In cities across the country, there is a mass shift toward green transportation. People are ditching their cars for bicycles, and the construction of bike lanes and storage facilities are encouraging city residents to bike to work, instead of dealing with public transportation or cars.
With this movement comes a few problems. First off, where does one store a full-size bike in an apartment? They don't exactly fit in a closet or under the bed. Many apartment complexes haven't built bike rooms, and there are risks involved with locking bikes in hallways or outdoors. On top of this, aren't full-size mountain bikes or road bikes overkill for an everyday commuter? One seldom needs more than a few gears to get to work in the morning, and heavy mountain bikes are kind of a hassle to carry up a flight of stairs.
In the 1980's, folding commuter bikes started to emerge as an alternative choice for bike riders looking for something small and simple to ride to work. Deemed by many bike enthusiasts as unsafe and slow, the popularity of these small-wheeled wonders was limited to a niche market for a long time.
In the early 2000's, the strength of folding bicycle hinges and frames increased dramatically. Many of these folding commuter bikes were just as strong, if not stronger, than a full-size mountain bike. In 2010, with bicycle advocacy on the rise, a large percentage of bike commuters are now riding folding commuter bikes. Companies like Dahon and Bike Friday are household names, and the English engineers working for Brompton folding bikes recently received the Queen's award for enterprise and innovation for their compact folding bike. What happened that caused this shift in attitude toward small-wheeled bikes?
Have a five-floor walkup? No bike storage? Most likely, a folding commuter bike is going to be much more convenient than a full size bike. Narrow stairwells populate urban apartment complexes, and simply turning a corner could be frustrating with a road bike or mountain bike. A fully folded commuter bike can be as light as a small suitcase, and many of these bikes have bags or straps so they can be hauled over the shoulder. It's a convenient size for a tiny apartment.
Traveling is also convenient with a folding commuter bike, because it is small enough to check on an airline without taking the entire bike apart. Airline cases exist for the Brompton folding bike and the Dahon folding bike, and these will protect the bike against the hard knocks of checked baggage. The best part? Riding away from the airport when you get to your destination!
Well, maybe not in a desk drawer, but most other small storage spaces will accommodate these small-wheeled bikes. Closets, boats, train luggage racks, under desks at work, and inside a bookcase are just a few locations that we've seen folding commuter bikes stored. Going to a restaurant? Tuck it under the table. Museum? Try the coat check. If a business has an issue with bicycles, just pull a cover around the folded package and see what they say. Most places don't have rules against large bags!
The average number of gears on a folding commuter bike is three. Since most city bikes are not going very far, the gearing is kept simple. However, the range of speed that these three gears span can often compete with the average mountain or road bike. Some of these bikes have as many as twenty speeds, and can achieve very high speeds for such small wheels. No longer can the argument be made that full-size bikes are faster than folding commuter bikes. That distinction is now left up to the rider and how hard they can pedal.
How about touring? Some folding commuter bikes can actually handle long-distance riding quite well. Just ask Peter from NYCeWheels, who rode his Brompton folding bicycle from New York City to Philadelphia. The strong little bike held up just fine for that extreme stretch, so the abuse of an everyday commute is no sweat. Compared to most other standard bikes, folding commuter bikes are just as strong, just as fast, and usually more lightweight than anything else out there.
Check out some of the most popular folding commuter bikes that are available at NYCeWheels.