I’ve just now passed my 8 year anniversary at Bike Friday and if there’s one thing I’ve learned a lot here over that time, it is ideas. Bike Friday’s culture, driven mainly by the visionaries that are the Scholz brothers, is an ideological one. Our production line is based off a reworked version of the Toyota Production System since they produce cars in almost a similar fashion to how we make bikes– mixed production, one at a time, mass customization. This brings to mind something Isaac Newton once said: “if I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.” The point being that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel in order to make a bike. This is similar to philosophies we have at Bike Friday. We try to be resourceful in engineering products, tools, systems, and processes. We try to figure out how to improve what is already there rather than rework it (unless it needs it!).
Today, after all the years of hearing the history of Bike Friday I learn how true this really is. Listening to an interview with Marketing Director Hanna Scholz on our customer Darren Alff‘s Bicycle Touring Pro blog, I come to learn the details of the story behind the origins of Bike Friday. Sure everyone knows that Hanz took a folding bike on a trip and hated it and came back to make a real folding bike. But what I didn’t know is that at the time (the 80s) Alan was a dealer of Dahon‘s innovative folding bikes, first introduced in 1983. And when it was time for Hanz to go to Turkey, he decided that was what he was going to take with him. And when he decided he didn’t like it, he didn’t invent S&S Couplers. No, he didn’t try to make something entirely different. Instead he built off the existing idea of a folding bike and made something that fit really well, had standard industry components, and handled like a traditional bike.
What I find totally ironic and perhaps coincidental is that the original inspiration for Dahon’s bike was the same thing that encouraged us to slightly re-tool our mission (we’ve ALWAYS been Green Gear Cycling)– the oil crisis. Only those two moments in history are almost 3 decades apart.
But sometimes things take a while. For example, even after having been here for nearly a decade myself, only now did I come to understand the real truth to the history. What’s even funnier is that as I started to prepare this article I was searching the internets for pictures of one of those early Dahons. After seeing a couple, I had a sudden epiphany– there’s one in the building! Having passed by it probably a few thousand times, there indeed was an early Dahon, marked only with “HON California” on the frame. It had Hanna’s name on it but this was either the one Hanz rode and then passed down to her or it was hers and Hanz left his in a ditch in Turkey. In any case, they were likely the same as there has never been any variation in size on Dahons and in those earlier years there were no variation in models either. So take a real close look– because this is what indirectly brought Bike Friday to fruition.
Soon I hope to actually present the very first Bike Friday. Sneak preview: it’s pink, though Hanz insists it wasn’t originally. RIIIIIIIIIIGHT.