In the last ten years I’ve owned a road bike, a mountain bike, a cyclocross bike, a carbon fiber triathlon rocket, and even a heavy-duty electric commuter bike (complete with a large wire mesh front basket and full-size rear rack!). I looked at each of these bikes as solutions to a particular set of problems – or riding requirements such as, racing, riding the trails, or even getting groceries home without a car.
Folding bikes, while sometimes scorned by “purists,” also serve as a solution to a particular set of problems or riding requirements. The fact that they do so by introducing a constant stream of innovative designs and technology has, in my opinion, earned them a spot at the table of mainstream bikers. However, before we start talking about all the cool features and functions offered by folding bikes, lets review the benefits that folding bikes offer.
Folding bikes only require 35-70 percent of the storage space of full-sized bikes. This makes storage at home and the office easier. Keeping a bike indoors is typically safer (not as easy for bike thieves to walk off with your ride) and protects your bike from the elements.
A compact bike is also easier take on trips, either in the trunk of your car, or on a train or bus. For example, I often ride to work in the morning, fold up my bike at the office for storage during the day, and then take the train home at night (I don’t like riding in traffic when it’s dark). Alternatively, you can do things like taking a leisurely trip from your home in one direction and then taking the train home at the end of your trip, thus avoiding doubling back over your same route.
Built for Frequent and Convenient Usage
Folding bikes are typically designed to be high frequency high use vehicles. They are usually “over built” from durable materials. They also tend to take a minimalist approach to design. For example, several Bromptonmodels offer just three gears in the belief that for most urban commuters, the range provided by those gears is more than enough and that the pay off in reduced weight, complexity and cost is worth the reduced selection.
One of my favorites is that most folding bikes don’t’ use clipless pedals. I know that this a rider preference. But it’s hard to image any serious road bike or tri-bike owner not opting for clipless. For me, I like the freedom of being able to hop on my bike with whatever I have on my feet at the time, whether it be my work shoes, soccer shoes, or flip flops. It’s all about convenience.
All Shapes and Sizes
Folding bikes come in an increasingly wide variety of shapes, sizes, weights, and “fold-abilities.” Whether you are looking for an urban commuter to zip from one meeting to the next that quickly folds into a nice neat and small package or recumbent that you can take on long country rides and then fold up to fit in a trunk or take on train back to the city, you will have plenty of options to choose from.
More Frequent Usage
If a bike is easier or more convenient to use and to store, it stands to reason that it will be used more often. In my case, I’m averaging almost double the weekly mileage on my folding bike than I did on any of my previous bikes. The fact that I don’t have to limit my rides to weekends or up-before-the-sun rides during the week, means that I can rack up some pretty good mileage during the week commuting to the office and then do some interesting ride out and train back runs on the weekends.
Of course, my folding bike isn’t going to help me win in any triathlons, mountain bike races or road races. Nor, will it help me set any land speed records. But, I’m ok with that. For me riding a bike is fun in itself, and definitely beats sitting in a car, or commuting via a bus or train. So to that end, a bike that lends itself to regular usage is a bike worth having.