Folding Bikes – Advice?
Back from a trip to the UK and I’m fascinated with the idea of a practical folding bike. By practical I mean you’d be willing to take it on a 20-30 mile road ride in addition to using it to commute and shop over short distances. Does this exist? Does it cost a thousand dollars?
And if you have a folder, can I ride it some time?
There were a couple of folders – with 20 inch wheels – on Craigslist within the last week. I think they were asking $100 each. Might be worth checking out….
I too find the idea intriguing but have never pulled the trigger on the purchase.
I believe that the Performance store and the Trek store both have some “affordable” folders. Bike Friday owners do seem to be fanatical about their steeds, and this might be something one doesn’t want to over-economize on.
I saw a Fuji folding bike a few days ago on the list for $50. It’s Marlboro Cigarette miles bike. I’m almost positive this is the same bike my buddy gave to a person whose child was in Children’s Hospital last year. They were from out of town and staying at the Ronald McDonald’s house. Anyway it’s a decent folding mountain bike.
By the way, I did get to try out an old British (?) folding bike briefly several years ago at an event in Market Square. It was an obscure brand, maybe some name like McLaren? The couple that brought it were each riding one (one was orange), and I think they lived in Point Breeze for a while – I used to see them riding near my house before I moved.
I wasn’t too fond of that bike because the steering was so twitchy – the stem attaches to a long post that goes straight down to the tiny front wheel, no rake to speak of. Definitely a learning curve to get used to how it handles.
I’d prefer something that feels closer to a full-sized bike, so I guess part of my question is does that exist?
I have my old geezer Raleigh Twenty 3 spd folder in town right now, and I’ll be riding it out to the Carnegie library thing this evening if you’d care to try that out. I originally got it (rationalization/justification) thinking I could take it on the bus into town, as it turns out, it is way too heavy and unwieldy to take into a bus with any regularity. But I like it, so it’s staying.
There are definitely folding bikes that are made to do serious road rides on, but they are not cheap. Here are some disorganized and inconclusive thoughts I have had about folding bikes, please don’t take any of these observations as written in stone:
Should have an aluminum frame, and definitely alloy rims, not steel.
If you’re going on buses and trains a lot, 16″ wheels.
If road rides are more prevalent, 20″ wheels are ok, you can actually get decent (fast) road tires in that size.
3 speed minimum, and change the cog to a much larger one than it comes with (simple to do).
5 speed deraileur would be ok, 8 speed internal hub the ideal.
A fair, off the shelf folding bike that will do most things well enough will be $600, and on up. For less, everything will be MUCH more compromised.
+1 Bike Friday. No personal experience on one, but I’ve seen a couple (Pocket Rocket and a New World Tourist, IIRC) used for 300K and 400K brevets. They are not cheap, but there’s nothing toy-like about ’em.
[Edited to add:] The Pocket Rocket is specifically designed to be a road bike alternative, and to handle like a full-size bike.
Kent Peterson did Paris-Brest-Paris on a Bike Friday, so the bikes have that going for them.
Did I see the bat signal? You can come look over my Tikit if you’re near Bakery Square on a nonrainy weekday. I don’t know if I’d use it for extended touring since I haven’t had time for a long ride but it’s a good commuter bike and I’d certainly be willing to ride it 20 miles.
Steering is alarmingly agile unless you load the front rack which I recommend anyway… otherwise most weight is on the rear tire and you can see mine is wearing faster than the front.
“Affordable folders” tend to ride like crap. I borrowed a Brompton for a week or so in London once, and it was killer. Expensive yes, but you get what you pay for. If I was in the market for a serious folding bike, that’s what I would purchase.
By affordable folders riding like crap, I more meant the cheap older ones that show up on Craigslist, and in the context of the longer rides in the original post. Don’t get me wrong, for around town and on/off the bus they can be perfectly awesome.
I’ll second Sprite’s endorsement of the tikit. I’ve got mine in Oakland, same offer applies. I think Sprite and I ride the T in together, actually…
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