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  1. #1
    Man About Town eff-J's Avatar
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    It's my understanding that, in more transportationally-enlightened places, folders are fairly common. Of course, that's not yet the case here in the states. But some recent threads here got me wondering. Consider the following:

    • US-based Dahon, the largest maker of folders on the planet, is selling more bikes lately than ever before.
    • Well-known LBS brands like Specialized and Trek are getting into the folder game.
    • Regular retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have recently started offering folding/telescoping bikes.


    Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but it looks like it might all be adding up to something. Are folders on the verge of changing, in the American conciousness, from just a kooky niche product out of a SkyMall catalog to a normal and viable option in bike purchasing?

    And, if folders do start to make inroads (so to speak), will it only be as mountain bikes ("fit 'em in your trunk--no rack required!), and kid's bikes ("grows along with your child!")? Most people here think of bicycles as either toys or sporting equipment. Since folders originally sprang from the commuting mind-set, and since they show their merits so well on public transit, can they even be successful in a society that doesn't consider bikes to be real, adult transportation in the first place, and that only has a good public transit infrastructure in a few areas?

    I don't know... just sort of thinking out loud here.

  2. #2
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    I think even if they are more readily accepted at first as mountain bikes and for children it will in time lead to a wider acceptance as viable transport options when used in concert with public transport. I think their utility will be readily apparent to anyone with half a brain.

  3. #3
    2 Wheel Junkie
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    I ride my folder (Dahon Speed 8) at the beach regularly and I run in other people with folders. Just today I was biking around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and ran into a person on a Bike Friday. A few weeks ago I saw a dad and son riding a tandem folder. But yeah, I do notice that folders are more popular in areas with subways as a form of transportation. As for being in Los Angeles, it's not as common.

  4. #4
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    When I travelled in the UK, folders were fairly common. While still vastly outnumbered by "normal" bikes, I saw folders in London numerous times every day. Part of the reason is that many people don't own cars. Cyclists often ride their bikes to and from the public tranist stop and fold them while on the bus or train. I saw all kinds of people on folders, including business types in three piece suits. There are at least a couple of magazines that cater largely to folder riders (A to B and Velo Vision) and there is a "Folder Society" as well.

    Re: the USA. Even the major oil crisis that I'm old enough to remember didn't shake us out of our cars and onto public transit, so that part of the equation probably doesn't add up to much. And at big events like Bike Virginia, a folder is much, much more of a novelty (if that's the right word) than, say, a recumbent. However, I do think folders are beginning to make a small dent. I spoke with a rep from Bike Friday yesterday. He said last year was one of their best ever, and they are expecting strong sales this year as well. Having said that, my understanding is that something like 12 million bikes are sold in the USA every year (most of them dept. store cheapies). Out of that number, I'm told Bike Friday's sales are probably in the low thousands. It would be interesting to know Dahon's numbers.
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  5. #5
    EmperorNorton II norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by james Haury
    I think even if they are more readily accepted at first as mountain bikes and for children it will in time lead to a wider acceptance as viable transport options when used in concert with public transport. I think their utility will be readily apparent to anyone with half a brain.

    I resemble that remark.....About a year ago I got back into biking because a tall young man effortlessly, one-handedly, hoisted a unique bicycle onto the bike rack of my transit bus....It looked like a BMX bike with extended seat & handle posts....Turned out to be a Swift Folder...As he extolled its many virtues, Mr. Toad (me) began to murmur, "....Must have one....."

    I ended up getting a Dahon Helios SL (superlight)....17 #s...NOT soaking wet!....I my baby, so strive to protect her from the rude elements.....Of course I don't always succeed, but my baby doesn't mind.....My baby me!

  6. #6
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    I own a recumbent trike and have just ordered a Dahon Speed8. I would not expected either to become popular here in Utah in the near future. The majority of cyclists that I see on the road are young males and second young females. There is a social status that goes with their bike. It is having a "right" bike that would seem most important among those that ride a lot.

    Probably most bikes in Utah are sitting in someone's garage rarely used. They drive to the nearest bike shop or box store, and pick from what's available. As floor space is limited, these stores are unlikely to have a folder, recumbent or trike. Thrown-back, one-speed, comfort bikes seem to be in greater favor.

    The exception here seems to be folks that buy a folder to take on a boat or camping vehicle, both niche markets.

    I went into the local bike store that sells Specialized as asked if they would carry the Specialized folder. They had never heard of it and could not even find it in their catalog.

    Out in the middle of the country, we are not near any tipping points that I can see.

    Regards,

    Gary

  7. #7
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    Some tidbits...

    Last year, Bike Friday announced that they had sold their 10,000th bike after 10 years in business.
    Dahon announced that their sales in 2004 were 230,000 units.
    Dahon manufactures the the Trek and Specialized folding bicycles.

    I agree that in middle America, folders have a ways to go. But in urban areas eff-J may be right. I have a friend with a Dahon Helios (http://www.dahon.com/heliosp8.htm) in NY and she says that folders are all the rage. She says she is constantly being stopped on the street by people asking about her bike. She lent it to a friend in Boston and the same thing happened.

    Imagine being considered "cool" for riding a folding bike.

  8. #8
    Senior Member MrEWorm's Avatar
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    In Milwaukee, 1972, I owned two Peugeot folding bicycles. They were just right for apartment living. They had hand brakes and had a 3 speed shifter. We had a baby seat mounted on one of them. I bought the bikes from a discount store, Treasure Island which was along the lines of a K-Mart.
    I thought at the time that they were a great idea and would really catch on. I guess that I was just 3 decades early.

  9. #9
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    In the UK the main reason for train/bike combo commuting is the lack of parking places in some cities. Many riders do have cars but don't or can't use them for commuting.

  10. #10
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    Interesting. In NYC a lot of people skip the car altogether. Renting a parking space can be more expensive than an apartment in a lot of other places.
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  11. #11
    www.getafolder.com wpflem's Avatar
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    I'm counting on it. That's why I jumped in and set up a folder speciality shop this year. I see folders as a big part of the answer to promoting utilitarian cycling.

    I called Dahon this week, they assured me that they are getting in a healthy supply for dealers this year, so the future looks good.
    Celebrating Bicycling
    The Past, Present, and Future

    http://www.sfbikes.com or http://www.getafolder.com/

  12. #12
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wpflem
    I'm counting on it. That's why I jumped in and set up a folder speciality shop this year. I see folders as a big part of the answer to promoting utilitarian cycling.

    I called Dahon this week, they assured me that they are getting in a healthy supply for dealers this year, so the future looks good.
    Kool! Good luck!!!
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wpflem
    I'm counting on it. That's why I jumped in and set up a folder speciality shop this year. I see folders as a big part of the answer to promoting utilitarian cycling.

    I called Dahon this week, they assured me that they are getting in a healthy supply for dealers this year, so the future looks good.

    I too hope that you do well. Santa Fe is a bit more open than Salt Lake City so it might work out well. Things are so spread out in the west that I think it is hard for any but already established ideas to take hold.

    I ordered my Dahon from California. There were two Dahon "dealers" listed for this area. One was a bike shop that did not have any on the floor. The other was a camping-RV store that only carried Boardwalks that had evidently never enjoyed the care of an actual bike mechanic. They were functionally unrideable. It makes a big difference to have good bikes available to ride. Never-the-less I am very happy with the Speed 8 that I bought from Gaerland's of Squaw Valley.

    I ordered it with a 38 tooth chain ring and Gaerland's own "roller kit" that helps keep the chain on the smaller chain ring. That gearing would be too low for someone living in flat country but works well for me so far, given that I live in a place with few level rides.

    Gary
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  14. #14
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    There are a significant number of Bike Fridays in my area (Morgan Hill, south of San Francisco Bay), although still a minority compared to conventional bikes. I Haven't seen too many Dahons. I had a 2003 Dahon Speedpro for awhile and liked it. I sold it and now I miss it so I've ordered a 2005 Helios SL.
    Another point about coolness: kids got pretty excited about the Speedpro. I had one offer to trade me his BMX bike for it. His enthusiasm was dampened when I pointed out I wasn't sure the wheels could handle it if he bounced it up and down curbs.
    I too would love to see folders catch on as utilitarian bikes.

  15. #15
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by norton
    I resemble that remark.....About a year ago I got back into biking because a tall young man effortlessly, one-handedly, hoisted a unique bicycle onto the bike rack of my transit bus....It looked like a BMX bike with extended seat & handle posts....Turned out to be a Swift Folder...As he extolled its many virtues, Mr. Toad (me) began to murmur, "....Must have one....."

    I ended up getting a Dahon Helios SL (superlight)....17 #s...NOT soaking wet!....I my baby, so strive to protect her from the rude elements.....Of course I don't always succeed, but my baby doesn't mind.....My baby me!
    Hey! I think I ran into the guy with the Swift folder just the other day! I was getting off the M40 bus at the Haigis Mall at UMass... he was getting on. I was incredibly excited to see a folding bike. Very cool. I'm not particularly obsessed with folders - I'm into touring bikes and lugged steel old school stuff, generally - but folders are just really nifty contraptions. I guess I'm just an equal-opportunity bike appreciator!

    If you ever see a guy with a blue Miyata and green Jandd panniers, or if I get on your bus, give me a wave! Which route did you/do you drive?

  16. #16
    www.getafolder.com wpflem's Avatar
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    Maybe, Dahon USA can't seem to get the bikes in fast enough to satisfy demand.
    Celebrating Bicycling
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    http://www.sfbikes.com or http://www.getafolder.com/

  17. #17
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    Don't worry about folders and other collapsable bikes catching on here in the U.S. and the U.K. My experience is when cars are priced out of the average joe's reach or gas/petrol is not cheap anymore, people are very quick to adopt new ways of coping in their own little world and "vote" with the 2 most reliable ways available to them. They always do so with: 1. their wallet or pocketbook, or 2. with their feet. Trust me on this account.

  18. #18
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    Nope. I think there's a lot of potential. With gas prices going up and people wanting to use public transportation more and also wanting to bike, I think more people are looking into folders. I get a lot of people these days asking about my Bike Friday.
    Goooooooooooooo OPEC!

    Koffee

  19. #19
    Man About Town eff-J's Avatar
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    Wow. I hadn't checked on this message board for many months, and this thread is still goin'!

    Anyway, I'm not quite so sure if folders will catch on due to an increased interest in alternative transportation. That is, more people getting bicycles because their car is becoming too expensive. We 'merkins love our cars to the point of ridiculousness, sadly. Couple that with our tenacious unwillingness to get any exercise, and, well... here's hoping you're right anyway, Koffee.

    But I do think it's possible that people here in the states who already are bicyclists, or are about to become one, are becoming increasingly aware that A) folder exist, and B) they're an alternative to rigid bikes that's worth considering.

    So, while we might not see an increase in the total number of bikes out there, I certainly think we could see an increase in the percentage of folders out of that total.

    Anyway, I'm slowly seeing more of them around here in Nashville. Last fall I spotted exactly one other folder rider. But just in the past couple of weeks I've seen a lady on a nice-looking Bike Friday, and someone else on what looked like some sort of Dahon.

    And, like most of you guys, I'm always getting positive comments on my Speed P8. It's quite the conversation-starter on the elevator, that's for sure. Now if we could just get the bike shops to stock the dang things!

  20. #20
    Hauja
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    Hey! some of us know what a merkin is, cut it out.If you call someone a Merkin and they look it up the next time they see you they will be P.o'd. Ii might occur to you that it will not win any freinds for cycling.
    Last edited by James H Haury; 05-20-05 at 08:30 PM.

  21. #21
    Life in Mono
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    As a Brit I was amused by the term 'merkin, and also confused by the reaction to using it - for other Brits here is a definition Si http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/merkin.htm

  22. #22
    Man About Town eff-J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James H Haury
    If you call someone a Merkin and they look it up the next time they see you they will be P.o'd. Ii might occur to you that it will not win any freinds for cycling.
    I didn't call anyone a merkin. The word I used was 'merkin.

    Note the apostrophe. Big difference.

  23. #23
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    USA...fad fanatic. I say it will get big.

  24. #24
    Senior Member af895's Avatar
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    It's a shame people don't know more about folders but perhaps they just don't need them.

    Full size folders that look pretty much like normal bikes aside, I love the look of a 20" Airnimal Rhino or KHS F20.

    I may not be the cutting edge of cool at 29 years old, but I think those bikes look pretty bad-a$$.

    http://www.airnimal.com/Rhino_XT.php
    http://6url.com/JWM



    Chris



    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Mc
    I own a recumbent trike and have just ordered a Dahon Speed8. I would not expected either to become popular here in Utah in the near future. The majority of cyclists that I see on the road are young males and second young females. There is a social status that goes with their bike. It is having a "right" bike that would seem most important among those that ride a lot.

    Probably most bikes in Utah are sitting in someone's garage rarely used. They drive to the nearest bike shop or box store, and pick from what's available. As floor space is limited, these stores are unlikely to have a folder, recumbent or trike. Thrown-back, one-speed, comfort bikes seem to be in greater favor.

    The exception here seems to be folks that buy a folder to take on a boat or camping vehicle, both niche markets.

    I went into the local bike store that sells Specialized as asked if they would carry the Specialized folder. They had never heard of it and could not even find it in their catalog.

    Out in the middle of the country, we are not near any tipping points that I can see.

    Regards,

    Gary

  25. #25
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    Hi, just wanted to add in how the status is over here (Bergen, Norway). I see some of you talk about getting funny looks, mostly interested smiles, but some skewed stares.. Well it's somewhat of the opposite here.. I've observed with some amount of curiosity how it's become trendy, yes indeed hip, with these folders in the urban areas over here. Among 'rad' students it can be classified as a 'thing' right now, I see plenty of them riding around on various folder. Admittedly it's still a vast minority, and other than young adults I don't see too many, but it certainly is interesting to see it become a trendy way of transportation.

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