After thinking about it for more than a year, I finally bought a folding bike. It is a Brompton, probably the best made folding bike in existence, though Bike Fridays seemed pretty good too. I love it, love it, love it.
I’ve only taken one trip with it so far, from Reno to Sacramento and back on Amtrak, and it was a real pleasure. It tucked into the baggage shelf just fine. It folds down to the size of a medium suitcase, so works well for train, bus or plane (at least on Southwest, which is all I fly anyway). I’m going to fly with it for the first time in January, part of a trip to San Luis Obispo for Contra Carnivale. The rest of the trip is on train.
It was great to have a bike while in Sacramento. I rode the American River Parkway one afternoon, got to the conference I was attending (Safe Routes) on light rail and riding, and rode to dinner twice and the grocery store once. I’ve taken my road bike to Sacramento and even San Francisco before, but always had to use the bus to Sacramento because the only way to take full bikes on the Amtrak California Zephyr is to box them.
I’ve ridden a lot around Carson City, and everywhere I go I get compliments or at least comments, which was rarely true on my road bike. Kids especially think the bike is cool, and many ask me if they can ride it.
Though I test drove the bike for a couple of hours last summer, I was unsure about how different it would feel and handle from my road bike. My road bike is a 1971 Motobecane Grand Touring (made in France, 10 speeds, classic steel frame). The weight is not much different, and it doesn’t really handle much different. I lose a little power due to the small 16 inch wheels, and a little to a more upright riding position, but not much. Handling is a bit looser. not a bike to ride hands-free, but it tracks well. And it has fenders and wider tires, so it was no problem to ride it in a few inches of snow this morning.
I bought the bike from Channell Wasson in Palo Alto, who used to be the only US dealer, and the bike is made by Brompton in London, England. Channell spent about four hours with me talking about Bromptons and bikes in general, and I’d recommend him to anyone.