Hey, Just Ride 36

I spent five years riding on 20-inchers and 16-inchers.

Yes, as an adult.

I’m not talking BMX, either.

OK, so I spent a whole summer riding a unicycle as a teenager, too.

I’m not a typical anything. You already knew that.

It all started when I got hired as marketing director of Bike Friday, the folding bike company in Eugene, Oregon.

That ended a two-year bout of unemployment that was prompted by The Great Recession, just one of many economic hiccups that have cost me jobs over the years.

Never one for pretense, I rode to the Bike Friday interview on a $50 used Walmart off-brand bike I bought at a rummage sale. Like I said, I was unemployed for two years. At one time my wife also lost her job.

Spending money on bikes, even though I used them to commute to and from work — when I had a job — wasn’t in the budget. My bikes were falling apart, and $50 was a lot less than the $200-300 the bike shop wanted to get my ride back up and running.

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Once I landed that gig, I bought into the concept of folding bikes. I got a Pocket Llama, the Bike Friday 20-incher with the wider tires (2-inch Schwalbe Big Apples), and spent less than 10 hours on a bigger bike over the next five years.

I spent all that time singing the praises of Bike Fridays. It’s not so much the laundry list of advantages a folding bike affords you as much as the true value of a custom bike that is built for your body.

Before that run, I pretty much rode anything of any size without much trouble. My body appeared to adapt to whatever challenges and size differences might pose.

Five years of riding a bike tailored to my body ended that. Oh, baby, now a days, it’s all about fit.

Some folks lament that I drank the Scholz brothers’ kool aid, as if joining the folding bike fraternity is akin to falling in with a cult. I’ll admit that when I did return to the land of large tires, in retrospect, I wonder why I did commit universally to small tires.

Like so many story assignments over the years, the job afforded me the opportunity to experience a world I might never have otherwise taste-tested.

It didn’t take long for me to discover my primary pitch to curious folks researching folding bikes. The most amazing aspect for me was the ability to always have my bike with me.

I’d just fold up my Llama and keep it in the back of my SUV. I could steal away an hour or so on my drive back from the Bay Area, or Seattle, or the coast.

Ditto in the mountains. With the wider tires and my Thudbuster seat post, I’d hammer my Llama on the Middle Fork Trail, or McKenzie River Trail. No super rough terrain, but with groomed trails it was a joy. If I had to dismount a section, I found myself jumping back on the bike much sooner than I would a larger bike.

I even rode a folding bike up Highway 242 to the McKenzie Pass. Not just any folding bike. One with a Nuvinci internal gear hub. That was a blast.

Travel, well, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would ever ride a bike in New York City, or a fixed gear in San Fransisco.

But there I was, with my Bike Friday tikit, snapping it folded or unfolding it at the terminal, then zipping alongside big city downtown traffic without a worry.

All because I could easily pack it into a hard shell Samsonite suitcase and fly — in my case on Southwest — with two bikes for free!

I’d have to say that possibly my favorite trip was back to Denver for the Handmade Bike Show. I brought along Bike Friday’s $7G Super Pro, it’s high end road bike that weighed 16 pounds with Dura Ace on it.

I hit the mountain climbs outside of Loveland where I used to live. Dang, that was fun.

Then Bike Friday started building cargo bikes. The Haul-a-Day not only was a cargo bike, but it had an adjustable frame so that someone 5-foot-2 could share it with someone 6-foot-4.

If that wasn’t cool enough, then we slapped electric assist on it. Buzzing around Park City on an electric cargo bike. Dang, that was sweet.

Eventually we parted ways. I went back to larger tires. My wife still rides the Llama every day.

Bike Friday survived the pandemic. It’s a true made in America company. They’ve evolved. Got some neat new bikes out.

I’m sure I’ll dust off my other Llama some day.

Hmmm, where’s that old unicycle?

Time to ride.

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