Doesn’t Anyone In The Urban Cycling Movement Understand The Purpose Of A Folding Bike?


Sometimes I really wonder what on Earth I expect out of this ChainLink Forum crowd. Take a gander at a recent thread:

Rider with Brompton

Rider with Brompton

Bikeless in Chicago – Here until Feb 2

I am a photographer, DJ, but foremost a bicyclist.

I am in Chicago from Jan 3 to Feb 2 and I would like to soak up and document bicycle culture in the city.

I helped write the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights My last job was delivering food on my bicycle in Downtown LA. Before that I was shooting photos for a local newspaper and delivering the paper using a dutch cargo bike. I was paid by Bacardi to ride with 41 other people from NYC to LA 3 summers ago. I’m comfortable riding road bikes, track bikes, tall bikes, swing bikes, I just love bikes and most any bike community.

Originally I was supposed to stay in Wicker Park for the entire month, but my friend has to be in Nashville for family stuff (I found this out Jan 2). Currently I’m crashing at a friends house in Old Irving, but I will probably be crashing in Logan Square next week.

If anyone has an extra bike that I can use for a ride, a week, the month, or whatever it would be greatly appreciated. I did bring a U-lock!


Mikey Wally

Any questions, feel free to ask! And somehow over craigslist last night I got put in charge of a event at a bar Jan 26 in Old Irving. Bike party anyone?

OK. So a guy blows in from out-of-town and wants borrow a bike. I suppose he could also have asked to rent one, but given the fact that he is “crashing” in various people’s homes it might be too much to ask him to part with his precious beer money, right?

So the thread continues:

Reply by Julie Hochstadter on Friday
I have a folding bike you can borrow. Get in touch.

Another kind soul inquires about the size of bike he will need:

Reply by David Barish 13.9 on Friday
How tall are you? We might as well find a bike your size. I am 5’6″ with short legs. I have a mountain bike that is my size w/ fenders that you can use. Julie, bless her, is shorter than me.

Our intrepid bar fly writes back:

Reply by Mikey Wally on Friday
Hi David,
I’m 5’10”
Julie has leant me a foldie for the time being. She’s amazing.
I do plan to ride a ton so the mountain bike would make more sense.
Maybe we could meet this weekend or next week?
I will pm you my number

He gets yet another offer:

Reply by Christine (5.0) on Friday
I’m 5’11” so my bike (hybrid, not that interesting, has a rear rack) would probably suit you well. I use it every day, but if I go out of town for a weekend during your stay you are welcome to borrow it, I live in Logan Square.
Additionally, if you find yourself needing to borrow it during working hours, I work in River North and it just parks unused outside of the building all day.

But he finally alerts everyone that he has taken Julie up on her offer:

Reply by Mikey Wally on Saturday
just a little update, i met Julie and she hooked me up with a foldie. im about to head off the the FFR. thank you everyone for you’re help.

Well this is a heart warming story thus far. A fellow who is short on cash get to borrow a bike and even has a U-Lock to protect whatever he borrows. Of course a U-Lock might not work on some folder since a few a devoid of the necessary rear triangle, but because they fold you can always bring them indoors where they can be secured in a closet or whatever.

A few others make offers and then comes this information:

Reply by Mike Zumwalt on Saturday
Check into maybe they have a bike to loan for a month in exchange for a little publicity?

Here is an offer of the use of a bike for an entire month in exchange for some publicity. Geez, that sounds grand! It almost brings tears to my cynical eyes when I read about the largesse available in the Urban Cycling Community.

But the next reply speaks volumes:

Reply by Mikey Wally on Monday
so . . .
julie’s loaner bike was stolen. it was my fault.
it was on the front porch while i figured out the alarm system where i was couch surfing. i got distracted and someone took it.
100% my fault. many things could have lowered the risk of theft. but it was my choices that had it stolen. i looked around the neighborhood (irving) for hours. i posted it on the stolen registry.
p.s. julie knows and i’m working it out with her.
thanks for all the help trying to find a loaner bike. this is an amazing website and community.

Um… I am speechless.

Let’s Review The Basics Of Folding Bikes

For all the vaunted struggles of the Urban Cyclist there is an amazing level of naiveté in this group. These folks set up all sorts of websites to allow each other to report stolen bikes. They patrol flea markets in an effort to recover the bikes taken from their parking spaces by bandits using angle grinders. We suburbanites are probably not aware of the stress levels that result from trying to live in this asphalt jungle. Heck people in rural areas routinely leave their doors unlocked and probably never remove their keys from the family pickup truck. But city dwellers learn all too quickly that anything not nailed down will “walk”. And even things nailed down are likely to be lifted.

In Chicago it is not safe to ride Mass Transit buses and trains with your SmartPhone out in the open and in use. Young punks take great delight in separating you from your phone at the first stop possible and often at gun point. So for an old fart like me the first question that leaps to mind is:

“Why not use a folding bike?”

Folders (at least the better ones) collapse quickly into something that can be carried into just about any venue you happen to visit. You can bring them into restaurants and stash them under the table. You can carry them onto the commuter train bus and shove them onto the seat beside you or at least next to your legs on the floor. At work you can place your folder under your desk or in the hall closet. At the Museum of Science and Industry you can place it in a locker or check it at the coat storage area. And of course at home you simply fold it down into a small configuration and place it in the hall closet while you learn the security system of the house where you are crashing.

Clearly the subtlety of the folding bike is somewhat beyond the grasp of your average ChainLink Forum participant. This is at least the second theft of a folder I have read about on this forum. The previous one happened when a knucklehead chained his folder up in the communal hallway of his apartment building and someone used a device to break the wooden bannister slats and take the bike away.

I called it a minefield.© Steve Vance

I called it a minefield.
© Steve Vance

Folks, you really need to get savvy. What on Earth is wrong with your noodles. No wonder you go gaa-gaa when a photo op appears on Dearborn Street and you can waddle down to be photographed alongside dignitaries for the grand opening of a street whose bike lines are underwater every few feet on some blocks. Whose lanes are too narrow to provide “subjective safety” for some of the commuters who have since decided to forego its use. And who could forget the rather shoddy installation of a brand new buffered bike lane that looks like the one shown to the right?

I really need to consider becoming your stock broker and trying to relieve you of your retirement funds. But frankly where would be the challenge? A folding bike is supposed to be folded down and taken indoors. Capiche?

Yes, you can bring a folder in and have someone walk into your apartment while you are on vacation in Europe and rob you blind. Yes you can lock a folder up in your garage and have someone break in and steal it and all your other bikes. And most certainly you could try and place it in your storage locker in the basement of your home or apartment building and nevertheless get robbed.

But given that you live in an asphalt jungle and recognize the sticky fingers of your compadres why not make it difficult for them and bring it indoors with you? That is why they invented folders, so you can carry thing tiny thing along with you and keep an eye on it. And by-the-way these precautions are doubly important when you are borrowing an expensive bike that belongs to someone you just met. Sheesh!

No wonder this crowd’s eyes glaze over when people complain about hair brained maneuvers at intersections when the stop light is red or get angry when you suggest that they ought to ride with lights and reflective clothing at night. What is sorely lacking in this crowd is simple common sense!

That is all!