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Flashy Folds: It’s a bike, not a party trick

by Ted Johnson

My new pet peeve is flashy demonstrations of folding bikes.

Pet peeves creep up on you. You never see or hear something for the first time, and think, Now that’s going to become a pet peeve. More likely, it’s after a number of occurrences when you realize that you’ve acquired a new pet peeve.

Brompton, Dahon, Strida, and Bike Friday Folding Bikes

Our fleeting fleet of folders | Click to see them up close

It was a couple of months ago, when watching this video of a Dahon Vector X27h Folding bike, when I realized I was bugged.

I complained.

I’m familiar with the right way to fold a Dahon, I said. And in the video the fold sequence is done wrong, solely for the sake of flash. It’s a bike, not a party trick, I cried–typed, that is.

The guy in the video, Peter from NYCeWheels actually replied and apologized–apologized–explaining that his habits from Brompton folding bikes steered him astray from the proper Dahon folding sequence.

On top of that, the next time he did a Dahon video, peter made sure I knew that he got the fold right.

I felt like a jerk for picking on such a nice and responsive guy. But by then the pet peeve had set in.

We had access to three different folding bikes sent to us for review, plus my own Dahon. I decided to demonstrate how to fold each of these bikes, with no flash or showmanship whatsoever–the way the average user of would.

We’ve already reviewed and glorified the Brompton.

In the near future we will review the Bike Friday Tikit, and the Strida LT. Then we’ll follow up with some thoughts on how to evaluate which folding bike–if any–might be right for your commute.

Spoiler: It will have little to do with the time it takes to fold the bike.


Creative Commons License Modestly Rude by Rockit_Dogg is licensed under a Attribution (3.0).

 
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12 Responses to “Flashy Folds: It’s a bike, not a party trick”

  1. sygyzy says:

    Did you complain the comments or privately? I am interested in the exchange.

  2. Rob E. says:

    My favourite video on bike folding technique: http://youtu.be/uSPp6nniTM8

  3. Spencer says:

    I disagree. Part of the fun of owning a folding bike is exploiting the creativity and uniqueness of the bike–including flashy fold techniques. I own a Brompton, and it was painful to watch the 24 second fold. Have fun! Enjoy life! Be creative! Celebrate others’ creativity! Just a point of view from the other side of the fence.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      I would agree with you that part of the fun of owning a folding bike is getting creative with the fold. But if that’s the most important part, then it’s a party trick, not a bike.

  4. Thanks! I’m not in the market for a folder (reverse commute, so I can take my non-folding bike on the subway), but if I were, this video would be helpful in knowing what to expect in the “real world.”

  5. @Ted,

    Awesome video, I found myself snickering continuously as I watched myself and other “showmen” demonstrate our bikes. And I tend to agree with you that it is how you use a bike rather than how fast you fold it. On the other hand… :) … I love to fold my Brompton lightning fast! But I also love to ride it 150 miles and commute through the snow and slush of a NYC winter and fly to Oregon with it and ride up mountains with it. Most of the time my bike is unfolded, which is how I enjoy it most. Your video drives definitely the point home. By the way, congrats on creating a truly unique folding bike video (not an easy thing to do). Would love to get more involved with your blog by the way, awesome stuff.

    -Peter

    • Ted Johnson says:

      I never said I didn’t enjoy my own flashy fold.

      When I lived in the DC area, I used to do an extremely flamboyant unfold, where I would hold the bike in the air by it’s seat and thrust the bike forward. The frame would unfold and lock in place before the front wheel touched the ground. It probably saved me, say, two seconds. But occasionally I’d hear a bystander say, Wow!

      I ate it up.

      If you ride a bike for attention, then a folding bike overlaps with category of novelty bikes (including tall bikes, trick bikes, and art bikes) and I love that stuff. If having a little flash and ham in your commute keeps you out of your car, I won’t knock it.

  6. Russ Roca says:

    I disagree with your premise that just because you can fold a folding bike quickly means its reduced the bike to a party trick. Isn’t that the essence of a good folding bike? a quick and convenient fold? That would be akin to saying road bike manufacturers and riders talk a little too much about how lightweight and fast their bikes are.

    I only have one bike and its a Brompton and I use the bike for daily errands and do a fair bit of traveling and don’t carry a lock. I can break the bike down quickly and do that often because its second nature and not merely for showmanships sake.

    There have been several times when I’ve had to employ ostensibly flashy quick folds to get on a bus or full train that is about to take off without me. Is that showmanship or using it for its designed intent, its “usability.”

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say you have “fast fold” envy :)

    (Also, the busking Brompton person was part of a folding bike ride, where other folder people (Tikit, Dahon) were busking as well.)

    • Ted Johnson says:

      I disagree with your premise that just because you can fold a folding bike quickly means its reduced the bike to a party trick.

      Was that my premise?

      All of my fumbling folds were done in less than 30 seconds, and I think that’s a pretty good benchmark. Suppose you had a bike that you could fold in one second and stick it in your pocket, but the bike was a lousy ride and smelled so bad that your fellow bus passengers would gag. By your definition, it still satisfies the essence of a good folding bike. By my definition, it’s not very usable.

      I imagine that no matter how long I had a Brompton, I’d still be able to fold my Dahon faster. I also think my Dahon rides better. However, I envy the compact size of the Brompton fold; I envy that, when folded, I can wheel the Brompton around instead of having to carry it like a suitcase. There are commuting contexts where these factors would trump the benefits of the Dahon no matter how fast I could fold it. (See “Me and Mrs. Brompton.”) And in such commuting contexts, the Brompton would be the more usable bike.

  7. Dr. M says:

    Ted,

    I’m not even going to wade into the flashy-folding of foldies issue but wanted to say that I appreciated your video demo. Sort of what the rest of us can expect when it comes down to folding up our bicycles.
    I have a foldy that breaks down somewhere between your Dahon and the Bromptom. When I reviewed it while on the NYC Bike Path, I purposely did NOT demo folding it. There was just something a bit “huckster-ish” about doing that when there were so many other cool things to show on the bike.
    As someone else said, my foldy is seldom folded. It’s set up and ready to ride most of the time. It’s simply good to know it is ready to pack up for travel when I need it to be. Thanks again. Good post!

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