Friday, December 25, 2015
Most folding bikes are marketed based on their advantages for travel. It's certainly true that a combination of mass transit (a train or a bus, for example) and a quick folding bike like a Brompton or Bike Friday Tikit can prove to be a great solution for daily commuting. And if you frequently travel by air, buying a folding bike like a New World Tourist or a Pocket Rocket that can pack safely and securely into a standard-sized Samsonite suitcase is a much more satisfying use of dollars than spending money on the outrageous fees many airlines charge for transporting a full-sized bike these days.
While the above reasons are good and valid, over the past few decades of riding and owning a wide range of folding bikes I've come to appreciate some of the less obvious features of these unique machines. Some of these aspects may be drawbacks in one context, yet prove to be a surprising advantage in another. For example, let's talk a bit about wheels.
Most folding bikes use 16" or 20" wheels. If you want a folding bike with larger wheels, Montague makes some fine ones or you could get something built with S and S couplers or the lovely Rinko Travel System. Larger wheels, as any 29er mountain biker will tell you, tend to hold speed better and cope better with rough conditions. The bigger wheels have more angular momentum when moving, more inertia when stopped. Smaller wheels accelerate and decelerate quicker. As someone whose ridden damn near every bike wheel size made, I sum it up this way: "Big wheels are fast, but smaller wheels are quick."
For urban riding, small wheels are fun. BMX riders know this. It's easier to flick the bike around. That's not to say you can't do long distances with smallish wheels, hell I rode both Paris-Brest-Paris and London-Edinburgh-London a Bike Friday New World Tourist and never felt hindered by the bicycle, but you note the advantages of nimbleness more in stop and go city riding. In some places, like urban Japan, Mini Velos are popular. While mini velos don't fold, they do take up less space than a full size bike. And mini velo fans will attest to the fun factor inherent in smaller wheels.
Another advantage of the folding bike in a city environment is theft resistance. Rather than leaving your bike locked up outside, you can fold the bike and take it indoors. Folding bikes fit in small spaces so they are a good choice for apartment dwellers.
While folding bikes aren't cargo bikes per-se, they are surprisingly good at hauling things like groceries. On every folding bike I've owned I've been able to sling a bag over the front handlebars for quick grocery runs. The space above the smaller wheels can be used for a load without really messing up the bike's handling.
Folding bikes tend to be adjustable in terms of sizing. Some, like my Bike Friday Companion, are very adjustable. This makes it a great bike if you want to buy one bike for a growing child or if you want to have a bike that is shared between a couple of different people. Folding bikes also tend to have a low step-over height which means they can be a good choice for folks with short legs or mobility issues that keep them off a diamond-framed bike.
Since folding bikes still aren't exactly common owning a folding bike means you'll get asked about it. If you're an bike enthusiastic extrovert like me, you'll see this as a plus. If you're a more private person, you should be aware of this as a potential downside of folding bike ownership. But in general bike-curious people tend to be good people so maybe getting asked about your nifty bike isn't too bad a thing.
For me, the main thing about folding bikes is that they are fun. Yes, they are practical, sporty, zippy and environmentally friendly but they are also just a great way to be out and about in the world. So even if you don't commute daily or travel that often, perhaps there's a place in your life for a folding bike.
Sunday, November 08, 2015
This map shows the Little Free Libraries within five miles of my home in Eugene. There are a bunch of them and this afternoon I went for a short bike ride to visit a few of the ones closest to me.
Partway through my journey, it started raining. I took shelter from the heaviest rain under a tree.
Some of the libraries are free-form exchanges and others, like this one in the Friendly Street Park, are more closely curated.
On this trip I visited seven of the little libraries and I managed to not acquire any books but I did donate a couple. It's a constant struggle for shelf space at our place.
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Christine and I completed the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge in our new home town of Eugene, Oregon. We found many fine places to coffeeneur and have many more yet to discover. For the record, here are our seven 2015 coffeeneuring rides.
1) Saturday October 3, 2015 - Sweet Life Patisserie - 3 miles
2) Saturday October 10, 2015 - Vero - 2.8 miles
3) Sunday October 11, 2015 - New Day Bakery and World Cafe - 2.2 miles
4) Saturday October 17, 2015 - Alton Baker Park - 7.4 miles
5) Sunday October 18, 2015 - Bagel Sphere - 2.4 miles
6) Saturday October 24, 2015 - The Glenwood Restaurant - 3.6 miles
7) Sunday November 1, 2015 - Noisette Pastry Kitchen - 2.3 miles
Each of the above entries link to the blog entry for that day with lots of pictures of the rides and the food and the beverages. Some of these places are so close to our home that we had to ride a bit extra to make sure we met the minimum 2 mile trip distance for each coffeeneuring trip. Eugene is certainly rich in coffeeneuring destinations!
Sunday, November 01, 2015
It was a damp morning in Eugene, but that did not deter us from our coffeeneuring ride.
We rolled down Broadway. In our neighborhood, Broadway is a quiet, bike-friendly street.
Our destination isn't far from home.
It's Noisette Pastry Kitchen, a bakery that Christine has been wanting to check out.
Christine good-naturedly puts up with my "we've got to take pictures of the food and drink" thing.
I had a wonderful goat-cheese biscuit and a slice of coffee cake. Christine had a savory brioche. We both had Earl Grey tea. It poured rain while we were eating, but it was only lightly drizzling by the time we headed out.
Noisette is only 0.9 miles from our home, so we went slighly further downtown to add a bit of mileage to make sure our total trip was long enough to meet the coffeeneuring distance rule.
We turned south at Kesey Plaza.
We rode through the little inter-building tunnel that connects 12th Avenue for bike traffic.
12th Avenue is another street that is optimized for bike travel. Most of the car traffic sticks to the faster one-ways of 11th or 13th.
The trees are quite beautiful this time of year.
We turn on Tyler Street.
The tree in our front yard is a deep red this time of year.
Here we are at home. This is our seventh coffeeneuring ride this year, so we've completed the 2015 challenge with a couple of weeks to spare. I'll tally up the miles, consolidate the reports and submit the paperwork to Coffeeneuring HQ back in DC.
We've had a lot of fun and found a bunch of great places for food and drink. Coffeeneuring is a great way to get to know a place.
Keep 'em rolling.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
For today's coffeeneuring adventure, Christine and I were in the mood for a substantial breakfast. My friend Hugh at Bike Friday had recommended the Glenwood Restaurant over by the University as being a fine breakfast place, so that's where we went.
Like so many places in Eugene, there was a bike rack right out front.
The Glenwood proved to be terrific. Great food at good prices. Prompt, friendly staff. Nice hot tea. Comfy surroundings. We're definitely adding the Glenwood to our list of favorite places.
After breakfast we wandered around for a bit.
We found a public bike repair stand. Remarkably, the tools had yet to be stolen.
We scoped out another potential future coffeeneuring location.
We found various victims of Eugene's aggressive bike part pilfering.
Of course, I had to stop at the Smith Family Bookstore. I already have more books than shelf space and no real room for more shelves. But I couldn't pass these two up. Christine is used to such behavior.
We rolled back home.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
It was another beautiful morning in the Pacific Northwest.
Today Christine and I rolled down Broadway to downtown Eugene.
Broadway has various traffic calming features which slow the car traffic down and makes the street better for bicycle riding and walking.
Today's coffeeneuring destination is Bagel Sphere. Not big on fancy atmosphere, but very good bagels and the folks who work there are friendly.
The bagels with ham and melted Swiss cheese are wonderful. Christine has tea and I have Mexican hot chocolate.
Of course there is handy bike parking. Most Eugene businesses have bike racks.
We roll back towards home.
Eugene has more outdoor cats than any place we've ever lived. Like us, they seem to prefer the low traffic roads.