Sunday, April 20, 2008

Folding Bike Jedi Mind Tricks

The folks at Bike Friday say this about the stealth capabilities of their commuter-oriented folding bike the Tikit:
"The bus driver or office building manager will never know it's not a French horn."
While I don't own a Tikit, I do have a similarly compact folding bike, the Dahon D3. Like my Tikit owning friends, I've learned the value of a bit of strategic misdirection. Once the proper techniques are mastered, a folding bike does not have to be left outside, prey to the scum and villainy of the street with only a u-lock for protection. Your bike can stay with you, handy as a general purpose droid, ready for the next adventure. The folder can go with you into the cantina, cloaked to wait patiently under the table. A folding bike can speed with you in the big transport units of the city, provided of course, that you can get past the storm troopers at the door.

Folding bikes exist in two worlds. Fully deployed as a bicycle, this small machine is bright, quick and clever. It is often the object of comment and question. But in its folded state, the machine endeavors to be ignored or at least misconstrued. Some buildings and transportation systems are prejudiced against bicycles and they have rules made by bureaucrats who fear grease or tracked in dirt or maybe just machines they do not understand. The gatekeepers at the doorways did not make the rules and have no power to change them. The doorway is not the place to debate the fairness of the world. Doorways exist to be passed through quickly, with a minimum of fuss.

This is where a bit of nylon and Jedi skills come in handy. You don't have to make the gatekeeper think your bike is a French horn, you only have to make him not think about it or at least not think that your bundle is a bike.

A thin bag of nylon weighs only a few ounces and folds into a perfectly portable package. Unfurled it can cloak the entire machine in a layer of ambiguity. The bike is no longer a bike, it's a sack of something. Cloak your machine before the encounter and if you have a helmet for gosh sakes have the sense to hide it.

Step boldly through the door. Your bundle is so minor, so incidental you can't imagine why it would be questioned. You don't have to say anything about the bundle. Let the storm trooper work out his own scenario. It's often handy to ask your would-be interrogator some minor question about the bus route or the nearest coffee shop while thinking, "Move along, please. There's nothing to see here. These aren't the droids you're looking for..."

Nineteen times out of twenty you'll pass by without incident. If you get an unusually persistent inquisitor the phrase "folding exercise machine" may prove handy.

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