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Bike Friday Pocket Expedition

It has only been a week since I have ridden another Bike Friday, and I am presented with a Bike Friday Pocket Expedition. While the previous bike, a Bike Friday Pocket Sport, was configured for speed, I seriously wonder what this bike is built for. It does have pretty much the same frame, but has significant differences from the Pocket Sport. According to Bike Friday’s website, the Pocket Expedition is a “folding Mountain bike and Expedition Touring bike”.

It’d be better if you just rode slowly and enjoy what this bike is good for – its comfortable ride.

The bike seems to fulfill the specification of a “dual sport” – a term which describes motorcycles being able to ride off and on road. It has really fat tyres that are ribbed which suggest that this bike actually has some place off the road. The seatpost is suspended with a Crane Creek Thudbuster, which is supposed to keep impulses to your bottom limited, the saddle is a fat and plushy Serfas. The grips are standard round grips with SRAM printed over it. This looks like a bike that is meant to go far.

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood

It is rare that you find a folder that is made for off-road biking and I wouldn’t say that the Pocket Expedition is a bike that will make your mountain bike obsolete. However, given such a configuration, it was extremely tempting to go off-road especially since Bike Friday already said it was designed to be ridden off road.

Riding off road was quite an experience. Without a doubt, this bike will not replace your mountain bike. The lack of front suspension does make things much scarier, especially when descending steep slopes filled with drops. The tyres, will adequate for most situation, but it has a hard time going through muddy surfaces and steep slippery slopes, where the tyre is pushed to its limit. Often, I would get wheelspin in such instances, but this is easily explained, as unlike a true mountain bike, the tyres aren’t really knobbies and it just couldn’t bite into the mud. The gearing was excellent in this respect, if you need anything lower, you probably will be facing a very steep slope that is almost impossible to climb.

On easy trails, this bike would do a fine job, but harder trails would be a real test. It will survive the whole of Pulau Ubin and its easier Ketam trails, but anything with a diamond rating will be hard to ride on this bike.


On the Road

The bike, on the road, is rather unique. On one hand, its fat tyres, wide and low gearing make for extreme ease of conquering a lot of hilly terrain and making fast corners. I found that the Kenda Kontacts are extremely high traction tyres, it brakes like no other tyre and it can allow you a smaller turn radius – great for descending Mount Faber. The gearing was also very well geared towards conquering steep hills, whether going up or down.

Yet, this bike’s configuration can be a double edged sword. The problem is that the upright position, while very well-received for comfort and for forward visibility, is also simply too draggy for you to go fast. The tyres, while great for traction and giving the bike the ability to ride off-road, but have rolling resistance like you’ve never felt before. Combining these two factors, pedaling feels heavy and trying to go fast becomes a chore.

It’d be better if you just rode slowly and enjoy what this bike is good for – its comfortable ride. The fat low pressure tyres (29 – 45psi), and the Crane Creek Thudbuster and a fat and plushy Serfas saddle does make this bike quite a comfortable ride. Of particular interest would be the Thudbuster, which basically is a seat post with a suspension.  The performance of the Thudbuster was nothing too special; it provided a little springy effect when you went over big bumps. You won’t be going down curbs in complete comfort, for sure. At the end of the day, this bike is great on the road, but it’s not plushy in any way.

Folding

As with all bikes in the Pocket series, they only fold into half, the head tube can be removed via loosening a quick-release, and the seat post can be taken out by using an allen key conveniently located in the Cateye water bottle cage. Therefore, this means that if you only removed the parts with the quick release, you’ll have a bike with the rear triangle folded inwards, and the head tube taken out. At this point of stage, you’ll still need quite a big boot to store the bike, since the seat post would still be sticking out. For greater compactness, you need to take out the allen key and detach the seat post. With this done, the “fold” is more rectangular in shape and thus easier to fit less spacious boots.

Conclusion

Bike Friday really made a special bike with the Pocket Expedition. It is in fact a one-of-a-kind bike that no other manufacturer has come close to, since often folding bikes are designed for the road. The Pocket expedition is good for long trip comfort, and while marketed as a mountain bike, it is really better on the road than on difficult trails, which I found it too rigid for such a purpose. Nonetheless, on easy trails or flat muddy roads, this bike is adequately designed to conquer them. Bike Friday daringly forayed themselves into an unexplored area, and came out with something quite fun, comfortable and a bike that will take you where most  folding bikes won’t.