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A One Year Journey to a Folding Bike: Part One

Over a year ago, I started looking into folding bikes. Originally, I wanted something super small and easy to transport on buses, subways, airplanes, and in trunks of cars. The nature of a folding bike meant it wouldn't take up too much space in my house either.

I decided to start at the top and see what were the lightest folding bikes around. I found the Allen Ultra 1. Pure carbon fiber, 20 speeds, and folds up quite well. At 10.5 KG, it's ultra-light. At roughly $5,000, it's the definition of the top end.

Allen Ultra 1

One day when riding through Newton Center, my partner and I stopped at Harris Cyclery. They have a ton of Brompton's sitting in their window. Brompton's are very nice bikes. Very intelligent design in folding mechanism, robust materials which last forever, and a community which loves to help others. They're highly customized to what you want, colors, accessories, gears, features, etc. In fact, when ordering one, the first thing one does is to "Build a Brompton". They are rather expensive, but are complete bikes ready for the long haul. However, after riding them around for a few demo rides, I was less and less impressed. However, Harris Cyclery were experts in Brompton's and talked about power needs of the modern rider. This started a digression into power generating hubs and what I could fit into a folding bike, given the sizes were just smaller across the board.


These ideas percolated a bit until I found Montague's at Warm Planet Bikes in San Francisco. Montague bikes are full-sized 700cc wheeled bikes. They ride like full-size bikes, can take all the common racks, bags, and other accessories, and the dynamo hub power generation options are more because it's a full sized 700cc wheel. After seriously considering buying one, the reality is that the Montague is a great bike, but it's a full-sized bike. While it can fold, it still consumes more real estate than I planned to need. While at Warm Planet, I saw my first Strida.

Strida C1

I loved the contrarian look, the simplicity of the bike, and the way it folded into a stalk which could be pushed along like a rolling cane. And they made a carbon fiber model for ultimate portability. The C1 weighs 8.5 KG. This is the lightest folding bike I've found yet. I did manage to find a place which sells them, and they quoted around $3,500 for the C1. More than I wanted to spend, but riding the lesser models was fun and became my top choice for a long time.

By this time, my requirements list for a folding bike was:

  1. Less than $2,000 with all parts installed.
  2. Not full-size wheels (700cc).
  3. Can fit into a large suitcase for airline travel.
  4. Folds and locks relatively fast, say in under 30 seconds.
  5. Can accommodate a dynamo hub for power generation (lights and smartphone).
  6. Has a local bike shop which sells and services the bike.

Stay tuned for Part Two.