Bike Michiana

resources, news, observations and ideas about bicycling in the Michiana area

Using a Folding Bike Coupled with Pub Trans for Point-to-Point, Car-Free Travel

Posted by Henry Scott on August 21, 2008

One of my favorite things about bicycles is that they offer such a simple means to get around. In many ways, I feel the same about public transportation. Sure it takes a little longer to get from place to place, but it is just so easy and relaxing compared to driving. As an added bonus, I can read or sleep along the way. But, what can I do when pub trans can’t get me within walking distance of my destination? I recently bought a folding bike, and it seems that I’ve got a solution… at least for some destinations.

Many of our local buses have bike racks, but I’m not aware of any intercity pub trans out of Michiana that accommodates full-sized bicycles, unless they’re partially disassembled and boxed. This includes airlines, bus lines, Amtrak and the South Shore. In many cases, even when boxed and disassembled, taking a bike will incur a significant additional fee. Boxes for full-sized bikes are big and unwieldy; they’re not something you can carry with you while riding.

I frequently visit family in a Pennsylvanian town called North East (it is actually in northwestern PA), which is about 15 miles northeast from Erie — hence the name. Amtrak services Erie, which is great, but does not stop in North East. To make matters worse, the only west-bound return train leaves Erie at 1:30 AM — too late for me to feel comfortable asking for a ride.

However, I recently had a change of heart about folding bikes when I learned that they can be readily transported by Greyhound, Amtrak and even the South Shore. To be perfectly honest, I’ve always thought they were kinda silly (no offense intended to any aficionados out there!), but I decided to give it a try when I found I could get an entry-level model from a well-known company for ~$200.

I bought a Dahon Boarwalk S1. It only has one gear. It has a cantilever brake on the front and a coaster brake for the rear. It is not light-weight at 31.5 pounds (including kick stand, rear rack and fenders), but it is manageable in a $60 bag I bought for it.

It folds and unfolds quickly (supposedly those with more experience than I can do it only 15 seconds! I take closer to a minute.) And, most importantly, I find it quite decent to ride. It doesn’t even come close to the comfort and efficiency of my regular bikes, but for rides up to about 15 miles I won’t mind riding it at all — assuming I’m not in a hurry!

By all accounts, I look absolutely ridiculous riding this thing. My wife calls it my monkey bike ;). I should point out that for a couple hundred dollars more I could get one that is lighter, more adjustable for better fit, and multi-geared. Many people use these as their primary bikes and absolutely love them. There are high-end models suitable for serious touring.

I used mine for a business meeting in Cleveland last week via Greyhound, and it worked great! I rode it to the South Bend Regional Airport, folded it up, and had no problem putting it under the bus with the regular passenger luggage. When I got to Cleveland, I unfolded it, hopped on, and biked the nine miles to meet my colleagues.

I already have Amtrak tickets to and from Erie for Labor Day weekend, and look forward to riding the fifteen miles along the lake. It’s also occurred to me that I can use the folder for business trips I take to Argonne National Lab (outskirts of Chicago) by coupling it with the South Shore, Metra and biking the final five miles.

Here are a few pictures (note the cat for scale!):

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9 Responses to “Using a Folding Bike Coupled with Pub Trans for Point-to-Point, Car-Free Travel”

  1. Thirty five lbs is really heavy for a folding bike. Two other single speed folding bikes that are much lighter (and cheaper too) are the $179 E-Z Pack and the $189 Kent Superlite. Standard equipment on both the E-Z Pack and Superlite include a kickstand, carry rack and fenders. Best of all, both of these bikes weigh between 22-23 lbs so they’re much easier to carry aboard trains, buses, up/down stairs, etc.

  2. Henry Scott said

    I measured the weight of my Dahon S1 this morning: it is actually “only” 31.5 pounds, and I’ve edited the post accordingly. That weight is with the included rack, fenders and kick stand. Do the E-Z Pack and Kent Superlite weights include the add-ons? I ask because the Dahon Boardwalk S1 is typically advertised at 25.5 pounds — presumably that is a stripped-down version.

    Also, it is worth noting that the Superlite and E-Z Pack use smaller wheels than the Dahon S1. Before my purchase, I read a few user forums that recommended not going below 20″ wheels for tall riders (I’m 6’2″). I see the E-Z Pack has a max recommended height of 6′, but the Superlite goes up to 6’6″.

    In any event, I didn’t mean for this post to be a plug for the S1– just for folding bikes in general, and these may be perfect for some. At the price, it doesn’t seem one could go too far wrong! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Paul Taylor said

    I also have a Dahon folding bike. Mine is a 2007 Mu XL model. The same size as Henry’s but with a 24 speed drive train, head/tail lights, and a suspension seat-post.

    It is not as comfortable as either of my full-size bikes, but up to about 50 miles per day, it suites me just fine.

    These are really high quality, bikes who’s engineers have thought of everything.

    Henry got the canvas carrying bag, which will probably work well for him. I got an Air-porter, which is a semi-hard side suit case to carry my bike…I felt the need for that since I usually travel by air and know baggage clerks all too well. Technically, my air-porter is too large to check as regular baggage on an airline, but the check-in people are too harried to take the time to pull out a measuring tape, just so they can charge me for oversize luggage. (Weight restrictions are not an issue, unless I were to add extra stuff in my air-porter). I’ve flown with it 4 times, without incident.

    On a recent visit to Outpost Sports I noticed they had a folding bike on the sales-floor.

  4. Adam Bee said

    Yeah Outpost Sports really does seem to be at the vanguard in the utility bikes area. IIRC they have some dedicated commuter rigs as well?

  5. Adam Bee said

    Performance Bike has those Dahon Boardwalks on sale for $200 even right now.

  6. Henry Scott said

    Adam,

    You do remember correctly: Outpost now carries the Breezer line of commuter bikes which, IMHO, are ideal for most people who want a bike for comfortable, casual commuting.

  7. Jeff Nixa said

    Henry, thanks for another installment- fun to read of your travels.

    The quality and care of your reporting makes me wonder if you’d consider submitting this (or a version) to the _Tribune_ for a feature, or even a series? I’m certain that few Michiana residents have seen, heard or considered multi-stage commuting on a folding bike. If they saw how manageable and affordable it was, we may have more converts.

    One of our female Bike Week volunteers in recent years regularly commutes from the NNN to Bosch Corp. on a high-end (~900.) superlight folding bike. Don’t recall the manufacturer. I was startled at its small size…approximate to a fat briefcase, wheels and all, when folded. I’m certain that it weighed less than 20#…more like 15#.

    Wondering if studded ice tires are available for these? MTB tires? 🙂

  8. Scott Kelsey said

    Schwinn has a good folding bike for a decent price. check it out.
    http://www.schwinnbike.com/usa/eng/Products/Commuter/Details/1345-S9WOR-World-Folding

  9. robertexpr said

    Hey guys .. we at BGI are looking at bringing in an awareness about reducing emissions and contributing to the green evenironment and anit global warming campaigns. Hence if any of u guys can share a bit more about your exp with our employees it will be good. you can do it in our Chicago branch if that is fine with u. know about us at http://www.bgiworldwide.com. looking forward to hearing from one of you soon.

    robert

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