Thursday, November 15, 2012

Multi-Modal Commuting: Do You Need a Folding Bike?

South Station Brompton
I've received some questions over email about getting around by bike and train. One question that keeps coming up is that of whether a folding bike is necessary. This year it so happens that I've done bike+train trips a lot, with both full sized bikes and my (Brompton) folding bike. Here are some notes about the differences as I see them:

Peak vs Off-Peak Timing
In many cities, there are restrictions on the times of day that full size bikes are allowed on the subway and/or commuter rail. These restrictions coincide with popular commute times. For example, in Boston if I want to take a standard size bike on the subway in the morning, I need to do it before 7am. In the evening, I cannot do it until after 7pm. The commuter rail does not have such restrictions, but nonetheless it gets so crowded during peak hours that riding with a big bike is a nightmare. So I would say a folding bike is beneficial, and possibly even the only option, if you need to take public transit at peak commuting times. If your commute is entirely off peak, it may not matter. 

Train and Platform Access 
In greater Boston, many commuter rail stations have no elevator or ramp access down to the platform, only a long, steep, narrow staircase that gets slippery in wet weather. I believe that all subway stations do have elevator access, but it can get complicated with as many as 3 elevator changes to reach your platform. Dragging a full sized bike up and down long flights of stairs, or having to make several elevator trips with it, is not for everyone. Similarly, in some stations boarding the train itself requires climbing a precarious, steep set of stairs, whereas at other stations the train is flush with the platform and you simply step on. If the stations at which you board and disembark have inconvenient platform or train access, a folding bike could really be a godsent. If access is easy, it may not matter.

Handling Your Folder
All folding bikes are different. Make sure that yours folds sufficiently small to comply with the local transportation authority's definition of "folding bike" (some do not). Make sure also that you can comfortably lift and carry it for stretches at a time. Finally, make sure that you are capable of quickly folding and unfolding it yourself. If you cannot do these things, you may find multi-modal commuting with a folding bike more trouble than it's worth compared to a full sized bike. 

Cycling
In addition to taking your bike on the train, you will presumably also have to ride it to and from the station. Those who ask me about folders often express concern about this, especially if their trip is more than a couple of miles and involves hills. "Can you really ride all that way on a folding bike?" Well, I can on mine, yes. It is a distance-capable bike with a pleasant ride quality and low gears. But not all folding bikes are designed to be ridden for more than a couple of miles at a time. If the cycling portion of your commute is challenging, make sure to get a folder that is appropriate for that. Otherwise you may be better off with the full sized bike you know and love.

These are the points that come to mind from my experience so far. If you have questions that I did not address here, please ask in the comments. And if you use a folder for multi-modal commutes, please feel free to share your own experiences. 

66 comments:

  1. My multimodal commutes have been by bus rather than train. In one case, the buses in use were touring-style, and had large luggage compartments beneath, one of which the driver opened for me and in went my (full-size) bike. In another case, I used the front bike racks which all buses around here have. Interesting note--one day, there were four cyclists waiting for one of these hourly buses, which can carry only two racked bikes each. The driver invited us to board and keep our rides in the front aisle, and that seemed to work out OK.

    But I can see how, under these circumstances, a folder might have been a real improvement.

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  2. I've done multimodal commutes with a bunch of different bikes: Rivendell Romulus, Bike Friday pocket tourist, Bike Friday Tikit, Brompton, cheap Dahon (when I was overseas). Here's my experience. I share many of Velouria's views, so I'm just going to list additional thoughts.

    1. Security: you can nearly always sit where you can see your folder, either because it's in the overhead or under the seat or right next to you. By contrast, with a non folding bike, you may have to leave it in the train vestibule or on a front rack (with a bus). For some people with some bikes on some routes, this may make a big difference.

    2. The Brompton has the best fold, in my experience, because it's both small and regular. The Tikit is bigger and less regular. The reason to prefer a Tikit is that you can have one designed exactly to your specifications - fit, components, and the like. The non-Tikit bike Fridays are not, in my experience, multimodal commuters with respect to mass transit because they essentially disassemble into pieces. And the Dahon does not stay folded consistently.

    3. For the most part, you will want luggage that comes off the bike easily, whether you use a folder or not, to keep valuable with you and to reduce the size of the bike -- some transit, e.g., Caltrain, prohibited leaving luggage on the bike. One could, of course, use a messenger bag or knapsack, but I prefer to have the bike carry the luggage. So ... The Brompton is designed for this and works well. I haven't used kickflix products, but there a a lot of them, and Carradice has a line of removable saddlebags. What I've done with my other bikes, including the Tikit, also works well: I've attached little bolts with eyeholes in one end -- the kind you can buy for $1 in the hawear store that people use for hook latches -- to the belt loops on my Brooks saddles. I then thread a set of hooks onto the leather straps that would usually go through the saddle loops. This is a sort of home made quick release system. I've used it for years without a failure.

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    1. Thanks Pam, #1 is a factor I hadn't considered but you are 100% correct!

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    2. Pam,

      I would love to see a picture of that quick release system. I have had good experience with Carradice's bagman QR, both with and without the saddlebag support.

      Jay

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    3. Ja bike jacking off the front of buses is pretty common here. I always sat right by the driver because of that.

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    4. This is Pam K. I will take a picture and send it in when I get home. (I'm on a sufficiently logistically complicated business trip that I didn't bring the Brompton, which I now regret.)

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  3. I do this a fair bit, also in Boston. My commute can be done all on public transit, which is what I do most of the time. I missed riding, though, but I wasn't up to a 18-mile-each-way commute, especially at 6:30 am in the morning, which is when I would need to leave to get to work, take a shower, and be at my desk by 8:30.

    I tried riding to the commuter rail and taking my bike with me, since my commute is not peak-hour (Full-sized bikes actually aren't allowed on peak trains, but peak is direction-specific; they're highlighted on the schedules.) But to do that I'd either need to ride 9 miles (far enough to be sweaty) or spend a lot more time on public transit on the way there, because the first leg of my normal commute is an express bus that doesn't allow bikes at all.

    Plus I ran into most of the issues you mention with carrying it around, which I am SO GLAD to hear someone else has had; I got a lot of scoffing remarks when I said I wasn't riding because I was tired of cutting and bruising my legs carrying the bike on and off the train. Plus the one day they decided to open a different end of the car at my stop, and I had to try to get the bike down the center of a train car with an aisle narrower than its handlebars, without hitting anyone else.

    I love my Brompton, and I can take it on my normal commute to work, and then ride it 18 miles home with no discomfort whatsoever. It was a little hard to lift it up in front of me up the train stairs when I first got it, but I could do it without potential injury, and it did get easier quickly as my arms got stronger from toting it around.

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    1. Carrying the Brompton got easier for me over time as well. And I still bruise my legs occasionally. This is clearly an issue that depends on a person's size and strength, but I dislike it intensely how dismissive and scornful some Brompton owners are when this problem is mentioned.

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  4. Hey that's South Station!

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  5. I don't have any experience with folding bikes, but Russ and Laura from the Path Less Pedaled toured for over a year on their Bromptons.

    http://pathlesspedaled.com/2011/07/one-month-of-loaded-touring/

    They even wrote a whole book about it. I imagine if they liked them well enough for 5000 miles of lots of kinds of terrain they should be sufficient for most commutes. Don't know about other brands of folders.
    http://pathlesspedaled.com/2012/08/the-brompton-touring-book-is-here/

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  6. I don't have any experiences of commuting by train and bike. Luckily, my distances have been doable by bike so far.
    I do know about some friends who commute by bike and train. If you only have to bike at one end of the train ride, you may consider locking your bike directly at the station. It shouldn't be your best bike and you may want to put a strong lock on it, but this way you can take the train without any bicyle. And the shoulder straps of your panniers will finally come in handy ;)

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  7. My commute to work is a mix of folding bike and train.

    I do the reverse commute and am allowed to commute with a full size bike but still use a folding bike, simply because it's easier.

    A big factor is not just having the bike on the train but also moving the bike through the station. During rush hour the station is crowded and, c.f. gormless tourists with huge suitcases, I don't want to be that annoying piece of cheese getting in everyone's way.

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  8. Weight of the folder seems like it would matter a lot. I bought a cheap and heavy folder on Craigslist, used it on a one-week business trip to Santa Monica. It was nice to have the bike, it was nice to be able to carry it around in cars and airplanes w/o hefty charges, but to actually carry it was a real pain, and carrying stuff is one of those things I'm pretty good at.

    Friend of mine got a Brompton for the year he was working in France, and thought it was wonderful.

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  9. I really admire the quickness, and compactness of the Brompton fold. It folds in a blink, and with the luggage block on the front, it's a total commuter package. Unfortunately, the Brompton was out of my budget. I did find a 1971 Peugeot NS22 folder, that is heavier, doesn't fold quite as compact, but rides more like a full-sized city bicycle. It has both racks, full fenders and dynamo lighting. According to our local transit system, once it's folded down, It's "luggage". that bypasses many of the bicycle restrictions on transit.

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  10. Good topic...Yes, thepathlesspedaled covers lots of this stuff and as a carless person I constantly worry about how I can get from place to place both on the cheap and in a manner which allows for freedom and independence. A folding bike seems very practical. I'm 56 and so far have managed with a regular bike but have mostly lived in small or medium sized towns. Living in a metropolitan area, however, might require a different mode of thinking b/c it's not uncommon to have to be somewhere twenty miles away yet still within the metro area and a combo of mass transit and bike are best....so what is the best bike? If ever I were to buy a second bike it may just be a Brompton.

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  11. I find myself riding my Brompton almost everywhere because in a sense I consider it a "non-modal" bike.

    Here's what I mean by that: with the Brompton I don't have to give a thought to any mode of transportation or external circumstances (rush hour, weather, etc.)

    I can happily ride it extremely long distances (my max for a single day was 125 miles), I can throw it in the trunk of a cab or the cargo hold of a plane, I can bring it on a bus or a train, or bring it right into a store or restaurant when I stop. And I consider what happens when you stop to be a transportation consideration.

    If I'm especially tired, or get sick, or the weather turns ridiculous, I can take a subway, train, taxi, bus. I don't have to make any accommodations for the bike.

    So it's non modal in that I never have to pause for a moment to wonder if it's appropriate for the situation at hand. It always fits in.

    I travel a fair amount for my work and I always take the brompton because there is no better way to get around a strange city than by bike. And in those travels I've never had a restaurant or shop or hotel object to me folding the bike and bringing it in. Security isn't an issue. Again, it's non-modal in that the bike adapts to the circumstances at hand without a thought.

    Because I almost never drive, over the years I've invested money in some really nice bikes -- I've got a custom (Goodrich) Rivendell road bike, a Seven road bike and some lovely vintage bikes. But I find myself riding the Brompton most of the time.

    I ride it not just because of convenience, but because of the ride quality too. You can go pretty much anywhere on it -- I live in San Francisco and my Brompton is a three speed. I can get over any hill the city (and daily do so) except for two different approaches to Russian Hill that are about 24% So I walk it a block, no biggie. The handling in traffic is great, and there's something about the small wheels that makes it seem friendly to other people -- there's a subtle intangible benefit to that.

    True, there are days when I might feel like I'm going to cough up a lung on some sustained climbs and would love a triple like on the Riv. And I've never ridden it up Mount Diablo, but for the most part I never even think about whether the Brompton is right or not. The answer is just yes. And that's my definition of a non-modal bike.

    (Some day I want to try a Schlumpf mountain drive on the Brompton, I reckon with that I could climb a tree...)

    I know all this sounds like an ad for the Brompton, and I don't mean for it to seem that way. It's just that after a lifetime of riding, I haven't found any bike that just fits into your life with such ease.

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    1. " in a sense I consider it a "non-modal" bike... I never have to pause for a moment to wonder if it's appropriate for the situation at hand. "

      That's pretty accurate for me as well, with a few exceptions - fancy restaurant/theater type of exceptions. I have not found a good way to bring the bike in, and I am not comfortable leaving it locked up outside.

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    2. In situations like that, if the restaurant or theater has a coat check (most live theaters do) you're good to go -- I've checked my B many times. Sometimes you'll have to cover it though.

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  12. Just yesterday, waiting at a bus stop with my Brompton and a man with a full size bike (also waiting for the bus) struck up a conversation. I explained that one reason I liked the folder is that oftentimes the bike racks on the bus are already full. Bus pulls up a couple minutes after, with space left for only one bike. He said "I'm glad you have a folder!".

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  13. I used to take my full-size commuter bike on NJ Transit trains pretty regularly, and then ride to my destination and sometimes home, but last year NJT decided that full-size bicycles were only allowed on at "high level" platforms unless they were folders. This eliminated every stop along my route, and pushed me to explore folding bikes.
    So far, my experience has been far from satisfactory. I'm finding with small wheel folders my height and weight make them very uncomfortable for long distances, such as when I miss the last train home (pretty frequently, since service cuts off early here). I can't afford a Brompton or similar high-end folder, but I've gotten my hands on a frame for a 26" wheel folder that I'm trying to scrounge parts for. In the mean time, I just drive.

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    1. Matt - In your case, I think the B is worth saving for and I hope you'll be able to swing it over time. The husband is 6' and over 200lb and the bike can handle him on long rides. The M handlebars are just at the right height for an aggressive, but not too aggressive position.

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    2. It's on my wish list, whenever that "steady income" thing is resolved (neither the journalism nor the bike biz have been good this year), not only for transit, but I think it would be great to have for travel, I'd rather take the bus or a train on interstate trips, and the idea of just being able to roll out of the station with my luggage and go is really appealing.
      Maybe I need to find work at a Brompton dealer, and get myself a nice pro deal (plus learn some new skills working on folding mechanisms).

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  14. In North Texas, a folder is really not something I'd consider. However, I am considering one for when I move.

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  15. Question for Bromophiles: what is the preferred technique for wheeling it? Tried pulling it, pushing it; the track width (rack mounted wheels) made for a tippy roll so I just ended up carrying it, which is a pia for an extended distance. This was on a segmented sidewalk. I suppose smooth expanses of tile would be much easier.

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    1. Ha you ask the tough questions don't you.

      My answer makes some people mad, but here it is: I have not found a good technique for wheeling it, and IMO they should try to improve upon this. The quick wheels(?) do not work well for me when the bike is in pull/shopping cart mode. Everything else about the bike is great. Except the weight (kidding).

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    2. eazy (sic) wheels, not quick wheels

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    3. Unfold, roll, refold. Rolling it folded sucks. But I've gotten very fast at the fold.

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    4. Your answer makes people mad? Everything I say makes people mad, apparently.

      I can track stand about anything but a folded Brompton. Sue me.

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    5. People get mad, because the shopping cart mode + eazy wheels is one of its features. So naturally if I can't do it, it's because I am doing it wrong. What can I say, doesn't work for me. But I'll save it for the follow-up Brompton review.

      Can't track stand on a folded Brompton? Clearly you need to follow your own advice and work on some skills. Disappointing frankly.

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    6. You're right. Ever since the owner of the shop that peddles Brommies showed me an assortment of manuals, wheelies, stoppies and random trials tricks on one I've been wishing for younger guts. #ancienthistory

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    7. i knackered my eazy wheels doing the shopping cart malarkey (have abad habit of overloading things), however, in the UK a folded Brompton just about fits in a standard shopping trolley (isn't it uncanny how many standard spaces - under desks, in gym lockers, between train seats, in overhead plain lockers) bromptons fit into..

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  16. Another Brompton fanboy here.

    For anyone who does not yet own one and wants lots of friendly, helpful, advice, head on over to the forum at http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/BromptonTalk/
    and the related wiki at http://bromptontalk.wikispaces.com/

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  17. I often do bike/train trips within Los Angeles with my full-sized bike, and it's no problem, but: all trains in LA allow full-sized bikes on at all times and from all stations, all are level-boarding, and all have special bike spaces in each car (as of a few months ago). There are generally numerous cyclists on every train.

    However, a few months ago my wife and I made a long LA-Denver-SF-LA trip using Amtrak, buses, commuter rail, a ferryboat, and at one point a relative's car, and the Bromptons we borrowed were magnificent, and also good for medium distance touring as well.

    My wife bought her borrowed Brompton, and I will buy one later on myself just for long-distance train trips. Not my favorite ride feel, but it's more than good enough.

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  18. Love my 12-speed Brompton with Swiss Mountain Drive. When I learned that my new neighbor was hoping that his wife would take up cycling again after a harrowing hospitalization following a bike incident last spring, I instantly loaned her my Brompton and gave her a copy of Velouria's June 11,2012, article on her Brompton. I did that because in my mind, few if any bikes could serve to be more accessible & inviting for someone who has had a bad experience with cycling and could benefit from an easy & accessible ride. Talk about cycling resources: lovelybicycle articles & Brompton!! Thank you, Velouria. Jim Duncan

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    1. "...my 12-speed Brompton with Swiss Mountain Drive"

      Sorry, what??...

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    2. Hi Velouria: My Brompton was a bespoke order purchased from Channell Wasson of FoldaBikes, Palo Alto, CA back in 2007. Decided to go with an ML type 6 speed with a Schlumpf Mountain Drive (Swiss Mountain Drive) installed in the bottom bracket that provides an approximately 250% gear reduction according to Channell. (Lightly kick the cranks to engage and disengage the low gearing.) In practice, may sound clumsy but you get the hang of it and really, you'll only going to use it for steep or loaded climbs. Makes bike heavier than most would like but the advantage is the versatility. I live in very hilly area and the very low gearing is there when you need it. Today at Wassoon's website he offers a Schlumpf Swiss Speed Drive which is reportedly the best solution for the widest gear range on a Brompton. You can see an overview of the Schlumpf gearing options here:http://www.cyclemonkey.com/schlumpf-innovations.shtml Jim Duncan

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    3. Re Schlumpf Mountain Drive: Meant to say that you hit the crank arm to engage/disengage. Thanks. Jim Duncan

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    4. Thanks Jim, that is fascinating.

      Out of curiosity, did you try the production lowered 6-speed Brompton and determine the gearing was not sufficient? I have done 14%+ grades on mine in the lowest gear, but I don't presume to know your terrain; just curious.

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    5. A six speed Brompton doubled by the Schlumpf mountain drive (from Switzerland) = "12 speed Swiss Mountain drive"

      I don't have direct experience with a Schlumpf on a brompton, But from looking at gear charts, a 6 speed brompton with a Schlumpf seems like a bit of overkill.

      A three speed w/ mountain drive gets you from 18 gear inches up to 84 or ~90 (depending on setup). And 18 gear inches should get most people up over almost any sustained incline.

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    6. Velouria, I did not. Had no experience with folders at all. Bought this cold because my brother was on me to get one since he had one & with my usual penchant for maximizing the possibilities and also absent the more discerning sensibility of one @lovelybicycle from whom I am learning all the time though alas I am surely one of her dunce students. Now Go feed Peppy! Jim Duncan

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    7. Re: Schlumpf Mountain Drive: It is overkill for the most part. Jim Duncan

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    8. Overkill can come across as pejorative.

      I just put together a (to me) swell light tourer designed to switch from a one by five configuration to single speed, so am obviously in the minimalist camp.

      When I see people with more radical gear options I prefer to think of them as exuberant. Frankly, I would kind of like to see a Brompton with a Schlumpf.

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    9. Re Brompton 12-speed: Should add that when buying this, was thinking that it could be my go-to bike when older, more decrepit, no driver's license, drooling, etc., barely able to walk but could still ride my bike, really:)! That's my story/dream and I'm sticking to it.
      Jim Duncan

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    10. FWIW I certainly didn't mean overkill as a pejorative and Jim I apologize if it sounded that way. What I meant was it was probably more than what is needed.

      In any case, I love the suggestion of "exuberant" instead. That's lovely and I shall use it from now on.

      From an purely analytical standpoint, there are a lot of nearly redundant ratios on 6 speed + Schlumpf that leaves you with gearing that you likely won't want or use.

      Plus between flipping multiple levers on a brompton six speed and clicking the crank button with your heel, it strikes me as kind of makes shifting into a dance if you actually *use* the full range afforded.

      I do like the "Dorothy click your heels and you're home" implications of the Schlumpf though :)

      I think the sweet spot for the Slumpf really is the three speed + schlumpf -- you six nicely spaced gears and you get gearing low enough for loaded touring on a steep sustained climb (18 inches is quite low and if you like you can change the rear cog, you can get it lower). And there is no redundancy at all. Plus, it's a reasonably convenient process for shifting - three speed on the handlebars, click the heel for the next three speeds.

      Again, I don't have a schlumpf, but that's the approach I'd take if I abandoned my existing 3 speed setup.

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    11. There is also the possibility of using a different hub: http://recklessexperimentation.blogspot.ca/2012/05/first-impressions-of-brompton-bicycle.html

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    12. SA 5 speed plus Schlumpf has a certain appeal, too. Huge range, and exactly one gear overlap (that is almost exact).

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  19. My friend's husband just bought a folding bike and uses it to get to his vanpool. Then, he can just fold it up, toss it in the back of the van, and bring it into his office. Great example of multimodal commuting. If he had a bike, he'd probably have to find a secure place to lock it, and this way he gets to have his bike at his work as well.

    Folding bikes are great to bring in your car when you take long road trips as well. They're also great if your commute involves a bus where there are often a limited number of bike racks on the bus (2 on Los Angeles Metro).

    There are many Metro systems that don't permit full sized bikes on the subway during certain peak hours. Think about how much easier it would be to bring your bike onto the NYC subway if it folds, especially up and down those subway steps and through the turnstiles.

    Great article!

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    1. "My friend's husband just bought a folding bike and uses it to get to his vanpool. Then, he can just fold it up, toss it in the back of the van, and bring it into his office."

      Thank you for this report, chashiineriiya.

      So many of the comments/laments here are traditional mass transit-centric and Brompton-centric. When all it really takes for individuals and groups in much of sprawl land is ad hoc action--simple folding bikes thrown in a vanpool or carpool.

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  20. I frequently multi-mode on the T in Boston with a full-size bike.

    Amplification of the rules: on subway (Red, Blue, Orange Lines) bikes are allowed anytime EXCEPT 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. weekdays; and are allowed any time weekends. Green Line - no bikes allowed ever except folding (so the Brompton would be a necessity there).

    Commuter rail: bikes are okay except in peak travel direction. If you head away from Boston in morning, you can always put the bike on the train for your outbound and return trips. But with a full-size bike this can be tedious in two respects: (i) climbing down the narrow train stairs if your stop has no platform and (ii) pushing a bike down the full length of the train because the door you entered at North Station is not being opened at your stop. (Imagine what it would be like pushing a bike down a commercial airplane aisle!)

    If you take your bike on a commuter train, ask conductor which is best car to enter for your stop, as some stations have a platform aligning only with certain train cars.

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  21. This post and the many comments underscore how much work all of us have yet to do to bring our mass transit systems into a 21st century that respects people powered transit.

    Trains in the should have compartments to hang bikes. Train stations should be designed to accommodate wheel chairs and bikes. Illinois spends billions expanding and making the toll ways ever more convenient. What money is left for mass transit has brought us to maybe a level that would have sufficed for the 1960s. Certainly not near where it should be.

    Will be watching the new California rail program with interest. I hope the left coasters figure this out and present a good example to the rest of us.

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    1. Hopefully we will take a page from Portland's system and scale it up.
      L.A. cyclist

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    2. I'd like to be briefly contrarian - we should not expect this space for free if we expect it at all times and in sufficient supply to be reliably available. I've used bikes on various bits of mass transit, and the non-folders take up space. For instance, on the Caltrain bike cars, the same space that holds 40 bikes (and no people at all) would otherwise hold 12 rows of seats. Full capacity would be 48 people, no-neighbors full capacity is 24 seats.

      You'd like to think that a Caltrain bike car could also serve wheel chairs well and cyclists would benefit from the roll-on access, but I think that wheel chair users might object to sharing space with piles of bicycles.

      On the other hand, why shouldn't mass transit provide generous amounts of space? The modern standards for road lane sizes are certainly generous.

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  22. I got a folding bike when my huge German bike went into storage (because it could not fit through the door of the temporary apartment we are living in and was too nice to keep outside in NYC). I've found that I'm much more inclined to make a multi-modal commute now. And overall much more likely to cycle way uptown since I can combine trips with the subway if necessary. So, it's expanded my flexibility considerably, which is always a good thing. I also really like having such a light and portable bike.

    OTOH, I cannot any longer bike my son to school, which bums us both out. unless I pay the 200 euros for that Brompton child seat hack from Spain. I've decided not to do that because we won't be in this place for long and I will be back to my big bike when we move into our renovated house. I think I will always ride the Brompton when I don't have my son with me -- I really love it, just in and of itself.

    BTW, I agree with you about the shopping cart mode. I end up carrying the bike or just not using that "mode."

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  23. I spent a couple of years commuting in toward Boston/Cambridge on the MBTA commuter rail (Fitchburg line, north side) using a Dahon folder. I was fortunate in that I got on the train at the end of the line (Fitchburg) in the mornings, and so could pick a seat with enough adjacent space to fit the folded bike...I was never comfortable with the idea of putting it on the overhead rack. Aside from potential dripping on rainy days, the thought of it getting dislodged and falling on somebody, as unlikely as that might be, made me uncomfortable. But there was almost always a spot to tuck it out of the way, even when boarding a crowded train on the way home, and if not I'd just stand there next to it.

    The one thing I found that made it much easier to deal with was adding a strap...I took a shoulder strap off an old piece of luggage, and managed to clip it on the rear rack (where the little bungie cords would hold it while riding), and on the main hinge at the other end when folded. That way I could put most of the weight of the bike on my shoulder when going up or down the fairly steep stairs of the train, and always have at least one hand on the railing. Even folded, it's a rather awkward package to move around, but the strap helped significantly.

    One last thing...I don't think a day went by that I didn't have a conversation on the train with somebody asking about the bike, and where you could get one, and how much it cost, and does it really unfold, etc. etc. It was one heck of a conversation starter!

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  24. Another Los Angeles commuter here (bike/bus) I ride an Oyama folder very similar to Dahon. It's nice to know I can fold it if need be (as mentioned above, LA buses only have two racks, and living in the burbs means hour long waits if the racks are full. Still, my next bike will be a Brommie.

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  25. A couple quick thoughts having owned both a Dahon MuP8 and a Brompton M6 (in that order) and using both as a student to commute all over England/Scotland on trips, London Underground, etc.

    1. I quickly discovered that fold is more than just aesthetics. Exactly HOW your bike folds turns out to be pretty significant, especially if you are wearing white trousers and fold results in your greasy chain being located on the outside of the bike! (Dahon).

    2. Does the bike actually stay folded? It can be really frustrating on a crowded bus to pick up your bike to find that the magnets that hold the bike together came unclamped, and your bike is slowly unraveling itself! +1 Brompton, the bike stays folded if you fold it correctly.

    So, in my subjective experience between Brompton and Dahon it is thus: Dahon is a great bike if you don't have to fold and unfold it very often. The larger wheels felt like an advantage on longer rides and - to me -it had many more characteristics of a full sized bike on the road. I road my Dahon in our local recreational cycling club and had no issues keeping up with everyone else on standard sized bikes. It was a great compromise living in a student flat and not having a lot of space.

    Alternatively, the Brompton was suited perfectly for the busy Londoner commute. The fold is ingenious and it seems designed to be folded and unfolded (and stay folded!) frequently. It fits practically anywhere, I could bring it in to almost every shop (as opposed to the larger and "messier" looking Dahon folded) and it would fit in the bottom of shopping trolleys etc. Even at the busiest times of day, I never heard a single complaint about the Brompton. They are commonplace. My one Brompton complaint was that the corner of my front fender cracked after about 1 month of ownership, owing in part to the pressure put on it each time I folded the bike. Could be user error though.

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  26. I'm surprised that nobody mentioned the "One bike at each station solution". At my previous job, I considered buying a folding but ended up using two of my old bikes, one at each station. In Switzerland, charging a full sized bike is not much of an issue but I wasn't at ease with the risk of hitting someone with a pedal or something during rush hour. And in the end locking a bike at the departure station and unlocking an other one at the arrival station was less of a pain than carrying a folding in station and train
    during rush hour.

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  27. Please note - the MBTA commuter rail DEFINTITELY restricts full size bikes. Try to get on a Newburyport train at 5:40 and you will find out their policy for sure.

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  28. For those of you who want to bike longer distances on a folder, may I present 19 lbs of cat-6 folding beauty:

    http://www.hasabike.com.tw/2011bikes/windows/minimax%28C-1%29.htm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/number5/439597952/

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  29. I've done multi-modal commuting/travel with a folder and a big bike here in Toronto. I've taken my folder on the bus, streetcar, subway, GO train. I've taken the big bike on the GO train. Even during off-peak hours it's not pleasant to travel with the big bike. It takes a lot of space, and on the GO train it partially obstructs the stairs going to the second floor. On the subway my 20-inch folder takes enough space (when unfolded) to restrict flow of people passing by - I can only imagine what a nuisance my big bike would create. Also, for some reason GO Transit and streetcars love center poles in the doorways. Trying to squeeze through the tight space with the big bike is not only annoying, but also potentially dangerous to the back, as it requires holding the big bike in unnatural ways to pass through the narrow opening.

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  30. This looks like a good place to mention the Strida folding bike, it folds in under 10 seconds and is easy to roll when folded. The new Strida EVO 3 speed uses the same clean belt drive that the single speed models have. The Strida is available in North America but not well know like it is in other parts of the world.

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  31. I just purchased a Brompton and combine it w/ light rail, which is much preferable to a full sized bike. With my Brompton specific bag, I roll both directly in the train and can easily sit with my bike tucked next to me. This particularly nice when I have a longer trip and when the cars are full. I previous used a Dahon but the Brompton fold is more manageable for me.

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  32. When I decided to buy a folding bike I wanted it to ride as well as a non-folding one. I decided to get a Montague (www.montaguebikes.com), because of their full size wheels, and standard parts.
    It was a great idea because I'm really happy with my folder, and I ride it every day.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you John! I have a Montague folding bike and I ride it every day too! I love it!

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