquitos can transmit Dengue Fever, and billboards I had passed warned of it. I continued to apply my repellent and forged on. Thankfully, despite a few more pesky bites throughout the trip, I never developed a fever. 

I did, however, develop a keen eye for spotting monkeys. Hailing from Germany, and living now in Wisconsin, one doesn’t often come across primates in their direct midst. The first few I encountered were an exciting novelty, but as the trip progressed and I saw more and more, I became accustomed to seeing our closest (and, in all honesty, somewhat creepy) relatives quite literally hanging around. They and I both partook of the bananas that grow abundantly in India, and I feasted on this clean source of carbs by eating almost a dozen a day. Delicious. 

I made it to Devgarth just before dark, and the town felt slightly rougher around the edges than my other stops thus far. I headed for the beach, hoping to find a hotel but learned there were none. Fortunately, a group of young men directed me to a hotel they knew of nearby, which mercilessly had one humble room available. I looked at my phone. It was Christmas Eve and the coincidence was not lost on me. I found a  cosy family restaurant nearby and ordered my first Masala dosa of the trip. The perfectly-balanced flavors of coriander, cumin, cardamom and more were so sublime that I ordered a second.

 Devagrth to Malvan: First Flat

Merry Christmas, you have a flat tire. After 286 miles (460km) without incident, my Christmas present was a thorn in my front tire. I made my way to the town of Malvan as my tire slowly deflated and called it a day.

Malvan to Mandrem, Goa: Bring on the Beach

I had made it. As I crossed a bridge over one of many rivers, I was delighted to have also crossed into Goa. I pushed on, posed for photos with every roadside samosa (a deep-fried snack with pea and potato filling) stop, and noticed as I drew closer to my destination how I seemed to pass more and more Western-looking churches with nativity scenes. Goa is a hugely popular tourist destination, and the influence was visible. I was slightly worried about finding a room due to the holidays, but luck shone on me again as a moped passed by, waving frantically. It was two young men I had met several towns back (during a photo pose session) who knew of a hotel with a room! I followed behind them and managed to snag a centrally-located room that was five minutes from the beach. Even here, my Bike Friday was the center of attention, but thankfully the beach was surprisingly empty, affording me a few moments to myself to reflect on how far I’d come – literally and figuratively – and I savored the break from the daily grind of the saddle. Five days had passed, and 383 (617km) miles were under my belt. I felt alive. 

Mandrem to Ponda: Portuguese Country 

After seriously considering staying in Mandrem thanks to its brilliant beaches and relaxing atmosphere, I decided the road was calling and continued on, heading for Ponda. The Santas I passed reminded me that I was in former Portuguese territory, and as I pulled into Panjim (Panaji), the capital of Goa, overshadowed by the magnificent Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, I thought of the sailors who would stop there to pray before heading further upriver to Old Goa, where I was now headed. Fueled by a delicious milk pastry from a local bakery, I arrived in Ponda in the late afternoon to find no hotel rooms. After trying several places, I found the last room. The staff was unfriendly, and after the overwhelming generosity and warmth of everyone I had encountered so far, it felt almost jarring. I had an early dinner of Masala Dosa and called it a day. I was usually too tired in the evenings to feel lonely, but this evening I did, missing family and friends.

Ponda to Khanapur: Now Entering Tiger Territory

After a good night’s rest, I felt revived and slightly sheepish about my ennui of the previous night. I was on the trip of a lifetime, and while I had nobody to share it with right now, I couldn’t  wait to share it with everyone when I got home. I had so much to tell them, so many photos and stories, and couldn’t wait to share the adventure, struggle, and joy’s of the road. I had made it 485 miles (780km) by this point, and while I was a little saddle sore, my body (and bike) were holding up. 

As I started out towards Khanapur, the road quickly swelled with brightly-colored trucks festooned in banners and colorful tapestries bearing the likenesses of various Hindu gods and other patriotic statements. As they wove through traffic, I noticed (with a smirk) road signs encouraging people to drive safely, which were largely ignored. The driving was without logic, maddening in its intensity, and at times, terrifying.   

I began my ascent towards Khanpur, noticing signs increasing in number asking drivers to slow down for deer, snakes, leopards, and finally…tigers. Were I to see one, I’m almost certain I would do the exact opposite and speed the hell up, I thought as I continued my climb. I passed several wildlife officers managing the area who flagged me down, took photos with me and – this was a new experience – asked for an autograph. My celebrity status was apparently still on the rise!

Tired, I arrived in Khanapur and found a modern hotel with friendly staff. The room price had been posted on a small enamel sign behind the counter, so I paid the 750 Rupees ($12) without the haggling and fell sleepily into bed.

Khanapur to Morab: You Can Stay With Us

566 miles down, and countless villages and towns behind me. I set out on a wonderfully chilly morning and officially entered farm country. Being the son of a large animal veterinarian, I was in my element. Cattle pulled plows, farmers tended their livestock, beautifully decorated tractors hauled their crops – I was loving it. As I  pulled into a small village for breakfast, word spread that a foreigner was in town – on a bicycle, no less. The small eatery filled with people trying to get a glimpse of me, and every few minutes the crowd would shift and a new batch of peering faces would appear for their turn to see. As I ate my meal, observed without pause, I was beginning to wonder if this is how rockstars feel all the time. As I saddled up to leave, the entire town of about 300 had assembled to send me off. 

I rode on, and around 6pm as dusk fell and with 12 miles still to go, a local waved me down to have a chat. “I’m so sorry,” I replied, “ I have to rush since I need to find a place to stay tonight in the next town.”  

“You can stay at my house!” came the reply. His name was Gy, he told me, and he was in his early 30’s. I followed behind him on a moped back into town and arrived at a small house with one big room which, I learned, served as living, dining and bedroom – as well as a barn. Two cows peacefully chewed cud in the corner and watched out of the corner of their eyes as the house quickly filled with people. Uncles, cousins, neighbors – even the highest-ranking local politician paid a visit. We sat on the floor, as there was no furniture, and I was offered a glass of milk, which I politely declined, not wanting to use any of their meager supply. A young girl stepped forward and offered me a gift: a small plastic flower in a cardboard box. I was touched, as I assumed this was everything she owned, and thanked her profusely. What could I give them to thank them for their hospitality? I found a single dollar bill in my wallet, folded and worn, and handed it to Gy. He was moved and hugged me tightly. As the evening progressed and we sat in the dark chatting, I spoke with a young girl who was studying English in school. “What will you do when you grow up?” I asked. 

“She won’t do anything. She’ll marry at 18 and work in the house.” replied her uncle. In rural India, women are often still bound by traditional roles, it seemed. A single lightbulb buzzed to life above us, and after shaking hands with everyone, we visited several more family members’ houses before making our way back to Gy’s. His beautiful wife, pregnant with their first child,  welcomed us, and Gy led me to a framed degree on the wall – his own from a state school. He was very proud of it, and showed  me his wife’s diploma, too. Her marks in English were significantly better than his, but she stayed in the background speaking very little. Gy turned to me. “Let’s go out for a recess.” he said. 

“Sorry?” I replied.

“A recess. Let’s go out for a recess.” He led me out of the house and down a dark alley where he stopped, unzipped his trousers, and began to urinate. More than half the population of India doesn’t have access to plumbed toilets and go in the open. 

We made our way back to the house where steaming cups of chai and the most delicious dinner I experienced in India were waiting. Gy and I sat on the floor, the only ones eating, as Masala, roti, pickles, and yogurt were devoured hungrily – all under the watchful eyes of the ever-increasing number of spectators. Belly full, Gy informed me that a local schoolteacher would be putting me up for the night, and he escorted me to a small, sparsely furnished flat. I rolled out my Thermarest and crawled into my light sleeping bag. The mosquitos were relentless, despite a lit mosquito coil that feebly attempted to keep them at bay. I was grateful for the shelter and overwhelmed by the generosity of people who had so very little, yet gave all they could without hesitation.

Morab to Koppala: New Years Eve in India

I awoke to several smiling schoolteachers wishing me a good morning and watched the beautiful sunrise. I had cycled 631 miles so far (1016km), and was feeling strong and healthy. I set out at 7am and passed through more charming farm villages as I made my way East, fighting against a strong headwind that slowed my progress, but was a welcome relief from the heat. 

I reached a road that quickly became impassable due to construction and came to a halt. Shoot. What to do? Walk the bike? Loop back? Luckily a tractor with a trailer rumbled up behind me. “Would it be possible to have a lift?” I asked, hopefully. 

“No problem! Hop up!” came the friendly reply. The radio was blaring, and four bumpy kilometers later, my bike and I  disembarked with a friendly wave. I loved passing through the villages and was delighted every time kids who owned a bicycle would excitedly catch up with me and follow along for a few miles before turning around and heading home. 

Towards the end of the day, the headwind and rough road conditions had worn me down enough that I flagged down a passing tuk-tuk. I loaded my bike on the back and we headed into Kukkanura. It felt good to stretch my legs and let a motor do the work for a bit. It was the second save of the day. There was no lodging to be had, so I hopped into a shared SUV that operated as a local taxi as the helpful driver strapped my bike to the roof. We pulled into Koppala where I found a cheap room that was thick with smoke from an offering to the gods. I could barely see my hand in front of my face or breathe, but hopefully, the gods were pleased. Tomorrow was a new year. I was excited to see what it would bring.

Koppala to Hampi: City of Ancient Temples

I awoke in a cheap hotel, exhausted from the intensity of the trip, thus far. I was here, in India, with my bike, blessed with the gift of time and resources to embark on such an adventure, and the love and support of friends and family. I wish that feeling had permeated the entire trip, but at this point I was mentally strained and physically hampered by my own fitness. The indignation of loving, while simultaneously hating this experience of pedaling through India was weighing on  my tired bones. I had cycled almost 700 miles (1076) so far, and wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do more. But regardless…I needed a new tire. A hotel worker bid me good morning and pointed to my tire. “Puncture, sir.”

The day sailed by and I was welcomed to Hampi by the ancient temples of a city that was once one of the richest and largest cities in the world. Hampi is a UNESCO heritage site, and was the capitol of the Hindu empire before it was razed in 1565 by Muslim conquerors. I enjoyed a delicious meal, fresh and fragrant, and rested up. The final leg of my journey was coming up.

Hampi to Ballari: That’s the Ladies’

With 333 miles (536km) down, I pointed my bike towards Puttaprthi. I was headed towards the Ashram of the late Sai Baba, famed for the many miracles that had occurred there. I was back in the saddle, and back to the exhausting view of the world from a bicycle. As I made my way along, I passed the occasional ruin of an ancient temple – each a testament to the magnificent  empire that once ruled here. I passed street butchers, women washing clothes in the river, and hard-working laborers harvesting rice, hay, and red chili peppers. The small towns I passed through felt almost suspended in time. Everything seemed slowed down, and my appearance on two wheels seemed to be the highlight of many of the residents’ day, exciting young and old alike. 

As I pulled over to relieve myself in a bush, a local shouted, “No, no, no! That’s the ladies’! Guys are over there!”, and pointed to another nearby bush. Without signs, it’s sometimes hard to know.

I pulled into Ballari, dusty and sweaty, and found my way to a friendly hotel after attempting to secure a room at one that wouldn’t let me take my bike into the room or bring it securely inside for the night. It was too risky. I strolled into the Muslim quarter and shared a chai and cookie with a local who invited me to sit down and join him. Lovely. 

Ballari to Kalyandurg: Free Lunch

I was still headed South, with 784 miles down (1262km) and riding felt awful today. Every rotation of the pedals was tedious. Was it fatigue? Loneliness? The day dragged, and I pushed on. 

I stopped for lunch at a small family-owned establishment at the juncture of two roads. The town seemed to have no name, or none that I could discern, and the seats and stove of the restaurant were located outside. The head of the family (and head chef, I presumed) was frying an omelet, so I ordered the same, and added a rice dumpling and chicken curry soup. The flavors were incredible, and as I ate, I watched the chef cooking, wrapping the food in newspapers and handing it to a steady stream of local patrons ordering takeaway. As it was time to leave, I thanked my hosts and asked how much I needed to pay. “Nothing.”, came the reply.

“No,”, I said, certain there had been a misunderstanding, “How much for the meal?”

“Nothing!” he cheerfully replied. I went over to the head chef, busy cooking behind the stove. 

“Thank you for an amazing lunch. How much do I owe you?” I asked.

“Nothing!”, came the reply. I was deeply touched.

I forged on, somewhat reinvigorated, and chuckled as I passed under the huge, smiling face of  Arnold Schwarzenegger – a billboard advertising a gym and welcoming all to the local city of Kalyandurg. As I began the nightly search for lodging, I was dismayed to learn there was next to none. Luckily, I found a room. Priced at 300 Rupees ($5), it was cheap and would do. The owner of the lodge sold turmeric, so I parked my bike next to a pile of orangey roots and went to sleep. 

Kalyandurg to Puttaparthi: Help Ever, Hurt Never

873 miles in (1405km), and I was still making my way to the Ashram. I left at dawn and headed down the main road. Some time after lunch,  I pulled a thorn from my front tire. Flat number four, so far. Luckily I was able to repair it, all while under the watchful eyes of curious passersby. 

As I drew closer to the Puttaparthi, huge billboards with the likeness of Sai Baba grew in number, and I pulled up to the Ashram in the early evening. My home for two nights would be an 80-bed dormitory shared with devotees of Sai Baba from around the world who had come to vedic chant, worship, and apply ash to their foreheads. I met with a man from New York City who was visiting with his mother, a believer who had visited before. They believed Sai Baba was a God, as proven by the miracles she had experienced in her lifetime. My bike fit neatly in the dorm, and I spent the next day chatting with followers and resting.

Puttaparthi to Doddaballapur: Roadside Shock

After my rest in the Ashram, I was on the home stretch. I had cycled 964 miles (1,551km) and had two more days in the saddle. Bangalore began to show up on street signs, and I planned to make my way to Guaribidanuru, but found no lodging so forged on another 25 miles (40km) to the next town Doddaballapur. 

As I approached the town, the road narrowed due to construction, where a truck and car had stopped. People were gathered and I saw a body, motionless, on the road. A moped rider with no helmet had been killed. I felt a heavy sensation in my stomach as I pedaled on. My friends’ concerns about traffic were not exaggerated. 

I finished my day by finding lodging right away and enjoyed a few omelets prepared by three Muslim brothers in a small local eatery. As I wiped up the last morsels with a chapati, they merrily brought out a huge pot of chicken biryani, but I simply had no room left. It was the eve of my final day on the road. My stomach – and heart- were full.

Doddaballapur to Bangalore: Finishing Strong 

My final day on the road. I had cycled 1,002 miles (1,613km), eaten countless idli, and met so many friendly and inquisitive people. I wish I could say I enjoyed every minute of it but the experience was tough. I was exhausted and the overall trip was very intense. My trip was coming to an end, and I felt more than accomplished. I was full of impressions, experiences, adventures, and encounters that most can only dream of. The allure of traveling in a remote setting so far out of my comfort zone, with the addition of having to pedal all day was really starting to wear on me, both mentally and physically. But this was one of the greatest trips of my life. I feel so now and I felt so then.

I decided to stick to small roads to avoid traffic and happily made my way without incident to Bangalore and checked into a hostel called Electric Cats located in a lively part of Bangalore that was packed with a young crowd and filled with breweries, coffee shops, restaurants and bars. I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years and we reminisced about old times and celebrated the successful completion of my bike tour with outstanding chicken, refreshing beer, and a phenomenal desert. I made my way back to the hostel, pleasantly tired. My trip was finished and as I lay there, I thought back to all I had seen. The pictures flashed before my eyes as I tried to remember as many details as I could. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep, and it seems only one person in the hostel got any rest that night anyway – the guest that snored like they were sawing logs. 

I spent the next three days visiting with a good friend and seeing the sights in Hyderbad before flying back to Delhi at my friends’ insistence for a visit to the Taj Mahal which was stunning.

The next day, as I flew back to the United States in business class, thanks to most appreciated a bump up by Delta, I thought back over my trip. I felt I had packed a lifetime of memories into five short (but incredibly long) weeks in a journey that could never be recreated, even if I replicated the exact same route. I was lucky enough to find lodging at every stop, and the hospitality I encountered everywhere (with only a very few exceptions) blew me away. The food, delightfully spicy, was fresh and flavourful, and by following my friends’ advice to eat where and what everyone else was eating, meant I suffered no tummy troubles the entire time. Meals were, with no hyperbole, a highlight of every day, and I grew accustomed to a cup of sweet chai after every meal, and sitting at tables with strangers without waiting for an invite, as is the custom. 

My Bike Friday handled impeccably, with no mechanical issues apart from four flats in the front tire from the stout thorns that often littered the more rural roads. It rides like a “real” bike, and folds into a carry case that is easy to take on planes or trains, which made (and makes, as I still use it for my adventures) it the ideal travel companion.

They say that when you visit a new place, you gain new things but leave some too. I certainly left a piece of my heart behind in India.

*Stefan is currently having his Pocket Llama overhauled and repaired at the Bike Friday mothership before he departs on a Christmas tour of Chile. Be sure to follow him on Instagram, @minivelo.bigworld to follow along with his adventures!

 

 

 

 

pakiT to Shiretoko – Aaron Lin

pakiT to Shiretoko
By: Aaron Lin

I have done some solo bike tours with my Bike Friday tikit and taken it with me on some unique trips including Taiwan, Tasmania, & Iceland. These trips helped me realize how a high-performing, folding bicycle can be liberating and allow me the freedom to enjoy the wonders of creation. I am thankful to be able to own the successor to the Tikit, the new Bike Friday pakIT. One of the things that intrigued me about this new bicycle is how much lighter it is compared to the Tikit. Most importantly, being a belt-driven model helps in packing the bicycle for travel, no more greasy chains! While the Brompton still excels in the aspect of its size when folded, folding the pakIT while traveling is much quicker and easier, as well as much lighter than the Brompton. After many test rides with the pakiT, I must say the quality of the ride is the signature “Bike Friday Ride”! Think of it as a mini Bike Friday Pocket Rocket or a mini roadie. I am someone who personally loves to travel to Japan and have done some backpacking trips, photography trips, and even a short ride with a Brompton from Fukuoka to Hiroshima. I have been to Hokkaido, Japan, a few times but never the northeastern part known as Shiretoko, a UNESCO heritage site. Shiretoko is well known for its beautiful forests and mountain scenery, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot Ezo Bears!

In October of 2017, I had a short window to do a simple bike tour and I booked my air tickets just a half-day before my flight. I decided that the pakIT would be the bicycle to pack for the trip, and scrambled to pack the pakIT into a soft bag actually meant for the Brompton. It’s an interesting bag to use and it even accommodated my Bike Friday Tikit during my Tasmania trip. October is also a good time to experience the Autumn colors in Hokkaido. The aim was to explore Shiretoko and ride through three major mountain road passes. One is 700m, Shiretoko Pass, with the second being a 600m pass to Lake Mashu and the third being about a 500m high pass named Bihoro. This will be the second time I have utilized the pakIT for an overseas ride. My first trip to Athens & Santorini with the pakiT prepared me well for this Hokkaido expedition. Will be an interesting challenge to see how the pakIT holds up. I was excited to test it on the climbing portions despite it being a commuter bike equipped with a Sturmey Archer 3-speed drivetrain.

I flew from Singapore to Tokyo and transferred to a domestic flight towards Memanbetsu Airport. Once there, I boarded the bus bound for Abashiri, Hokkaido, all with a soft bag meant for the Brompton, but with a pakIT inside! The pakiT was protected in the soft case with the packing materials supplied by Bike Friday. For added protection, I put my pedals in socks learning from my many flights for overseas trips.

Day 1 Abashiri – Lake Notoro:

During the flight to Hokkaido, I met a teacher from Singapore who was bringing his students to explore the northeastern part of Hokkaido as well. He shared with me that there’s a Lake, Lake Notoro, that is filled with lakeside fields of red glasswort during this autumn season in Hokkaido. Upon landing in my Hotel in Abashiri in mid-afternoon, I quickly got the pakIT built up in less than 15 minutes and rode about 13km to Lake Notoro. Truly, I was greeted with a beautiful sight of a lake blanketed in red. I took some time to explore the area using the boardwalk and the rest of the day was spent at the hotel getting myself ready for the next few days of riding 500+km, exploring the northeastern side of Hokkaido.

Day 2 Abashiri – Utoro:

My aim for the second day was to reach the town of Utoro, where I would stay for two nights at a hostel, followed by a short trek in Shiretoko. My bag of choice is the trusted Arkel Tailrider, which fits perfectly on the pakIT rear rack. I also carried a light 20-liter backpack from, Decathlon, for some additional storage space. To me, Hokkaido is comprised of vast stretches of countryside and land. There aren’t many cars on the road and Japanese drivers are friendly and keep a safe distance from cyclists. The day’s trip started from Abashiri, cycling along the coast on well-paved roads, overlooking the Sea of Okhotsk, to my destination, the town of Utoro. It’s nice to wander on the smaller roads at times, experiencing some of the more quiet and scenic farmlands.

I enjoy visiting the Japanese train stations that are along this coastal road with their wooden charm and character. I reached the town of Utoro during sunset and witnessed the incredible sight of the Shiretoko mountain range. I was yearning for so long to explore, and here I am, basked in the purple hues of sunset highlighting the mountain peaks! Below the mountain range sits the town of Utoro where I will be spending two nights in a hostel. Thankfully I was able to squeeze the folded pakiT into the dormitory room just beside my bed. One thing to note about the hostels in Hokkaido is their cleanliness and attention to comfort. It was a cold autumn ride, and what better way to end my day than by enjoying a Japanese onsen in my hostel!

Day 3 Utoro – Shiretoko Goko Lakes:

My day consists of a 30km round trip adventure, cycling up the mountainous roads to explore the natural beauty of Shiretoko. There are 5 natural lakes in the Shiretoko area (Shiretoko Goko Lakes). A short 10min lecture by the park’s staff is required before you can explore the area in the event you run into any Ezo bears (no bears were spotted during my trek). Thankfully for me, the weather was good and I spent two hours discovering the tranquility of the lakes and it’s surrounding nature. Cycling in Hokkaido can present close encounters with other animal inhabitants. Dear are fairly common to come across and I was presented with two of them nearby. I also had a close encounter with an Ezo fox while riding.

Day 4 Shiretoko Pass – Rausu – Shibetsu:

The next day was a major push up the Shiretoko mountain pass, the highest elevation being 700+m above sea level. It’s a 15km climb before a descent for another 15km to the town of Rausu. To my surprise, the pakIT climbed well and I was comfortable with the three speeds afforded by my hub. As I rose higher in the mountains, the autumn colors were an incredible sight. The experience of cycling on this mountain road was just beautiful. I couldn’t help but stop and take a hero shot with one of the highest peaks in the backdrop, Mt Rausu. It was cold at the mountain top and I was told to check out a free public Japanese onsen when I reach the foot of the mountains. Onsen is something new for me. You are literally naked and soaking in an open space, only shielded from others by trees. It’s quite fun, actually, since it’s common in Japan and many others were inside soaking.

Day 5 to 6 Shibetsu – Lake Mashu – Lake Kussharo:

Hokkaido is well known for its dairy products. I happened to have breakfast at a rest stop and was surprised to get a JUMBO cup of milk! I followed breakfast by cycling through farmland inhabited by cows in Betsukai. This lead to the next major climb up to Lake Mashu, a place I had visited back in 2013. It was unfortunate that it was raining and the entire view of the lake was covered by fog. Nonetheless, I must say, I was able to handle the steep ascent and the H-bars on my pakIT really helped on the climbs as well. I reached the peak at approximately 600+m and once again enjoyed the colorful autumn foliage. The descent led me to Lake Kussharo, another place I’ve visited before. The rain had finally stopped and I was able to enjoy Lake Kussharo in the Autumn season (my last trip was during the winter season). I then proceeded to stay in one of the best Youth Hostels that Hokkaido has to offer, Kussharo Genya Youth Hostel. One thing I enjoyed about the stay here, besides the cleanliness and pricing, is the very homely feel, nice decor, and wonderful food served in the hostel.

Day 7-9 Lake Kussharo – Bihoro Pass – Kitami – Abashiri:

The third and final mountain stretch was Bihoro pass. At approximately 500+m above sea level, I have seen it in many Japanese travel books. I wouldn’t say it’s a super tough ride, maybe because the pakiT is lighter than my Tikit, and I had an overall lighter setup for this trip. I was able to utilize the second gear of the three-speed hub for most of this mountain pass. The star attraction of this pass is the view of Lake Kussharo from the top of the mountain pass, in all its glory. Occasionally, the wind, rain, and cold dampened my spirits during the climb, but it was all worth it! Following the descent from Bihoro pass, I made my way towards Kitami and eventually ended my trip back at my starting point of Abashiri. I accumulated a distance of 570km and an elevation gain of 5700m for this North Eastern

Hokkaido cycling trip. I traveled from October 4-12, all on the Bike Friday pakiT. The pakiT held up well for light touring and the choice of Primo Comet tires helped to absorb the vibrations from the road. Thankfully I didn’t encounter any tire punctures or any mechanical errors along the way. I plan to go back someday, exploring further, the many unique places Japan has to offer.

 

Learn more about the Bike Friday pakiT!

 

Note from the Factory:

The Bike Friday pakiT was designed by Alan Scholz as a multi-modal urban commuter bike to solve the last mile problem in daily city life. He did not plan to have the bike turn into a touring bike as Aaron Lin has used it here. We always design for a high quality ride and versatility but we caution you to keep in mind the original design purpose of the bike when you plan your adventures. The pakiT is not intended to carry a lot of luggage however you can ride it as far as you like!

Happy Adventuring!

Designers Dilemma – Releasing his Vintage Collectable Bike Fridays to the World

The Designers Dilemma

Vintage Bike Fridays released for New Owners

 

The designers dilemma by Alan Scholz (Bike Friday co-founder)

Like many of you, I love bicycles. And like many of you I have more than one, ok more than a couple.  OK the truth! A LOT more than a couple. With the bicycle as my muse over many years I have designed or helped design dozens of bikes at Bike Friday. When including the years at Burley Design & Nomad of Fargo I have designed hundreds of other bicycle lifestyle related items from trailers to racks from unicycles to panniers, to small & large improvements to bikes.  One of the distinct features for me of the design process is that each one is fully absorbing while I am at it. The creative process for me means designing in my head even when doing other things. Like sleeping, raking the lawn & especially while riding to work. The last couple of years working with electric assist have been great that way. Ride, test, try new, design, improve. Each new  creation is special. In a minor way they are also my children and I like knowing and seeing them.

Here in lies the dilemma.

At Bike Friday I am considered a ‘pack rat’.  I have multiple projects going on at any time and I like to see previous works as they encourage memory of the creative process in them and the results of it motivate new ideas. I have ridden all the bikes I have designed and some for a significant time and miles. I have had favorites just like you. But how many bikes can you have?! It seems I have way too many! Looking around recently I realized I would need a large museum to keep them all in. Some hadn’t been touched in years. Many were designed by Hanz, and I really can’t remember all the ones we both shared in as that was the original magic of Green Gear/ Bike Friday. Two brothers against the odds.  A Museum is not on my life list. So the bikes gradually, simply, filled a lot of space. I hate to waste them in the attic any longer. Time to make them more useful.

I am committed to all these great bikes to give them respect by finding them a good new home where they will get more attention. My wish is to offer them to the Bike Friday community first. Many of these are one of a kind, some are early models that are collectibles and are certainly vintage.  I am thinking some of you may want a piece of Bike Friday/ Green Gear history.  Each of these has a story.  If you love bicycles, stories, and your experiences with your Bike Fridays, you might enjoy a new addition to your collection. We all seem to be born with gifts and unique circumstances. It would please me to no end for you to share a piece of the rich history I have had the privileged of being instrumental in.

Best in Cycling,  Alan Scholz  – Co-founder, designer and a man who loves bicycles


These bikes are the first wave of Alan’s collection being released

Contact us at Bike Friday if one of these beauties catches your eye.

Alan’s Pocket Rocket Super Pro:

Year built 2011
Frame number 26393
Frame Size 54cm

Vintage Collectible Sale Price: $6,500

This bike is the culmination of the original Bike Friday vision and decades of experience. Here is a little of Bike Friday’s history to give you perspective.

The Scholz brothers vision of the first Bike Friday was a great riding road bike that easily traveled by air. Alan and Hanz both grew up bike racing. They had many state titles between them and Alan took 2nd in Nationals on the Road (110miles) in 1971.

This first Bike Friday bike was designed using road bike geometry from 1970’s racing bikes from the Tour De France. That meant 73 degrees parallel head and seat tubes, with longer chainstays and 700c wheels. The Scholz Brothers wanted a road bike rider to recognize the feel of a good road bike when they rode a Bike Friday. However, to accomplish the goal of a bike easy to travel by air with (fit in a standard suitcase, so no extra fees and fits through the airport easily..) required smaller wheels.

“We surprised ourselves with the first prototypes,” said Alan. “We thought the little wheels would be less efficient than larger wheels and we found the truth is much less down sides and a lot more up sides to smaller wheels! We didn’t anticipate that!” Interestingly this misconception of small wheels has been a regular question by the public for the last 27 years. One of the most common questions we get is, “Don’t you need to pedal more with those small wheels?”.

The first Bike Friday we made, we tried to make one bike that did ‘everything’. A common cyclists dream! This model was called the Sport 14 with the original Diamond frame style and it included the full package of suitcase and trailer. Unlike normal road bikes it would take cantilever brakes to open up the possibilities of riding style and terrain with tire width choices. This inspired the original Bike Friday logo of the Bike Friday pulling the suitcase trailer. The full package to travel self contained with your bike was the vision from the beginning. The first customer bike shipped in early 1993.

Within the first year we introduced the first Pocket Rocket, a road specific Bike Friday, with a Diamond Frame style. The Pocket Rocket was offered with full Shimano and Campagnolo Road Groupo choices. In 1994 one of the production team experimented with a mono tube main frame style and inspired the first mono tube main frame style Pocket Rocket. We shipped the first Pocket Rocket with this new frame style in late 1994, but kept the other Bike Friday style a Diamond Frame.

By 1999, we felt the Pocket Rocket could be improved so we made the Pocket Rocket Pro with new highly butted and shaped tubing in the frame and fork. The new frame set was lighter and more responsive with the same great-riding geometry.

In 2000, a young bike racer and engineering student at Oxford bought a red Pocket Rocket as the first bike he ever paid full price for. He raced it in local events and used it for training in several countries. He eventually moved to the USA to work for Bike Friday. His name is Rob English, now a renowned designer and frame builder. Rob and Hanz worked together to design the Bike Friday tikit. The fastest folding bike in the world, a very unique and complicated bike.

Rob English thought the Pocket Rocket Pro could be improved (lighter, stiffer, and fancier) and he teamed up with our long time tool maker Peter Kaspar to create the Pocket Rocket Super Pro. Six months after the first Super Pro, Rob and the Bike Friday Production team presented Alan with his very own Super Pro in his favorite color, Saphire Blue. Alan added some extra gold highlights to make this beautiful bike sparkle.

The Pocket Rocket, Pocket Rocket Pro and Pocket Rocket Super Pro are Bike Friday flagship bikes. After all these years there still is no one else in the world that makes a custom bike like these.

Alan has decided to let it go as he faces his ‘Designers Dilemma’ and focuses on riding new designs these days and doesn’t ride his old designs anymore. He hopes someone will really enjoy this special one of a kind bike!

– History written by Hanna Scholz (second generation) interviewing my dad Alan Scholz

Special Details:

Bike Weight as shown: 15.9 lbs.
Alan’s personal Super Pro, designed by Rob English and Peter Kaspar, with extensive custom frame detailing
KCNC KR3 Headset, gold anodized headset
SRAM Red 10spd
Ciamillo Caliper Brakes
FSA SL-K Carbon Cranks
ABS Carbon Brake Levers
Gold anodized highlights throughout, including Nokon housing
Titanium seatmast to carbon seatpost
Ready for many more miles of adventure

Vintage Collectible Sale Price*: $ 6,500

*Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan will sign the frame before it ships to you
*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna


Alan’s Yellow TiLite XL Tandem

Frame Number AL04
Size 58cm captain / 27.5in stoker
Year built 2000

Vintage Collectible Sale Price: $ 4,900

This is Alan Scholz’ personal Bike Friday TiLite XL Tandem, a ride-able collectors item with important Bike Friday history. The first XL Tandem was built in 1999 and the first Tandem “Q” was released in 2001. Alan made himself this yellow TiLite XL in between these other tandems after he had come up with the tandem “Q” design.

Hanz Scholz designed the first folding Bike Friday travel tandem in the late 1990’s called the Tandem Two’sDay. Then Alan Scholz designed the first Family Tandem after that.

Alan has always wanted to support his family, and others families, to ride bikes together as a lifestyle since he started his first bike shop in Fargo North Dakota, when he was 21 years old. Alan’s inspiration for the first Family Tandem was his 3rd daughter Sarah. He built it in time to put it under the Christmas tree for her to discover when she was 4 years old. They had many fun rides including going to school. This first Family Tandem did not fit into suitcases so two years later he cut it in half with a hacksaw and turned it into the first Family Tandem Traveler.

Several years later Alan created the XL Tandem as a light road tandem designed to race in the “Duet Classic” Tandem Stage Race. This Tandem Stage race was sponsored by Burley Design Co-operative (another bike company Alan co-founded).The Duet Classic drew tandem racers from around the world and was a great event to test the abilities of a 20 inch wheel travel tandem to match the 700c non-travel tandems – and the 20 inch wheels won several times! As we all discovered when the geometry is right, the frame is strong and light to fit the riders, it’s all about the lungs and legs, not the wheel size!

Alan then design the Tandem Q, inspired by the James Bond movies. This special Tandem could be turned into a Single bike with a few clamps and cable adjustments.

This Special Yellow Tandem, now for sale, is an XL TiLite Alan built himself and designed to make into a “Tandem Q”. However he never made the final changes – a frame cut and clamp still to be added to fully turn it into a Q. It has some of the early Sport Road Bars and unusual shifter set up that Alan likes. He has ridden it on many tours with his wife Theresa.

– History written by Hanna Scholz (second generation) interviewing my dad Alan Scholz

Special Features:
Bike weight as shown: 30.5 lbs.
Has Titanium boom tubes and seat masts
Scalloped frame details done by Alan
Ultegra 6500 same-side drivetrain
Bike can be set up for 406mm or 451mm wheel sizes depending on the caliper brakes you install on it. Bike is currently set up with 406mm wheels.
Packs into 2 suitcases
Could be turned into a “Q” with a cut and a clamp.
Ready for many more miles of adventure

Vintage Collectible Sale Price*: $ 4,900

* Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan will sign the frame before it ships to you
*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna


Alan and Hanna’s First Air Bike:

 

Frame Number AL03
Size 56cm/Med
Built year 1999

Vintage Collectible Price: $ 3,800

This Air Friday has an interesting Scholz Family History. First built as Alan Scholz’s first Air bike he then handed it down to his daughter, me, Hanna Scholz (now Bike Friday President) to be my first Air bike.

The Bike Friday Air bikes were originally created for triathletes doing the Ironman in Hawaii. Knowing that athletes could really have their race messed up when their baggage was lost, Alan and Hanz designed a bike that could fit in an athletes carry-on luggage (the Airline regulations before 9/11 were more open). The Air Friday frame fit into a carry-on roller case and the wheels fit into cloth bags that looked like musicians cymbals. The whole package could just be walked onto the airplane and put in the overhead compartments. When 9/11 happened and the airlines tightened up their regulations, metal tubing in bike frames were no longer allowed.

This one of a kind paint job was an inspiration from my daydreaming about fun colors and wanting my bike to be super special. I spent many hours in the paint room experimenting and came up with this. There has never been another like it, as I became so busy with my growing business responsibilities, I never made it back into the paint booth. I always wanted to and fifteen years later, I still think about fun creative paint jobs sometimes.

Unfortunately the frame, originally built for Alan, was just not the right size for me and has never been comfortable to ride. The un-painted stem was an attempt at improving the fit. This unfinished work of art has been sitting in the attic for way to long so I decided someone should have some fun with this special bike! Perhaps I could be convinced to come back to the paint booth to finish the stem…
– History written by Hanna Scholz (second generation)

Special Features:
Bike weight as shown: 21.7 lbs.
Ultegra cranks and rear derailleur
RSX STI shifters
Sachs 3x Dual Drive hub
Stem can be painted color of your choice. (Perhaps by me)
Can be made ready for more miles of adventure (rider needs to be 150lbs or less)

Vintage Collectible Price*: $3,800

*Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan and Hanna will sign the frame before it ships to you*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna


Hanz’s racing Two’sday

Frame T9 (the 9th tandem Bike Friday ever built)
Size 56cm/Med captain & 29.5in stoker
Built year late 1990’s

Vintage Collectible Price: $ 6,000

This is a special ride-able collector’s bike. The Tandem Two’s Day was the first Bike Friday tandem designed in the late 1990’s. This beautiful ultra-light Tandem Two’sDay was built by Hanz Scholz to race in the “Duet Classic” Tandem Stage Race. This Tandem Stage race was sponsored by Burley Design Co-operative (another bike company Alan Scholz co-founded). The Duet Classic drew tandem racers from around the world and was a great event to test the abilities of a 20 inch wheel travel tandem to match the 700c non-travel tandems – and the 20 inch wheels won several times! As we all discovered when the geometry is right, the frame is strong and light to fit the riders, its all about the lungs and legs, not the wheel size!

This Tandem Two’s Day was an extraordinary bike that blew so many assumptions away. A custom sized tandem that folded (to fit in a car trunk) and packed into two standard Airline suitcases and was still light and could win tandem stage races against non-folding bikes with 700c wheels…….so many amazing accomplishments.
– History written by Hanna Scholz (second generation) interviewing my dad Alan Scholz

Special Features:
Bike weight as shown: 31.4 lbs.
Hanz did some extra detailed finish work on the frame, its lovely
60t chainring for speed
Ultegra drivetrain and integrated shifters
Folding seat masts with the keyhole style
Packs into 2 suitcases
Can be made ready for many more miles of adventure

Vintage Collectible Price*: $ 6,000

*Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan will sign the frame before it ships to you
*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna


Vintage Sport 14 built 1994

Frame number 215
Size 52cm / Sm
Year Built 1994

Vintage Collectible Price: $1,300

This ride-able collector’s classic was built within the first year of Bike Friday’s history. This was the bike design featured in our first big advertisement in Bicycling Magazine titled “No Joke and About Time”. The original Bike Friday “Sport 14” frame design later developed into the New World Tourist model which has become the most popular in Bike Fridays history. Founders Alan and Hanz Scholz started the Bike Friday design using classic road bike geometry (73 degree head and seat tube angles with longer chainstays) for excellent bike handling characteristics. Then they figured out how to fit it into a suitcase.

This bike includes many vintage features. The frame has dual brake mount braze-ons so it can be set up for 406mm or 451mm wheel sizes. Currently the bike has 406mm wheels. The rims themselves are hand-drilled in-house to work with the high-quality hubs. This bike has the keyhole style folding seat mast with ovalized tubing, a scalloped seat clamp, and hinges built with a multi-part construction (we changed to another design later in 1994). The chain stays are asymmetrical and the main frame down tube is offset in order to give clearance for wide chain rings when the bike is folded. Fun Fact: we often got calls from customers concerned that their bike was “crooked”. The main frame is the original diamond style – we changed to a mono tube main frame around 1995 that was inspired by an employee’s personal bike experiment.

– History written by Hanna Scholz (second generation) interviewing my dad Alan Scholz

Special Features:
Bike weight as shown: 20.1 lbs.
True Temper 4130 Cromoly Frame Tubes
Hand drilled rims – as we had to make them to fit the nice hubs we wanted to use.
Adjustable Stem Riser
Cantilever Brakes for 406 wheels
Suntour Barcons
Suntour XCE drive train and hubs
Detachable Trailer hitch

Vintage Collectible Price*: $1,300

*Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan will sign the frame before it ships to you
*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna


Vintage Sport 14  built 1993

Frame number 94
Size 54cm / Sm
Year Built 1993

Vintage Collectible Price: $1,600

This rid-able collector classic was built within the first year of Bike Fridays history. This was the bike design featured in our first big advertisement in Bicycling Magazine titled “No Joke and About Time”. The original Bike Friday “Sport 14” frame design later developed into the New World Tourist model that has become the most popular in Bike Fridays history. Founders, Alan and Hanz Scholz, started the Bike Friday design using 1970’s road bike geometry with a 73 degree parallel with road bike handling characteristics and then figured out how to fit it into a suitcase.
This bike is one of the first bikes to use frame-mounted cantilever brakes and it has one of the few seat masts built with this multi-piece construction (we changed to another design in 1994). The chain-stays are asymmetrical and the mainframe down tube is “crooked” in order to give clearance for wide chain-rings when the bike is folded. A fun fact is that we often got calls from customers concerned that their bike was “crooked”. The mainframe is the original diamond style, we changed to a mono-tube mainframe around 1995 inspired by an employees personal bike experiment.
One of the many special frame features of this bike is that the brake braze-ons are set for you to be able to swap between a 406 and 451 wheel sets. Currently, the bike has 406mm wheels.

Special Features:
Adjustable stem
Adjustable cantilever brakes for 451 or 406 wheels
Suntour group-set
Stronglight chain-rings
Hand drilled rims – as we had to make our own to fit the nice hubs on the market then
Special rear rack with quick release connection to seat-mast – we only made a few of these

Vintage Collectible Price*: $1,600

*Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan will sign the frame before it ships to you
*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna


Vintage New World Tourist built 1995

Frame number 629
Size 55cm / Med
Year Built 1996 – one of the last original Diamond Frame New World Tourists before we changed to the mono-tube main frame as standard.

Vintage Collectible Price: $1,450

This ride-able collector classic was built in the   mid-’90s with Bike Friday custom hand-drilled rims. It has keyhole style folding seat mast with ovalized tubing and a scalloped seat clamp. The Diamond style mainframe was the original New World Tourist design. This bike also has the original right folding rear end that allows for a more compact fold. We changed that design to left fold in the late 1990s to allow for clearance for a wider range in drive chains options…
Founders, Alan and Hanz Scholz, started the Bike Friday design using 1970’s road bike geometry with a 73 degree parallel with road bike handling characteristics and then figured out how to fit it into a suitcase (make the wheels smaller!)
One of the many special frame features of this bike is that the bike can be set up for 406mm or 451mm wheel sizes depending on the caliper brakes you install on it. Currently, the bike is set up with 406mm wheels.

– History written by Hanna Scholz (second generation) interviewing my dad Alan Scholz

Special Features:
Hand drilled rims – as we had to make them to fit the nice hubs we wanted to use.
Suntour XCE 3×7 group-set (21spds)
Trailer hitch
Front Rack braze-ons – One of the first Bike Fridays to take a front rack

Vintage Collectible Price*: $1,450
*Sold as is, this frame no longer includes frame warranty
*Alan will sign the frame before it ships to you
*Includes Certificate of Authenticity and Letter of Provenance signed by Alan and Hanna

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See a special beauty that catches your eye? Contact us and we will start working on the adoption papers.

 

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Mystery, Aha and Logic with Light Electric Assist on Bikes

My journey through the mystery

as a designer and cyclist

 

By Alan Scholz
Bike Friday Co-founder and designer with editing from Kent Peterson, long time Randonneuring Cyclist

 

Aha! Electric Assist can be a logical choice for a “real” cyclist – it only took me 25 years to figure this out……so I wanted to save  you some time and share what I learned.

As cyclists, many of us have looked at ebikes and asked “Why bother?” or “Why complicate something as simple and pure as the bicycle?”. Most of the crew here at Green Gear Cycling are long time cyclists who love riding bicycles. Many of our customers are similar, folks who love the feeling of turning the pedals and rolling down the road under their own power.

For myself, I first really started noticing e-bikes in the 1990s. Back then they were heavy, with clunky mechanical connections and they made odd, irritating noises. And they were so, so heavy! A lot of those early machines seemed like electric motor scooters and I didn’t want a motor scooter. I wanted a bicycle.

Now I see that I really should give credit to those early experimenters. Although I didn’t want what they were selling, they were on to something. While I kept my focus on “pure” bicycles, they kept experimenting. They worked to make parts that were lighter and quieter. The big breakthrough has been in the area of batteries. The demand for lightweight lithium ion batteries didn’t come from the bicycle world, it came from the world of laptops and Tesla’s but modern e-bikes have reaped the benefits made possible by those high volume customers. Today, lithium ion batteries are light, powerful and relatively affordable.

Back in 1973, Scientific American published an article by S. S. Wilson which showed that a human on a bicycle was the most energy efficient moving entity on the planet.

Chart from Scientific American, March 1973

Since reading that article nearly fifty years ago, I clung to the belief in the ultimate efficiency of a human on a bicycle. Perhaps that blinded me to some other truths: that individual humans vary widely in their riding challenges, abilities, and preferences. While I was happily riding around quietly and quickly, there were others who were not riding, or perhaps not riding as much, because they wanted or needed something more.

If you live long enough, eventually you learn something

After many years of ignoring e-bikes, I finally began to understand the appeal when I rode a bike with an electric pedal assist system. While this particular bike was not especially light, it was fairly quiet and unobtrusive. It still felt like riding a bike. I was still supplying the bulk of the power, but I felt like I was getting a little help, a little push. I felt like my younger self, on a good day, on a much lighter bike. It felt familiar.

A memory came back to me, I was 5 or 6 years old. I was on a bike, my dad was jogging beside me, his hand on my back, pushing me along. It was that little bit of assistance and encouragement that sent me down a road that I’ve ridden for years.

Starting early and getting training from a cyclist parent perhaps made me an above average rider in terms of strength, speed and endurance. I may be a fast rider, but it seems I was a slow learner. I delighted in riding under my own power and even took pride in suffering under conditions I was not up to. While I muscled through pulling three kids in my Burley trailer, other folks with more respect for their knees and stronger brains wouldn’t bother. But e-assist changes things.

With e-assist, a couple who might otherwise ride at different paces can ride together.

With e-assist, an older rider (like myself!) can keep up with his younger, faster companions.

With e-assist, that big hill between home and work suddenly isn’t so big. Now you don’t have to arrive at work sweaty,

Once I began really looking at e-bikes and not just dismissing them, I began thinking about them in the only way I could: as a cyclist.

Light Assist: E-bikes made for cyclists

There are approximately 265 million e-bikes in China, 10 million in Europe and about 1 million in North America. Most of those e-bikes are heavy, weighing in at 50 or 60 lbs (25kgs). They are built with the assumption that the rider will always be using some level of assist so there is a bit of a “weight doesn’t matter” mentality at work. While their popularity shows that there is a market for such machines, they are not what interested me as a cyclist. What if we built an e-bike for cyclists?

At Bike Friday, we’ve always known that weight really does matter. We make travel bikes and when our bikes aren’t being ridden, they may wind up being carried in a suitcase or folded up and taken on a subway car.  Any cyclist will tell you that a light bike is more fun to ride than a heavy one.

So when we set out to make electric assisted Bike Fridays we started by thinking about weight. Modern lithium ion batteries and motors mean that it is possible to build an e-bike that is light and still rides like a bike, even if you aren’t using the motor at all.

Another thing we thought about was what we wanted the motor to do. We didn’t want to make a motorcycle where you just turn the throttle and go. Our light assist is a true assist, it adds some power to your pedal power. You are still working, but you have help.

Our light assist bikes are designed to coexist nicely with other users of the road or trail. In e-bike jargon they are class one, they must be pedaled to engage the e-assist and the motor will stop assisting at 20 mph. You can, of course, go faster than that if you pedal harder, but it’s you making that speed, not the motor.

Its not about going faster its actually about spending less time going slow!

Now you might be wondering, as our mechanic Kent Peterson did, why would I bother adding a motor at all? What Kent and I both discovered is that as Kent says, “it’s not about going fast, it’s about spending less time going slow.” With light assist, we climb hills faster with less effort. We get across busy intersections quicker. By spending less time going slow, while our top speeds remained the same, our average speeds went up. In Kent’s case, prior to converting his bike to light assist his average commute speed was 13 mph. With light assist, his average went up to 16 mph.

We discovered some other interesting things on our commutes. For one thing, our door to door times became much more consistent. On days when I feel strong, the motor does less work. On days when I might not feel so perky, the motor takes up the slack. On days when I tow a trailer to work, it doesn’t slow me down. The light assist helps carry the load.

The most surprising thing we found was how little power we used. If you read up about e-bikes, you’ll find a common estimate suggesting that you will probably use 20 Watt Hours per mile. While that might be an accurate figure for some of 50+ pound e-bikes, our light assist bikes, being far lighter use far less power.

A light bike + light e-assist = Far more miles per battery charge than industry standard

After a month of commuting, Kent and I compared notes. We both found that we were riding all week between charges and found we were using between 5 and 6 Watt Hours per mile. Instead of the industry predicted range of 18 miles from a 360 Watt Hour battery, we could go more like 60 or even 70 miles. I set my bike up with a tiny 150 Watt Hour battery (weighing just 1 kilogram or 2.2 lbs) and even pulling my trailer I could still go 25 to 30 miles!

Of course, as the saying goes “your mileage may vary” but if two sixty something old guys can get mileage like that then maybe you can too!

We can make a light electric assist Bike Friday starting at 23lbs total!

So how much weight does adding light assist add to your Bike Friday? Our light assist systems will add  anywhere from 7 to 13 lbs to the weight of your bike, depending on how big a battery you need. You will have a bike that still rides like a bike. We can make an Electric pakiT compact folder as light as 23 lbs. An Electric Pocket Rocket, folding road bike, can be as light as 31 lbs.

Light assist isn’t just for lightweight riders. Our Electric Diamond Llama can be ridden by riders up to 330 lbs, but the bike itself, including the electric assist, can weigh as little as 38 lbs. Our Electric Family Tandem can be as light as 51 lbs. Our Electric Haul-a-Day starts at 48 lbs and can haul a family of three!

I hope this helps you along the mystery path to your own clearer understanding of how an electric assisted bike can help you, or someone you know, to ride longer and more often than they did before.

Happy Cycling,

Alan Scholz

Glacier National Park Bike Tour on her Electric Assist Pocket Rocket Pro

Ruthy Kanagy shares her breathtaking ride in Glacier this summer

 

I recently spent a week at Glacier National Park in Montana, USA, with a hiking club from Eugene, Oregon. After several days hiking with the group to beautiful glacial lakes, I decided it was time to ride. I’d brought along my trusty, lightweight Pocket Rocket Pro (recently converted to E-assist), for the purpose of riding the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road. I’d heard about this iconic route, carved out of rock in 1933, as one of the most thrilling rides in the U.S.. Would I be up to the challenge? With my e-assist, I felt confident that I could reach the top.

September 5, 2019, dawned cloudy and chilly. I waited till the mist lifted and the sun peaked out. As I started from the east entrance to Glacier National Park (at St. Mary), there were few cars and no other cyclists. The busy Labor Day weekend had passed. I’d forgotten to bring my senior “Golden Eagle” pass allowing lifetime admission to National Parks, but I was happy to pay $20 for the Annual Senior Parks Pass to support our national parks.  


At the east entrance to Glacier National Park in Montana, the start of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The clouds lifted as I pedaled along St. Mary Lake.

Photo By Ruthy Kanagy

In front of the massive Going-to-the-Sun Peak in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

Going-to-the-Sun Road, built in 1933, curves around cliffs with sheer drop-offs.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

I came upon two “Plein air” artists painting the peaks.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

Many waterfalls tumble over cliffs along the route. On a bike, you can stop on a dime to take pictures, while cars have to search for a pull-out.