When I resolved to rationalize and expand my bicycle stable, I realized that my trusty, elegant commuter and reliable little folding bike would have to go. Ivy Mike was a lightly modified 2011 Novara Fusion that met all my on-road needs in style. However, when he was in the shop, or I needed to be flexible with my transportation plans, it was Nightbeat, a 2014 Novara FlyBy that took up the slack. In order to make room for a folding mountain bike and a folding road bike to explore the many trails in Austin and the many long organized rides around Austin respectively, the roles of my two steed would have to be met by a single new bike.
What folds small for logistical flexibility, has multiple internal gears, disc brakes for wet stopping, fenders, and can mount panniers? I’d been pining after the Tern Verge S8i for some time, but at $2,100, it was simply more than I was willing to spend. I examined its features and picked what I could reasonably compromise on. Hydraulic discs were never that important in my mind; mechanical would be fine for my needs. I enjoyed the dynamo hub on my Fusion, but I’d been using high-quality rechargeable lights on the FlyBy for some time without issue, and besides, the Verge S8i has a handlebar mounted headlight, which would just be obscured by my rain cape when things get wet. With these considerations, I revisited the world of folding commuters and found a possible candidate in the Strida Evo 3 at a full $1,000 less than what I’d been looking at. My only remaining hesitation was that it has a mere 3 gear ratios, and I have hills to climb
After several months of hemming and hawing and looking at my bank account, I pulled the trigger on the brushed silver Strida Evo 3 of my dreams on Amazon. It arrived in short order at the Performance Bikes near my house for assembly, and I drove on over to pick it up. With many non-standard parts, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the saddle mount was not installed correctly, but the absence or loss of the rear fender flap and QR seat mount locking lever retainer was disappointing, moreso as I realized it only after signing the release paperwork, and so found myself ordering replacements from Strida Canada West. Within a few days, everything was properly adjusted and secured.
I dubbed my shiny new steed Bluestreak after the first-wave Autobot (it is a transformer, after all) of the same color, mentally bracing myself for years of explaining why it’s not blue (‘Streak earned his name for being talkative, not by being sky-color), and set about getting used to its non-name-related quirks. I folded and unfolded, worked out how to attach my panniers and carry a lock, found a closet to stow it in and the best way to roll it around.
To put it to the test, I plotted a day-long sojourn of nearly 30 miles along fairly even roads, visiting a few local breweries along the way. By then end, I had a good feel for the very upright riding position, and the saddle was making frenemies with my bottom. I still could not, and after a year of pedaling daily still cannot, remember which of the three gears I’m in. Luckily, It’s never that far away from the best option!
After a couple attempts, I gave up on the kickstand entirely. The stock stand was fine as far as it went, but in the manner of all one-sided kickstands, it made loading packed panniers a bit of an exercise in estimating how much I could rely on it before the whole thing tipped over. To remedy this, I replaced it with a scissor-action double-legged kickstand. When it worked, it worked beautifully – loading was easy, unloading simple and stable, and it proved rock-solid when Bluestreak was simply standing around unburdened. The problem arose from the unusual kickstand mount on the Evo3. Instead of having a place for a bolt to pass through the frame and into the body of the kickstand, there is a threaded hole on the underside of the bottom bracket, the surface of which is curved front to back. While I could affix the kickstand there, it invariably had some play to it, and worked its way loose over time, flopping into the line of the crank arm, which became very annoying. In the end, I abandoned it, and simply learned that leaning the bike against things was far better for pannier management than either kickstand had been, and that folded up, Bluestreak was quite at home resting on the rear rack’s tiny nubs.
Apart from the kickstand saga, my modifications have been minor – some screw-on loops for a barrel saddle pack, a regular Cygolite headlamp mount stretched to its limits on the stout front fork, and a tail light mount on the cargo rack.
A powerful, expensive sports car will no doubt draw attention from bystanders; some may even comment on it. If it’s a convertible, you may even be able to hear those comments over the roar of the engine. For far, far less, you can enjoy not only looks of curiosity, amusement, or awe from folks on the sidewalk, as well as shouted words of admiration for or interest in your ride, but also be connected enough to the street scene to later be identifiable on sight by those spectators and even reply in an appropriate manner to their reactions, depending on your speed and level of exertion. In the past year, I’ve demonstrated the folding mechanism countless times for coworkers and random folks present when I’m locking it up in public, learned to shout “It’s a Strida!” over my shoulder to the common “What kind of bike is that?” query often lobbed at me from park benches and sidewalks, and found a number of ways to gracefully accept a compliment for owning a thing rather than making or doing a thing.