Bike Friday All-Packa: A Solid, Folding Bikepacker
In most aspects of life, I approach the world with a sense of openness and curiosity. I am always intrigued by new ideas, innovation, and progress, and I embrace technology and remain optimistic for the future. However, this openness disappears completely when it comes to bikes. Many people out there would dismiss a folding 20” bike immediately, and I know this because I am one. I have been a big-wheel, steel-framed purist my entire life, and anything outside of my narrow scope is immediately dismissed and considered folly. I once had someone tell me that “you can do anything on any bike”, and as much as I understood the lesson, I promptly ignored and forgot about it—that is, until meeting the All-Packa.
As I get older I do notice that my mind is opening to change and new ideas concerning cycling as well. After all, what kind of bike writer would I be if I wasn't open to change? In fact, I relish the opportunity to have my preconceptions challenged and proven wrong. Over the years, I have been introduced to countless products that have fundamentally changed the way I approach cycling; despite this, the notion of going off-road cycling and bikepacking on a 20" foldable bike still seemed far-fetched to me. But as I began speaking with the team at Bike Friday to arrange a review of their All-Packa bike, I found myself becoming more open to the idea of trying something different.
I have been bikepacking for the past five years, and for the last four I have been using the same bike. Perhaps there is a whole other dimension to bikepacking that I have not yet experienced, and the All-Packa could be the tool to break open my closed-mindedness to different forms of cycling. In this review, I will do my best to identify all the moments when my mind was changed.
About Bike Friday
Bike Friday, a leader in the folding bike scene, was founded in 1991 by Hanz and Alan Scholz in Eugene, Oregon. The company was initially named Green Gear Cycling but later took on the name of their signature product, the Bike Friday. Hanz and Alan have a rich history in the industry inventing famous products, such as the Burley trailer and tandem bikes. While I read a lot of bike company histories and about pages, I rarely suggest reading them. However, if you are considering purchasing any machine from Bike Friday, I highly recommend taking five minutes to read their about page. It's a well-written and fascinating story that uncovers the people behind the company, their values, and how the whole thing started.
Getting An All-Packa
In my mind, there seems to be tension between the ideas of 'custom' and 'folding' bikes, but the All-Packa changed that perspective pretty quickly (Mind Change #1). Each All-Packa is uniquely custom-built for each rider by the skilled Bike Friday team. Almost every aspect of the bike is customizable, including colors, cabling and build. The All-Packa is available with a 1x or 2x 9-speed drivetrain and can accommodate riders up to 220 lbs. For an additional $350 USD, you can upgrade to the All-Terrain package, which includes features like upgraded cranks, tubeless-ready wheels, sealed cartridge bearings, and hydraulic disc brakes. And for $850 more, you can get the All-Packa with E-Assist. Although you can order the bike online, with so many options available it may be worth consulting with the Bike Friday team to ensure your All-Packa is perfect for you. The All-Packa I received for review was a hybrid of the All-Terrain and regular build options.
My test All-Packa had an interesting journey to Vancouver Island, but let's just say it was built to withstand the adventure. Upon arrival, it came with its own Samsonite suitcase and was ready to go. From the very beginning, it was clear that the All-Packa was a beautiful machine, which is not something I typically say about folding bikes (Mind Change #2). With its beefy appearance and sturdy kickstand (Kickstand?! Mind Change #3), it looked ready for action. The charcoal gray color with its lustrous finish and contrasting red cabling only added to its appeal. If its performance matched its appearance, I was in for quite a treat.
Learning The All-Packa
From the first pedal stroke, I knew that getting to know the All-Packa would be a lot of fun. The All-Packa has a different feel than anything I have ever ridden before, and that takes some getting used to. Moving from 29” to 20” is a big change. I haven't been on 20” tires since my Boa Constrictor BMX in 1983. The first thing I had to adjust to is that a 20” bike handles with a very quick turning radius. While this adds to the zippiness of the ride, it might be something you want to be aware of when trying the All-Packa for the first time.
It also took me a few tries to adjust my saddle position and seat height because when sitting on the bike and looking down, all the lines are completely different from a normal bike. The top tube seems like it's in a different world and the down tube meets the bottom bracket at an angle, poking out from under the top tube. In high gear, the chain line almost seems to go into the wheel. All of this is very strange for someone new to 20” folding bikes, but I probably shouldn't be looking down anyway. The biggest challenge was getting used to the play or wobble in the handlebars. This wobble is understandable when considering the distance from the headtube to the stem. This may sound worrisome, but it's not. I ended up getting used to it pretty quickly, and wow, the All-Packa flies!
Ride & Glide
Although I had never ridden with many of the drive components that came on the All-Packa—such as the MicroSHIFT R9 rear derailleur, Koozer Hubs, and Racework cranks—they proved to be impressive. Upon looking into the MicroSHIFT R9, I found that it was a road derailleur chosen for its cage length. Being a loyal SRAM fan, I was initially skeptical of the MicroSHIFT, but it proved to be solid and dependable (Mind Change #4). In fact, all of the component decisions made by Bike Friday and how they all come together is near magical. The gearing is smooth as butter, and power transfer is more than efficient. Prior to trying the bike, I had concerns about lateral movement from the folding hinges and extra release points for folding, but the bike remains fully solid in motion (Mind Change #5). It's hard to describe the sensation, but with most of the bike close to the ground and almost no friction in the drive, the whole experience feels similar to flying.
As my confidence in the All-Packa grew, it was time to put it to the test fully packed and in the chonk. I rode the bike on many of our local trails which ranged from technical singletrack to crushed gravel. Initially, I had some doubts whether the bike would be suitable for the terrain in BC due to small wheels and big mountains. However, the gearing ratios were not a concern as the 1x 44t chainring and 11-40t cassette provided enough ratio to climb almost everything—even when fully loaded (Mind Change #6). That being said, the 20” wheels are (obviously) not ideal for hardcore singletrack and I did find myself slipping more than once on the slick tread of the Odyssey Path Pro tires. If this were my All-Packa, I would consider finding a set of knobby BMX tires. One other challenge I faced in the chonk was bombing downhill. The front end wobble I mentioned above can cause one to second-guess themselves while descending on thicker gravel. Nevertheless, this terrain might be beyond what the All-Packa is intended for, and it doesn't seem fair to blame the bike for it.
As I prepped the All-Packa with my latest bikepacking setup, I began to feel increasingly at ease with it. The bike felt rock-solid in every way, and packing it up for a trip was actually enjoyable. I love bikepacking, but I have to admit that I usually find getting my bike setup a bit of a chore. However, with the All-Packa, I was able to rethink my entire setup thanks to the numerous mounts and exposed areas on the frame. There seemed to be mounts on every available spot, including triple mounts on the seat tube, a quadruple mount (!!!!) on the top tube, triple mounts on the down tube, and on each fork blade. Riding the All-Packa while fully bagged didn't seem to have much of an impact on the ride or handling. This was likely due to the fact that most of the weight was so low, resulting in minimal changes to the bike's handling. Love.
The small size of the inner triangle on the All-Packa may initially seem like a concern for any serious bikepacker, but there is no need to worry. The space can still be used effectively for packing purposes. A great option for this is a specially designed frame bag from Take A Trip, a company based in Bend, Oregon. This bag is designed specifically for the All-Packa and fits snugly into the narrow and sharply angled space in the triangle. It is a well-constructed and durable bag, with the added feature of a high-visibility interior. Although the bag is an additional purchase, it is definitely worth it and can be easily purchased from Take A Trip's website.
Folding the All-Packa is a breeze and can be done in just 30 seconds, which is incredibly quick and convenient. The process is easy to learn, taking only a minute or so to master. To begin, loosen the quick release on the head tube, then press the bearing and lift the handlebars up and off. Next, loosen the quick release on the seat tube and pull the bike up by the top tube. And just like that, you'll have a compact package that can easily fit into the trunk of your small car or suitcase for international travel. Very cool (Mind Change #7). I didn't have the opportunity to travel further-than-car distance with the All-Packa, but I am currently planning a trip to France in April and am planning on bringing my gravel bike with me. I cannot stress how much of a pain in the butt this is. Would I bring the All-Packa if I didn't have to give it back? Undoubtedly.
If you were counting along, there were seven mind changes in the above review, which in itself is amazing. The All-Packa has probably taught me something about myself. I tend to get stuck in my ways and find comfort in my tried and true methods. However, trying out the All-Packa has shown me that it's important to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. It's easy to get comfortable with what we know and what we're used to, but sometimes stepping out of that comfort zone can lead to new experiences and opportunities.
The All-Packa is a wonderfully confusing little thing—and perfect for bikepacking on gravel roads, doubletrack, and light singletrack. It exudes quality: for the price point, you can't ask for a better off-road foldable bike, even if there was another one on the market. Its unique design and components make it a standout in the world of foldable bikes. While it may not be the perfect bike for every terrain, it certainly has its strengths and can hold its own on the trails. It's versatile, easy to pack and transport, and has the potential to open up a whole new world of adventure for those willing to take the leap and give it a try.
A complete All-Packa starts at $2,495. Get it here.
|Quality, quality, quality
|The ride is like butter and feels like flying
|Excellent value for what you get
|Mounts, literally everywhere
|Super fast folding and storage
|Would love some grippier tires
|Front end wobble
|Adjusting to 20” may take some time