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Bike Friday Pocket Sport

The bike’s best trait is that it makes you want to ride it. A bit like your favourite bike at home – it just calls at you to ride it. And when you ride it, it gives you a really rewarding time.

The Bike Friday Pocket Sport, at first sight, looks like a foldable bike that is meant to go fast. Drop bars, 20 x 1.35” tyres,  24 speeds and very light Alexrims rims. Ironically, it also comes with bar-end shifters – known better for high reliability needed in touring.  In a very eye-catching red colour with the words Bike Friday plastered on the main tube, this bike reeks quality, style and speed.

Uphill Gangster, Downhill Monster

This bike is fast; really fast for a foldable bike. It facilitates easy climbing, and efficient descends. On the flats, it is just a tinge slower than the regular road bike. Testing it in the hilly Yio Chu Kang – Thompson roads, it gave me many opportunities to test its gearing, braking and handling. All I can say is that I am very satisfied with the gearing. It can really conquer anything even if you are a less-trained rider, mostly because its low-range is very, very low. But don’t let that fool you; its high range is also good for the above average rider. Unless you are Armstrong or Contador powerful, you will probably not find yourself maxing out the gears. Being an average commuter-rider, you will probably find yourself being able to overtake MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra), but this bike won’t replace your main road bike anytime soon, it just doesn’t have that few kilometers per hour you need when racing at the limit.

Notably, there are a few niggles that you might find moderately annoying. The bar-end shifters are a rather paradoxical choice. If you seek a touring bike, then perhaps such shifters known for reliability make sense, but a Pocket Sport is not the best touring bike in Bike Friday’s range, it is a sport bike. I wondered why Bike Friday did not want to put brifters instead, which would make shifting a real breeze  – you won’t need to get your hands off the hoods and down to the drops to access the shifters, which can cause temporary instability, especially given the twitchiness caused by the 20” wheels. Imagine downhill, at an increasing speed, and you need to take your hands off the hoods to change gears to keep in an efficient cadence range. I found myself losing temporary control of the steering, and at those speeds, it is frightening. Otherwise, you do get used to the shifting, mostly proven by the fact that when I went back to my road bike, I found myself reaching down to shift but, of course, to no avail.

The brakes deserve some feedback, as I found the brakes are a bit weak, especially the front brake, which also happens to be the most critical brake. You can feel that the tyre does not come anywhere close to the traction limit, even when you have the brake lever squeezed fully. The back brake worked well.

Ironically, I managed to lock up the front wheel when the floor was wet and when going downhill. On a dry road, the tyres were really good – low rolling resistance and adequate traction, but in the wet, the tyre’s traction degrades quite a bit more than its competitors. Undoubtedly, downhill and a wet Thompson surface is the best formula for obtaining the worst traction, but it was very unnerving to have the front wheel lock up, something I never expected.

Comfort

When you buy this bike, you ought to get the bike configured for your body.  It would be a really comfortable bike if you had done the necessary geometrical adjustment. As my bike came without such a configuration, I found it a bit too outstretching. The stem was too long. Of course, not a big problem – you just need to raise the issue to your bike shop.

If not for the problem with the stem, there wouldn’t be a problem at all, as everything else could be adjusted by the user. The handlebar height can be adjusted using the allen key provided, and so can the seat height or handlebar angle. This gives you quite a bit of leeway for trial and error.

Other than that, the bike is quite comfortable – IF you are padded. A standard test of comfort for me is to ride the bike with no padding, no gloves. Some bikes do very well, but the Pocket Sport is really a bike meant for full-riding gear. It was perfectly rideable for anything less than an hour without padded shorts and gloves, but it would be a lot more comfortable with padding, especially if you are taking it for a long weekend ride.  Ironically, it comes with one of the biggest, plushiest saddles, but it’s something I would change immediately to a svelter road-bike saddle.

The Fold… or rather, the Separation

With the Bike Friday Pocket Sport, its folding mechanism is quite unique. I wouldn’t call it ‘folding’ – it seems more like a bike that can be separated into different parts to reduce its dimensions. Very similar to a Moulton, with the exception that the frame doesn’t separate.

The rear triangle folds inwards – and that’s the only thing that folds.  By fully unscrewing a quick release which serves as a retainer, you can swing the rear triangle inwards. The next quick release – the head tube, can be removed by another quick release. This allows you to separate the handlebars along with the tube. The seat post requires an allen key for removal. Not an issue, since on this bike there was a two-size allen key conveniently located on the Cateye waterbottle cage. It was an ingenious provision not only useful for folding, but even more useful when you need to adjust seat height and handlebar height or angle on the go.

Without a doubt, this bike would never go in my hatchback’s boot. I needed to fold the seats down in order to put it in. But then again, when I fold the seats down, even a 26” MTB can fit inside. Your mileage may vary, but in case you do need to make the Pocket Sport as small as possible, you can also remove its quick-release wheels. The pedals do not fold, but I doubt anyone who buys this will keep the platform pedals for long. Either way, since the separated bike takes up so much space, the pedals doesn’t really add much to the overall size.

Conclusion

The Bike Friday Pocket Sport is a highly enjoyable a bike but there are a few drawbacks to this bike. The stock bike seems to beg customization – the saddle and cheap plastic pedals should be swapped for something sportier.  And as noted, this is not a replacement road bike, and neither is it a very compact folder.

Yet, this bike is one of the most exciting bikes you’ll ever ride, especially if you are a small wheeled bike fan. You’ll immediately find this bike refreshingly different from most other folder bikes because of its drop bars. I found that the drop bars made this bike very thrilling to ride. To me, anyway, riding a dropped bar bike is always more exciting than its flat bar counterpart.

The bike’s best trait is that it makes you want to ride it. A bit like your favourite bike at home – it just calls at you to ride it. And when you ride it, it gives you a really rewarding time.  Perhaps the best thing for people to drive to ride is that this bike can fit in most cars with its rear seats down, and likely luxury sedans with the seatpost and handlebar dismantled, which means you wouldn’t need a bike rack, or having to dismantle both 700C wheels. It is a compromise, and it depends on what you want and need.