A long time ago someone suggested I should buy a folding bike for my morning commute to the office. I laughed at them. Why would I try something that looked like it belonged in 1975?
I’d had enough of being laughed at in school for just being me. I had never needed any one else’s help to make me look a moron, so why would I openly court such a thing now as a fully (mostly) grown adult. So I laughed and left it at that for several years.
Then one particularly wet, rainy, and cold day riding my full size mountain bike down along, and through the inner streets of a nameless city I used to live in, I got a puncture at the side of the road I couldn’t fix.
I tried to get on several buses with what had been until just a few minutes earlier, my rat-race-smugger-than-thee machine, but was now a millstone in my arms, and was refused entry on every one.
Seething with rage and standing in a street corner getting wetter by the minute, I capitulated, chained the bike to a railing and took the subway to work. My shoes made loud squelching noises each time I took a step and people stared at this nightmare visions from the swamp, and kept their distance. It happens, I said to myself and got on with my day.
By the time I got back to the railing to collect my bike several hours later with a new inner tube ready to ride home in what had now turned into a beautiful evening I thought I must have got off at the wrong stop as my bike wasn’t where I thought I’d left it. And then I realised it had been stolen. In fairness to whoever stole the bike, they left my lock and chain in perfect condition.
It was the perfect end to one of the worst days of my life. As I stood there wondering whether this was the kind of thing that caused disgruntles office workers to go on a killing spree, a woman came out the station behind me wheeling a contraption behind her that she then assembled into a bike and rode off, literally, into the sunset.
I went looking for a folding bike the next day.
And I’ve never looked back. I am a convert, and I love it.
Folding bikes have come a long way in the last 20 years or so. Folding bikes, or ‘Folders’ as they are known in the rather tight knit community that has sprung up around them are not the old heavy, hard to ride, ugly monsters they used to be. These days the performance is almost similar to their bigger more rigid cousins. Well, not quite, but close enough.
Not all Folders are created equally, however. Not all of them will fold down in seconds or fit in a suitcase, and generally speaking even the cheapest 15kg dinosaur will set you back at least $500, while a truly lightweight compact one will cost at least $1000.
That may seem expensive initially and may leave you wondering why you’d even think about investing in a folding bike but they do have a lot of advantages over their larger traditional style bicycles.
Maybe after you’ve read this list, you’ll be convinced too.
So here are the best 10 reasons to buy a folding bike to commute:
You can’t take it with you when you go
But here’s the thing: With a folding bike you can, and there’s less chance it will be stolen by bicycle thieves. Most compact folding bikes are small enough that they will remain virtually unnoticed either beside or under your desk, and your colleagues won’t even notice it’s there.
But even if you do have to leave it locked up somewhere, folding bikes are still such a niche product that most thieves won’t try for them, let alone know what to do with them. It’s a nice feeling not to feel like you have to go all the way back down to the bottom floor just to check your bike is still where you left it, because all you have to do is look over into the corner of your office.
It’s also great not to be lugging a 100 lb chain around with you all the time. I remember one time, the thief hadn’t been able to get my actual bike away from the railings I’d left it hooked into, so he just took the two $800 wheels and the saddle instead. Son of a b****!
Folding bikes will make you look cool
Put it this way, you aren’t going to look like a trainee circus act in a suit when you commute to work, which let’s be honest, is normally the first thing you think about when you think about people riding folding bikes. But nothing could be further than the truth especially when you look at the ever expanding range currently available.
That said, for the uninformed, there is still a stigma attached to owning on; like somehow a folding bike is not a real bike and it’ll be a b**** to ride anywhere on. But the truth is that it all depends on what you want your bike to do.
There’s no way I’d want to take one down a black run in the Rockies for example, but if you’d like to get to the office with some dignity attached and know your bike will still be yours at the end of the day, then I can’t help but recommend one to you.
Once you know how to fold your bike down and up with your eyes closed, you will also look like a boss when you collapse your folding bike in less than 20 seconds, pick it up and walk into the office, swiftly bypassing the other cyclists wrestling with their chains and padlocks and dismantling saddles and wheels in an effort to make sure no one steals them.
Accelerate off the line like Usain Bolt
Oh yeah! It’s just physics. Most folding bikes have smaller wheels than their grown up counterparts. This means you’ll never outpace some guy with big ordinary wheels over distance, you can take off like you’re entering Hyper-Space.
It’s the small wheels, you see, it takes less effort to get those small ones going fast. Trust me on this. There is no better feeling in the world of leaving head to toe covered spandex ‘pros’ on their racing bikes with their mouths wide open in shock as you sprint away from them with next to effort at all.
Folding bikes are extremely practical
You can hop on the subway if it suddenly starts to rain or you have an important meeting to get to but you can’t chance getting all sweaty before you show up but still fancy wanting to ride home at the end of the day.
That’s perhaps the 2nd best thing about folding bikes after security concerns about folders, they are multi-modal: I know, it’s the lamest sounding term I’ve ever come across as well, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
When I lived in Dublin, Ireland, a few years back I used to ride my folder ¾ of a mile to the tram station, fold down my bike, get on the tram, cut across the mad rush hour traffic, get off at the other side, and then cruise the final two miles into the office.
It saved me a ton of cash in transport fees and also shaved almost 45 minutes of my daily commute both ways. A folder will let you combine your cycling with any number of other transports like the afore mentioned tram.
Hopping on and off public transport at will gives you freedom and independence from having to be an unwilling participant in the daily commuter rat race, and get wherever you want to get to in the city quicker than you ever thought possible.
Folding bikes are convenient and save space, on the Subway and in the home
Whether you live in London, New York, or Tokyo, folding bikes are the ultimate space saver. Most folders can pack down so small you can fit them in the trunk of a car, and pretty much take them anywhere. The flipside of this is that you can store them anywhere as well, which can be a perfect solution for those living in apartment buildings where space is at a premium.
Even if you do have space to spare, being able to stow your folding bike away in the cupboard under the stairs where it doesn’t have to face everything Mother Nature can throw at it out in the open, night after night, will mean even less maintenance than with a normal bike.
Low maintenance cost
Make sure your tyres have air in them, your lights are charged, and your chain is oiled, and that’s pretty much it for looking after a folding bike. You don’t have to rent out parking spots, pay insurance, buy gas, and should you ever need a bike mechanic, you’ll find that:
- Most of them are trustworthy.
- It’s tougher for them to try and pull a fast one on you as you will in all probability know exactly what’s wrong with your bike.
- A bike service by a fully qualified bike mechanic is laughably cheap. Happy days all round.
Commuting to work on a folding bike is better for your lungs than sitting in your car
Fresh air is good for you. That is a scientific fact and common sense. You’ll inhale more exhaust fumes sitting in a car than you will on a bike, even in rush hour. That is also a scientific fact. Cars and buses are not the self-sealed hermetic emission free bubbles think they are, especially in traffic.
Studies have shown that drivers and passengers are subjected to more air pollution than cyclists and walkers. It stands to reason. Nose to tail gridlocked cars suck in the fumes and vapour from the cars in front and around them. I’ll leave that one to just sit with you for a few moments while I get on and write the rest of this article.
It’s a conversation starter
People will think you have made life altering conscious decisions and think you have got the whole life work balance thing sorted out if you commute by folding bike. Every time you break open or break your bike down, people will probably just come up and ask you about the contraption you have in your hands. It’s actually quite surprising to begin with, and if you’re anything like me, never gets boring either.
Commuting by bike will make you fitter than going to the gym: Get fit without thinking about it! Think about that
That is at least according to this study. But you don’t need to read a study to just know that makes sense. You also don’t need a folding bike, either, just a bike. You don’t need a bike either, really. You just need be active. This is one of those universal truths, and I may be preaching to the converted here, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Working out in your free time probably isn’t going to keep you fit and healthy. The recommended daily physical activity time for adults is 90 minutes a day. Walking from your desk to the coffee machine in work doesn’t count!
And if you’re anything like me then the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is head to the gym to get shouted at by my personal trainers. I’m kidding, Sven is a stand-up guy, no really…
So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to hit the gym every night to get the pounds to drop off, or are you going to commute to work and get fit and stay thin without really having to think about it?
That’s one of the real benefits of commuting by folding bike, or any bike for that matter, it’s an automatic benefit that requires little thought on your part. Once it’s a part of your utilitarian routine, it’s not an effort to get fitter, because your commute to work is necessary, it’s a habit you have no choice about. It
Folding bikes are very easy to use
Practice. That’s it. There’s nothing special about folding bikes that can’t be learned in half an hour. The only learning curve is the folding and unfolding of them, and that you can become competent with very quickly.
All you have to do is practice. Don’t try and learn how to do it at the entrance to the Subway, or when the bus is waiting on you, because then you might begin to feel frustrated and upset at your mechanical incompetence.
Folding bikes don’t depreciate in value
That’s right, folders have a really high resale value. They just don’t lose money, not really. When the day comes and you either want to upgrade to a full sized bike, or have decided to go live in a rainforest, you can sell your bike on and only lose about a $100.
In that respect, buying a folder is like a mini investment. Don’t ask me why they don’t go down in value, they just don’t.
So that’s it. Folding bikes are convenient, practically thief proof, will save you money, make you friends, and you can take them with you wherever you go. And that’s why folders are the best commuting bike you can buy.
But don’t take my word for it, just ask someone who has one, and then get comfortable as they spend the next 10 minutes explaining why.