Folding Bikes for Commuters

When space is a luxury

By Diane Rudholm

Photo at right: Hanna Scholz (left) and Ruthy Kanagy bypass the bus rack with their compact folding bikes comfortably in tow. Photo courtesy of Bike Friday

 

There’s nothing like a bike to make your commute feel more like play. That is, until you can’t find a place to lock it up. Or, it takes up too much space in your home. Or, you have to make a connecting bus to get to work and the bike racks are full.

If you’ve had some of these challenges, maybe it’s time to fold your bike in half. We’re serious.

“For commuters, making sure their planned commute works is important,” says Hanna Scholz, the general manager of Bike Friday, which creates custom folding bikes in Eugene, Ore. “Showing up at the bus station and not being able to get on the bus with a bike is not a good situation. Folding bikes can just go in your lap if needed.”

Folding bikes usually come with 20-inch wheels, smaller than your average bike wheel, to accommodate for the compact foldup size.

“Often we get the question, ‘Do I have to pedal more?’” says Scholz. “The answer is that we’ve adjusted the gearing to accommodate for the size of the wheels, so you don’t have to
pedal more.”

While folding bikes and their seemingly too-small wheels are still largely unfamiliar throughout the U.S., their popularity with Northwest commuters who want solutions for getting to and from other forms of transit appears to be on the rise.

“Folding bikes have gotten quite popular,” says Neil Wechsler, owner of Montlake Bicycle Shop in Seattle, Wash. “There was a time when we had one folding bike available and we’d sell a few a year. Now, we carry 24 brands, and they make up 15 percent of our sales.”

Advice from the pros

So, you’re ready to fold and go. What now?

“The most important thing about any bike purchase, folding bike or not, is relationship,” says Andrew Juskaitis, global product marketing manager at Giant Bicycle, which makes economical folding bikes for riders all over the world. “Find a bike dealer you trust. Go on a test ride. See what feels best. Have someone show you how to fold the bike and practice doing it yourself. Do this with a few models to see how it is, because you are going to be folding it a lot.”

Pick one that makes you feel safe and is efficient, adds Wechsler.

“Try it out and see if (specific models) feel right to you,” he says. “I’ve seen plenty of people who love one bike, and others who don’t like the feel of the same bike. Test ride, learn about them, and see that you are buying the bike that you love and enjoy riding.”

Whether your bicycle commute takes you down the street or miles away, you’ve never had more options for adding bikes and a sense of play to your commute. Happy folding!

Resources

Brands

Bike Friday: www.bikefriday.com
Brompton: www.brompton.co.uk
Dahon: www.dahon.com
Giant: www.giant-bicycles.com
KHS: www.khsbicycles.com
Strida: www.strida.com
Tern: www.ternbicycles.com

Shops

Angle Lake Cycle, Sea-Tac, Wash.: www.anglelakecycle.com
Clever Cycles, Portland, Wash.: www.clevercycles.com
Kirkland Bicycles, Wash.: www.kirklandbikes.com
Montlake Bicycle Shop, Seattle, Wash.: www.montlakebike.com
Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, Eugene, Ore.: www.bicycleway.com

Diane Rudholm is the managing editor and social media manager of OutdoorsNW magazine.

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