What weighs less than 27.5 pounds, fits in a suitcase (or the trunk of a Nissan Altima with 2 suitcases and a cooler) and gets you to the store and back with a bag of groceries in 15 minutes?
The Novara Flyby
I looked at them Spring 08 and they had them for a decent price, but they sold out before I could really consider it. Right around December 08 they finished a second batch and I saw my window. — With all the REI member rebates included, my final price was just over $500. That’s compared to $1000 for the original Dahon model which is essentially the same thing aside from a premium nexus hub instead of the standard and a few different components, or $700 for the fenderless offering they have now. It was kind of strange to buy a bike and not really use it for 6 months, but I knew it was a niche purchase when I got it. It was one of those things I would have never got if it wasn’t for the good price, and I’ll get more use out of it over the years than most people will ever get from any of their bikes, so there.
It has a few cool features not found on your average bike. The seatpost has a Schrader valve bike pump built into the bottom. I’ve used it a few times and it works pretty well. It would be neat if they could find a place to stash a box wrench on the frame so that I would be able to get the wheel off if I had to change a flat, but I have an idea for a custom bike bag to hide in the frame wedge between the seatpost and the back wheel that’ll hold a wrench and tube just fine.
There’s also a bell on the brake lever… Only problem with it was that it would ding when I let go of the front brake, but I stuck a little bit of electric tape on the inside of the hinge, and that damps it just fine.
In addition to the custom parts there’s lots of great standard components too… Shimano 8sp Internal Hub, Sugino Crank, Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires, SKS Fenders.
Here’s the custom installation for the bike computer to compensate for folding design. It works fine for keeping track of my mileage.
The Mark’s Rack and basket have found a permanent home on this bike. For the kind of laid-back travel this bike inspires, having a basket you can just throw your stuff in and go is perfect. It works great with the low center of gravity associated with the small wheel and slows down the steering just a little bit with a light to medium load. The second reason I’m not swapping this rack out on other bikes anymore is because I had to spend over an hour the one afternoon manipulating the p-clamps for the flat bladed aluminum fork. A third reason is that I try and keep all the weight off the seat I can because I weigh close to the maximum recommended weight for said bike. That means no carrying a messenger bag on my shoulder with 2 days worth of groceries in it. Dahon makes a nice rear rack for this that I might get down the road which would go great with my slim Arkel Panniers.
Reactions are that it is very nice, and rides very much like a bicycle. That may seem like a crude observation, but given the frame design, there are many hurdles for it to overcome. The biggest challenge being that since the design is robbed of the large triangle a normal bicycle frame has, it loses points in the stiffness category. If I work to climb a small hill in my neighborhood, I can feel the bike flexing when I pull on the bars. The handlebar height plays a greater than normal part in the handling variable since there is such a wide range of height adjustment, and the ‘stem’ is at such a large angle to the headset and fork. While experimenting with bar positions very low one morning, I got some really weird oversteering effects. There is also the extra bit of effort which you need to put into making sure all the quick releases are adjusted correctly. I got some creaks from the linkage point where the frame folds, but a little experimentation with adjustment and greasing the hinge point has quieted it dramatically.
Once I got all the little tweaks ironed out, I started to enjoy it much more. When at the beach, I spent 2 or 3 hours on it in a day and it was pretty nice to ride around. It wouldn’t be the greatest choice for a large guy like me, but it performs well under the conditions Given that my other options are ride nothing, or build up a frame with couplers in it that would take 15 times as long to assemble and cost 4 times as much, it’s a great compromise. It will pay for itself after a few trips when compared with bike rental fees and the added bonus of having a bicycle on occasions when I wouldn’t normally be able to carry one so it was worth it for the price. I’ll be glad I have it in the future if I’m ever in a situation where I have a longer commute and want to combine rides with mass transit, or even just shorten my drive.