Before even going to their factory showroom in Eugene, Oregon we had decided that the foldable bikes for (un)Folding The Fantastic were Bike Fridays. You see, foldable bicycles are rather common these days; there are a number of touring-quality makers. Yet amongst the crowd, Bike Friday stands-out, shining on many accounts. And so fortunate for us, because Bike Friday is our local foldable bike maker; meeting our expectations as consumers/users/riders. One cruise through their website instilled a great confidence in us – a confidence in Bike Friday’s sense of responsible commitment to their art, our planet, and to the people they serve. Reading articles like this, we immediately realized that Bike Friday is no standard operation, but a human-company. Then we went to their factory showroom. On a Friday, no less.
On the 30th of December, 2011, we arrived late (behind the scenes: ran out of gas. We always surmised that the car knew our intentions to convert to bikes and was plotting… Mom’s car luxuriously slid/hobbled into a rather spacious shoulder, below an overpass, on I-5; Greg had to climb the embankment in hopes that a gas station or something would come into view – in the rain; Maina had to keep the car company and pray that we would arrive at Bike Friday before Kirk left for the year. Luckily, Greg’s third house-knock revealed a chummy fellow with gas to spare – though it was our best lightweight, artesian-well-water-fetching-container that we filled the gas with. Then it was a sprinty jog back to the car. A little stick in the opening to keep the flap open, and our stinking car kicked back to life.).
Despite very late, we were received warmly by a Mister Kirk Toy, the showroom host. Upon entering, he asked of our expectations – for the first time. We told him, and began to deliberate over the spread of gorgeous foldable bikes. We talked, we asked a million questions, we rode two models down a lovely bike path; meanwhile Kirk was the most mellow, relaxed, and helpful person we could hope for. Kirk is not a salesman. He expertly positioned himself in an angle of aid and assistance, concerned only with our wants and needs. And then we decided. After which, Kirk shared a detailed history of Bike Friday and offered a tour of the factory floor.
The shop is small, personal, and intimate. Bike Friday creates 9 bikes a day; and will not sacrifice quality for quantity. Bike Friday doesn’t assemble bikes; they build them. Practically every single little piece of every bike is handmade in their shop. In fact, not a single bike is made until it is ordered. We were amazed with how organized, user-friendly, and teamwork-encouraging the place was. Their nearly paperless desks were the most minimal – constructed of raw-bike parts; intelligent, suave, beautiful. Their equipment was innovative and inspiring – the cloth bags are home-sewn by the founder’s wife and the founder himself designed some of the most original equipment we’ve ever seen. It was on numerous occasions that we felt a strong sense of person/user-based innovation. Each area exuded a personality and character that we could only image the user having initiated. The walls were covered in stories; experimental-pilot bikes from way-back. Kirk shared a few, which made us wonder even more at how colorful Bike Friday really is…
After wandering through the factory floor, we wound-up at their bike-parking garage and learned that everyone who works there receives compensation for riding to work (Kirk explicitly included the savings of his gas in his compensation; something I think we should consider more often). And, the cherry: we were shown some top-secret bikes. Of which, you will hear nothing from us. Except this: no business, no company we’ve ever seen or heard in existence has even considered doing anything like this. It’s such a mind-blowing step into sustainability, it’s like the very opposite of planned-obsolescence. To the 10th power.
When we returned to the showroom, Kirk asked of our expectations – for the second time; to make sure all was right. And it was more than right. When we left, it was at least three hours after Kirk was ‘off-work’. He thanked us for our time. Whoa.