Bike Friday All-Packa Review: Small Wheels, Big Pedaling

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The Bike Friday All-Packa is a first-of-its-kind, dirt-forward 20″ folding bike with room for 2.4″ tires and loads of provisions. After thousands of miles of use and multiple bikepacking trips, Joe weighs in on it with this thorough review…

Coinciding with their 30th anniversary several months ago, the US bicycle builder Bike Friday announced a dirt-honed folding bike, the All-Packa. It has 20” wheels—the BMX standard—with clearance for 2.4” tires. Like most of Bike Friday’s designs, it boasts several quick releases and pivots that enable it to be compactly folded for packing into a common suitcase. Folders are a familiar subcategory of cycle engineering and are popular among urban commuters for their small storage footprint. The All-Packa is something different. It’s a bicycle intended for outsized dirt excursions, and it also happens to fold. Read on to see why Joe is so taken with it and thinks that it’s decisively in the mix as a serious bikepacking rig.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
From Neil’s Bike Friday All-Packa review video; find that at the bottom of the post.

I flat-out love Bike Friday’s All-Packa. I admire bicycles that do something special—in this case, fold. I want bicycles that go beyond the functions at which they excel and so are also supremely versatile. I like bicycles built with attention to detail and compelling aesthetics. And I go for bicycles that support the many kinds of adventures I do while also inspiring me to imagine new ones. The All-Packa is all these things and more.

I realize that’ll sound like florid hyperbole for a bicycle that to many eyes looks clownish or like a dismissible novelty. If those are the dogmatic starting points for how you conceive of folders or mini velos, I don’t expect that I’ll change your mind—think what you want to think. But if it’s your view that this bike is somehow not capable of doing the kinds of rides that comprise the vast bulk of contemporary bikepacking, you’re just plain wrong.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

The All-Packa’s ride experience is top-notch and unlike any bicycle of its type. While riding, it feels like a normal bigger-wheeled bicycle. It’s as adept a bikepacking bike as most of the bikes in my shed, and it adds a titanic dose of extra functionality and adaptability. Bike Friday set out to build something special in the All-Packa, and without a doubt, they succeeded. Be sure to read my interview with Willie Hatfield, the design lead on the All-Packa, for a fuller story on the conception and challenges of creating the All-Packa.

This is a bike for going far and doing something ambitious and unusual. Or it’s for everyday dirt road meandering. Or it’s for virtually anything in between. If I had to create a short list of game-changing bikes in the last decades of bikepacking—a list that would include, say, the Surly Pugsley, the Salsa Fargo and Cutthroat, and the Cannondale Slate—I’d put the All-Packa on it. I’m not even remotely kidding.

WHY A SMALL-WHEEL FOLDING BIKE?

The main advantage of a folding bike is, of course, the ability to quickly and easily fold it into a compact package. That can be useful for transportation, storage, or even security since the bicycle can often be taken into places where unwieldy big-wheel bikes would be met with hostility.

My experience with folding bicycles and, indeed, Bike Fridays specifically, goes back over 20 years. I bought their New World Tourist because I wanted a bicycle that I could use in a range of different travel scenarios. At the time, the extra fees for flying with a bicycle box rivaled the cost of most passenger tickets. I seem to recall that the USA’s Delta Airlines was the worst, at one point charging US$300 for a bicycle as an add-on. Those were prices that essentially said, “Go to hell. We don’t want to transport your stuff.” I reciprocated by never traveling Delta, even when I wasn’t bringing a bicycle and even when their economy ticket was the cheapest or most convenient. But other airlines were not that far off.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa, folding gravel bike

These days, many airlines are considerably more liberal with bicycles, with lots of carriers treating a case or box as one standard checked bag as long as it meets the size and weight requirement. Cost is far from the only relevant factor in favoring a folder, however. Traveling with a bicycle is an undeniable pain. Disassembly and reassembly is time-consuming, not to mention fiddly with inadequate tools and an improvised work area. Bike containers are huge and unwieldy. Many modes of travel—a train, a bus, a small rental car—defy a packed bike box. That requires new solutions, like figuring out which slow train lets bicycles on, or being obsequious to the bus driver in the hope that they let you slide and put the parcel in the baggage compartment. Sure, you can sometimes persuade someone at the taxi stand to strap the bike onto the roof, though that incurs drama and attention and usually a negotiation over a surcharge when you’re tired and irritable.

And if you’re a team of three or four people, each with bikes? That exponentially compounds the misery. Not all of you are getting on that train, you’ll definitely have to rent a van, and that bus driver is going to shake his head, no way, at a group of cyclists. Look, I’ve done it for decades; it’s part of the cost, literal and psychic, of adventure bike travel.

Seemingly like sorcery, a folding bike makes all of that evaporate. A number of years ago, I did a trip in the Pyrenees with two friends. We met up at the airport in Barcelona with our three Bike Fridays. We picked up our rental car—the smallest they had—put two of the suitcases in the hatchback area, one suitcase in a back passenger seat, tucked our duffels here and there, got in, and drove to the mountains. Another summer, my wife and I flew into Munich with our two Bike Fridays and spent our honeymoon visiting places for three or four days at a time, riding in the Dolomites and Prague and Budapest and many locales in between. We recently did the same in Ireland, driving to different parts of the country, unfolding the two bikes from the boot in about five minutes, and doing pleasant day rides. On a quite different solo trip in Greece, I started in New York City and took the subway, a plane, a train, a taxi, and a ferry all in a row before unfolding my bike and starting the ride. I reversed it to get home. I promise you that trip would have been a comprehensive compendium of hassle without a folding bike.

I have a custom break-apart 29er hardtail that fits in an S&S coupler case. That case is bigger than the Bike Friday suitcase, but it’s manageable. The advantages of a folding bike remain immense, however. Break-apart bikes, no matter what the design, still require a big faff to assemble and disassemble. I’ve personally found that fine when the scenario is to arrive at a destination, put together the bike, do the trip, then pack it up and go home. What’s less fun is when the bicycle needs to get small several times during a trip to take a train or bus in the middle of it, for instance. With a folding bike, the transition from functional riding platform to small parcel is in the time frame of mere minutes. It’s completely straightforward to morph it five times in a day: ride from the hostel to the station, fold it up to take a train, unfold it to explore the area on a point-to-point ride, get on a bus back to the start, ride a few blocks back to your lodging, fold it again to bring it up three flights of stairs to store in the corner. No problem.

These are all ways that I’ve used my folding bikes, and they’ve opened itineraries and trip scenarios that would have been much, much harder to pull off with big wheels. But, really, none of that is quite decisive enough such that in the past I would have recommended a folding bike as someone’s main bikepacking platform. I’m a big fan of the brazen hilarity of underbiking, but it doesn’t take much ruggedness to overwhelm and quickly make the typical folding bike extravagantly unfun. Folders have simply not been dirt- and trail-worthy enough to ride the most interesting terrain. Until the All-Packa.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

LITTLE WHEELS ON DIRT

Here’s an entertaining tidbit. Small-wheel bikes make a notable cameo in the story of the dawn of mountain bikes in the 1970s. The tale of modified klunkers is well known, and then the frames built by Craig Mitchell, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, and others would establish the essential DNA of mountain bikes. But back then, BMX technology was ahead of what was available for modifying klunkers or for making custom mountain bike frames. Specifically, strong, lightweight aluminum wheels and light, dirt-worthy tires could be readily sourced from the BMX side of things. Victor Vincente of America—that whole expression is the adopted name of Michael Hiltner—did precisely that. His Topanga! off-road bikes can be seen in many photos from the era. Victor Vincente of America was on the 1960 Olympic cycling team, had the first two FKTs for riding across the USA (west to east, then east to west), and is in the MTB Hall of Fame (Kelly 2014, p. 121; Berto 1999, p. 25). His work is a smile-inducing piece of the history of mountain bikes, and it’s also a hint that riding geared 20” wheels off-road is an idea that has been around for a while.

To look at it, the All-Packa sends confusing signals. The high-volume tires, especially if they’re knobby, and the purposeful wide alt-bar implies that it’s a mini mountain bike. That’s some of its visual appeal, at least for me and from the feedback of many who I’ve ridden with. That can create the wrong impression, though. It’s functionally more of a dirt and gravel tourer. I say that in a wholly celebratory register. Contemporary bikepacking is more of the dirt touring ATB style than it is going into the backcountry on singletrack on a hardtail or full suspension. The demographic shift is interesting, and we talk about the pros and cons of it a fair bit here on the editorial team. I think it can’t be denied, though, that the dominant mental image people now have of bikepacking is of a sensibly loaded bike, not ultra-minimal, not aggressive in appearance or conception, that one can ride on dirt tracks to find camping far away from paved roads. On this aesthetic, far is better than fast, camaraderie is better than discomfort, memories are better than adrenalin. If that is how you see bikepacking, the All-Packa is incontrovertibly a suitable ride that’s on a par with any bike you’re considering, and—in my reckoning, at least—far better than most.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Given the heady versatility of the All-Packa, here is where my imagination goes with absolute confidence that any of these could be pulled off: Fold it up, zip it into an inexpensive nylon bag, and take it on a train to the other side of your state or country for a long weekend of dirt road rides. Or pack it in a hard-sided suitcase in a quarter of the time it would take you to pack your big-wheeled bike and fly with it to your destination for a loaded bikepacking trip. Once there, leave the case at your hotel and ride for two weeks or two months on all manner of terrain. Sail up the coast and do fun gravel rides at your ports of call. Quickly fold it and hop on a bus. Take it up the spiral stairs to your rented room. Get creative and put two of them in the center of a canoe to ride back to where you left your car at the put-in (and get the canoe on the drive back home). Hire a pack mule to take it over a mountain range to connect to a set of roads otherwise not easily accessible. Go home and store it in a closet in your apartment. Let your bike creativity rip. The All-Packa is up for it.

THE FEEL

The All-Packa is undaunted by loose gravel or dirt ruts on a doubletrack, and it’s perfectly happy tooling through less-than-chunky singletrack. It feels stuck to the ground in a good way, and it doesn’t lose its line easily. It will readily turn, but doesn’t feel overeager to do so, the way small-wheel bikes often do. It has great manners with a front load. When pressed into a choppy section, it’s stable and willing, but that stability doesn’t come from the gyroscopic effect of some high-mass flywheels keeping the system in equilibrium. Instead, it achieves a parallel functional steadiness by means of a number of factors, including the wide tires, the low bottom bracket, and the planted, setback ATB position that the bars place you in. The feeling is difficult to describe. It’s almost like I could sense that one of the main determinants of confidence on my other bikes was missing, but that the All-Packa had plenty to replace that source and happily carry me through. That perception hasn’t gone away even after months of riding it. I go into terrain that seems quite wrong for a small-wheeled bike, but the All-Packa plows right through and out of it.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Willie at Bike Friday has quipped that it’s not far from the feel of late 80s 26” wheel mountain bikes with 1.9” tires, which were pretty standard back then. That’s evocative and is absolutely in the right ballpark. Or think about a present-day 650B gravel bike with 50mm tires. I’d say that ye standard gravel bicycle is less capable and less comfortable on broken, rocky, double or singletrack than an All-Packa with 2.4” tires. For sure, the physics of the situation mean you’re more likely to cope with a big obstacle on the gravel bike than on the All-Packa, but overall, and thinking more comprehensively, the folder’s tires win. On the other hand—and this should be unsurprising—a gravel bike will earn more speed on the open road.

The devilish thing about trying to meaningfully compare bicycles across different designs is that feel is an n-dimensional comparison space where we could keep iterating n until a maximally granular comparison turns into unconceptualizable bafflement. On the other hand, if we stick to more intuitive factors, much is left out. The standard clichés tell you little, the geometry numbers are incontrovertibly a terrible and opaque guide for judging a bicycle, and, in general, words are far too coarse-grained to characterize what is essentially a tool for practical, embodied engagement. With all those caveats, picture it this way: In terms of confident handling, stability on bumpy terrain, and body dynamics while climbing a rocky incline, the All-Packa is better than a standard drop-bar gravel bike. Those times when you come upon a big hole, big rock, or tall log, the gravel bike is better than the All-Packa. For speed and efficiency on hardpack or tarmac, the gravel bike is better than the All-Packa. The gravel bike’s forward, forthright position makes it a different kind of tool when we think about efficiency and speed.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

If it helps to hear it, I am very frequently surprised by the poise of this bike when I get into rocky or otherwise loose terrain. My body coils up into high vigilance the way I would if I was on my gravel bike, yet the All-Packa exhibits a balance and a sense of “bring-it-on” that’s pretty eye-opening and fun. I’ve taken the All-Packa places where it flat-out wasn’t intended to be, like stair-casey, rubbly singletrack with pits and drops and roots. To repeat: that’s not what this bike is for, but it’s a bit of grinning fun, I mostly didn’t have to walk, and in retrospect, I shook my head in surprised admiration for little wheels that can.

Bike Friday is celebrating their 30th year of building bicycles, always with an attention to the diverse ways bicycles are used, and open to possibilities that customers might not have been aware they craved. The All-Packa is the happiest of enigmas, namely a bicycle that looks like it has a narrow, exotic use case but that ends up being one of the most versatile bikes around.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

BIKEPACKING

The All-Packa retains its splendid good manners when it’s loaded. I’ve taken it on multi-night outings and on a longer trip in North Dakota. I traced a loop with substantial gravel roads, spans of asphalt, and the famous Maah Daah Hey trail on which I rode nearly 100 miles/160 kilometers of singletrack. I also on that trip happily metered out a couple of 80-mile/130-kilometer days mostly on tarmac. That’s not the All-Packa’s particular forte, but it was no different from doing the same on a rigid ATB.

For bikepacking, the All-Packa sets a tone owing to its strengths and sweet spots. It’s about traveling with friends who aren’t in a hurry or trying to compete with one another. It’s companionable for bike camping, where a big part of the point is time spent hanging around the camp stove rather than toiling immense days in the saddle. It’s ideal for tooling around the countryside, through towns, back out to the dirt tracks, and onward. I’m not, however, suggesting that it’s delicate or precious. It’d also be great for solo expeditions where the vibe is old-fashioned going into the horizon in very remote conditions on a hard track.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

On my trips on the All-Packa, the fact of the 20” wheels didn’t much exist for me other than when they made travel easier. I rode with confidence and in all of my usual ways. I not once wished I was on a more standard bike, but, then again, I planned the rides with the All-Packa in mind. I probably wouldn’t take the it on an expedition where I truly did not know what I was up against, terrain-wise. And I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear that this bike is not for big mountain, big rock journeys; that’s not what it was made for, that’s not how you should think about it. A bunch of us are talking about doing a dirt trip in Montana exclusively aboard mini velos and folders. We haven’t persuaded Logan to sign on yet, but Miles and I are working on him. At any rate, I’ll get him to send some schwag to the first person to guess correctly in the comments why we’re headed to Montana, and, no, it’s not just that the riding there is excellent.

The seemingly unlimited space below the saddle and the bars is worthy of emphasis. The amount of room with no chance of contacting the tops of the tires is a revelation. You can attach your largest saddle bag and your girthiest front roll, and there will be space and more space. This is potentially transformative for shorter riders who are constantly pressed to pack more compactly than their gangly companions on big-wheel bikes, and it’s a relief from the pressure of seeking newfangled pannier solutions, which are typically too wide for bike pushing and are usually affixed with fragile attachments onto rigid, crack-prone racks. I ended up liking a format that had a sizable bag up front with light, bulky items, a medium or large bag attached to the saddle, two standard bottles on the fork (the fork legs actually have three-pack mounts), and then a large bottle below the downtube, where there’s another three-pack.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Bike Friday provides four mounts on top of the top tube near the stem. This allows for a tank bag that attaches securely to the stem mast and is bolted to the front two attachments. Or you can go for a three-pack rack for another large bottle or bag using the three mounts closest to the seatmast. The arrangement is versatile and effective. And then there is a three-pack mount behind the seatmast. That’s yet another place for a bottle or cylindrical bag, even a large one. In all, the All-Packa sports an enviable complement of mounting options and the possibility of carrying a goodly amount of H2O.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Take-A-Trip makes a high-quality recycled material frame bag for the All-Packa. It’s excellently designed and fits well. The All-Packa bottom bracket is offset to accommodate the fold, and the Take-A-Trip bag is designed around this. The bag has a sturdy, water-resistant zipper and a high-viz interior. It has a fair bit of room: not quite as much as, e.g., a Revelate half-frame bag, but close. I tended to keep spare tubes, tools, a pump, and fuel in there. Their standard colors are black and tie-dye for US$85 or a custom color for US$105. An alternative might be the forthcoming custom bag from Bicyclepubes, which looks very promising.

Could an All-Packa be someone’s sole and main bikepacking wheel? I certainly think it could. It’s a platform for rides from whimsical to serious, from local to international, from summertime ease to loaded.

LIMITATIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

The All-Packa has 20” wheels. That is the blazingly glaringly obvious limitation. The front wheel can get caught in holes or behind rocks or logs. The angle of attack on obstacles is less favorable and very noticeable with obstacles taller than, say, a big loaf of bread. You won’t notice the smaller wheels on gravel, in shallow sand, on moderately rocky dirt, or on chip seal. You will notice them on deep washboards.

Another genuine concern is how low the derailleur hangs. There’s no getting around that. The height of the rear dropouts above the ground is a lot less than on bigger-wheeled bikes. So much so that using modern long-cage derailleurs is a terrible idea. In the months of riding the All-Packa fairly aggressively, I’ve brushed the derailleur against obstacles a few times. It’s never led to any problems, but I know it’s happened. Then again, I’ve taken the All-Packa into inadvisable proto-mountain bike contexts. The main lesson of that is how astonishingly good it is in those circumstances, but (how many times should I mention it?) that is not what this bicycle is for.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Pivots can be a source of creaking or play if they get loose, but in my experience with my other Bike Fridays, that doesn’t happen particularly frequently. The steering stalk has more flex than a typical stem interface. Bike Friday has worked hard to minimize flex here compared to other folders, but it is still present. I actually appreciate it, since I prefer for bicycles to comply a little with the terrain and my movements. With the steerer tube, it can seem an ambiguous feature, since not everyone wants perceptible fore-aft flex at the bar. But, really, it’s nothing that anyone won’t get used to within the first ride. The seatpost is also mounted on a relatively long unsupported mast. Many frame designers aim for as long a seatpost as possible to capitalize on flexibility to achieve comfort. The All-Packa is exemplary in this respect.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Another demerit to the All-Packa is the lack of availability of the highest-quality tires. I tested three tires on the All-Packa: the Schwalbe Super Moto-X 20 x 2.4, the Odyssey Aitken wire bead 20 x 2.45, and the Kenda Booster-Pro 20 x 2.4. The first two were acceptable and seemed durable, but no one would confuse them for a supple tire. The Kendas, on the other hand, were spectacular. They livened up the bicycle considerably with their welcome sidewall compliance and tenacious traction. I had already loved the All-Packa, but was over the moon when I tried it with the Kendas. Bike Friday suggested as much would happen, but had also warned me that the Booster-Pros would wear quickly. They were right. After all, with a 20” wheel, any given part of the tire is in contact with the ground much more frequently than with a larger diameter tire. The All-Packa is shipping now with the Odyssey Path Pro Low PSI 2.4s, which Bike Friday claims have a good balance of durability, feel, and all-terrain performance. I didn’t try to tape up the wheels to be tubeless and don’t know how well the various tire possibilities would tolerate that, but I’ve heard reports that the Booster-Pros, at least, straightforwardly set up tubeless.

No, it doesn’t take more work to pedal a bicycle with small wheels. The wheels do have to rotate faster to cover the same ground as a bicycle with larger wheels, but the gearing compensates for that. Actually, small-wheel bicycles, at least in principle, have lighter wheels, so they’re easier to accelerate. And I know firsthand that you can achieve a closer draft when riding in a paceline with other folders, enabling higher speeds. We can keep those advantages in the “theoretical” column since the All-Packa isn’t necessarily encouraging aero carbon wheelsets and team time-trialing. I bring it up, though, because most people, even bike-y folks, don’t quite know how to think about small-wheeled bicycles.

The All-Packa doesn’t feel wiggly or fragile. That criticism does apply to many folding bikes but not to this one.

THE FOLD

Folding bikes are a bastion of ingenuity and, to me, much cooler than some one-trick, dual-suss enduro bromobile. I can reliably go from completely packed and folded in a case to actually pedaling the All-Packa in under three minutes. Most of that time is spent locking down the seatpost binder quick release, the stem faceplate, and the pedals.

Going in reverse, the fold is achieved by a quick release at the junction of the seat tube and the main triangle that, when loosened, frees the seat mast to pivot forward along the top tube and the rear triangle to rotate around another pivot to tuck the seat stays under the downtube. The pivot area is twisted and offset so that the rear wheel ends up alongside the main triangle. Meanwhile, the handlebar mast can also be detached with a quick release so that the whole bar/stem/mast assembly can be strapped to the now compact main body. If the front wheel is removed and also strapped to the body, the whole package is tidy and compact, even if it looks a bit like a snarled jumble of bike parts. Removing the pedals narrows the bundle. A last handy gesture toward small packing is loosening the face place of the stem enough to separate the split bars. There’s a long internal sleeve and a notch design to hold them aligned and sturdy when they’re bolted into the stem, and in decades of using various versions of their split bar designs, I have never had even a whisper of an issue.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

Bike Fridays are far from the most compact folders and won’t win any records for folding time in spite of the quickness reported above. But the temporal scale that we’re talking about here is impossibly short from the perspective of packing a big-wheeled bike with, say, S&S couplers, let alone a bike that doesn’t break apart.

The folding operation will often knock the chain off of the chainring, and this can lead to the chain flopping about in an unruly way. Bike Friday sells a chain keeper, but I’ve never used it. I acknowledge that this is a source of complaint for some Bike Friday owners, and I get where they are coming from. I usually just secure the chain to the chainstay with a velcro strap while trying not to get my hands dirty, and I call it good if just storing the bicycle or putting it in the luggage area of public transportation. If it’s going in a suitcase, a more committed chain management system is required to keep it from nicking the paint as the loose sections of chain are jostled. When in its packed state, the derailleur is cleverly protected in between the main triangle and the hub and dropout area. I’ve never had a derailleur bent while it’s been packed. You can see the fold at the end of this video produced by Bike Friday.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa, folding gravel bike

The overall folding format of the bicycle offers some additional neat advantages. One of those is stack height adjustability. The handlebar mast is designed in two pieces. There is the main section (the portion painted to match the frame color) that attaches by quick release to the top of the steerer tube. And then there’s a telescoping top section to which the stem is affixed. The length of the telescoping section, i.e., the part that determines bar height, can be adjusted with one M5 bolt. In practice, that means that the bar height is massively accommodating to suit different applications and riding formats. If you like to ride with your bars a bit higher than the saddle, that feels squarely within the design concept of the All-Packa. Higher still to relieve your back? No problem. Lower to feel racy because you’re doing an unloaded day ride? The change takes less than 30 seconds. People who have had careful bike fits to achieve optimum performance might scoff at making these kinds of changes from ride to ride. The rest of us can just enjoy an adjustability that is not readily found on big-wheeled bikes.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
Neil’s All-Packa had a slightly different parts spec; find his video review at the bottom of the post.

BUILD KIT & NUMBERS

When you order any new Bike Friday, you consult with one of their sales representatives to make decisions about sizing and the parts spec. Parts-wise, the limit is your imagination and parts compatibility, the latter matter facilitated by the fact that there is almost no part that is proprietary. All-Packas can be built with the fanciest Paul Component Engineering baubles or assembled primarily from stuff in your home parts bin.

Bike Friday also makes it easy to select from a few standard build options. The All-Packa that they sent to me has the most budget-conscious build. I appreciate that they wanted the least expensive version of the bike tested so I could concentrate on the functionality of the bicycle itself as well as venture an opinion on the maximally accessible complete build. I’m very favorably impressed by the Microshift parts. The shifting has been reliable, even if it’s far from the crisp laser fire of expensive SRAM and Shimano. The mechanical post-mounted brakes were sufficient for what I threw at the bike. In all, the parts basically felt like high-end livery from about 15 years ago, and that stuff worked just fine.

Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

The All-Packa comes in a 1x or 2x version. The 2x option is a reflection of the fact that the bike won’t accommodate the very large cassette ranges that are common nowadays on 1x drivetrains. That’s because the derailleur cage has to be relatively short to not put it completely in jeopardy. The biggest cassette gear will therefore be a 40. The one they sent me has a 42 chainring, yielding a combo that I found reasonable for loaded trips, but that for many won’t cut it going up the steepest pitches. On the other end, the 11-tooth small gear met my ambitions for going fast enough on the flats and downhills, but I could imagine some people finding it limiting. Clearly, that would get worse with a smaller chainring. A 2x therefore makes good sense. I can report, too, that having a front derailleur on one of my other Bike Fridays makes chain management when folded a little easier since the derailleur keeps the chain somewhat scooped up.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

I did find that I would occasionally knock the chain off of the single chainring while pedaling in chundery conditions. This happened more frequently when the derailleur was at one of the extremes, either on or next to the biggest cog or the smallest cog. I can’t say whether this would be alleviated by a derailleur with a stronger clutch than on the Microshift. The challenge might well be that the chainstay is so short on Bike Fridays that the angle established by the chain at the ends of the cassette is fairly radical. In any case, it was a very minor annoyance.

This parts spec is what was available at the time the test bike was sent to me, and it may not perfectly represent what Bike Friday sends with current builds.

  • FRAME: Bike Friday All-Packa (steel)
  • FORK: Bike Friday All-Packa (steel)
  • HEADSET: FSA
  • BOTTOM BRACKET: Origin8 Square Taper Torqlite
  • CRANKSET: Origin8
  • CHAINRING: Origin 8 42T
  • CHAIN: KMC 9-speed
  • CASSETTE: 11-40 9-speed Shimano compatible
  • SHIFTER: Microshift 9-speed
  • DERAILLEUR: Microshift Marvo 8/9-speed
  • BRAKES: Origin8 Pro Force
  • RIMS: Rant Squad 36H 32mm wide
  • FRONT HUB: Shimano Deore
  • REAR HUB: Shimano Deore
  • TIRES: Odyssey Path Pro Low PSI 2.4
  • STEM: UNO
  • HANDLEBAR: Bike Friday Packalope
  • SEATPOST: Origin8
  • SADDLE: Tester’s Brooks Cambium C17
  • PEDALS: Tester’s OneUp Composite
  • HEADLIGHT: Tester’s Williams Bicycle Lights Ltd.

I mentioned the Packalope bars in the fold section above, but let me say something more about them here. I ultimately found them comfortable and a source of assured control. They are 730mm wide, with a 17-degree sweep, and they weigh 380 grams. That’s more sweep than I typically prefer, but I found them great. The ones I tested were a pre-production version, and now the upward angle of the horns is a bit steeper in response to customer feedback. I can’t say that I used the extensions that much, but I know many people who like such things. The bars presented vast real estate on which to strap and mount things.

  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike
  • Bike Friday All-Packa review, folding gravel bike

The geometry of the All-Packa can be found here.

The usual caveats apply doubly here in trying to translate these numbers into a sense of how the bike will ride. For instance, the fork trail is well within low-trail range, but the All-Packa doesn’t feel like a low-trail bicycle at all. The small wheels, the high (for a folder) pneumatic trail, and the wide bar/short stem combo conspire together to yield a very neutral steering sensation. The head tube angle is another measure that is likely to raise some eyebrows. If you’re very interested in going fast downhill through rocks with your dropper post lowered, go ahead and get an All-Packa and then also get a different bike for your downhill aspirations. That established, you can otherwise ignore the headtube angle on a small-wheel bike. It doesn’t tell you very much without putting in many other details. Again, it feels very calm and thankfully unexciting to steer. On the other hand, the low bottom bracket does correctly predict some pedal strike in rocky sections. Bike Friday elected to go for a low-slung design to achieve more of an “in-bike” sensation and is willing to sacrifice pedal clearance given the All-Packa’s design intention.

The All-Packa comes with front and rear quick releases for the wheels (no thru-axles), and with a 100mm front hub and 135mm rear. It has mounts for fenders and racks, and a kickstand plate because that’s how many Bike Friday owners roll.

Pros

  • Supremely capable in surprisingly diverse rugged conditions
  • Abundant multimodal possibilities that open up new imaginative possibilities for adventure
  • Massive amounts of space for bags below the bars and saddle
  • Straightforward, convenient fold
  • Accommodates smaller riders

Cons

  • Small wheels are limited in terrain with big rocks, big holes, or big logs
  • Not the smallest or quickest folder for urban commuting purposes
  • Limited availability of highest-quality tires (but BMX tires, in general, are globally ubiquitous)
  • Pivots and connections occasionally need attention
  • Doesn’t achieve ideal handling (but is still fine) for taller riders >5’10”/178cm
  • SIZE TESTED: Medium
  • ACTUAL WEIGHT: 27.5 lbs/12.5 kg (with pedals)
  • PLACE OF MANUFACTURE: Eugene, Oregon, USA
  • PRICE (AS TESTED): $2,495
  • PRICE (Frame Kit): $1,595
  • MANUFACTURER’S DETAILS: Bike Friday

Through today, January 27th, 2023, Bikepacking Collective members have exclusive access to 20% off Bike Friday All-Packa framekits. After today, although Bike Friday has filled the production slots they allocated for their winter members discount, they’ve generously extended a continuing 5% discount to members. Login to your account for details.

Wrap Up

Bike Friday has created a bike that I honestly didn’t think could exist. Namely, a small-wheel folder that is more than credible as a dirt touring bike, even on a rough track. It is decidedly not a mountain bike; the small wheels can’t cope with the kinds of obstacles that are commonplace on intermediate trails. That can be confusing, because the All-Packa looks like a mini mountain bike. But that’s not what it is. Instead, it is a bike for ambitious, creative, forward-thinking, dirt-oriented trips, very much including bikepacking ones.

Folding bikes are great, as they offer possibilities for bicycle convenience that stymie big-wheel bikes, and that potentially leads to more people on bikes. They come in a head-spinning variety, from the cool, urbane Brompton, to the truss strut architecture of venerable Moultons, to the mad scissor form of the Strida, to the humble, functional big hinge of ubiquitous budget-friendly Dahons. Taking any of those on a bonafide bikepacking trip ranges from a non-starter to “good luck with that.” Enter the All-Packa to topple that limitation. Bike Friday has made its reputation by producing folders that maximally aspire to the ride feel of bike-wheeled bikes. As a result, they aren’t the smallest folders or fastest folders or most wieldy when folded. Folding is a central virtue for the All-Packa, but it’s not its highest ambition. Its ambition is to give a kick-ass riding experience on pretty rugged dirt terrain. It draw-droppingly succeeds. I end where I began: I love this bike. I’ll work something out with Bike Friday, as I’m definitely not sending it back.

About the Rider: Joe Cruz is a professor of philosophy and a global adventurist who has ridden many kinds of bikes in far-off places for more than 30 years. Nowadays, he splits his time between southern Vermont and his native New York City. He is 5’8”/173cm.

References:
Kelly, Charlie (2014) Fat-Tire Flyer. Boulder, CO: Velopress.
Berto, Frank (199) The Birth of Dirt. San Francisco, CA: Cycle Publishing.

Bike Friday All-Packa Review (video)

Neil recently put aside his preconceived notions about small-wheeled bikes and threw a leg over the new Bike Friday All-Packa. When he got home from his first ride, he couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. In our latest bike review, Neil shares what surprised him about the 20″ wheels, the pros and cons of folding bikes, and how the All-Packa differs from its closet competitors.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to ensure we can keep making videos like this one.

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