Versatility: The Green Machine Phase I Testing

As we noted in our last post, the Green Machine arrived on schedule.  The Bike Friday Project Q was chosen for several reasons:

  • We needed a tandem bike that could be transported easily in any car, on trains, buses, and planes
  • Sometimes I need a single bike
  • Quality is important

To get all of these qualities in one machine, one has to make some compromises.  The bike either has to fold, or be easily disassembled.  And, it needs to be convertible from the tandem, two-seat configuration to a single bike.  And, it has to be compact for transport.  The Q is all of these.

The Mean Green Machine - transport for two

But, with any “some assembly required” product, there are adjustments to be made and a learning curve to get the bolt torque right, to get the alignment right, and to set the adjustments right. The plan of action here was to come up with at least an abbreviated version of the Phase I testing that our homebuilt aircraft will need to go through. The first ride must be solo, and not stray far from home base.


So, after having assembled the bike, the next thing, after installing luggage rack, was to disassemble the bike, at least partially, to convert it into its alternate configuration, from the Mean Green Machine to the Lean Green Machine. This entails essentially removing the center section of the bike, with the stoker seat, crankset, handlebars, and the two main frame tubes, along with the shift and brake cables that pass over them. This was fairly simple, and before long, the Lean Green Machine appeared.

The Lean Green Machine: ready for solo sprinting

Since we live on a fairly steep hill, the test area was chosen uphill, or, more specifically, working around the ridge to the south and east that juts between Hammersley Inlet and Little Skookum Inlet. A brief familiarization with the shifters put the bike in uphill mode and off we went. After a short steep climb and a dip, the route ran downhill at a fair grade for a few blocks, with a stop in the middle. Applying the brakes firmly, I forgot the machine is designed as a tandem. Riding solo in short-wheelbase mode, the front binders grabbed smartly; the rear wheel came up off the road. Fortunately, the old biker still had quick enough reflexes to avoid an endo, and we (the machine and I coming to an understanding as a result of this bonding exercise) proceeded.

At the top of the next uphill jog, I noticed a tendency to slide off the front of the saddle. Ah, fear of overtorque results in looseness. A quick stop to adjust and tighten the saddle and we’re off again. Once out on rolling Arcadia, the shifting becomes second nature. The best choice in the Q Project is Bike Friday’s Dual Drive option, with a three-speed rear hub and a nine-gear freewheel cassette, giving an honest, usable 27 gear ratios. Even with the 20-inch wheels (necessary for transportability in disassembled mode), the gear range is surprisingly close to what we’re used to on the Santana, with nine more absolute gears and a whole lot more usable (generally, with a front derailleur, only about half of the gear ratios are actually usable, due to the cross-over between the front and rear gears).

A few more steep hills and we reverse course (avoiding a Rottweiler loose in the road at the top of the next hill) and head for the barn. The only other item of note was a knocking under load in the last half of the ride, with a definite thump in the right pedal, that needs looked at, and might be movement of the pannier on the rack, or pedal adjustment. Next time out, we need to convert back to tandem mode for Phase II testing, then disassemble for the all-important packing test, to see if we can fit the components into the shipping case (which converts to a trailer, for total self-contained travel).