When Andrew reviewed his new pocket rocket, he wrote that it took “half an hour to fit everything into the case, and a quick fold (such as would be needed to take the bike on a train) can be done in under a minute.” When Collin posted about the new Strida bikes, Brennan commented “I tried out one of these things. They are idiotic: hard to control, the small wheels transmit shock from any road imperfection, gearing is inappropriate for moving safely in traffic, and the taller you are, the closer your hands get to you as you move the seat up. This bike is an example of when industrial design purism trumps real functionality.” Them’s fightn’ words, so I thought I would do a review of my Strida after six months of use.
First of all, Brennan, regarding the Strida being hard to control and inappropriately geared, our tech diva would say “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”Just like many modern fighter planes are designed to be unstable so that they are more maneuverable, the Strida seems a but hard to control at first. But get it into crowded streets, and it is unbelievably maneuverable- the thing turns on a dime. I have taken it around cars and pedestrians in ways that would not have been possible on my road bike.
And while it is true that the low gearing makes it’s pace, um, stately, when riding it in New York City that slow pace saved me from being doored a couple of times, and saved me from running in to more than one pedestrian jumping out of nowhere. I take a few extra minutes now when I ride to school, but I feel a lot safer, and would not again clip myself into pedals on a road bike for a ride downtown.
But the extraordinary asset that the Strida offers is its five second fold; it changes the way you use a bike. I used to carry a lock that weighed more than my bike and still worried about whether it would be there when I got back. Now that Igor the bicycle thief has been arrested the rate of theft has dropped significantly, but with the Strida I don’t bother even taking a lock much of the time- I just fold it up and take it inside. If anyone complains (only one store has) I ask if they allow baby strollers into their store- the Strida doesn’t take any more space. Instead of being a mode of transportation that has to be parked, it becomes the latest fashion accessory.
Toronto green architect Martin Liefhebber saw my Strida at a conference in Collingwood and bought one. I recently was a guest lecturer at his class at OCAD and after we went for a beer; we both brought our bikes right into the bar and sat them beside us in the booth. He lives a few miles from the subway and the school is just a block or two from the subway downtown, but he rides to the subway, folds the bike, takes the subway downtown, (bikes are not allowed on the subway in rush hour but they never stop the Strida) and unfolds it at the other end for a two block ride.
In the end, I would suggest that the Strida is safer because it is so maneuverable and yes, because it is so slow. I think that it is also a game-changer in that it is so easy and quick to fold- you treat it very differently than a normal bike, you take it into places that even a normal bike can’t go. Folded up, you can push it like a stroller; TreeHugger founder Graham Hill hangs his up in a closet.
I can fold it in five seconds and I can pack it in its travelling bag in 30 seconds and am taking it to New York again this week, and to the Greenbuild conference in Boston in November- it is that quick and easy.
It isn’t perfect, you do have to learn to use the rear brake first, and after riding a road bike where one’s weight is distributed among the pedals, the seat and the handlebars, my bum hurts. But if bikes are going to become a viable alternative mode of transport, we have to solve the theft and parking problem. Having them fold up and come with you is a great start.