Review of the Strida Folding Bike
This is a detailed review of the Strida folding bike, written after 10 years of riding a Strida. I’ve had three Stridas in that time and developed something of a love-hate relationship with them. I’ve come to find I simply can’t live without the fast folding, the ability to wheel it along when folded and the integrated child carrying (more on that later). The low maintenance of the bike overall and the clean belt drive are also great for an every-day city bike. The Strida has a very upright riding position which is perfect for seeing and being seen in traffic or when cruising along taking in the atmosphere.
- Super fast fold and roll away Strida!
On the other hand, I’m constantly annoyed and frustrated by the significant shortcomings of this bike. The upright position creates a lot of drag, making the Strida very slow, especially into a head-wind. For longer rides, the upright position also gets very uncomfortable putting all my weight on the saddle. The strange geometry also means I can’t pedal standing up, take my hands off the bars or bunny hop a curb. On the rare occasions that this bike needs any maintenance I’m frustrated by the poor availability of spare parts and the near impossibility of finding anyone who knows how to adjust the gears on my current Strida MAS model.
The Strida is a strikingly elegant bike which has a number of unique advantages and disadvantages:
- Incredibly quick fold and unfold, especially the partial fold
- You don’t have to carry it when folded, it still rolls on its normal wheels
- I’ve found I can comfortably carry a child without affecting the folding ability
- Very low maintenance
- Clear belt drive
- Upright riding position is good in city traffic
- Effective and simple cable disc brakes
- Upright riding position
- Not comfortable for long rides
- Very slow, especially with a head wind
- Very strange geometry
- Makes riding out of the saddle almost impossible
- Wheelies and bunny hops are nearly impossible
- Combined with 16” wheels makes navigating obstacles such as curbs very difficult
- Only two gears with a limited range
My history of Strida ownership
The Strida was first created by Marc Sanders in 1987 but I first bought a Strida MK3 in 2007. At first, I found it very strange to ride and awkward to fold and unfold. After a few days, I started to love the unusual upright but responsive ride. After I found folding instructions on YouTube I realized how quick and easy the Strida is to fold and unfold. I believe it is the fastest bike to fold and unfold. Before long I could step off the bike before it had come to a complete stop and have it folded within my first stride, without even stopping!
As explained below it is easy to break the ball joint when unfolding the Strida. This resulted in the bike being off the road for several days waiting for a replacement. This was my first experience of the difficulty in finding spares for the Strida. The Strida MK3 had plastic molded wheels and drum brakes located inside the plastic hubs. I found that on a long descent into Bath (about 120 meters elevation loss) the wheels would start to melt. It quickly became apparent to me that this was a design fault. The wheel’s plastic material has a low thermal conductivity and so the heat generated by braking could not escape quickly enough. A rapid increase in temperature when braking for prolonged periods of time was, therefore, to be expected. Combine this with the fact that the plastic wheels had a low melting temperature and this dangerous fault should have been anticipated during design. It took me some time to persuade the Strida dealer of this point but in the end, I was supplied with an upgraded set of spoked wheels with metal hubs free of charge.
- Strida MK3 with plastic wheels
The next Strida I purchased was a Strida MAS in 2010. This was identical to my current bike in most respects. That bike was written off when I was hit by a car entering a roundabout I was on. I’d had it for almost exactly two years when it was destroyed. The gears had just started to need alignment after working perfectly with no maintenance despite daily use for the whole two year period.
- My Strida MAS
Folding and unfolding the Strida
Folding is what really sets the Strida apart. While other folding bikes, like Brompton, aim to achieve the most compact folded package, Strida takes a different approach. With a Strida it’s about how quickly and easily you can fold and unfold, and how easy it is to wheel the folded package along. Yes that’s right, unlike other folding bikes you don’t have to carry it when folded. For me this is a huge advantage. Also, although the folded package is quite long, it has a small footprint making it easy to store in many spaces. I hang mine on the wall in the house which works perfectly.
The folding process for the Strida can be divided into two stages. The first stage is a single action to fold the frame into a stick-like package with the two wheels side-by-side. The Strida can then be wheeled along either in front of you or trailing behind you. This quick fold only takes about two seconds and is perfect for nipping into a shop or jumping on a train. Here’s a short video showing how quickly the Strida can be folded and unfolded.
The next stage is to collapse the handlebars and the pedals. In many cases it is not necessary to do the second stage at all but when needed I usually do it as I’m wheeling the Strida along.
The quick first stage fold is probably the fastest folding bike available. I can step off the bike while moving and have it folded within my first stride. This makes other folding bikes look very tedious.
I prefer to push the folded Strida in front of me and find this is more maneuverable. If I need to wheel it for a long distance then trailing it behind is easier but in this case normally just push the unfolded bike.
Another advantage of the stick-like fold is that when you’re in small crowded space it is possible to hold the Strida in a very vertical position, close to your body. This means you are much less likely to bash your neighbors in the leg and it is a much more acceptable bike to take in and out of shops and offices.
One thing to be very careful of when unfolding is not to over-extend the frame. This is very easy to do and results in a broken ball joint which is the equivalent of the upper headset race. I did this several times before I got used to the unfolding process. There is also a risk of other people accidentally causing this type of damage. For example, if they need to move your bike to get to their luggage on a train. This is something to be aware of an be ready to help people get their luggage if you know you’re blocking it.
- I store my Strida hanging on the wall by the front door
The Strida ride and handling
The geometry and ride of the Strida is very unusual. Most bikes I’ve ridden sit somewhere neatly on the sporty scale! Let me explain what I mean. At the sporty end, a road bike has a nimble responsive feel with a low stretched out riding position. At the completely unsporty end, a classic European city bike feels solid and stable with an upright riding position. The Strida mixes these qualities in an extreme and very unusual way.
- The highly unusual geometry of the Strida compared with the much more conventional Brompton
A very short wheelbase, steep steering angle, almost no trail and narrow high-pressure tires combine to give the bike a very nimble and responsive feel. This makes it fun to ride, especially when nipping through narrow spaces in a crowded city. In this respect, the bike feels extremely sporty.
The very upright riding position couldn’t be any less sporty. The very poor aerodynamics combined with only two gears makes it impossible to ride very fast, especially into a headwind. This position also makes it difficult to deliver a lot of power to the pedals. The combination of the upright position and the very short wheelbase puts a low more weight on the front wheel than normal. This becomes even more extreme if you stand up while pedaling and I am completely unable to ride standing up. I’m also completely unable to bunny hop this bike.
Specifications of the Strida MAS
This review is focused on the Strida MAS which has a generally very high specification for a folding bike. The specification is fairly consistent across the current Strida range with the main difference being the gears with single speed
All Stridas use a belt drive. This is a very good choice for a folding bike as it is clean and low maintenance. Earlier models suffered from the belt slipping but the Gates belts on current models work extremely well.
The Strida MAS is fitted with the 2-speed Schlumpf Speed-Drive. This is an epicyclic gearbox mounted within the chain wheel with a shifting rod which runs down the center of a hollow bottom bracket shaft. The low gear is direct drive and the high gear provides a 65% increase in the final drive, a ratio 1.65. To change gear you tap a button on the end of the bottom bracket with your heel. I find this very easy and really like the absence of any cable or visible gear shifter
- Hit this small button with your heel to select first gear, hit the one on the other side to select second gear. This is surprisingly easy once you get used to it
I have found the Schlumpf Speed-Drive works very well with virtually no maintenance for about two years. After this wear in the bearings causes play in the gears, grinding and dome missed gear changes where I get stuck in a neutral position. This is where some issues develop. Instructions are provided on the adjustment of the gears for play and the replacement of worn bearings. However, I have found it very difficult to correctly adjust the gears and I have been unable to find a cycle mechanic with experience in this.
Newer models use a 3-speed gearbox mounted inside the bottom bracket shell. I have not yet tested this.
The mechanical disc brakes are generally excellent. This is a huge improvement over the caliper brakes fitted to many folding bikes or the drum brakes fitted to earlier Strida models. These brakes are powerful, well-modulated and work equally well in the wet. They are also very easy to maintain.
- Simple but effective mechanical disc brakes, much better than the rim brakes on most folding bikes
On one side there is a fixed brake pad which is simply adjusted as it wears using a hex tool. On the other side the actuated pad is adjusted by adjusting the cable tension, as with any form of mechanical break.
All of the current Strida models use these brakes.
Strida Luggage and Child Carrying
The Strida MAS comes with a small plastic rack which I have found to be quite pointless and rarely used. Its main function seems to be to stand the bike when folded. This rack was famously used by Viscount Linley to carry his daughter to school through the streets of London. This rack is definitely not a secure place to carry a child and this was widely criticised.
- Viscount Linley was seen taking his daughter to school through the streets of London on the back of a Strida in 2006. This is certainly not a good way to carry a child on the Strida!
Due to the unusual geometry of the Strida I have found that a make-shift child seat can be fixed directly in front of the saddle. I’ve carried my children in this way between the ages of 2 and 9 years old. As far as I know the Strida’s ability to carry a child in this way is unique in that it has no effect on folding the bike. The folding process remains exactly the same and the folded size is also not effected in any noticeable way. Initially I simply used some closed cell foam fashioned into a simple saddle and secured with duct tape. More recently I’ve modified a small saddle and attached this onto the frame of the Strida, immediately in front of my saddle.
- My child’s seat is barely noticeable in front of the saddle on my Strida
- With the child seat the Strida folds in the normal way, no additional steps are required, and the size is virtually unchanged
I should stress that this is purely from my personal experience. I am not recommending that anyone copies my method of child carrying at this stage. A full risk assessment and structural analysis must first be carried out.
Maintaining the Strida
In general, the Strida needs very little maintenance and is very reliable. My current Strida MAS is just over 5 years old and is still going strong. I’ve changed a belt, freewheel, ball joint, tires and brake pads. Each a couple of times. The rear wheel has needed several new spokes and the gears have been re-aligned. This is really very little work over a five year period. However, the problem with owning something so unusual is the difficulty in finding spare parts. I’m assuming that your local bike shop is not a Strida dealer since there is only one dealer in most countries. I’ve also found that the national dealer does not always have spare parts in stock. There may be an additional wait while the dealer obtains the parts from Taiwan. I would recommend that anyone relying on the Strida as their daily transport ensures that they always have some spares. These could be kept at home or carried on long rides.
As a minimum, you should have a spare ball joint and a belt. These are both parts which can fail suddenly without warning. If this happens your Strida will be completely unusable. Changing them is quite easy. If you have any experience with basic bicycle maintenance then you will have no difficulty changing these parts.
It may also be sensible to have a spare freewheel, a tool for changing the freewheel, some spokes and some brake pads. All of these are non-standard items that will need to be ordered when they need replacing. You are likely to get a bit more warning that these parts will need changing. It is, therefore, an option to just order them when that time arrives.
If you don’t want to have your Strida out of action for several days then I strongly suggest you take note of this advice.
How the Strida looks
The Strida is a design classic. It’s hard to imagine a simpler structure that could still function as a bike. This elegance certainly has an appeal. The tinny wheels and very upright position can also make it look a bit like a clown bike. So opinions seem to be very much divided on whether this bike looks cool. I certainly get a lot of attention riding it, most days I will hear some teenagers call out ‘sick bike mate’, ‘man that bike is nice’ or something similar as I pass. Middle-aged cyclists seem to find the looks just too different from the road and mountain bikes they are used to. I find a lot of more mature people are very much drawn to the simplicity of the design. You will have to decide for yourself if this bike looks cool and whether you want a lot of attention, or perhaps you couldn’t care less about all that!
In my opinion, the Strida is the best city bike available. The near instant fold/unfold is light years ahead of almost all other folders. The stick-like folded package is really easy to roll along in front of you, into a crowded shop, trains etc. The ride is not to everyone’s taste but I love the lively responsive feel. For me, the ability to carry a child without impacting on the fold is really important and also something no other bike can offer. It isn’t really suited to long rides, high performance or off-road use. But that’s really not the point of a bike like this. If you want a practical bike for nipping around the city then this is my first choice.
Article Resource: https://betterbicycles.org/review/city-folding-bikes/strida-folding-bike/