Monday, September 26, 2011

biking in thailand

arrival at the airport:

siam is an amazing country. it is probably the best deal in the world. people are friendly, food is cheap and the weather is good- at least most of the time.

when i arrived with my bike at the survarnabhumi airport  it was raining cats and dogs. that is not unusual in asia.
i put my thin thai raincoat on and tried to bike away to my hotel. the friendly airport guards warned me not to leave the airport. i thought the road was closed for bikes, that is something i have heard from mexico for example. no-they just warned me not to go outside of the safe airport roof because it was raining !!
rain is very bad for most people in asia. they were all looking at me and smiling as if i was crazy to go into the rain on a bike. they were so friendly and so welcoming that i decided to chat with them for a while. i shared my potato chips with them and we shared the usual pleasantries. anything more did not work because of language.

finally the rain ended. one of the guards told me that i would better go down to the first level because the road on the arrival level would be too dangerous in his opinion. anyway he would not stop me to go there. i listened to him and went down to the first level biking away. i felt very good because everyone was extremely friendly.

the road was still wet. my hotel was located near the airport. i was there when i had left bangkok three weeks before. the airport area is huge and i had trouble finding the hotel again. finally i arrived in the dark:

hotels in thailand are very cheap. this was an excellent hotel charging 20 dollars including breakfast.
my bikefriday is in the box, the panniers are in the duffelbag.

Friday, June 17, 2011

biking in portland

portland is a beautiful city:

outstanding for biking. i have biked all over the world including all cities where biking is the most popular means of transportation like amsterdam, brugge,zurich,wien,vancouver,calgary,ottawa.

very nice biking at the river, many people were interested in my bike. these two ladies asked many questions before they moved on, maybe bikefriday has twenty more costomers after my ride at the river...

portland beats any of those first class cities by far: portland is large, there is a lot of space, it never feels crowded . the people of portland are relaxed, polite and extremely friendly, at least the majority is. portland is also cheap compared to any of the other biking cities mentioned. 30-60% cheaper

there are bike lanes on most streets, even when there are noone it is easy to bike because drivers are friendly and not aggressive.

portland is so bike friendly that you can even bike to the airport where you can find a full infrasttructure for bikes like bike lockers, dedicated space for assembling bikes etc.

the scenic river bikeway runs parallel to the airport. you climb the small hill and have a sneak peak:

another outstanding feature of portland is the fact that it has no sales tax. you pay what you see. that is nice. i bought everything i needed for my bike. you can easily get into a buying-frenzy if you are not disciplined. i wrote a list of all things i need and worked the list.

when you bike in asia it is way too hot for shoes. i would get sweaty feet within ten minutes. the only choice that i found are sandals. so i went downtown to a store called usaoutdoors. i did not find the address and asked a man passing by, he stopped and searched the address on his blackberry for me and gave me exact directions. i was overwhelmed by the friendliness. finally i found the store and bought the sandals. i even got a 50% discount because they hand a 50% discount on 2nd article promotion. all salesguys were superfriendly. i met a guy who had visited my mother country and exchanged some memories. just when i left the store the guy invited me for a beer. a girl joined and we sat outside the little pub just by the outdoorstore. fabulous.  sitting there watching people passing by i noticed that portland has something trendy and fashionable.

even the police is friendly in portland. i saw police on horses, said hi and asked for a picture, they smiled and agreed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

visiting bikefriday in eugene

the cheapest way from portland to eugene is by rental car: 13 usd per day @budget.
travel time is about 1.5 hours each way. bikefriday is located in the outskirts of tiny  eugene on 11th ave

 i had asked them to deliver my bike in the shipping box because i will ship it as a free airline piece of luggage.
here is how it looked like:

i started to assemble the bike. kirk was the salesman in charge this day. he was extremely helpful and hospitable. kirk offered me free drinks and some snacks that other employees had given to him. i met many employees of bikefriday. everyone was joking around and all people seemed to enjoy themselves. bikefriday is a well managed company. this is another reason why it has so many happy customers.

it took me a while to assemble the bike because i intended to do it slowly and accurately. i also got drawn into many conversations with employees and customers because i was assembling my bike in the middle of the showroom. after three hours the bike looked like that:

and finally after almost one day of chatting, eating, drinking, repairing the front rack by service and some assembly like this:

it was late afternoon. i packed my beautiful bike into the trunk of the small rental car and headed back to portland.

Friday, May 6, 2011

choosing a light computer for touring

in order to report live from the tour a light and relatively small computer needs to be chosen:

ipads are small and light. unfortunately apple tries to keep it proprietary: no usb, no flash etc.
this does not work for me. hardware needs to be a cheap, standardised commodity. software is free. android pads have more appeal:

the asus ee transformer has a real keyboard that can be attached to the pad. working on a tablet without a keyboard is annoying. after a while even a light panel becomes terribly heavy if you have to hold it with one hand. that is why the asus ee transformer was sold out within minutes. noone knows if and when it will come back.


toshiba  tablet:

this is definitely a better version of the ipad2 fully industry standard compatible which the ipad is not. as per first week of may 2011 noone knows when it will be available. bestbuy says may 2011.

a little bit heavier by a few grams is this device for about the same price as the ipad:

11.6 inch screen, full keyboard, a little bit over one kg weight. this is a highly mobile device that can be taken on a bike easily

android is a cool os, i use it already in the froyo version on my mobile. having said that, it is not as mature as xp or win7. having struggled as a user of microsoft products for many years when windows was buggy, insecure and unstable, i have to admit that win7 is a very good, advanced and stable os which is highly qualified for business use. android is not there yet. it is more suited for fun applications, gaming, chatting , gps etc but i would not bet my business on it.

i do also feel that tablet prices are too high at the moment. you have to pay 600-700 dollars for a functionality that can easily be covered by most 10 inch netbooks for 250 dollars. there is nothing that an ipad can do or can do better than a 10 inch netbook.

if i can get a superior 11.6 netbook with a fast i5 processor and 500 gigabyte hd, why should i buy a tablet for the same price?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

what to do with the airline container at destination

many people asked this question on different bikinggroups on the web:

what do i do with my airline box at destination?
some bikefriday tourists use a traveltrailer:

price about 300 dollars

according to reviews found on the web most serious tourers do not like this solution: the trailer is too wide for some roads and they do not like the idea of having to worry about two additional wheels in a different dimension carrying two different spare tires and tubes.

alternative for 26 wheel s&s bikes: there is a soft bag available which can be used as a backpack, price from 200 dollars:

some people pack the bike into a suitcase and leave the suitcase in the hotel in order to pick it up when they return. other people use ups or fedex to send the container to an onward destination. that sounds expensive.

that is why most people use a carton to check it in with the airline. the dimension of the carton must not exceed 62 linear inches(158 cm) and stay under 23 kg. price: from 10 dollars
when you arrive, you dispose of the carton and ride away from the airport

i am still in the process of getting the original shipping materials delivered with my bike when i will pick it up at the end of may from the factory.

 what is the experience of other people who have packed and checked in a conforming carton at any airline?

update september 2011:
finally i found the best and even most cost efficient solution that conforms with airline regulations:
i use the original bikefriday carton and the bikefriday carry-on shoulder bag. i cut the carton into 28*22*12 , that is in total 62 linear inches which will be accepted by any airline as normal check-in luggage. the carton can be completely flattened out on the floor, all connecting sides are taped with utility tape. then the carry-on bag is put on top and it looks like a normal suitcase raising no flags with airlines. at destination i can fold the carton and carry it on the rear rack.
here you can see how it looks like:

bikefriday customer service

excellent reviews on the web about bikefriday's customer service was one of the reasons why i decided to have a bike built directly from the factory in oregon. can it live up to its hype? here is my experience so far:

website: confusing, lacking essential information
first the positive: there is a direct link to customer service covering most options needed:

negative: it is very hard to find out what model is the best for you. there is little information on the website. why do they try to hold back most information? there is a link to touring. when you click on that you get two models only, the new world tourist and the pocket companion. other touring bikes like the pocket llama are missing in this link.

sales: in addition to that there is a form that you can fill out in order to be contacted by a 'consultant' who would advise you on the best model for your purpose. i filled out the form and a person named walter contacted me by email asking questions about my inteded travels. i had the tikit, the crusoe and the pocket llama in mind. what i wanted to know was: what are the options and what is the price for each option. i would expect at least three or four options for each bike posted on the website showing a cheap entry option, a mid range option, an advanced option and a professional/expert option.
i asked walter to provide such options and price each component in order to enable me to make a decision.
walter denied this information saying that bikefriday sells 20.000 different components and there would be millions of different combinations. so i asked him to send me a standard configuration for the bike he would recommend. as a result walter sent me a standard configuration for the new world tourist for 989 dollars.
what first came into my mind: why is this configuration NOT posted on the bikefriday website? why are they holding back information about the standard configuration?
so i asked walter to send me different upgrades showing the price for each component that bikefriday charges(most components are standard). walter just responded instead:
Here's the NWT spec. Another ~$100 makes it a 24 speed. I could recommend upgrades all day long. If I keep it mid-level (Tiagra), with drop bars, bar end shifters, 27 speed, sealed cartridge bearings, double wall rims, and Schwalbe Marathon tires, you're looking at $1924. I'd say in terms of durability this would be well worth it.

does this email answer my questions? decide for yourself. at least for me this was completely confusing and not systematic. this email did not tell me what components were included in this configuration and how each component was priced. it is normal when you buy any bike, finished or custom made. here are some samples:

originally i intended to buy the surly lht trucker. you get a price and EXACT specifications:

surly the surly lht is the best deal in the world for touring. downside: bike-hating  airlines in the usa starting to charge ridiculous fees. there comes the lht deluxe frame which is breaking away using S&S couplers. unfortunately this excellent solution is in high demand and sold out.

here are other S&s coupled bikes, tailormade by the factory. much more expensive but you know exactly what you get for what price:

most bike manufacturers are able to give you three or four different choices and a price for each choice plus upgrade choices with individual prices. why is bikefriday not able to do that?

i ended up loosing my interest for bikefriday. i did not want to deal with an organisation which is not up to my standards. i started to  research other folders like dahon and moulton. i tried to get hold of a surly lht deluxe frame intending to have the bike built by a local bikeshop. and i talked to rodriguez. then i found this:

those are beautiful bikes ! i think that bikefriday is not capable of doing good marketing, sales is not responsive but they are skilled bike manufacturers building some the most beautiful and distinctive bikes on the planet. i was sold and called walter to build a bike for me even though i only knew a price and did not know any components. walter insisted on immediate payment. i paid the full price with a bad feeling..

service: as a result of my experience with sales i contacted customer service in order to get my questions answered and in order to communicates some minor changes in the measurement. tim from customer service answered my questions on the phone and by email. customer service at bikefriday is responsive.
now i still have an issue with the packing material of the bike. i asked tim to keep the original packing material so i can box the bike and hand it to the airline as one piece of luggage. it must be less than 61 linear inches.
bikefriday wants to sell an overpriced set of cheap packing materials for more than 100 dollars. why spend more than 100 dollars for shipping materials that must be included in the original shipping box: i will throw the box and the materials away at the destination anyway.

the bikefriday nwt is beautiful
customer service is good

update september 2011: please read my review about visiting bikefriday in eugene. this is one of the best small companies on the planet. my impression compared to the experience on the web was like day and night.
bikefriday is an excellent company building excellent, beautiful bikes providing outstanding customer service.
after my visit i have noted that they have changed their website. i hope that they will also change the way they sell their bikes because these guys deserve success. i love bikefriday

Thursday, April 28, 2011

choosing pedals

a folding bike needs folding pedals- NOT

because folding pedals are still in the way even when they are folded. that is why mks EZY pedals work better:

 they come on and off in one second and can even be interchanged with other bikes that you own. fantastic

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

choosing panniers

there are two major manufacturers of WATERPROOF bike touring panniers:
arkel and ortlieb.
arkel is excellent, unfortunately expensive and not easy to buy.
ortlieb gets excellent reviews and whenever you see a biker anythere in the world, the likelyhood is greater than 50% that ortlieb panniers are attached to the bike.

i have decided for the 50 liter cordura bikepacker plus  in yellow:

those have external pockets and are easier to pack and access.
also the plus series have more flexibility to position the panniers and allow repairs without a tool.
ortlieb uses plastic hooks which can break. that is why every tourer should carry spare hooks

taking measurements for a tailormade bike

a bikefriday is made exactly in your desired measurements and specification.
i did not know how difficult it is to take these measurements from existing bikes.

most of my old bikes are too stretched for touring:

even my beautiful rocky mountain which gives a speedy and comfortable ride for a couple of hours is not suited for a tour. the ride is too stretched. ideal for the mountains and for fast cityrides, not very comfortable for 8 hours in the saddle in a row.

so i unpacked my 35 year old touring bike MADE IN GERMANY by HKS:
this is a fabulous bike: undestructible, aluminum, very comfortable

i took the measurements from this bike and i hope i will get a bikefriday that will emulate this ride...

bb to saddle: 29.92
ground to bars: 41.92 inches
crankarm also 175 cm
saddle to bar: 24.8 inches
ground to saddle: 40.413 inches

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

choosing a saddle

most people rave about one product when it comes to serious touring:
brooks b17 saddle
other people simply hate it. it has to be 'broken in' which means a lot of pain for some people until it is. then they feel comforrtable with it. the saddle is also cumbersome. it has to be treated with a special paste that you have to buy from the manufacturer and the tension can only be changed with a special tool. on top of that you have to use a raincover because the saddle is not waterproof.

here is the suspended version of b17 called flyer:

the bikefriday nwt is said to provide a harsh ride on bad roads. this saddle got an estimated 100 year old mechanical spring suspension which is supposed to work well on long tours and even on commutes. i bought this saddle in black matching the color of my bike for only 87 bucks@universalcycles. definitely a steal!

at the moment i find wtb the best saddles for longer rides. i have to test brooks and see if it works for me. if i keep it, i will just treat it with a waterproof agent and skip the voodoo...

portland is one of the top cities for biking in the world. there are many bike shops where you can find advice.

buying the touringbike

after extensive research considering airline conformant bikes:

i bought a bikefriday similar to this one:
those are just beautiful and distinctive.
more important: you add panniers and you can tour the world on them, they are totally reliable workhorses of excellent quality.

the bike folds into a standard suitcase. all you need is a second bag for the panniers and for your belongings.