The first day I walked into NYCeWheels I immediately noticed a very interesting looking folding bike in the window. It's got a look all its own, completely unlike any other in the shop. At first glance it seems to be made of plastic. It has mag wheels, which I've always thought looked nice, but also imagined probably weren't really all that practical. The colors are curiously subdued in contrast with its otherwise ostentatious design. Without looking very closely I imagined that it must unfold into a rather strange shape, as its folded shape was absolutely different from any other folding bike I had ever seen. I knew upon first glance that this bike was going to be fascinating, and sure enough the IF Mode has solidified itself in my opinion as the most attractive full-size folding bike out there.
note: The IF Mode pictured on this page has some optional accessories: Brooks saddle, rack, fenders, kickstand.
"Okay," I had been thinking to myself for a while, "This might be the most attractive full-size folding bike, but is it functional?" How did the fold stack up against the kind I had become accustomed to? First off, the design is really quite fascinating. It's one of very few bikes I've ever seen that can pull off a single arm fork, and the only one I've ever seen in person that has a single rear fork. Not only is this a cool innovation to see, it makes the fold of this bike absolutely unlike any other. If you take a look at a picture of this bike, you'll notice that the hubs seem to be rather large. Closer inspection will reveal that the hub actually has a very powerful (and very attractively integrated) magnet on the open side of each wheel. That's what keeps this beauty all closed up when it's folded. I couldn't get over how much sense that made yet I'd never seen it before on any other folding bike.
The rest of the fold is equally interesting. The rear wheel stays locked when the bike is folded, but the front wheel rolls freely. All you have to do to carry the bike is grab on to the dual-purpose stem/handle (in my opinion, the single most clever part of the entire design), tilt it slightly onto the front wheel, and roll it along as if you were pushing around a unicycle. So cool! It also requires shockingly few steps to fold the bike, considering how compact it becomes. After folding the frame and locking the wheel magnets, all that's left is to fold down each side of the handlebar (which makes me chuckle every time I see them just hanging on either side of the bike) and drop the seat. That's incredibly simple, even by folding bike standards. But, of course, I had yet to answer the age-old question: How did it ride?
I had the pleasure of answering the age-old question recently when I got to deliver an IF Mode to a customer in Midtown East. I set out on the bike really only having folded one a few times and riding it for about 20 seconds in the street to take some photos. I knew that the bike featured a Schlumpf Speed Drive dual speed system, and I knew how it worked, but I had never in my life prior to this ride actually used this kind of shifting system. I felt pretty excited to be riding through Manhattan on the most attractive full-size folding bike I knew, but I didn't want to feel like an idiot if I couldn't shift the gears properly.
The ride didn't have all that much terrain the deal with, but I quickly learned that the shifting was so easy and so quick that I was shifting all the time! Every time I stopped at a light I would shift down so I could get started easily, and then when I got up to speed, just one tap of my heel and BOOM! I was cruising at an impressive clip, passing by delivery guys and commuters like it was a contest. I was really impressed with the gearing of the IF Mode. Only two speeds, I couldn't even SEE the drive train, and yet it was as responsive and efficient as any high-end road bike. The bike was comfortable and made it easy to forget how rough the road could be. I had the added bonus of riding on a Brooks B-17 standard saddle, which I have always found extremely comfortable, even before they're broken in. I flew down Manhattan island, the only slightly unpleasant experience being the January cold (although even that was rendered somewhat enjoyable just from the adrenaline and adventure of riding on such a unique bike!), and I admit I felt a twinge of jealousy when I finally handed off my brief companion to its new owner.
The question always ends up "Would I recommend this bike?" The IF Mode is very unique, cool to look at and show off, and definitely fun to ride, but it's also pretty expensive and it's not really the kind of bike most people "need". Of course, what people "need" in a bike is pretty relative. Here's the bottom line from my perspective: People who think the IF Mode is the most attractive full-size folding bike they've seen, ridden one, folded one, and agree that it's as awesome as I think it is should definitely consider buying one.
People who are really hard on their bikes and tend to break things a lot might consider buying something different simply because this bike has so many unique parts and because so much of its appeal comes from the cosmetics. But really, anyone who is interested should get their hands on one and try it out for a bit. I guarantee the first time anyone folds an IF Mode they will end up with a big ol' smile on their face. I might not be buying one right away, but if I ever have more riding to do through which I can use it as an excuse to test ride one, you can bet I'll be on top of an IF Mode!