Tips, deals, and advice on traveling the continent on a budget.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Folding Bikes

By LeRoy Schaeffer

It finally happened. We had been planning for it for years and all our friends knew it would happen soon enough and recently it did. No, not the adoption of our baby boy but instead, the avalanche of stuff that came with him.

One of the best things about my job is that I can ride my bike to it. For the past few years I have saved the bus fare (and hopefully a little bit of the earth) by riding my mountain bike to work. But my mountain bike is very big. New York apartments are very small. So, now with the new little guy and all his gear: the strollers, the cribs, the toys, something had to go. I took my big mountain bike to work and gave it to one of my students (It was old and not very expensive, the bike, not the student!) and got myself a folding bike.

My life has been changed. Yes, yes, the new father thing has changed me, but this new bike. Wow. I feel so cool whipping it out and dashing across the city every morning. I feel like a superhero. And does it whip and dash!

Last year there was a perfect storm moment here in New York for bikes. Gas prices shot up to crazy levels, the buzz about global warming started to really get some traction, and we had a subway and bus strike. All of a sudden there were bikes everywhere. And as I said above, our apartments are small, tiny little things, it would only be a second before bikes followed suit. They were everywhere, these cute, slightly clownish gizmos careening around taxis and down the paths along the Hudson.

Folding bikes have been around for years but they have been a badge of very aggressive environmentalists or the English. Here in America the foldies have mainly been stowed away in campers or brought on sail boats. But their time has come. There is a range of high quality, easy-to-fold bikes with wide price points. (Everywhere from $300.00 to $1,400). Today’s high energy lifestyles have been waiting for these sweet machines. A folding bike would allow folks who commute by train to save that bothersome next leg of their journey and get in a little exercise too. You bike to the train station, fold the thing up and get on the train. Unfold it and bike it from the station. No need to lock it up outside your office, just take it in.

The business traveler could explore his or her new city, get some exercise and not have to lug a big bulky bike around. A folding bike can easily be checked as regular piece of luggage. Campers and boaters have long known the delight of a foldy. Any place where space and size is a concern is the place for a folding bike.

A folding bike may not ride exactly like a full size bike. The wheels are smaller so going up hills means you push a little harder. The balance takes some getting used to as well. But after a little practice you feel quite comfortable, even nimble and light. Some very tall people may have to have one custom made ($$$) though. The higher end models come very close to replicating the ride and performance of a full-sized bike. Some fold smaller and more quickly than others. Some have only three gears, some come fully equipped with bells, lights and racks. The world of folding bikes is broad enough that bike novices or hard core riders both will find what they need.

Author, Geoffrey Perry, son of LeRoy and Janet Schaeffer, owners of


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