| REVIEW: BF Tikit...

Ok here is a late review of my stealth Tikit CarbonDrive Infinity made by Bike Friday (BF). Its code-name is "biquette", not only does it look like a little black goat but it has its agility, nervousness and capacity to climb almost everything. 
A little bit of context here; ...last winter i was thinking about buying a good folding bike to replace my current hardtail Kona Cowan. I used to do a lot of BMX and street riding in Bamako and Paris but eventually realized that mountain bikes and especially aluminium frames are not my cup of tea (it is for sale btw). On top of that i have way less time for jumps or tricks now, mainly commuting and following bike paths in Montreal, late March seemed like a good moment to shop for a more suited ride. My only non-negotiable demands were to have a chainless commuter with a rear hub to make for a clean, maintenance-free drivetrain.
After researching about folding bike manufacturers and reading tons of threads about the different models available today, i've contacted Bernds (very good service, nice bike options, similar to BF in a way, the only downside was the shipping price for Canada), Pacific Cycles (the iF Reach LX was on top of my list but its geometry does not allow a belt-drive integration) and Abio. I also had the opportunity to test ride my friend Gabriel's Jetstream P8, a Raleigh Twenty and both a Dahon Mu Uno and a Tern Verge at my LBS, just enough to give me an idea about how a folder feels like, and of course they felt funny.

Opening that box was a pleasure, i looked like a kid at the office. Everything is perfectly positioned and protected, ready to be used right after assembly, even the tires were inflated. You know you just bought a custom bike when there is a nice package inside waiting for you with a personalized card, booklets (even those from the different branded products you've added), candies and coupons. By the way, all BF models can fit in a suitcase/trailer for traveling which i may order in the future.
It took me a few weeks to finalize all the specifications of the Tikit i wanted in close collaboration with Eric Fischnaller, it ended up costing me about 3000.00$ (incl. 170.00$ of shipping costs)... and yes it is a lot of money for such a little bike, add on top of that some horrible Canadian custom/brokerage fees of about 400$ and then you have it! It hurts but i didn't regret it when riding the streets of Montréal it's a different bike for sure and i love watching all the details and parts of the frame, its quick fold never cease to amaze me and the people around too. Remember that it is among the first generation of folders to accept both a carbon belt and a NuVinci, in time belt-driven bikes will certainly be cheaper.
There is an unending heated debate concerning Dahon VS Brompton VS BF, if you want some of their well-equipped models it will eventually cost you a leg, and after that it's a question of personal preferences, size and wallet.
In general, the frame (size L) is stiff and really well built, it accepts standard parts and accessories like my Thomson seatpost. The infamous "weakness" of the Tikit seems to be the flexible stem post, but i can say that it actually is a good thing  and soften the ride a bit without sacrificing confidence. Rolling on 16" wheels is honestly quite rough even if this bike just ride better than the 20" Dahon and Tern that i've tried.

I really like how the front flat bar looks and feels with its side "horns", same goes for the efficient Shimano Deore 590 levers and the silver Incredibell is a neat little detail, seamlessly integrated with the comfortable Ergon grips and is quite loud. The only things that aren't on par with the rest of the bike are maybe the fenders but i've learned to appreciate them under heavy rains :-)
The stock BF saddle is not really impressive, but it does the job well for short distances nonetheless so we'll keep it for now.

In this configuration, the combo NuVinci/Gates belt is about 20.0 to 72.00 gear inches. It's pretty low and you can reach your top speed very rapidly, however the ride is excellent and the acceleration amazing thanks to the small wheels and the carbon belt tension, you can definitely climb the steepest hills but don't count on racing!
In short, i love it! it was worth the investment and i don't regret the choice to support a smaller/greener and customer-oriented  company that makes arguably some of the best folders. Thanks a lot Eric for your time and help, Bike Friday's outstanding service reputation has [for my part] been respected.

  • CONS:
-  It's not cheap despite being mostly customized and really well equipped. i always feel quite ashamed to tell the real price because i already know the consequent reaction. People just don't get it and it's difficult to justify the value of what they perceive as a small toy.
- Low gearing range... at least for now because the choice is pretty limited, as soon as Gates will be making different sprockets and belts due to the increasing popularity of the system then i'll upgrade it.
- Safety; it does look unique and expensive and i'm scared to let it stay outside for too long, especially in Montreal (a paradise for bike thieves) Good thing i have detachable MKS EZY promenade pedals that i take away with me, and when folded it looks kind of broken which in this case isn't a bad thing :-)
- 16' wheels are small, you can really feel the ground and the tiniest cracks, it's also less easy to find different models compared to 20" wheels.  For example, no snow tires available at the moment.
- Some say the fold is not as "nice" as the Brompton or Dahon but it is not an issue for me.
  • PROS:
- Well-designed bike, well-balanced and it's custom made for you. Mine is a bit butt-heavy due to the weight of the  rear hub when holding it up but it doesn't affect the ride, it's a beautiful machine. The beauty is in the details too, there is lots of engineering behind the frame and it shows when you fold it the 1st time.
- Drivetrain; i really like the visual elegance of a single-speed coupled with a rear hub, when you get used to the NuVinci N360 it's difficult to come back, so simple yet smooth, reliable and silent.
- It's a bicycle but even better, it's a cool folding bicycle that rides like its larger cousins. You can take it inside your favorite bar, your trunk or your local bus! The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages IMHO.
- Stealth; my knees actually make more noise than "biquette", it sounds like driving an electric bike or a F-117 Nighthawk, though i can't testify the latter.
- What many consider "twitchy" at first, soon becomes "agility" and the last time i took my mountain bike, it felt like riding a slow tank.
- It folds well and incredibly fast even without the Hyperfold mechanism, the great thing is being able to push it while folded.
- Practical; No need to adjust anything when you fold it, the bar and seat keep their respective positions.
- Social; i don't know if it's a good thing or not but you'll get noticed and will have to answer lots of redundant questions, although it's a fun way to meet new people.

If you do ask me, then my answer would be "yes i would recommended it" this Tikit model is a great but expensive urban commuter, what it lacks in speed, it shines in fun, convenience and craftsmanship. Remember that it's been configured for my tastes, my size and weight. Please don't hesitate to comment and/or ask questions.

| CRP...

OOoh yes I've got it!!! mon esti de Canadian Permanent Residency, stamped after a stressful 28 months struggle of administrative nightmare, it couldn't have been worse but it's finally over. It went a bit like this if i recall:
Int. room
Lacolle, QC, Canada July 1st 2012 around midnight, the agent tells me the words i have been waiting for so long.
Customs officer
(cold as hell)
Vous êtes maintenant un résident permanent du Canada, et bla-bla-bla... (babbling for interminable minutes, he eventually smiles).
(shitting in my pants)
Ho merci, merci! Enfin je n'arrive pas a y croire, c'est fou! et bla-bla-bla...

Snap to black
Aahaha i couldn't believe it, soOoo much relief, imagine that they did send me the corrected documents (Certificat  de Résidence Permanente) only a week before i had to leave the country for good ahaha! Oh yes i forgot to say that the NYC bureau made a mistake when they sent me the CRP 2 months ago, while in the meantime my work permit expired - which means that one can't work and officially becomes a tourist - really not cool! Btw, thank you Ken for driving me to the border in your brand new car during Canada Day. Being a resident will be easier, for everyone :-)
(Edited 10.20.2013 - Important!)
I would like to add something about being a permanent resident of Canada, not needing to go through all the immigration paperworks to find a job is much more comfortable and it is definitely an improved temporary status at all levels. However, i do need to acknowledge the fact that i have also immigrated on a stolen land and was given the privilege to stay and work in a place managed by an imperialist, post-colonial government.
In that regard, i would like to apologize to all the First Nations for previously ignoring this fact and wish things could be different concerning their say in the global immigration policies of this country, i believe things are changing and that it is important to understand the responsibilities and consequences of our coming here, so i support Idle No More.

| Wear or not to wear...

That is the question??? and it usually sparks lots of comments and debate. I do wear helmets when snowskating, wakeskating and inside a skatepark when skateboarding, they've always been part of my equipment when riding dirt bikes in Africa and Madagascar and it makes me feel safer while doing tricks and hitting rails or jumps where there are serious risks of injuries. Let's say i also had my fair share of painful experiences :-(
To be honest we were actively searching for a urban type of protection that is light, efficient and doesn't make us look like sponsored triathletes or some aerodynamic mushrooms, please! One can think it's a logical thing to wear a helmet on a bicycle but i came across different opinions on forums and blogs.
So it made me think again... what about you?
...a possible answer?

| Parc de la Yamaska...

Montreal has been under a lot of stress after about 4 months of unprecedented protests against the current Charest government and so are we. We needed a good break and decided to take our bikes and camping gears in our Communauto to the Parc National de La Yamaska near Granby.

We had the opportunity to watch a multitude of birds and wildlife including, groundhogs, herons and deer. The scary part was when some creepy sounds outside the tent just woke us up in the middle of the night and i had to face a nonchalant skunk looking for some easy food, which explain the blurry night shots.


Agrandir le plan
Now we are ready for more action, carré rouge FTW!!!

| Bike fest 2012...

The Tour de l'Ile de Montreal was a blast, especially when Meteomedia announced a rainy WE the whole week preceding the event! Today we woke up early for the Montreal bike fest, a now-classic summer event, with 50 km (~31 miles for those using the obsolete Imperial system) to ride and just an almond croissant in the belly, it seemed like an unnecessary Sunday challenge; especially when looking at Nhu's swollen eyes. However, fortune favors the brave and the sun was present all along the route with a golden smile, it was definitely warm and the closed roads were dry, not like us though!
We've upgraded some parts of the Voyageur (see the previous review) just in time and it certainly improved its overall comfort, the next step will be to replace both rims and tires. For my part i've received my new stealth BF Tikit and wouah! it is beautiful piece of engineering (complete review coming soon), Sunday was a perfect opportunity for a test ride and i was excited.
SOoo we joined the pack and it was an exhilarating moment, very easy to follow the well-defined circuit, no red lights, no stops, great organisation and kudos to all the volunteers for their support, and their cheering attitude. Our average speed was quite fast despite our small bikes and my 16" wheels (349 mm). Talking about the wheels, i have to say that it makes it for quite a rough ride, the Schwalbe Kojaks are reliable and fast but they are not forgiving, after ~2h and 38 km our butts were on fire and we were starving, so we decided to stop at the Parc Maisonneuve (relay 3) and to go back home. We had a lot to do in the afternoon to prepare for next week's camping trip and it was enough fun for the day. Now do i recommend the Tour? YES yes and yes, please come join us next summer, we'll be there again!

| REVIEW: Leader Voyageur...

Next year i'll move to a smaller apartment so we can get used to that limited amount of space before we jump to our real project. This will highly contrast with my current spacious loft near the Jean-Talon market, thus buying folding bikes and reducing our goods becomes a necessity. My partner wanted a used folder and we checked what was available in the surroundings, we were tempted by a Raleigh Twenty but decided to buy an 80$ Leader Voyageur from a nice old guy near Coteaux-du-Lac.
This bike was made in Canada by Victoria Precision Works and appeared to be pretty popular during the 70's/80's, it is very sturdy and heavy but was kept in good condition. The 1st thing we did is to replace a useless gigantic white saddle, take off a weird rear rack, problem is that the owner has made a DIY job with aluminium parts and planks and cut the original rear fender in the process. Here is how it looked on Week 2, after a super expensive crappy tune-up at Momentum velo, i had a better service on my Kona before but this was really butchered (check the front black cable below).
There are a lot of things that need to be changed on this bike in order to improve the ride; so i went to my LBS Dumoulin Bicyclettes (they sell Brompton, Tern, Dahon, Vela.ca and Strida), we are replacing the short one piece Chromoly crankset (child size), the original 40T chain-ring for a 44T, the brake levers, brake pads and also ordered a new bar.
The Voyageur has a comfy/casual ride if you are a small person, granted you got rid of the original bars, it's a bit slow and the original drive-train is not a good choice but overall the bike feels rock solid. Imagine that these are the original rubber tires from the 70's and they are still in great condition, i don't think we can count on any products today to last that long!

| More roam please...

Spring 2012 seemed like a perfect window to start this blog. Let's say it is the beginning of a transitory period from a comfortable sedentary but predictable life to a potentially more nomadic and uncertain existence. Because i think that we are currently living in a shitty society and we believe it is possible to change some of the rules, to modify our bad habits and attitudes, because we want to travel and meet new people. Roam & Co. will be my public space on the road (and beyond) for our friends and families... so i guess it is time for a little aperoT.