Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

17 February 2011

Into The Fold Again?

Lately I've been debating to myself whether I want to get a Brompton (when I have the money, of course!).  On one hand, there are ways I could use a folding bike.  And most Brompton owners seem happy with their machines.

On the other hand, I have had one folding bike, which I sold within a year because I didn't like it.  That was a Dahon model with a five-speed internally-geared Sturmey Archer hub.  It's the only bike I've ever owned that felt both squishy and harsh at the same time.  On top of that, the quality didn't seem very good and there were a bunch of proprietary parts.  Hal at Habitat says that the Brompton has even more of them.  

Perhaps the folding bike I'd really want was made more than forty years ago:

Yes, it was by none other than Rene Herse, who is shown with his creation in the July 1970 issue of Bicycling!

Don't you just love those knickers he's wearing?


  1. Yes, those knickers are great!

    One of these days when I have "the money" I'd love to get a folding bike as well. I've thought about Brompton, but I have some of the same issues you have.

    I actually did use a Brompton extensively once, during a three week cross-country train trip I borrowed my friends Brompton. I liked it mostly, especially the folding and convenience aspect. However, the ride was a bit squishy due to the rear wheel suspension system. It felt like if I hit a hard enough bump the rear wheel would somehow bounce up and get in the folded position, which would lead to a disastrous outcome. And it was fine for few mile jaunts, but when I had to ride it longer, like 10 miles, it felt like a slog.

    Now I know that there are plenty of folk who have used it for longer distances. Todd from Clever Cycle here in Portland (a Brompton dealer) used his Brompton to tour the Pacific Coast:

    And then there's Bike Friday. I never really liked how they looked, and they are not as easily foldable as Brompton, but some people really like them. (Both Brompton and Bike Friday feel like they have a cult of ownership, something Dahon probably wishes they had.)

    Then there's the old Raleigh Twenty. Not the best folder as well, but I know some folks really really like them. And you can find 'em cheap, last time I saw one on CL was for $100. Maybe I should scoop one up next time...

  2. Yes, they are great! He can move directly from his bike to the golf course with no change of "kit" !

  3. I'll admit to being curious about the Dahons that were at REI, but I'd be inclined to hold out for a Moulton if I were seriously interested in a folder. A REAL Moulton, not one of the Raleigh knockoffs.

  4. Adventure: Thank you for relating your experience with the Brompton. The Raleigh Twenty may indeed still be one of the best folding bikes around. But if I were to buy a folder, I'd want something lighter and that would fold smaller, so I could use it for travel.

    BTW: Last year, I saw a Twenty that looked like it had been sitting in a basement for the previous forty years. The owner of the vintage/retro shop where I saw it wanted 400 dollars.

    Steve: Wouldn't we all love to have a real Moulton? That may be the only folder (besides the Twenty) that has any appeal to people who don't want a folding bike per se.

    Paddy Anne: Fore! I've seen bike-and-swim and bike-and-hike wear. But bike-and-golf togs? Now there's a concept!