August 5, 2013
In this video, Adventure Cyclist contributor Patrick O'Grady spends some quality time with a Bike Friday Silk Road Alfine, an internally geared, belt-driven smoothie that folds like a hanky into pocket size for storage. The full review appears in the August-September 2013 issue of Adventure Cyclist, which should hit Adventure Cycling members' mailboxes soon.
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Just a comment regarding the C&O trail--I rode it last May on a Bike Friday, towing a 2-wheel trailer and it worked just fine--well, OK, good enough-- on the double track portion.
I'm considering this ride from Pittsburg to DC with my family on Bike Friday tandems and trailers. I thought it would be a great ride with kids camping along the way and away from cars. Rails to Trails does a supported tour for half the ride each June. I'd like to do the whole ride with my family. I'd love to get your comments on whether there are any real problems or obstacles to avoid on Bike Friday tandems with trailers. Many thanks for your help.
Usually things on a bike fail not catastrophically, but because the component was used beyond its reliability, or was not of the appropriate quality for the subjected use. When set up correctly and understanding of use, the Alfine 11 and Gates belt are probably the least likely of any bicycle part break on an extended trip when they are in relatively new condition. So that should be the least of the drawbacks. The great thing about any Bike Friday, including this Silk is that it can be custom configured: even, though I cannot see why, derailleur gearing could even be put a Silk - for what ever reason. More over, when touring in exotic parts of the world, or remote parts of the U.S. Bike Friday has a 7/24 support through which in addition to service advice, you can get any part mailed to you, Extra spokes even come with the new bike. Most of the components of this bike are standard. A unique bike, maybe, but probably the more reliable over-all bike for a trip. Shall I wait for you?
Stewart, thanks for your comments.. Was not aware Bike Friday has a 7/24 parts capability. This makes a huge difference for long distance cyclists. I have read the Shimano tech document for the Alfine 11. The Alfine 11 unit is not service free or easy to repair. It does require oil changes after the first 500 miles & every 3000 miles thereafter. Reviews of the hub are positive with some problems being reported. Would not expect belt to have a problem. Gates automotive timing belts have been around for quite some time.
Just spent 8 days, 469 miles on GAP & C&O gravel/sand bike trails. Alfine hub isn't a quick release and I may not be able to pull my BOB trailer. Quite a bit of flat double track, a dual wheeled bike trailer wouldn't work. Stopped at 3 bike shops to look around, doubt if any could repair this hub, etc. All could repair my bike. By chance was at Harpers Ferry Hotel same night as Adventure Cycling riders. Nice people.
After ride bike was a fifthly mess. You would have to wait for me to clean/oil my chain. Good sealed Alfine unit would clean up much faster.
The Alfine 11 is something that has now been demonstrated not to be a vulnerable piece of equipment, nor is the Gates belt now (although can be easily mail ordered). Cables are all standard. The shifter/brake is valid as a shifter specific to this hub is needed. A straight bar Alfine 11 shifter could be substituted in a pinch. Tubes, tires and spokes are the unique parts - the rest is pretty standard including the disc brakes. When setup and dialed in, achieving the necessity of how to work on this bike, it may be argued to be the more reliable equipment to tour on. True it is a sophisticated machine, and has added levels of complexity when working on it, but its suitability and performance would warrant its use. The folding does not compromise its ridability. The combination of internal gear hub, belt drive, fenders, disc brakes, and dynamo lighting make it ideally suited for riding in rain. It is the Alfine 11 and Gates belt drive that makes it the choice to use where the bike must be depended upon under adverse conditions. But again though, you have to know the bike.
I recently test rode a Bike Friday Silk and loved it. Smooth, quiet, packable and then expensive. I may yet get one but I wonder about the drag of the internal hub. When I spun the rear wheel while on a rack it stopped spinning in 10 seconds presumably due to internal gear friction whereas the front wheel spun well with a good hub. I'm ok with the extra bike weight for the convenience of the internal hub and folding but wonder if the drag is an issue worthy of concern.
I have toured extensively in the last 39 years sometimes with 2-4 teenagers. We have broken about every part there is on a bike Now a folding bike with 20 inch wheels is OK as long as you have 406 rims. (Tires are easier to get) But I wouldn't take a bike with a Gates belt, 11 speed rear hub, 11 speed integrated brake/shifters on a Adventure Cycling route. My be good high tech stuff on a around the town commuter bike... but if you are riding the Northern Tier as I did 2 years ago NO bike shop along the way or supported bike touring group is going to have the parts to fix this bike. If you are riding an Adventure Cycling route then buy something that you can mail order the parts quickly and easily. Don't expect other riders to hold up for you because you chose to ride something that is unique
this rider seem to be jumping to conclusions that the bike isn't sturdie. The internal hub has a much lower failure rate sine it is oil and dirt free. The gates belt may not have a history, but again, no dirt, no greese, no shifting to create wear or problems
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I own a Bike Friday Silk with a CVT hub. Many have asked how it folds. So I created this video for it. I have also created a Bike Friday Google+ community for those on Google+ social media. My contribution on the Silk model:
I made a stop-motion video on how the Silk folds and unfolds: https://plus.google.com/105844089988748011433/posts/1P1RACK7jzc
There is also a close-up photos of the Silk when it was unboxed: