The Strida folding bike turns 30
Mark Sanders, the inventor of the Strida folding bicycle, tweets:
Strida Just turned 30 !— Mark Sanders (@77A) January 5, 2017
This is a special S30 Edition with fab new graphics (by Joey Man).
3 Tubes, 3 Joints and a funky orange belt. pic.twitter.com/5QP4cFS78P
The Strida and TreeHugger have a long history together. In any discussion of the Strida, we have to declare a conflict of interest; I have owned one since 2009 and TreeHugger Graham Hill had two of them since 2008. When we gave it a Best of Green Award, I described it as "a complete change in the way one uses a bike; you can fold it up in five seconds and then drag it around like a stroller."
Graham Hill, who lived in a small apartment, went so far as to invent a system for hanging his bikes in the closet, inspired by the hooks used to hang ducks in the windows of Chinese restaurants.
I got one too, and fell in love with it, and reviewed it in TreeHugger.
The extraordinary asset that the Strida offers is its five second fold; it changes the way you use a bike. I used to carry a lock that weighed more than my bike and still worried about whether it would be there when I got back. With the Strida I don't bother even taking a lock much of the time- I just fold it up and take it inside. Instead of being a mode of transportation that has to be parked, it becomes the latest fashion accessory.
I should note I don't do that anymore, I now think it is rude to fill up coffee shops with bikes and I do lock it outside. But at the time I wrote that, Igor the bicycle thief had not been arrested and you never knew if it would be there when you got back.
I thought that the Strida was key to multimodal transportation, and used to take it on the subway, where it would fit right under the seats. I also used to go to New York City often when TreeHugger was owned by Discovery, and would take it on the plane, riding down to Toronto's Island airport, flying Porter's little prop planes, taking the train in from Newark and then popping open the bike. It changed the way I saw New York. (Now there are Citibikes and it makes no sense to carry it, but it did then.) More: Off To ICFF On a Wing and a Strida
I did this again on a trip to Boston via Air Canada, and got into a battle at the check-in when they wanted extra money to carry a bike, even though it was in a bag and smaller than a golf bag that travels for free. This started a three year battle that I fought all the way to the Canadian Transportation Agency which regulates the airlines, and which I lost, because the CTA basically said that the airlines can do whatever they want. That is what I get for not hiring a lawyer, it was a slam-dunk case. Read the saga: Canadian Transportation Agency Rules In Favor of Air Canada Over Intermodal Cyclists
© Mark Sanders with the first Strida in 1985
On the 25th anniversary of his graduation, Strida inventor Mark Sanders published his thesis about its design, along with its business plan, so we did another look at The Fascinating History of the Strida Bike. Mark wrote:
The design aims for a minimum number of joints to minimize cost and maximize reliability, and a minimum number of tubes to minimize cost and complexity. Although some components have to be stronger, there is a net saving due to simple construction. The basic frame has only three tubes, compared to 10 in a conventional diamond frame and more than ten on other folding bicycles.
© Mark Sanders thesis
Looking at his thesis again, I noticed comparisons to other folding bikes, including to the very popular Brompton, which we have also covered many times. Bromptons are beautiful and clever, they are even available gold-plated, and internet connected versions.
Lloyd Alter/ Brompton store in London/CC BY 2.0
There are even gorgeous high street stores devoted to them. But having tried both, I think that Mark was correct in his criticism; setting up the Strida is faster, it is much simpler, and it is easier to drag around. It's also cheaper. But the Strida is a different kind of ride that takes a bit of getting used to, it does not feel as stable at first, and its ride is often described as "twitchy", and is perhaps a little too extreme of a design. Or it may all come down to brilliant marketing and support on the part of Brompton, which is still manufactured in the UK and has a serious cachet.
Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
Strida has not stopped evolving; I recently tried out the new Evo 3-speed version provided by Strida Canada, and reviewed it here. I was dubious at first about whether one needed gears, since the original had a low gear that could go anywhere, but you could not go very fast (a virtue in the city, I think). I am not sure it is a great improvement over the original, and it is a big heavier and more expensive. But it does reach into a broader market.
Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
The final show at the old London Design Museum was on bicycles, and I was thrilled to see a Strida up on the wall with all the other classics, because after 30 years, it truly is. It is a true multimodal machine that you can toss in your trunk and go anywhere with; I find it even fits nicely on the rear shelf of my '89 Miata. You don't need self-driving cars to solve that "last mile" problem of getting people from transit to home or work; just pop open your Strida and you are on your way. It has had a fascinating past, and I think it has a great future.