The Strida 2 Folding Bicycle.
*NEW: "9 months in". A Review after 9 months continuous usage (May 1999)
Main Review:(November 1998)
Alan Wilkinson, The author, is in no way associated with Strida or Roland plastics.
I bought the Strida-2 myself and have used it every week day for 5 months before writing this web review.
Wanted Strida (box of bits) email me.Nonfractal@hotmail.com
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Stridaís design is not new. This is a design that has been manufactured (on and off) for about 10 years. The question is. Why is this novel British built machine so rare on Londonís streets? Read on.
Strida-2 does not look, feel, fold or ride like any other foldable in the current marketplace. It has a simple "one catch" design. The Strida-2 design is known as an "A frame". It has no chain, no gears and is a mono-fork (front and rear). All in all, a pretty odd machine. Iíve seen many machines described as "The ultimate folding bike". None deserve it but Strida certainly has a niche here and a lot of advantages over "fold and carry" type designs.
I get as many "second looks and smiles" on the Strida-2 as I do riding my recumbent. Probably more. It certainly is an odd looking machine because it challenges all other bicycle layouts in one major way. It has no crossbar. This gives the Strida-2 a very weird appearance as the top of the "A frame" appears between the crotch of the rider. I have to say, Iíd HATE to have to feel the results of running head on into anything (even as low speed) with that bar right there.
The 12 spoke plastic wheels are also quite novel on an adult bike, more normally seen on kidsí BMX bikes. The minimalist frame has a monofork front and rear. This means that only one side of the wheel is attached to the frame facilitating easy tyre change (a-la your local Modís Lambretta or Vespa motor scooter). This is a great idea but in practice has a few problems. The Frame is a very simple affair, utilising the same diameter tube for the top two tubes and a slightly larger one for the bottom tube.
To avoid all of the issues surrounding the regular bicycle chain such as maintenance, weight and grease, Strida-2 utilises a carbon fibre tooth belt drive. The idea of this takes a little getting used to but once youíve ridden it for a while, all doubts disappear. This really does work and I suppose, if belts are good enough for Harley Davidson, theyíre good enough for the Strida-2!
Another off-the-wall design feature is the location of the free-wheel. Normally this is located in the centre of the hub of the real wheel but on the Strida-2, the free-wheel is located inside the bottom bracket. The effect of this is that the belt and belt-wheel are turning when the bike is moving, whether you are pedaling or not. The pedals are not directly attached to the front belt-wheel as a regular bikeís pedals are attached to the front chain-wheel.
I have never seen a bike so quickly and easily folded as Strida-2. It is pretty amazing from that point of view. Most other foldable designed appear to have started from the premise of a complete machine, then the designers put the links in to facilitate the folding into as compact a space as possible. Strida-2 appears to have been designed "from folded" with the opened and rideable machine being the afterthought.
I can fold Strida-2 in less that 3 seconds and unfolded it in the same. Strida-2ís manufacturer claims "Foldable in 7 seconds" which is very easily achievable.
Strida-2 does not fold into a suitcase size as do most other foldables but into a stick. Both wheels clip together once folded. This does have the advantage that you can wheel Strida-2 even when itís folded. No matter how light a foldable is, wheeling it has to be better that carrying it.
Roland Plastics claim that the Strida-2 is 22lb. It is but can anyone explain to me why it feels lighter unfolded than folded? The Strida-2 can be wheeled when folded. This is a definite advantage over the "suitcase" type folders where you have to carry the bike.
As the brochure says, this is a commuter short hop bike. Donít even think about riding big distances on this bike especially if youíre in the big/tall category. It just isnít rider friendly enough.
Strida-2 really comes onto itís own in the "less than 3 miles" category.
Not having gears can be seen as a disadvantage but you have to view this in perspective of Strida-2ís minimalist design. There really does not appear to be anything on the bike that is superfluous to its needs.
This Bike is quiet. Not the ticking of a free wheel or the humming of a chain disturbs the silence.
The ergonomics of the bike is by no means perfect and the rider does suffer a little in the persuance of the ideal minimalist quick-fold commuter machine. The riding position is a little odd and for someone of my height (5í11íí), an ideal leg length adjustment is not achievable but I can live with what I got.
The A-Frame design with the saddle attached to the rear tube does have a large impact on the weight distribution of the Strida-2. Strida-2 is very heavily loaded at the back end compared to just about any other bike I have ever seen. The shorter you are, the larger this imbalance becomes. In practice, this has not caused as much of a problem as I expected. Be careful of pulling "Wheelies" on the Strida-2. The front wheel is pretty light and will come up without too much provocation. Be especially careful when riding over speed humps in the road or you may end up being "spat off the back". Also note that because of the A-frame, the front wheel only has to come up about 15 degrees or so before you reach that "fatal overbalance" point. This problem is nowhere near as pronounced as the original black Strida I tested a long while back.. I can only guess that the Strida2 frame and wheel-base is slightly bigger than the original Strida.
Th frame is not one solid, welded, triangulated piece. This does cause it to flex a little when you pedal. The bottom bracket molding has a tendency to swivel slightly around the bottom tube. If this swiveling becomes excessive, itís likely that you need to tighten up the main Allen bolts that hold the molding to the bottom tube.
You cannot stand up on the pedals to ride Strida-2. The bikeís balance and geometry simply does not permit it. If youíve got really steep hills where you live, you might well expect to have to get off and wheel the Strida-2 up them. Strida-2 is set up with quite a low gear ratio so hill climbing is possible but high speeds are a problem when you simply canít pedal that fast.
You cannot ride this bike no-handed, but this is a reflection on the stiffness of the front steering coupling (which has no headstock bearings) as opposed to the Strida-2ís steering geometry which appears to be pin-perfect and pretty stable. The handling of Strida-2 is steady, even on steep and relatively fast down hill bends. It does feel a little weird at first though. And again, beware of that stiff steering coupling. A dab of silicone grease it a good idea on the pin.
Strida-2 has an annoying habit of getting your trousers wet. This is due to the small stubby mudguards. The same guard is used front and rear and just isnít long enough at the back to put the water from being picked up from the road and spitting up. A shame really. Probably just another inch length would fix this problem. Earlier versions of Strida-2 (as seen on Roland Plasticís pamphlets) used a different molding for the front and rear guards leaving the mudguard mounted reflector to deflect the rain. On the version I have, the reflector is mounted on the rack. I can only assume that this is one of those "specifications are liable to change without notice" type things.
A "work around" is to always carry something in the rack but make sure itís plastic covered because it will get soaked on a wet day!
The brakes work well and the weather has no effect on their performance at all. Having plastic wheels has precluded the option of regular rim brakes on the Strida-2. The designer has opted for hub brakes and these really are a revelation. They are pretty tidy too, especially with the brake cables being router internally to the frame. My only gripe with the hub brakes is that they require quite a lot of travel from "free" to "lock" and this is nearly the whole sweep of the brake lever. However, once youíve adjusted them and got used to them, they work really well and are smoothly progressive. The rear brake appears to somehow more "spongy" than the front in feel. Inspection shows that Roland Plastics have re-drilled the hub-brakeís lever, making the attachment closer to the hub so that less travel is required.
Strida-2 is 95% there as far as the finished product is concerned. The brochure says that the frame is "bonded" (a term normally meaning "glued") but it sure as hell looks "welded" to me. The finishing of the joints is good. The paint job is good. Itís the small things that detract from what appears to be an inherently "quality" machine.
a) I found that the seat pin locator holes were not drilled in line leaving the saddle hanging off to the left. I simply re-drilled the holes and relocated the pins. This fixed the problem.
b) I found that the saddle had a tendency to swing from left to right as the whole seat mounting molding twisted even when the seat-molding clips were tight. This molding is 2 pieces. The twisting was made much worse when I raised the seat to adjust the riding position.
I fixed this by re-drilling the seat pin locator holes higher up the frame so that they were closer to the top of the molding and used a small aluminum bolt to lock the 2 halves of the seat mount molding together.
c) The rear monofork or axle has a tendency to twist under weight. The effect of this is that the rear tyre tends to wear more on one side than the other. The rear tyre, being heavily loaded, does wear pretty quickly anyway and this makes the situation worse. Donít expect any more that 500 miles per rear tyre!
I have found no work around for this issue. Riders less than my 13stones (200 pounds) may not experience this problem.
d) One of the Allen bolts used to fix the lower steering link in position started to come loose. If these bolts were to give way, the frame would instantly collapse on the rider. Iíve nicknamed these bolts my "jeesus bolts" because should these come undone, "Jeesus" is just about the last thing I would be able to think before smacking the tarmac! I tightened it and check these regularly.
e) The belt-wheel cracked when the lower frame tube came loose and hit the floor when I was wheeling the bike along (folded). The edge rim split and there is now a 4 inch gap where the rim of the belt-wheel has broken away. The belt-wheel rim does cut a larger diameter than the outside of the belt and I can think of no reason for this. Maybe it should be a smaller rim, that way should this accident happen again, the belt would hit the floor, not the belt-wheel rim.
This might be an issue depending on how you choose to fold and unfold the bike. The belt-wheel rim does sit on the ground when the bike is folded and sat flat on the ground.
f) The belt started to slip.
Loosen the main Allen bolts that hold the bottom bracket molding to the frame and tighten the small adjuster nut at the back of the molding a couple of turns. Re-tighten the main bolts. Problem solved.
Be careful no to over tighten this nut. Over tightening the belt makes the bike harder to pedal and wheel along. You also risk breaking the pin by over tightening it.
The bike is delivered ready assembled.
There is very little to do except set up the seating position and ensure that the tyres are correctly inflated.
Finding the right seating position can be a little tricky. The seat mount mold slides up and down the rear A-frame and that causes alteration in the whole seating position of the bike, not just the leg-to-pedal length. Shorter leg length leaves the rider further back on the bike whereas longer moves the rider forward.
The handlebars are not adjustable so the shorter person might find the handlebars uncomfortable high and the taller person vice versa.
Even though I re-drilled the seat pin locator holes and located them higher on the frame, I did find that there is a limit to this as an adjustment. If you go too far, your knees end up banging on the handlebars!
There is a note that is included with the Strida-2 saying that if you want to make your Strida-2 "British Standard", you have to swap the brake levers over. The Strida-2 is assembled to European/USA spec (Left lever, Front brake) and itís up to the customer to change this if required. I will do this but donít think I should have to. The manufacturer knows where this bikeís being shipped to, right???
I can only guess that Roland plastics have Strida-2s assembled in job lots so they all have to be identical to cut down costs. Maybe when higher production rates are achieved, a ready-built-for-Britain version will be assembled (Left lever, Rear brake). Youíre probably think Iím making a bid deal out of a little issue, but Iím a devout Anglophile and little details like that matter to me. This is a BRITISH built bike right?
Due to the Strida-2ís unique frame layout, adding regular add-ons presents a challenge. Thankfully, Strida-2 comes with a specially designed rack as standard. Getting a regular one to fit would be a total nightmare. However, lights, bicycle pumps etc. all present their own challenge especially if you donít want them to look out of place with the design. Iíll leave you to figure that one out.
Strida-2 is a really stylish machine. You wonít fail to get noticed. Is it also a clean machine (no grease) to itís suit-friendly except for that problem with the rear mudguard.
Much of the Strida-2ís style comes from its simple design. 3 tubes, foldable into a stick.
It would be nice to see styling options for Strida-2s. Different colours would be nice. The older Strida was "Black only". Strida-2 is Grey/Silver only with the only optoions being differrent coloured mudguards. What would a Strida-2 look like with a Chrome Frame and clear plastic parts or maybe even an in-your-face flourescent yellow/pink mix?
I can only hope that Strida-2 does not go the way of its predecessors and that production increases to allow Roland plastics to offer different options. If there are any customised Stridaís out there, email me a picture!
In a nutshell. If you buy a Strida-2, expect to maintain it yourself. No regular bike shop stocks them, stocks the parts or will even have a clue how to tighten the belt should it start to slip.
Roland Plastics do have a full maintenance manual available (£5.99). Itís a pretty flimsy affair but has most of what you need to know to perform maintenance on the Strida-2.
Strida-2 is manufactured and shipped directly by Roland Plastics.
You wonít see them in your local bike shop. Roland Plastics had mine to me within 3 days of ordering.
Price 350 UK pounds at time of writing, tax included. (600 US-Bucks but god only knows how many "Euros" that is)
The best bits: Quickly and easily foldable, No greasy chain, wheelable when folded, lightweight.
The worst bits: No gears, uncomfortable for distance, Rear tyre wear rate, stiff steering.
And finallyÖ.Yes I would buy it again. It suits my needs but could never be my only bike. About 5 miles a day (total) plus a train journey from Stevenage to London Kingís cross. No ticket collector has ever asked me for more money to carry it on the train. No other passenger has even complained about it being there. My boss doesnít mind me keeping it under my desk at work although Iím sure he thinks Iím a bit eccentric.
I may even buy another so that I can customise this one. (Chrome and Black I think).
So, in answer to the question posed at the start of this article, Why donít we see more of them on the Streets?
It just has to be the old British disease. We can design good stuff, manufacture good stuff. But can we Market good stuff?
Strida-2 is not yet en-masse on the streets because not many people know about it and you canít get it at your local bike shop. Word of mouth is Strida-2ís only friend. If you do buy one, expect people to be regularly stopping you and asking about it.
9 months in! UpdatesÖ(May 1999)
(Ex?) Tory Politician on a Strida.
Since writing the review (above) in October 1998, Iíve had quite a lot of feedback, comments and experiences with the Strida II. Some from Owners, Some from
"Wannabe" owners and some from the designers and manufacturers.
Rather than incorporate these into the original review, I think itís better left exactly as I wrote it so that the page accurately reflects how I felt about the bike after 3 months of riding.
However, with the benefit of more riding time and experimentation, I have the following additions to make.
I commented that the bike could use longer mudguards.
After experimenting with glued on plastic extensions it became obvious that this is not the right way to go. A longer mudguard would catch on the floor when folded, especially when wheeling the Strida down steps. Both of my plastic extensions broke of while wheeling the folded bike down steps so Iím back to the "put something on the rack" fix.
Anyone have any better suggestions? Email me!
I mentioned that 5í11" is probably as tall as you should be to ride this bikeÖ
Would you believe that the designer, Mark Sanders, is 6í3" and regularly rides a Strida!!!
Here is what he had to say about being in the "over 6 foot" category and riding a Strida:
"On seat adjustment I wish I was 5'11" when riding a Strida - I bet I could get a near perfect riding position - as it is I'm 6'3" and have the seat as high as possible - such that in normal riding my knees JUST clear the inside part of the handle bars - which is fine for all except really tight low speed manoevering - when I go for inside knee outside handle bar, or in a high speed tight bend when free wheeling, just make sure pedals are both half way down. High bottom bracket means very high lean angles ie <45į to ground are possible - another reason whey its so good in folding races with slaloms (Fast fold, short wheel base etc means Stridas pulls out at a massive lead the fold/unfold and also in the slalom in folding races.)"
I talked to some Brompton riders. The Brompton does not get much mileage out of the rear tyre either. Looking at most of the common foldies, the centre of Gravity is always set quite a long way back so the Strida is by no means alone with the rear tyre wear rate issue.
I busted another beltwheel rim and ordered and fitted yet another. As a work around, Iíve found that a cable "helmet lock" from Halfords looped around the tubes of the folded bike and through the bottom tube hole, acts as a safety catch if the tube should break loose. Apparently the pulley (belt wheel) flange is a mandatory feature for meeting safety standards. This does make sense because (unlike a regular bike) if youíre moving, the belt is moving, even if you are not pedaling.
"Spongy" response in the hub brakes. This has improved over time as the shoes have bedded in but they are still nowhere near as sharp as a good set of rim brakes in dry weather.
Frame Tube Problems.
In October 1998, I noticed a creeping fracture in the bottom tube of the Strida. The Fracture started on the inner radius of the front link section, right at the front and slowly got worse over the next month. I faxed Roland Plastics with a description and diagram of the problem and sent the tube back for inspection. By return of post, I received a new replacement tube at no cost. I wonder whether the tight inner radius of the front link section contributed to this problem?
It is possible that loose front steering pin bolts caused excess stress on the tube. Certainly, a heavier rider puts extra stress on this section of the bike.
I do not know whether other Strida owners have noticed any issues regarding the front steering link. If you have, email me. I have had no feedback from Roland plastics regarding the inspection on the fractured tube.
Eventually Iíll have to really work out how much Iíve spent keeping the Strida 2 on the road over the last year. So far, equipment replaced: 3 rear tyres, 2 beltwheels, 1 belt, 1 rear aluminum belt pulley, one bottom bracket molding, one axle screw, one bottom and one belt tensioner. This does make me wonder whether the US based "Strida.COM" website is wise to be offering "one yearís free maintenance" on all new Stridas. If youíre in the US and can get this maintenance deal, do it!
If you use the bike a lot you will break parts and wear parts will out. You can bet on it.
As you can tell from the list, this is quite an extensive replacement regime that Iíve had to undertake to keep Strida running. Added to this has been a move to a new home which makes the commute longer with more hills.
As you probably spotted above, I replaced the bottom bracket mold. On both the Stridas I have (yes I did buy another) the mold eventually begins to slip around the bottom tube. Previously, Iíd suggested that when this happens, simply tighten the bracket mold bolts. I did this and eventually tightened them so much that they broke the mold while I was riding, causing the mold to split apart. Nasty!
From a design viewpoint, having tubes with a circular cross section makes this type of slippage inevitable. The pins that hold the mold in place are of very small diameter and act like knives on the mold, slicing it up from the inside as the mold slips.
If there is anyone out there with suggestions for a fix for this PLEASE email me.
Drive belts etc.
Despite claims to the contrary, the carbon fibre belts do wear out and so do the rear aluminum belt wheels. This first shows up as a problem with continual belt slippage that only seriously over-tightening the tensioner can mitigate. This eventually causes breakage of tensioner bolts. Inspect the rear belt wheel. The toothed grooves should be symmetric. When the teeth wear, youíll have to replace it. It is not possible to "invert" it so that you have a fresh set of leading edge grooves. The inside and outside edges of the pulley are not the same. Shame thatÖ
Something that I did recently (April 99) was to replace all of the components in the drive train. The front pulley wheel (I broke it again), the belt and the rear pulley. What a difference this made!!! As the drive train components become worn, more and more tension has to be put on the belt to stop it from slipping. More tension means more drag. Eventually you begin to wonder if the Strida was always this hard to push and you start breaking the tension bolts by overtightening it in an attempt to stop the belt slipping.
The new drive train components made the bike feel like new and made my journeys much less effort and take a lot less time. What a differrence!
I expect to have to replace the belt and rear pulley every 6 months from now on.
New components: A small bolt, a big deal!
New revised rear axle bolt is available which allows you to really adjust the friction between the seat tube to the bottom tube. Older Strida 2ís had a simple hex-headed screw and spring washer. New Stridaís have a threaded rod with headless internal hex slot and 2 lock nuts. This allows you to truly adjust the tension and hopefully will solve the ongoing issues with broken pulley wheels. Itís certainly an improvement.
*3 speed option
*A non-circular cross sectional bottom tube and bottom bracket mold to match (to prevent mold creak and swivel). Possibly the same for the seat tube for the same reasons.
*Some mechanism to avoid water spitting up from the rear tyre.
*A reversible rear belt pulley so that it's wear life can be doubled.
*An optional Alloy front pulley.
*Optional and Intergral LED lights. In the Rack and Headset mold?
*An Integral (possibly internal to a frame tube?) tyre pump.
*An alternative to the stiff, stress-fracture prone "pin and hole" front link mechanism although I have no better ideas at this point.
*Optional colour combinations.
9 months in : Summary
The StridaII still holds a fond place in my collection of bikes and I still use the first StridaII I bought for my daily commute even though itís no longer ideal for the longer ride from my new home, which incorporates some hills. StridaII does seem to take a more than average maintenance effort and some of this maintenance is not simple to do if you donít have the technical manual. The lesson here is "buy the maintenance manual" or sign up for the US "free maintenance deal" Have fun!!!!!
Links and Contacts:
www.mediaport.org/~strida Strida Home Page
Email Roland Plastics Strida@rolandplastics.co.uk
Telephone Roland Plastics 01728 747777
Fax Roland Plastics 01728 748222
Ben and Barrie Emerson
Roland Plastics Ltd., High Street, Wickham Market, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP13 0QZ
Distributors web page: www.strida.com
Email: Steedman Bass firstname.lastname@example.org