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Andrea’s Folding Bike Blog – Fold or Bust?

Week Beginning 22nd June

Well, I've had the folding bike for a week and a half now and I feel I'm able to draw some conclusions; before I do, though, I'm going to take a quick look at bikes on buses. "What?!", you say, "you can't take a bike on a bus." Actually, you can, although full size ones generally aren't permitted. The reasoning for this is pretty obvious – imagine trying to load up a bike as well as a wheelchair and a pushchair during a peak time journey. It just wouldn't work.

However, most bus companies permit the carriage of a folding bike if you put it in a bike bag. I was surprised to find that folding bikes don't tend to come with a bike bag. Seems a no-brainer when it's built to take onto other forms of transport. So, there's potentially an extra cost if you're going to use particular types of transport like buses and planes. I investigated what that cost might be. The cheapest bags I could find were between £35 and £50. More expensive types range from about £70 to just over £100. You need to make sure that the folded bike will actually fit in too as they are not a standard size. Some come with carry straps so you can sling the bag over your shoulder. This might be ok if you have a top end light weight folder but for the type I've been testing I'd worry about a hernia.

I wondered if I could get away with just using a bin bag to cover the bike given that the bus regulations don't stipulate a "proper" bike bag. Well, a standard bin bag is not big enough for this bike. I tried with a wheelie bin bag and, though I just about managed it there were holes in the bag and it made it even less easy to pick up and carry the bike. In a scenario where you arrive at the bus stop with little time to spare, it's easy enough to fold the bike quickly, but to fold it and get it into a bin bag just wouldn't be practicable especially if it was windy and/or raining. I did attempt to take photographs of my efforts but, frankly, it just looked like a bin bag, so not very exciting.

So, back to my conclusions about commuting with a folding bike. I feel I can recommend a folder to anyone who doesn't want a long distance cycle commute. My journey to either of my local rail stations is about 4 miles and that is about as far as I would want to travel on the bike for a single journey. There are a number of reasons for this. The profile of the journey is hilly and, whilst I've been pleased with the gears on the bike, there is one hill that really tests the lowest gear going up and the highest gear going down. On my own bike I can drop down further and go up higher and I feel that I am in control rather than the bike. The tyres are robust but I can't get away from the worry that they will be more susceptible to potholes in the road, particularly at speed. I must stress that's more about me than the bike, but one does need to have confidence in the machine.

Despite my reservations, there are many more positives than negatives to a folding bike. It is quick and easy to assemble and disassemble, which means your whole journey time isn't extended by having to build in lots of time for folding and unfolding. It fits easily onto busy trains when folded or, equally, can be put in the bike storage area fully assembled. It even fits in the back of my small car, allowing me to reduce my cycle commute if I need to. You can attach panniers or other carriers in the same way that you would with a full size bike. Rail stations have to comply with disability legislation so you don't have to negotiate steps as there are lifts and ramps in most large stations and you can use the disability barrier when going through automated ticket gates. It's about as easy as it could possibly be. If you usually use the train (particularly) and drive a short way to the station, give some consideration to using a folding bike instead. It's good for your health, it's good for traffic congestion and you might just like it!

Though I intend to hand the folder back to Chris I hope to continue blogging about my commute to work. I will be back on my own full size bike for some of it; car and train for other bits and probably the occasional bus ride. Watch this space…..