In 1985, Hanz Scholz purchased a folding bicycle, packed it in his suitcase and headed to Europe. He returned home a few weeks later with a sore butt — and an inspiration for a business.
The idea: Build a travel-friendly folding bicycle that rides like a full-size bike. Hanz and his brother, Alan, began experimenting with folding travel bike designs, refusing to compromise on portability and performance.
The Scholz brothers’ passion for cycling and touring was born during their teenage years. They started their own bike club and became known as two of the best competitive cyclists in their home state of North Dakota. Their thirst for adventure eventually took them beyond the Great Plains to other parts of the country, and even the world.
Seven years after his trip to Europe, Hanz traveled to Australia with his own custom-made diamond frame, called New World Tourist. He and a friend, Janet Mendel-Hartvig, cycled across Australia’s desert regions, including Uluru, The Olgas, Darwin, Broome, Perth, Catherine and Alice Springs. Temperatures reached 130 degrees.
“We went through four gallons of water [every day],” Hanz says. “I had to ride 18 miles in the pitch dark with my little Maglite, then nearly ran into a wild horse. All the light showed was some fur.”
As for the bike he and Alan had built, it not only rode like a full-size bike, but it could fold and fit in a suitcase. This was particularly convenient when transporting the bike from one region to the next.
“Every time Janet got on a bus, they wanted to charge her $10 for her mountain bike. They said to me, yours can go free but she has to pay for hers.”
Taking it global
And so began Bike Friday, named after Man Friday from Robinson Crusoe. Like Man Friday, Alan and Hanz consider their product a loyal and resourceful companion to adventure seekers.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Bike Friday bicycles are custom-designed for each individual to ensure the perfect fit, a manufacturing practice that runs counter to the industry standard.
“Typically there is a single size that adjusts to all people, but it’s only targeted to a few in terms of how it fits and the way it rides,” explains Jordan Bishko, Bike Friday operations manager.
Bike Friday begins its process by taking the customer’s measurements. In many instances, they use FedEx Express to ship an adjustable handlebar stem to the customer, which they can attach to the frame and ride for as long as they need to determine the exact spot where they would like the handlebars. Bike Friday then ships a custom-fit handlebar stem back to the customer.
“We believe so strongly in matching a person to their very personal machine — their bike — that our whole organization runs backward from most manufacturing,” Alan says. “Our design process starts at the customer instead of ending with the customer simply buying the results.”
Bike Friday has an international customer reach, spanning from Eugene to Jakarta. As a small business, Alan says, the company does not have a huge budget to spend on advertising.
“We can only succeed if customers love their Bike Friday and tell anyone willing to listen. We have grown by referral.”
Bike Friday offers a lifetime warranty for defects in materials and craftsmanship. They typically repair and return bicycles within two weeks. However, if a customer is traveling and needs an immediate replacement part, Bike Friday uses FedEx Express® shipping to meet turnaround times of 2–3 days.
“We help them get parts to their customer quicker,” says John Casebeer, senior account executive with FedEx Services. “We provide international solutions as well that are speedy and reliable, which helped them expand their market.”
From forming a bicycle club as kids to becoming expert bicycle mechanics through many years of practice, the Scholz brothers built one of the most respected brands in the cycling industry.