Rediscovering My Bike Friday Pocket Rocket: a Packable Performance Folder
For those unfamiliar with Bike Friday and their bikes, the Pocket Rocket is a high performance folding bike. It is not a fast folder, like a Brompton or a Bike Friday Tikit, but rather a packable folder. Ours are built with 20-inch wheels and they are designed to break down easily into a standard-size suitcase.
I purchased my pre-owned Pocket Rocket directly from Bike Friday in 2005. It was a year or two old when I became its owner.
I had just gotten into cycling, including riding RAGBRAI the summer before I bought it, and was enamored by the idea of a packable road bike that I could use on supported tours or when I went on travel for work.
The Bike Friday was my first tricked-out bicycle purchase and I saved and saved for it. Among other shiny bits, it came with the following:
- Dura Ace crank;
- Ultegra front derailleur;
- Ultegra STI shifters;
- XTR rear derailleur;
- Ultegra caliper brakes;
- Ultegra rear hub;
- American Classic front hub;
- Thomson seat post; and
- Chris King head set.
Over time, I made various tweaks to my setup. I switched out the Dura Ace crank for an Ultegra triple with larger rings. I ditched the STI for bar end shifters because the STI shifters took a beating from the airlines.
The Dining Room Bike Shop had an extra Carradice Nelson long flap saddle bag that I hooked onto my Brooks Flyer so that I would have enough carrying capacity for a winter brevet. Ideally, I would like to put a Carradice Pendle on it instead, as Felkerino has done. The Nelson is too much bag for this bike.
I have added an unfashionable but functional small Novara handlebar bag on the front so I could easily carry and access my camera and other small items. I switch that out from time to time with a Rickshaw Pipsqueak.
The Bike Friday’s ride is sturdy, but not abrasive. The narrow tires as well as the smaller wheel size contribute to the bike’s stiffer ride. I like the ride, though, and have tempered its rigid feel with a sprung saddle.
The Friday is also zippy. My perception of this might be biased because, with the exception of my Romulus, I never ride 28s and my other bikes are heavier than this one. The small wheels also make the bike super responsive.
The bike has been good to me. I rode it on RAGBRAI in 2006 with no issues or discomfort. In 2009, I completed a 234-mile Fleche ride with my trusty Pocket Rocket, and since then I’ve ridden it on several rides of at least a century.
In the hours between the departure and arrival of 400K riders, Felkerino and I took our Bike Fridays on a 59-mile meander through the countryside outside of Warrenton, Virginia. Our ride was not particularly long, but it was a solid leg-stretcher and the terrain was rolling and offered a good challenge.
After returning from that ride, I made a mental note to ride my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket more often and used it Monday for commuting. It was a fun change from the Surly Long Haul Trucker, a much heavier touring bike, and I felt like I was flying around town.
The Bike Friday Pocket Rocket is curious in appearance compared to many other bikes on the road, and makes for an excellent stoplight conversation starter with other commuters. People want to know what type of bike it is, what it’s designed to do, and what it’s like to ride.
The Bike Friday Pocket Rocket reflects how my style of riding has changed over time. When I first began riding, I was more interested in solo century rides, participating in supported tours, and having an easily packable sporty travel bike.
Nowadays, I travel much less, ride tandem more, and do light self-supported touring. I rarely ride 28s- the widest tire the Friday can accomodate- preferring a slightly wider tire for more varied road surfaces.
Nevertheless, my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket holds a unique place in my stable. It was the first bike I really researched before purchasing. It’s the first bike I owned that was made by a small U.S. company and built up with what I considered fancy parts. I bought it used, but Friday made me a stem to customize the bike’s fit to my measurements.
The Friday is also the only bike I own that packs up quickly into a suitcase. Until I find another bike that travels as easily as the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket and has a comparable parts spec, I will hang on to it. It fits well, the ride is fun, and it’s a great conversation starter. And, most dear to me, this bike is full of good memories.