Is that a bike in your pocket?

This folding bike can be fit into a suitcase to take on an airplane

A folded Downtube

Deciding that we were going to buy folding bicycles for our birthdays was the easy part for Wessel and me. Choosing the bikes is the challenge. For those of you who have never seen or heard of a folding bicycle, the name pretty much sums it up. Some fold quicker than others, some are more comfortable for long-distance riding, some are lighter, some fold smaller. Prices range from $400 to $4,000 and up. So many options, so many opinions! Argh….Some people use their folders for mostly commuting — hopping on and off buses and trains with their bikes in hand. Wessel and I are more interested in having them for our many travels, especially when we fly, whether domestically or overseas. The money we fork over for the occasional rental or oversized luggage shipping of our own bikes could pay for folding bikes in five years or so.

Bruce Hermann from Neighborhood Transportation came to Durham with several Bike Friday models

Bruce Hermann sets up shop

While there are many good folders out there, the Bike Friday brand in Portland, Eugene, Ore., always rises to the top. The closest BF dealer to us, Neighborhood Transportation, is a couple hours away, near Winston-Salem. So we brought the store to us and made a party out of it. Owner Bruce Hermann was kind enough to bring several bikes for us to try out in exchange for me inviting the local cycling community. Think of it as the bike version of a Tupperware party.

 

Diane tests a BF road bike

This Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro rides like a standard road bike

Folding-bike types can be a little, um, zealous, about their bikes, and so we had a nice supply of zealots on hand as well, who brought these makes: Dahon, Xootr (the scooter not the bike), Mobiky, Strida, and Downtube. Bruce also brought a Breezer folder, and our pals at Cycle 9 in Carrboro, who are Downtube dealers, showed up later in the afternoon with several models. A handful of Bike Friday models were on hand. Perhaps the star attraction was the “tikit,” which BF hawks as the fastest folder available, and geared toward the urban commuter. Did I forget anyone? (A link at the end of this leads to more photos.)

Bruce’s other thing is recumbent bikes, those low-riders that stretch your legs and let the rest of you rest, so he brought a few of those as well, both two wheel and three-wheel models. I loved the three-wheeler. No balance needed! I have several friends who ride recumbents in traffic, but I’m still not up for being that down.

Diane likes this BF New World Tourist

Diane likes this BF New World Tourist

For overall style, I loved the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro, which really is more a road bike than touring bike, and I really need a touring bike that can go on a variety of terrains. So forget the Pocket Rocket, which starts at $1,700. Just as well. For me it’s down to the New World Tourist, which starts at $1,100 and the Pocket Crusoe, which starts at $1,400. The PC does a little more of what I want, but, oh, I just can’t decide. Much customization is available, meaning more options. ARGH…. Custom colors are another $150, which I think is way too much. But I so prefer purple to red. The only way I can justify any of this spending is to not look at my end-of-year financial statements. I will add that cycling is by far my top activity, and my newest bike is 12 years old. Does that help? Of course I could check out used BFs, which means even more research. Maybe by my next birthday I’ll have my folding bike.

Wessel, who is both more budget-minded and less name-brand inclined, is likely going with one of the Downtubes, which costs around $400. And it’s orange! Of course it would make so much more sense if we both had the same bike, but since when do we do things because they make the most sense?

Click here for more photos of folders, recumbents, and friendly folks modeling during our folding fest.

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10 Responses to “Is that a bike in your pocket?”

  1. J. Tenney Says:

    I thought BF was in Eugene?

  2. karel Says:

    Why don’t try to get an advise from the consumers-organisation (whatever the name of such an organization in the US is).
    Our own experience, when our kids were young, was: a funny thing on the camping site, to go shopping to the grocery or when you’ve made a trip by train to make the last few miles on your pocket-bike. But making a convenient trip on it ????
    But like Obama says: we need change. Perhaps these things have changed already. And: dreams are allways exciting.

  3. nycedude Says:

    I’m actually an employee at NYCeWheels (http://nycewheels.com), a New York City folding bike dealer. I happened to stumble across your posting and decided to give you my two cents.

    First, decide exactly how the bike will be used and why you’ll be folding it. This will greatly narrow down your search.

    Folding bikes like the Xootr Swift Folder, the larger frame Dahon bikes (like the Matrix), some of the Reach bikes, and others are great and all fold well enough for the the trunk of your car, your apartment, elevators, and so on, but not quite compact enough for other purposes. They do, however, often offer a full-size fit and feel.

    You mentioned the desire to fold your bikes for travel. Generally, when it comes to transporting bikes by airplane, the more compact the bike the better. The more compact folding bikes can also be taken onto other forms of transportation, into stores, and so on. In this range, you’d want to look towards some of the Bike Friday models, some of the Dahon models, and especially the Brompton models.

    I noticed you hadn’t mentioned Brompton folding bikes, and they are by far the most compact folding bikes out there. They have an excellent design, and when it comes to foldability they really are king. You can

  4. nycedude Says:

    (Sorry, I accidentally posted my comment before I finished it.)

    You can find more information about the Bromptons on our website here:

    http://nycewheels.com/brompton-folding-bike.html

    Or on their homepage:

    http://www.brompton.co.uk/

    Bromptons are extremely popular, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding one locally to test ride.

    • didaniel Says:

      Thanks for your two cents. I’d say that was worth at least a dollar! I’ll look into Brompton, but here’s a question: how are they for distance riding and for potential loaded touring? We typically ride 20 to 60 miles when traveling. Obviously for touring one needs equipment, attachments, what-not, but it’s important that our bikes can do that. For instance, Bike Friday’s tikit is a very fast folder, but it’s not great for long-distance riding.

      • Foo Says:

        Pretty weird comment. The tikit is actually quite a good long-distance bike; widely recognized as *much* better than the Brompton in this regard because of its customizable geometry, customizable components, and far wider gear range options.

      • didaniel Says:

        Thanks for that input. I’m embarrassed to admit that we haven’t yet bought our bikes! And, yes, we still plan to. It was a busy year. Is that a good excuse?

  5. nycedude Says:

    No problem! The Bromptons handle just fine for distance. They aren’t specifically designed for distance riding, but no one seems to have a problem with it. Plenty of our customers have longer commutes and go on tours. We have one guy that rides his about 25 miles a day with no issue. This website here quotes a guy claiming a 120 mile trip with his Brompton:

    http://www.thebicyclebum.com/folding/foldingbikes.htm

    If you’re planning on long distances, I’d say get an M-style or P-style handlebar for comfort (the S-style bar would put too much pressure on your palms), get a 6-speed, put some good tires on (we always stock our models with Schwalbe Marathons), and maybe throw some third-party small bar ends on there for multiple gripping options (sized so as not to impact the fold.)

    The Brompton folding bike does offer a variety of luggage options. First and foremost, you can put a rack on the bike. In addition, the Bromptons have four options for front-loading bags, including a larger touring pannier. You can see them here:

    http://nycewheels.com/brompton-folding-bike-bags-cases-covers.html

    The nice things about these bags is that they are easily removable and that they mount to the frame and not the handlebar, so the weight does not shift with your handlebar as you steer.

    The rack should be able to hold 25 lbs safely, if not more. The front-loading carrying bags are quoted at about 20 lbs as far as the maximum safe weight goes.

    We have a custom configurator on our website that lets you see all of your options when ordering a Brompton, which should be fun to play with:

    http://nycewheels.com/brompton-folding-bike-special-build.html

    All of that said, Bromptons are very popular and usually available from a good number of folding bike dealers, so you should see if you can find some to see and test out locally. In the end, it’s hard to say if it’s the right bike for you until you get on one and take it for a spin.

  6. Roger Fraile Says:

    I really love to read some articles that have great positive impacts on its reader and benefit by reading such article. Great Job and continue inspiring readers. Regards, Roger

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