Well, it has been over a week since I returned the Strida 5.0 that I was trying out. I mentioned it in a couple of posts, but I never did really write a review of my experience with the bike. This week, I have seen Strida reviews elsewhere, so I guess I had better get on the ball. For those of you who are interested in reading more about the Strida from other sources, the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of I.D. Magazine has a favorable review of the bike in the crit section. Also, Fritz has a new Strida 5.0 and he is sharing his initial thoughts about it on his Cyclelicious blog and over at Commute by Bike.
As you probably gathered from my previous posts, I really enjoyed testing the Strida during the couple of weeks I had it. Since my overall impression was a good one, I will start with a few of the things that I liked about the bike. Fritz mentioned in his post, that his Strida was slightly difficult to assemble. Maybe mine was packed differently, but I didn’t have that experience at all. The bike arrived folded and fully assembled except for the seat and seat support. Those went on easily and I was riding it in the living room within 10 minutes of opening the box. Everything goes together with a T shaped allen wrench which fits into a hole in the seat support. The folding and unfolding of the bike is well thought out and really does take just seconds. In the folded position, the bike can be held by the stem and rolled on both wheels, which are side-by-side and attached at the hubs by a magnet. Like many of the details on this bike, I think the way it folds is quite elegant. During the time that I had the Strida, I probably spent as much time folding and unfolding the bike as well as just looking at the design details as I did actually riding it.
The belt drive was something else that I was pretty happy with. I was a little skeptical, so I put it through the paces with some hard uphill pedaling and sprints, even once in the rain. The belt performed flawlessly through it all. It was pretty cool to come back from a wet ride and see that the belt was still clean as I folded the bike up. The I.D. reviewer didn’t like to see a “plastic chain ring” on an $800 bike, but I didn’t have a problem with that. The nylon chain ring seemed very sturdy and I am not sure that a cast or machined aluminum part would work as well with the belt. Someone correct me if I am wrong in my assumption, but I think the belt will probably last longer with the nylon gear teeth.
The Strida attracted more attention than any other bike I have ridden. Little kids (including my own) seemed to love it and several adults stopped me to ask about it. The reviewer in I.D. had the same experience stating that “it drew more stares than Gisele Bundchen in a see-through dress”. I don’t know about that, but it did draw a lot of attention. A few people asked where it came from. I explained that it was a bike that has been popular in the UK for quite some time, but is just now being distributed in the States by Areaware. I also gave out a few cards with the Bicycle Design web address to those who asked about the bike. I am just curious if any of you who I met on the Strida are reading; drop me a line if so.
There were a few things that I would change about the Strida. Though it wasn’t bad for short rides, the fit for me was not ideal. I am 6’ 2” tall, and I feel like I was right at the upper limit of rider height that the bike could reasonably accommodate. The bike is sold a “one size fits all”, but it definitely fit my wife, who is about 5’ 7”, better than it fit me. Maybe the bike should have an optional larger sized seat support that extends back a bit (perhaps a triangular shape that cantlevers out from the frame- I should sketch something when I have a chance). Of course, moving the rider’s weight back would not be without challenges. With the front wheel extended out as it is, the rider’s weight is already heavily distributed toward the rear. Despite the warning sticker not to do wheelies, I found that they were very easy to do since a lot of my weight was distributed directly over the rear wheel. I wouldn’t rule out a longer seat support though. Due to the triangular frame design, the seat moves in toward the center as it goes up. For larger riders, a seat support that extends out a bit from the frame would put the bulk of rider weight at the same point in front of the rear hub as a smaller rider using the standard bracket in a lower position (does that make sense?). You can see from the picture shown here that my position on the bike was cramped; I had the seat pretty low and my knees were still almost touching the under side of the bars with each pedal stroke. It wasn’t too bad once I got used to it; in some ways it felt like riding a highwheeler which was kind of fun. I can’t imagine that the Strida would work for someone much taller than me, but I guess that is a relatively small segment of the market. Still, I would call it a one size fits most… not all.
Note: this section in itallics was added a few hours after the original post: I just found out that the Mark’s tips pdf on the Strida UK website addresses the issue of fit for taller riders. Mark Sanders, who designed the bike, is 6′ 3″ and runs the seat on his Strida so that the lower seat bracket clamp is positioned above the guide pin in the frame. If you set up a Strida that way, you have to torque the clamps really tight to keep the seat from swaying side to side (since the pin will not be in the groove to keep it straight). Anyway, check out the pic of Mark’s personal bike in the pdf. Interesting; I wish I had tried mine that way.
The other detail that I didn’t really like was the plastic rear rack. It dips down in the middle to form a small basket, but with the sides open you can’t really put anything small in that space. My daughter put a juice box in and it immediately fell out the side. Granted the rack looks cool as it is designed, but I would add a few vertical supports so that it could actually hold things. I didn’t really try it as a rack with a trunk pack strapped on top, but as a shallow basket it was lacking.
According to the I.D. article, Mark Sanders, the designer of the bike, has proposed a few tweaks to the design. At this point, the manufacturer, Ming, holds the patents and they are reluctant to change what already works. Don’t get me wrong, I think the bike is well designed as it is, but I am very curious about the minor changes that Mark would like to make. I know the feeling; sometimes it is hard to end the design process when a product is on the market. Of course, design evolution is a good thing, so maybe the manufacturer will implement some of Mark’s changes at some point.
In closing, I’ll say again that I really enjoyed my time with the Strida, and I think it would be a great choice for a lot of people. For someone who commutes to work on a subway or bus part of the way (Fritz is just such a person), a small bike that folds easily like this would be perfect. In a dense urban environment where apartments are small and storage space is limited, the Strida would be a good choice as well. I noticed this week that DWR is now selling the Strida 5.0 in their catalog. That seems like a good channel of distribution for this bike, which I think will appeal to a lot of design conscious consumers who would not consider buying a traditional bike. This design has been successful in other parts of the world, so I hope that the sales results will be similar here in the U.S. I don’t know why they wouldn’t be because it is a pretty cool little bike.
One last thing before I go; Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. I will be taking next week off and probably will not get a chance to post. In case I don’t, I’ll go ahead and say Happy New Year as well. Be sure to check back in 2008 because the Bicycle Design blog will be back and better than ever (actually, it will probably be about the same, but it seems like a good statement to close out the 2007 posts).