In late January I decided that I needed a folding bicycle to make my life complete. Soon after, I journeyed to the Bike Friday store in Eugene, Oregon, where friendly salesguy Jeff Strehl-Roberts helped me choose and accessorize their Silk model.
After that, it was just a matter of waiting until the April 10 expected delivery date came around.
Bike Friday makes their folding bikes to order, manufacturing them right at their place in Eugene. On schedule, I got an email on, most appropriately, last Friday, April 10, saying "Your Silk is ready to be picked up."
Here's Silkie posing in our driveway, somewhat weirdly colored by my iPhone's camera in a shadowed setting sun. It actually is all orange, the color of the front fork at the right of the photo. The Silk has 20 inch wheels, a feature I talked about in my previous post.
After test-riding several Bike Friday models in the roomy adjacent parking area, I realized that I preferred 20 inch wheels to the 16 inch'ers that are often wrongly derided as "clown car" wheels.
Bikes with either set of wheels felt great as I rode around. It just seemed like the 20 inch wheels had a bit more solid feel to them. And way more responsive when turning than the full-size wheels on my mountain bike.
In order to get Silkie back home to Salem from Eugene, the bike had to fit into my 2011 Mini Cooper. Jeff had reassured me that he's put the folded bicycle into Minis before. I also measured the small back compartment and confirmed Silkie should fit.
Turned out I didn't even have to remove the handlebars to get the Bike Friday Silk inside. Jeff looks pleased, perhaps in part because I'd told him, "If the bicycle won't fit in my Mini Cooper, you're going to have to buy me a bigger car."
I ordered the Silk with a carbon drive belt, instead of a chain, because I really liked this way of powering the rear wheel. Like I said before, "Goodbye to a clunky chain, and the need to lubricate, clean, and adjust one."
The carbon drive belt powers a rear hub with a NuVinci continuously variable transmission. Here's a photo of the display that tells you what non-gear you're in when you twist the shifter on the right of the display.
When I test rode a Silk back in February, Jeff told me that they didn't have any available bicycles with a NuVinci. So when I checked out Silkie day before yesterday in the Bike Friday parking lot, my main concern was how I'd like the NuVinci N360, since I'd ordered it without ever trying it.
Right away I knew that the NuVinci was going to be a winner for me. I've been used to bikes with click shifters, where I had to either precisely or vaguely keep track of what discrete gear I was in.
With the NuVinci I just twisted away from myself to make pedaling easier (the display shows more of a "hill" symbol, as in the photo). Twist toward myself, and the pedaling is harder (the display shows more of a "flat" symbol).
Aside from the utter lack of noise, no clicking and no abrupt gear changes, I instantly liked the analog vs. digital feel the NuVinci offers. Meaning, instead of wondering how many gears are left up or down, or what gear I'm in, I could simply twist the shifter as far, and in whatever direction, I needed to make riding more comfortable.
With the carbon drive belt and the continuously variable transmission, the Silk felt way smoother than any bicycle I've ever ridden, and was almost completely noiseless.
I found myself paying less attention to what gear I was in, because I wasn't in any discernible gear. Just somewhere on the (theoretically) infinitely variable NuVinci choices.
Yesterday I took Silkie for its first Salem ride, a few miles around some trails at Minto Brown Island Park. I'd just finished a 45 minute ride on my StreetStrider outdoor elliptical bike, so I didn't want to over-exert my senior citizen body.
I had a very enjoyable time. I haven't ridden a regular bike for a while (usually my wife and I only ride our mountain bikes during our monthly visits to a cabin in central Oregon in May to October).
Since I get plenty of exercise from my thrice-weekly StreetStrider outings, mostly I'm going to view the Silk as a relaxing, fun, exploratory bicycle. I'm looking forward to cruising around Salem and experiencing my home town in a different way, and from a new perspective.
I'm also planning to throw Silkie in my Mini and see what bicycling in Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene is like. Since these cities are much more bicycle-friendly than Salem, I'll learn what this town lacks, and why it is so important for Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates to be pressing for better cycling infrastructure here.
Anyway, the Silk adventure begins...
I'll end by saying that from the time I first walked into the Bike Friday store, to when I drove off with my newly-built folding bike, I had only positive experiences with the Bike Friday folks. They treated me right all along the way: friendly, personable, informal, organized, service-oriented.
You can buy lots of bikes for less money, but with Bike Friday you definitely get what you pay for. A high quality folding bicycle built to your desires, measurements, and specifications. My Silk is fitted to me, me, me!
It might well be that there isn't another Bike Friday like my Silkie anywhere in the world. Cool. And if you're worried that the Bike Friday web site gives off an uber-bike-geek vibe (which it does), don't be.
The salespeople like Jeff lead a prospective buyer through every step of the "should I get this, or that?" process. I'm not at all expert about bicycles. No matter. Jeff clearly explained my options and asked me the right questions.
I ended up with a much better bike than I could have picked out on my own. I'll be reporting on my further experiences with it in later blog posts, which I'm confident will be as positive as my first two posts have been.