Road bikes were designed for speed, mountain bikes were designed to take on rougher trails, and likewise, foldable bikes were built for the leisure urban commute.
Preferences for bicycles are diverse and specific. While foldable bikes may not be regarded as real bikes by certain quarters of the cycling community (what we jokingly call the bike purists), there is no denying that these versatile wheelies are growing with fast popularity here in urban Singapore.
For the city dweller who wants the resilience of a touring mountain bike combined with compact portability for multi-modal transportation, the Bike Friday Pocket Llama is a clear winner for several reasons.
The Bike Friday Pocket Llama may be small wheeled and foldable but it certainly was designed for high performance. Much thought and design has also gone into the creation of this tough foldie (sounds like a contradiction but Pocket Llama is quite exceptional in its league) that also happens to be quite a fashionable piece of two wheelers to have.
We had a sleek black Pocket Llama with bright red cable housing and decals to match. The silver finishing of the various bike parts also contrasted nicely with the dark colours of the frame. I personally liked the aesthetics and details of the Bike Friday Pocket Llama. Every single Bike Friday bicycle is assembled by hand in their office in Oregon, USA, something which the company prides itself on, especially so where outsourcing has become the common business modus operandi.
Bike Friday’s passion for their bikes is quite evident.
Nice stitching pattern on the WTB saddle
The Pocket Llama comes in three sizes to cater to different builds (1.3m to 1.9m). Bike frames are available in a variety of colours (We understand that there are 80 over colours to choose from for your bike frame) and there are seven accent colours for cable housing and decals to go with your bike colour of choice.
Folding wise, the Pocket Llama is certainly no match for the Bromptons but such comparison is not reasonable considering the fact that these two foldies were designed for different usages – Pocket Llama is meant for off road touring while the Brompton is perfect for the convenient urban commute. In fact, Bike Friday’s equivalent to the Brompton would be its Tikit which also comes with the same 16 inch wheel size and possess almost similarly fast folding abilities, but that is another story altogether.
Designed for easy packing into luggage for longer travels, Pocket Llama’s folding is relatively easy and simple once you get the hang of it. The only one problem I had was how the chain tends to fall out quite easily during the folding process which might result in visible grease stains if you opted for the lighter coloured frames. The good news is an additional chain guard is available for purchase to prevent it from slipping. Check out how the Pocket Llama folds in this video.
Some of the greatest bicycle companies were born or founded by enthusiasts who saw a gap in the market. Green Gear Cycling, Inc, the company behind Bike Friday is no different. Co-founder Hanz Scholz vowed to invent a high quality travel bicycle of his own after a landmark trip to Europe in 1985 with an inexpensive (then state of the art) folding bike gave him a “sore butt” upon return. That landmark trip and painful butt experience has certainly led on to greater things. Bike Friday has since cemented a stellar international reputation for their quality travel and folding bikes.
The Pocket Llama pretty much lived up to the rave reviews it received. I found the ride very comfortable and smooth, not surprising considering the fact that I would naturally compare it against my own foldable that is constructed from aluminium and running on 20 x 1.5 tyres. The smooth ride of the Pocket Llama is attributed to a few things – all Bike Fridays are constructed from steel, which is known for its ability to dampen out irregularities on the ground. The super wide Schwalbe Apple K 20 x 2.0 super volume balloon tyres does a great job of swallowing the road bumps and the Thudbuster seat post makes up for the lack of front fork suspension to give you a cushioned ride. That said, the naturally compliant geometry and the custom fit of the bike may have also added to the comfort.
SRAM 27 speed gears, Avid mechanical disc brakes and Schwalbe Big AppleK 20 x 2.0 tyres. Pocket Llama was clearly designed for off road biking.
Small wheels are naturally more nimble and accelerate faster. Steering was responsive and the 27 speed gearing certainly made the uphill climb and downhill descend easier too. The wide gearing permutations allows you to maintain ideal cadence regardless of change in terrain (upslope or downslope). The Pocket Llama handles gravel roads pretty well and the mechanical disc brakes certainly came in handy for the muddier trails. However, if you need something for a rockier terrain, then you probably have to get a full size mountain bike instead.
The Pocket Llama’s retail price which starts from $3,200 (depending on your choice of bike parts) may seem pricey for a foldie. However, the steep price can be justified by the choice of quality parts and labour involved – assembling of all Bike Fridays are done by the company which chooses not to outsource this function although it has become the common mode of business operations these days.
On the whole, the Bike Friday is versatile and I appreciate its overall combination of convenience and performance. Functional and subtly rugged, the Bike Friday Pocket Llama is perfect if you are looking for an off-road touring bike that comes with the convenience of folding – Pocket Llama can be easily folded and thrown into (1) the trunk of a car (no need for bike racks) or (2) luggage case for flight travel. Perfect for touring, Pocket Llama can also be fully loaded with panniers and still remain considerably stable due to the lower centre of gravity (thanks to its smaller wheels). For the urban commute here in Singapore, the bike is not just fashionable but also fun for use to zip around town quickly.
If the Pocket Llama is up your alley, do check them out at My Bike Shop, the local distributors for Bike Friday.