Strida 5.0: The Shakedown

I’ve had a chance to ride the Strida for a full week of commuting. My bike commute is usually a 3 mile ride from the train station to my office, though last night I took it about seven miles across Silicon Valley. The single speed and light weight Strida 5.0 is perfect for short commutes to get you the last mile from the bus stop or train station. I average about 10 mph without breaking a sweat over the 3 mile commute. While it’s no speed demon, riding this bike is certainly faster and easier than walking. Details about the shakedown cruise are below the photo of my son with the Strida.

Over the shoulder Strida
  • Control. The Strida folding bicycle is squirrelly and takes some getting used to. You’re not going to ride a straight line with this bike, but once you remember to keep your hands on the handlebar you should be okay.
  • Standover. Some people express concern about the lack of standover — the “top tube” angles straight up directly in front of your sensitive parts. It was only a problem for me once, when I veered into a curb and came to a sudden stop and *crunch*. Mostly, though, you don’t even notice that you’re straddling a metal tube. Mounting and dismounting is a breeze.
  • Skirts. Women and men who like to bike in skirts won’t like the Strida.
  • Upright seating. If you like sitting upright on a bike, you’ll really like the Strida. Unfortunately for me, the drawbacks of upright seating outweigh the benefits. There’s a reason long distance cyclists like to be hunched over — we’re leaning on the handlebars to split our body weight three ways between our arms, our legs and our rear, with probably 20% of our weight on the saddle. The upright, feet-forward geometry of the Strida, however, means that almost all of my weight is on the bicycle saddle. That’s okay for short distances, but my three mile commute is about the limit of what I can comfortably handle.
  • Carrying stuff. Messenger bags typically work well for me because they ride low on my hip. When I ride even moderately ‘hunched over’ on a road bike, the weight is on my hip, not on my shoulder or back. The Strida 5.0 with its upright seating means almost all the weight I’m carrying is on my right shoulder and my back. I don’t carry too much weight, but I can feel the bag compressing my spine as I ride. For the Strida, a more conventional backpack of some kind might be more appropriate.
  • Rear rack. My panniers can kind of hook on the thick plastic tubes of that rear rack. I haven’t actually tried using panniers on a real commute yet, though. The 10 lb. weight limit is a real limitation for me.
  • Hills & belt slippage. In normal riding the belt rolls smoothly. I can make it slip if I really jam down on the pedals while going up a steep grade, but this isn’t a bike for hard riding so it shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Power. A warning sticker tells me to avoid pedaling out of the saddle, and standing to apply power to the pedals feels very awkward and unbalanced on the Strida. I’ve had to walk this bike up very steep grades such as pedestrian overpass ramps.
  • Disc brakes. The disc brakes on the Strida 5.0 are reliable and strong. The bike came with the brakes perfectly adjusted. There’s a goofy warning sticker advising riders to apply the rear brake before the front brake — with the uneven weight distribution toward the rear, there’s almost no way you can flip this bike end over front. The brakes are strong enough that I can easily make the rear wheel jump up, so there is a danger of stopping quickly enough so that you can rack yourself against the upward sloping top tube.
  • Wheelies and other tricks. Another sticker cautions against popping wheelies, and the user manual warns against riding off curbs. While the bike is solidly constructed, it is very lightweight. As I mentioned previously, I’ve already popped the top ball joint out by accident so I can picture the frame coming apart if I try riding down some stairs. That said, when I first hopped on the Strida I rode a wheelie a good 20 yards almost by accident because the front end is so unweighted. You get used to it pretty quickly, but for the first little bit of riding the Strida folding bicycle you have to think to keep that front end on the ground.
  • Rain riding. The Strida 5.0 performs admirably in light rain. I was a little skeptical of the flimsy looking half fenders on the Striday, but they do a good job keeping my shoes and legs dry. The tires hold rain slicked road just fine, and of course the disc brakes are not affected by wet conditions. I haven’t tried riding the Strida in a real rain storm yet, and I’m not sure I ever will. Strida advises against riding this bike in snowy or icy conditions. Strida also advises against riding their folding bikes in extreme cold, probably because the plastic parts become more brittle and can break.
  • Gawkers. The Strida is a major nerd magnet. Children like it, too. Everybody wants to try this bike. The Strida 5.0 is reviewed in the January 2008 issue of ID Magazine , in which reviewer Cliff Kuang writes “the Strida, with its suave, brushed-aluminum finish, is that rare combination of function and flash; from day one, it drew more stares than Gisele Bundchen in a see-through dress.”
  • My next post on the Strida 5.0 will be about the practicality of hauling this folder on buses and trains. Read more on the Strida 5.0 folding bicycle. Other Strida 5.0 reviews are at Ride This Bike and Bicycle Design.

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