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  1. #1
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    My Folding Bike Commute FAQ

    I wrote this up because people keep asking me questions, though I enjoy answering...note locations and acronyms (SEPTA) are Philadelphia-centric.

    Q: Is that a folding bike? It looks complicated.
    A: Yes, it's a folding bike! But it's not much more complicated than a regular
    bike; just a couple of hinges, folding pedals, and smaller wheels.

    Q: How far do you ride?
    A: 8.5 miles round trip biking each day. I ride 1 mile to 30th St. Station
    in Philly, take a 30 minute Amtrak train to Paoli, then ride about 3 miles
    downhill to work. Reverse that to go home, except the downhill is now a
    fairly tough uphill.

    Q: How long does it take you?
    A: In the morning, about 60 minutes from home to sitting in my office chair.
    In the evening, it's about 75 minutes. When I drive, it's 45 minutes in
    the morning (at 6:30 AM!) and anywhere from 55 to 90 minutes in the evening.
    But I get an hour of reading and relaxing each day on the train instead of
    'wasted' time driving.

    Q: You're allowed to take the bike on the train?
    A: Yes. Regular-sized bikes are allowed on SEPTA off-peak only. Folding bikes
    are allowed on any SEPTA or Amtrak train, within certain limits as posted
    on their web site. Amtrak only allows folding bikes, no full-size bikes.

    Q: Why are you doing this? Why not drive?
    A: Cycling is fun. I can use the exercise. I enjoy reading on the train.
    I like avoiding Friday traffic on the Schuylkill (I-76) and anytime there
    is bad traffic. I'm concerned about traffic congestion, the environment,
    and scarce oil resources. And I do have a car and drive, but prefer to drive less.

    Q: Don't you get sweaty?
    A: In the morning it is cooler, and I go slower and most of my ride is downhill,
    so no. In the afternoon yes, due to the uphill, but I'm on my way home anyway.

    Q: What do you do when it rains?
    A: I get wet. Actually, if the forecast is rain then I drive or take the
    train+bus instead of biking.

    Q: What about when it's dark?
    A: I have blinking lights for dawn/dusk, but I will probably not bike
    from November thru February when it's fully dark during my commute time.

    Q: What if you break down?
    A: Worst case I have to walk 1 1/2 miles either to Paoli station
    or to work. There is a bike shop right next to the Paoli station as
    well!

    Q: Isn't biking dangerous? Aren't you afraid of getting hit by cars?
    A: I bike safely. Be visible, be predictable, follow traffic laws. I always
    wear a helmet. Most of my route has low traffic. I do not believe my
    commute is particularly dangerous.

    Q: You must save a lot of money since you're not buying any gas!
    A: The train actually costs a little more than gas, but that's only part
    of the story. Every day that I bike+train, I save 2.2 gallons of gas, or $6.75
    at today's prices. Driving costs about 40 cents per mile overall,
    so for my 53 mile commute that's about $21. Amtrak costs $10.80 round
    trip (with AAA discount), and with bike, maintenance, and other costs I'm
    saving a few dollars per day all together. But I'd rather spend my
    dollars on bikes and transit rather than on gas and car repairs.

    Q: Why don't you take the cheaper SEPTA instead of Amtrak?
    A: SEPTA has no express trains in the reverse-commute direction, so it
    takes almost 20 minutes longer each way, and is not competitive
    with driving time-wise. However, I have been and will continue to use
    SEPTA for many of my train commutes when I don't use my bike.

    Q: What kind of bike is it? Where did you get the bike? How much?
    A: I ride a Downtube IXNS from www.downtube.com; I bought it on ebay for
    about $250. Downtube sells several different models direct from $300 to
    $500. Downtube is local to Philadelphia (Bensalem). There are quite a
    few companies making folding bikes. Dahon is the largest, with maybe
    20 different models to choose from. The Brompton (from the UK) is very
    popular, but expensive. Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia probably has the
    best local selection of folding bikes.

  2. #2
    Neat - w/ ice on the side dalmore's Avatar
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    Folding bikes are usually conversation magnets in my experience too. If I were single and wanted to meet people, I'd definitely take the folder shopping.

    Regarding: Q: What if you break down?
    It's rare. Along the lines of your car breaking down only cheaper cause I don't have to call a tow truck. Flat tires are a little more frequent but with practice they are easy to fix. Kinda like having to stop for gas when you didn't plan for it. Happens but its 5-10 minutes of delay.
    Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more. Bark less.

    Change you can believe in - Bigfoot Nessie 08

  3. #3
    Banned. Ms. Tude's Avatar
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    I have a folder --- and a Hummer to boot. There is no other bike like it in the city and I'm asked lots of questions about it where ever I go. But being an usual bike has it's drawbacks too ---- have had lots of hungry stares at it by some not so savory characters!

  4. #4
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Q: Isn't harder to pedal with those small wheels?

    A: Gears make-up the difference.

    Q: No that can't be. Isn't it harder, really?

    A: Did you fail fractions in grade school?
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy
    I do not want to be associated with the kind of riders that come through my neck of the woods on weekends, dressed in superhero costumes
    Do they wear capes?
    ---

    http://www.cycopaths.net/

  5. #5
    Member phays's Avatar
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    No really, isn't it harder?

    Obviously the gear ratios are adjusted, but I swear I notice a rolling resistance/bump sensitivity in the 26" to 700c transition, and that turned me off folding bikes. You haven't any choice with the train and such, I'm just curious.

  6. #6
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phays
    No really, isn't it harder?

    Obviously the gear ratios are adjusted, but I swear I notice a rolling resistance/bump sensitivity in the 26" to 700c transition, and that turned me off folding bikes. You haven't any choice with the train and such, I'm just curious.
    Tire width makes a huge difference in rolling resistance, so if you are comparing 35mm 26" (heavy to boot due to being suitable for drops) to 25mm 700c, the difference you feel won't be wheel diameter related.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by godspiral
    Tire width makes a huge difference in rolling resistance, so if you are comparing 35mm 26" (heavy to boot due to being suitable for drops) to 25mm 700c, the difference you feel won't be wheel diameter related.
    My folder does feel more sluggish than my hybrid. My normal bike (Giant Cypress DX) has 700x40 at 70psi,
    and the folder is 20x1.5 at 60psi. Less rotational inertia though, so I feel quicker off a start, but otherwise.... hey it's only 3 miles.

  8. #8
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    Q: You must save a lot of money since you're not buying any gas!
    In general I find keeping a bike going to be more expensive than mass transit. It only works out if you add the cost of a Gym membership.

    Q: How is the ride?
    Small wheels, and maybe smaller wheel base, result in a rougher ride. Stability is often not as good.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  9. #9
    Senior Member thdave's Avatar
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    I have a folder. I love it for camping. I've commuted on it twice, just to check some repairs I did on it. It worked fine. I don't feel extra resistance, but I'm not that sensitive to it.
    Cleveland, OH
    Breezer fan

  10. #10
    Member phays's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by godspiral
    Tire width makes a huge difference in rolling resistance, so if you are comparing 35mm 26" (heavy to boot due to being suitable for drops) to 25mm 700c, the difference you feel won't be wheel diameter related.
    Fair enough. My 26" wheels were knobby MTB tires, I'm thinking like 1 1/8" wide but I don't remember precisely.

    I'm interested in knowing what really happens as wheels shrink--someone pointed out angular inertia which will be an energy sink when starting, but may also help "roll over" stuff. Too there is the apparent size of small dips in the road, but I don't know how different the road/tire contact area is between a small wheel and a 700c wheel. Surely handling and turning are strongly affected too.

  11. #11
    Tornado of Teeth
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    I love my downtube folder. As the wheels shrink you just have a lower top speed possibility without putting an unusually small cog on the freewheel in back (probably have to be custom made), or a really large one up front. I did the calculations on Sheldon's gear range calculator and it's true, but as far as acceleration is concerned, I don't feel much of a difference. As for sensitivity of ride, the Thudbuster and front suspension on my folder take care of that.

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