Author Archives: Willie Hatfield

Creating the All-Packa

How the All-Packa and Packalope bars came to be

by Willie Hatfield

 

 

The origination of the All-Packa

In 2020 I started a program of research and development (AKA tinkering) with the high aim of creating the ultimate bikerafting bike. The code name was Tardigrade AKA Water Bear.

Shouldn’t getting your gear to the start line of a multi-sport race by bike earn you a time bonus? If only I’d had a packraft at this point!

Bikerafting is a little niche I know, but I’ve spent years of my life on the water, and over a decade car-free so I’m personally motivated to make watercraft and bicycles play well together. Once you strap a packraft to your bike, you’ll never pull a kayak or canoe behind your bike again!

Shout out to a then recent hire, Chris, who was a fellow bikepacker and packrafter and helped get the project started before moving on in the tumult of the Pandemic. My first prototype was formed from a late-night brainstorm with him. We talked about how nice having an internally geared hub and belt drive would be on the raft, not to mention the compactness of small wheels and a fold, but there was no Bike Friday that would work for that. The NWT Silk was closest but they were not designed for really rough terrain.

The first prototypes were focused on huge tire clearance, and a more robust fold that would work for belt drive. On the left is a modified Silk fold but I broke it after a few months of testing. The middle frame didn’t fold smoothly. That truss fork bent during a big drop.

I’m proud to say that every rusty prototype frame was filled with concepts that were tested thoroughly. I’d frequently cut out and reweld new parts on. And for some concepts, like my dream of a new fold that worked for all drivetrains, nothing I tried was as strong, lightweight and reliable as our current fold.  So, there is no belt-drive compatible All-Packa. Yet. That fold is the Windmill to my Don Quixote!

What if I added a fourth water bottle boss? Joe Cruz suggested that one!

Along the way, I realized I needed to think much bigger than bikerafting. There wasn’t yet a bikepacking bike that was convenient for travel! Period!

Testing frames, testing steering geometry and gear placement, even testing lightweight e-assist. Getting closer, but the fold was off! Arghh! Still, a fine excuse for a 80 mile gravel loop around Fall Creek.

I also experimented a lot with frame geometry to work within the constraints of a folding bike to improve handling on rough terrain. I tested head tube angles from 69-73 degrees and seat tube angles from 71-78 degrees. I wanted to achieve the excellent handling of 29er bikepacking bikes but I found a few issues. Modern mountain bikes have very different head and seat tube angles from each other. For frame design, this means that the top tube length is dependent on the height of the head tube (AKA fork length). The head tube is much lower on a Bike Friday than a 29er to achieve the other functions of folding and packing into a suitcase. This large difference in head tube locations means that trying to match rider position and angles makes it impossible to have the Bike Friday fit a taller person. To fit a 6 ft person with 29er angles on a Bike Friday frame would require a 90cm top tube! That would not fit into a suitcase!

In the end I am using a more gravel oriented geometry and have kept the head and seat tube parallel at 72.5 degrees. For improved all terrain handling I also get the front wheel forward and achieve a longer front-center and wheelbase by using a 35mm stem and specifying swept back bars. Using a zero-setback seatpost steepens the seat tube angle slightly so the rear wheel will grip better while climbing. I’ve rewritten the sizing algorithm that we use internally to ensure we can apply this new geometry when we are matching the fit of our customer’s other bikes. In practice, riders from 4’6″ to 5’10 will get an All-Packa with pretty remarkable off-road handling. Above 5’10” the frame will max out at 62cm and the handling will be more like a New World Tourist or Diamond Llama because the wheelbase can’t lengthen further.

Another important geometry change I’ve made is to lower the bottom bracket by 1/2 inch. This is partially because the typical tires for this bike are so large, but mostly because I am prioritizing a lower center of gravity that makes the bike handle better loaded, over ground clearance over technical terrain. If you are riding gnarly rocks, ruts, and roots, I want you to slow down and watch for pedal-strike slightly more than on a typical mountain bike. This keeps the riding safe and fun.

I tried front suspension but found that for 20 inch wheels, front suspension comes in only 2 varieties. One is low quality stuff that only makes riding more difficult. The other type is built for kid’s mountain bike racing which have low weight limits. So nothing currently fit my quality or utility standards.

Going full send at Alsea Falls with a prototype. I’ve talked so much about the limits, but testing has actually shown how capable the All-Packa really is.  I love this job.

Tires and braze-ons make or break this bike. Braze-ons add bikepacking gear compatibility and flexability for the User. Wide, high-volume tires, run at low pressures are what transform the capability of this bike. From comparing 29ers and 20 inch bikes on the same trails I think you need 1/2 inch more width on the 20 inch wheel to get the same comfort and confidence over the same terrain. So as a Rule of Thumb, a 20″ x 2.4″ (406x61mm) is roughly equivalent to the ride of a 29″ x 1.95″ (700c x 49mm). Rollover is slightly better on the 29er but traction is slightly better on the 20 inch. There are a large number of excellent tires between 2.1 and 2.4 inches available so I am declaring this tire size the current sweet spot for bikepacking on 20 inch tires. I will revisit frame clearances if the tire supply changes.

Even with the compromises from my original vision I believe the bike that has become the All-Packa is an excellent bikerafting bike, but it is also so much more. Along the way I realized there was no bikepacking bike that was good at travelling. This realization shifted my design focus away from the niche of a niche that is bikerafting, to the much larger realm of travel by bike.

Having a bike to ride back to the put-in to pick up my friend’s vehicle made this rafting trip so much more convenient.

Creating the Packalope Bar

Packalope Handlebar

We’ve been making our own handlebars since 1992 so we thought we could contribute something to the mix of Alt Bars from Surly, Velo Orange, Crust, Jones, Koga and others. Like those other bars, the Packalope bar is wide for good control of a loaded bike over rough terrain, and has multiple hand positions for all day comfort. But unlike those bars, the Packalope splits for easy packing into a suitcase. Plus, the Packalope bar features flattened areas for increased comfort, and at 380grams, is half the weight of many other Alt Bars.

  • Clamp: 31.8
  • Width: 730mm (suitable for all sizes of riders and plenty for the balanced steering of the All-Packa)
  • Sweep: 17 degrees
  • Extensions: 350mm c-c

What is the All-Packa? (Besides a cousin to Llamas!)

Folks ride the Bike Friday pakiT across continents and ride Bromptons more than 10 miles so obviously almost any bike can do almost anything if you’ve got the notion. But it sure is handy to have the right bike for the job.

To me, the All-Packa is a bikepacking bike. And a travel bike. And a bike that fits smaller riders better than any other travel or bikepacking bike. I’m 6’2″ and spend all day in the factory building bikes. If you are smaller than me and have the time to explore our beautiful world away from the pavement, then this is the best bike you could buy. Having a bike that can handle a wider variety of surfaces gives you more options. Whether going around the local park, heading out of town down a farm road, or venturing to the farthest reaches of the earth, this is the bike for you.

Those 2.4″ knobbies look ready for very technical singletrack, but think of the All-Packa as more of a gravel/dirt road bikepacker

We live in an interconnected world, and our transportation network is varied and sometimes challenging to navigate. The All-Packa allows more flexibility and ease in how you create your adventures. I’ve endeavored to design a bike that makes both the journey to the ride, and the ride itself, more accessible to more people.  One benefit is how you can more easily choose to integrate less impactful forms of transportation like buses, trains, and ride-share into your cycling. And every Bike Friday owner knows how well our bikes work as conversation starters! Go be a part of the global community of bikepackers, reconnecting with the world and each other.

More about me and how I see Bikepacking

If you are new to bikepacking, leave this article and go immerse yourself in the wonder that is Bikepacking.com. Their Bikepacking 101 guide is excellent.  Back? Good, now that you’re fired up by that heady mixture of adventure photography, philosophical musings, and dirty bikes, lets get into it.

Look at those frame bags!

Look at those frame bags from 1884!

For me, I don’t define bike touring and bikepacking by the gear or even the terrain. I think of their similarities and differences culturally. Folks have been traveling by bicycle since the days of Thomas Stevens. I trace modern bike touring’s cultural roots through the 1976 Bikecentennial event. This amazing parade of 10 speed road bikes set the cultural tone for the past 50 years of bike touring.

But since the 80s, mountain biking has developed its own distinct culture and language. When I hear a modern mountain biker talking about going full send, hucking drops, and shredding the Gnar-Gnar, my eyes go a bit cross-eyed. But it also gets my stoke high, since these crazy mountain bikers, along with the parallel development of ultralight backpacking gear, have managed to reinvent bicycle travel once again: Bikepacking

Now bikepacking culture is spreading far and wide, well beyond your local trail network. A watershed moment to me was seeing Lachlan Morton’s Alt Tour De France in 2021 described as bikepacking. Bikepacking has reached the heart of road cycling culture and there’s so much possibility within this ongoing cycling cultural exchange.

Crossing the Sierra Nevadas north of Yosemite in a blizzard

I was first introduced to the ethos of bikepacking in 2006 by the Ray Jardine book “Beyond Backpacking”. Ray’s out of the box approach to gear, skills, and moving lightly through the world was a game-changer to a young Eagle Scout like me. Tucked in that book were a few short pages about his experiments in applying his ultralight backpacking theories to bike touring.

That was the moment in my mind that I stopped “touring” and started “bikepacking.” I was still using racks because the bag types we see nowadays hadn’t been invented, but I was done with listening to bike touring orthodoxy! Forget panniers – an ultralight backpack and a bear cannister worked for me for 16,000 miles over several years. Maybe I was a touch contrarian, but I was excited by the possibilities of approaching an old challenge like bicycle travel in new ways. That excitement, and an idealistic streak a mile wide, led me to Bike Friday in 2012.

 

Here is our first video showing the All-Packa features:

Designing in 12 Dimensions

Welcome to the ‘Designing in 12 Dimensions’ blog. It is about cycling, cyclists, and thoughts motivated by 50 years of cycling and meeting cyclists of all stripes. Its focus is also on designing new bikes & new systems at Bike Friday. Written with a makers & pantologist’s perspective, and as an introvert with the bicycle as my muse. It talks of design & materials, human scale, health/fitness/diet, work physiology, riding skills, safety, living as cyborgs, designing in your head, family & community, 60+ years of dramatic changes & potential healthy life styles as a world citizen. And the lessons of kindness. Always remembering a thank you to all your kindnesses. A jumble of topics that seems to have come to interrelate as a bicycle shaped reality for me. I would like to share the latest research results I find, where ever they are to be found. All for a better life for the individual and potentially for all of us. There is a huge bunch of really exciting stuff happening/exploding in the world. Not at all just the seeming disasters in the news. (To add to that maybe I can share a few pics to how we weld, braze, ride and destruction test the new bikes before BF releases them for your enjoyment.)
After starting to write a bit again, the realization came that there is much to comment on and share with you. Hope you enjoy and it adds some light to your day. Some of the best critical thinking seems to come from writing and seeing if what you say is really what you believe.

Thanks for the opportunity!

Not Science fiction

’12 Dimensions’ may sound like advanced physics, super-string or M-theory but I assure you it is not! It is very much about you, cycling, about life and bicycles. At Bike Friday we love bicycles, cycling and cyclists! The supreme elegance of the bicycle cries out to be explored.

Three Dimensional Bicycles

In the beginning, & I don’t mean the Big Bang, but in the 70s, Hanz and I started to think about bikes having multiple dimensions. (ok in1970 Hanz was 10 and I was 20 but formative years for him that took him onward) The seed for Bike Friday was planted. This is when trains would no longer take an un-boxed bike. And forget flying. I (& the other Great Plains Bike Club members of Fargo) liked to take the train with our bikes to the Twinn Cities for cycling events and races. Without the train this option to Minneapolis & St Paul, the hub of cycling in our neck of the woods, became harder to reach. We began to dream of high performance folding bikes and their potential to add back the dimension of traveling easily with our bikes.
Fast forward to 1992 April 1st (yes 500 years exactly after Columbus’ difficult travel across “the big pond” to the New World, (or was that Loo Flirpa from Scandinavia?) It was no Joke and about time! Bike Friday was started. From that time BFs have been consistently conceived as an evolution of the bicycle. Travel challenged bicycles, although one of the worlds greatest inventions, are fairly one dimensional. Designed to excel for one use and one sized rider. Like a Camel or Giraffe, elegant in adaption in their natural setting (straight out of the garage), not so much in others (flying!, need a roof rack & an automobile to go on that trip?). (Elephant in the room?) Bike Friday exists to be more convenient & capable of more. Only recently has it become clear to me how much we’ve added to the original 3+ dimensions of the original Bike Friday Travel System. Great fit (made to order), foldable (easy to store & carry), packable (carry on & check on to public & commercial travel options), & most important still – extremely ridable (not to lose a 100 years of performance design just to make them foldable.). OK I guess the original BFs were at least 4 Dimensional! Ok & Dimension 5. Users involvement with the design of their bike, and the sharing of their experiences with other cyclists! – With the ‘electric enhancement program’ & a new bike I am working on, I realized that at least 12 dimensions are now noteworthy & more might be coming.

So here is a list of the possible dimensions rolled into your Bike Friday design.

1) Touring Bike (The first 3D Bike Fridays. Built to fit, travel, ride and store. Performance that Packs.)
2) Road Bike (Sport)(with folding & other extra features. Designed/built to ride & be easy to travel by all means)
3) City Bike (w/ folding, carrying & other useful features for a bicycle life style. Still built to ride & be easy to transport)
4) Xlite Cargo Bike (one designed especially for mom, passengers, loads, and the rest of the family)
5) Travel Bike (Suitcase-able! In most formats, plus the supper handy BF Travel Trailer & your accessories.) Bike Fridays, since the original seed of vision, have always been planed as systems. One dimensional standard bicycles require you to work out your own system. I support anyone doing that. But travel systems have a lot of demands and planning for the Bike Friday Travel Systems smooths out a lot of roughness and saves money, time, and hassle when traveling. The new ‘Bike Friday Electric-Enhanced Travel Systems’ are an especially focused example of that.
6) Expedition Touring bike (or work horse family touring bike) coming is a Gravel Bike (or an especially cushy touring bike. This would be the new ’12th Dimension Friday’)
7) Fully Adjustable bike tech (riders age 8 to a young 90 & 4ft tall to 6ft+) Began as SRTS class training bike.
8) Guest Bike (this bike could replace a garage full of extra bikes & fit most any guest you might have)
And what are rental bikes for if not for the rental companies guests and clients?
9) Bike Club Bike (Better an uber Rental bike) from an old British cycling magazine comic of, ‘the bike the club gets together to argue about who gets to use the bike!’
10) Electric Enhanced Bike Fridays (actually 10 more dimensions folded into this one as there are different optimized versions for the first 9 dimensions. Some that travel easily, conveniently, and legally. Yep that means more than 12 dimensions but who is counting anymore!)
11) This one I think of as the MacGyver Dimension. What you might call the Dimension of Potential. It is like a Swiss army knife but way more. The Potential Dimension is made possible by the “Bike Friday mass customization rapid Production system!” A great system borrowed from ‘Toyota Production System’ for you to get what you want, when you want it. For instance we build for the Little People of America. Who else does that? Adding potential for riders from the 5th to the 95th percentile. (This is called “the long tail”) Standard mass produced bikes by necessity are for the center of the bell curve. Approximately 30th to maybe the 70th percentile for size with a few if any color choices. Are you mid bell curve? Do you think mass produced bikes have your specific wants and needs in mind?
12) One more important dimension that all Bike Friday owners have come to be part of. And it originally just sort of happened! This is the Belonging Dimension. Community. Bike Friday ownership has become a very inclusive world wide if non-official Community. Ask long time Bike Friday owners who have traveled ‘what is the best dimension.’ I have heard from many Bike Friday owners that they really like belonging to a world wide group of recognizable friendly bike travelers and having friends at the factory.
13) Stock ownership – a New dimension just in the last 6 months!

When a bike is so much already some folks expect it to do everything. Unfortunately not true or possible even at infinite cost. (not even the ‘Friday 12th Dimension’ that I am currently working on. It does more than any bike I have ever heard of but it doesn’t fold!)* A bike does not need to be good at everything. But it does need to be good at what you need it to be good for! Those specific dimensions are what make your Bike Friday a fine travel companion. It is a high standard we hold for them being the namesake bike of Robinson Caruso’s ‘Man Friday’. Our one big goal is for your multidimensional bike to be your ‘Bike Friday’.

Note: There are clearly more than 12 dimensions of potential to think of when designing the perfect 2 wheel companion. But it could be enough for what you need. Thanks for taking part. We are all in it together. Keep sharing your ideas for dimensions with us!

Best in Cycling –

Alan Scholz – designer & serial entrepreneur 2018

PS – Having a Philosophy has always been an important place to start when designing, so I leave you with one that always gave me a chuckle. In the subtle deep words of Red Green, “ If women don’t find you handsome they should at least find you handy”
* Now available as the Ever-E-Day

Featured Build: A Cargo Bike named Avocado Toast

From the personal attention of our Bike Designers, to the focus and craftsmanship of our production team, every worker at Bike Friday knows that every bike we build is special. But not every bike build receives a nick-name before it’s delivered…

As christened by our production team: Avocado Toast.

 

Rumors spread through the factory about Avocado Toast. Was this a frivolous Millennial indulgence or was there something more to this build? Hanging in the stand the bike certainly looks impressive. While some cargo bikes boast of their capability in neon orange, Avocado Toast says I can do everything that the bigger, heavier overseas bikes can with a fusion of British style and American ingenuity. The classic British Racing Green colorway is set off by the Brooks-supplied touchpoints while the subtle mix of high-end components, like the Chris King Sotto Voce headset, provide the dependability essential to the years of trouble-free use one expects from a cargo bike.

 

We may have snuck Avocado Toast out of the factory for a few photos. (Not that we recommend taking photos of your food for social media)

Love those tan-wall Maxxis Grifters

Ready to pick up the kids

With the wealth of accessories available for the Haul-a-Day, Bike Friday customizes the mix to suite the needs of the owner. Like many Haul-a-Day riders, this family will be running their kids to school and back, as well as around-town errands. Bike Friday’s Whoopie-Deux bars provide wrap-around security for 2-3 kids (depending on age and backpacks) with a cushy Xtra-cycle Magic Carpet for comfort. Our Big Foot rests provide convenient support for larger passengers or loads.

The wide double kickstand provides a solid foundation for loading and unloading of kids and cargo. Or a comfy perch to relax!

Bike Designer Walter delivering Avocado Toast to the excited owners.  New owner Drew actually told us they just had car trouble and were going to immediately be using the bike as a car-replacement. Good thing they bought a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day when they did…Avocado Toast saves the day!

If you want to roll around on your own custom-built Made In USA cargo bike, this exact build, including components from Thompson, Jones, Avid, Chris King, Shimano 105, and Brooks, is $3629. Electric Assist is available new or as a retro-fit. With a more modest build and the same great frame, the Haul-a-Day starts at $1685. Feeling inspired? Or Hungry? Order an Avocado Toast for yourself! Call 1-800-777-0258 or email info@bikefriday to get started!