Friday, December 02, 2005

A funny thing happened on the way to answer a Craig's List Ad.

So I was thinking about buying…yes, another bicycle. Can you really have enough? I mean the avid fuel bunner needs their Hummer for pretending to go off-road, their sports car for showing off in town and their Ford Escort for errands to Wal-mart and picking up the kids from soccer practice. In the same fashion the cyclist needs the road bike, the mountain bike and the cruiser. Tell that to my landlord as I try and hide multiple bikes in various places not included in the rent agreement. Such as the two bikes in the hall, the mutant chopper in the basement and the tall bike upstairs in some supply closet we discovered. What’s one more? I needed one to go on errands and carry tools on a rack. So I did the usual searches for another used bike, hoping to find something rather cheap and could justify cluttering my small space even more. I’ve been very happy with Craig’s list and saw great deals on bikes in the neighborhood. EBay is another good source but much riskier when your shelling out money and can’t inspect the goods till that big cardboard box arrives. This guy Sonny was advertising a specialized rock hopper for a little over $120.00. I checked it out today, just on a whim…I mean it’s close by in the East Village…he keeps it outside and I can ride by and take a look. Sonny turns out to be a bike mechanic who’s lived in the city a long time and sold over 700 bikes. He is very precise and pays very close attention to detail. How often do you find a used bike owned by someone who trued the wheels twice and built them from scratch? The bike was a great deal, the frame was all stripped of paint, but that just makes excellent NYC camouflage. Sonny had put new parts all over the thing, which added up to, more than what he was selling the bike for. Then he starts inspecting my KHS fixed gear, which I had left with him while testing the mountain bike. Like a holistic doctor who can sense your alignments by touch, he quickly discovered some problems with my bike. He said he likes things to be right on a bike. By the end of our time together he had re-adjusted the front headset, re-aligned the handlebars, used duct tape to patch a small hole I had in my front tire and fine tuned my front brake pad. We got to talking about NYC bike culture and it turns out Sonny helps to sell fold-up bikes at this small space called Bfold
Brompton fold-up
On 13th street in the East Village, David Lam and Sonny sell really incredible fold up bikes by an English company called Brompton. This is a small space or what seemed like a boutique, which is set up by appointment only. If you are in the market for a fold-up and have $1,200 to spend these are the bikes for you. Not only do you get all the benefits of a bike that you can carry into an elevator, the bikes themselves are lightweight and fold up so efficiently you’d be on the go in no time. Sonny relayed some great examples about people who go on a date and don’t have to worry about locking up the bike or what to do when it’s time for your place or mine, not to mention this crazy fold-up contraption makes a great talking point. Also for the hot shot real-estate agent who needs to be in many places at once and then shows people apartments. Just pop in the handlebars, flick a few levers and your ready for that 5-floor walk up. No more dealing with that irate doorman or the ridiculousness at the airport when they charge you $75.00 to put a bike on the plane. I was hooked and judging by all the extra work Sonny did for me for free…these guys must give amazing customer service. Sonny was currently working on a unique wheel which is supper strong and reinforced, but is also a 6 volt generator which can power halogen lights. He hopes to start selling them on ebay soon. David and Sonny also sell:

Birdy fold ups and an even wilder ride the:

Mobiky Genius bike. Here is what a few people said about these: review of Mobiky

Oh did I mention Sonny also rode the bike with me to Williamsburg so I could get both my rides home. Nice!

In September, 2005, the NYTimes wrote an article on BFold in the Money and Business Section.

Title: SUNDAY MONEY: SPENDING; These Urban Cyclists Know When to Fold 'Em
By ANNE EISENBERG (NYT) 1389 words
Published: September 11, 2005

NEW JERSEY TRANSIT doesn't let riders wheel their bicycles onto trains during peak travel hours. But that's not a problem for Stacey Bhaerman, who on most weekday mornings catches a train to Manhattan from New Brunswick, N.J.
She just folds her red bicycle into a compact bundle the size of a small rolling suitcase and places it at her side. Then, at Pennsylvania Station, she flips the bike open for a quick spin downtown to Canal Street, where she works as a researcher for a labor union. ''It's a beautiful ride,'' she said. ''Sometimes I'll go around the block a few times when I get there because I don't want to get off.''

Ms. Bhaerman, who bought her folding bicycle earlier this year, has joined a growing fan club. These ever-lighter, more sophisticated bikes are increasingly visible on bike paths and city streets.

The model that she owns, a Brompton made in Britain, collapses in seconds and stows neatly on a seat or luggage rack. Curious strangers along her commute ask her about the bike so often that she is considering carrying a sign with answers to the most popular questions: ''Costs $1,000. Weighs 26 pounds. Folds up in no time.''

David Lam, a who sells Bromptons and other brands at Bfold, his Manhattan shop on East 13th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, says customers can choose from at least 300 versions, at prices ranging in general from about $650 to $2,100 for the bike and $100 to $300 for accessories like panniers, or baskets.

Mr. Lam divides the models into several categories. They include high-performance road bikes; mountain bikes, for tough terrains; and commuter bikes like the one Ms. Bhaerman uses. ''Those are the kind that are so lightweight you can pick them up with one hand, and nothing falls apart when you shake them,'' he said.

Small wheels are part of the magic that lets collapsible bikes compress into such neat packages, Mr. Lam said. The wheels on the Brompton, for example, have a 16-inch diameter, in contrast to the 27 inches typical of a standard bicycle.

But the bike delivers a fine ride, said Jonathan Bosley, an editor for ''The Charlie Rose Show'' who lives in Huntington, N.Y. He takes his collapsible bike along each morning on the Long Island Rail Road, then unpacks it at Penn Station to dart up to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue. The bike cost about $1,000, including an extension to make the seat higher. ''It handles fine,'' he said. ''I zip through traffic.''

Like Ms. Bhaerman, he is in no hurry to stop riding in the morning. ''I take it once around the park before going in,'' he said.

Mr. Bosley, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds, was a bit worried about his appearance on the low-slung bicycle. ''I'm a big guy, and I carry at least 20 to 30 pounds on my back when I'm biking,'' he said, ''so I thought I was going to look like a bear on a circus bike.'' But so far, he said, he has not encountered a single jeer.

Mischa Lampert, who lives in downtown Manhattan and is 6 feet tall, said her Brompton did attract attention, but in a good way. ''It's a real magnet for conversations,'' she said. ''It's like a dog or a baby -- everybody talks to you.''

While many commuters stow their collapsible bikes for a train ride, Peter Nurkse, an engineer at Sun Microsystems in Menlo Park, Calif., puts his folding bike into the trunk of his car each morning for the 45-mile drive to work from his home in Santa Cruz. ''Then I ride my bike at lunch hour,'' he said, typically on the bike path over the Dumbarton Bridge, which crosses San Francisco Bay. Before he began driving his own car to work, he was in a carpool, and the collapsible bike was no problem. ''I just dropped it in the trunk,'' he said. ''There was no need for a bike rack or any fuss.''

For many residents of small apartments, the appeal of collapsible bikes is their minimal storage requirements, along with the ease of folding them for elevators or stairwells. Carol Raskind, an advertising copywriter who lives on the Upper East Side, said she had always wanted to own a bicycle in the city but had worried about her limited storage space. ''Think about it,'' she said. ''Where are you going to put a bike in a small apartment? I don't want to live with one hanging from the ceiling.''

Ms. Raskind decided on a foldable bike and equipped it with panniers for grocery shopping. The total cost was about $1,200. ''When it rains, I just collapse it and get on the subway,'' she said. The bike has tiny, inconspicuous rollers attached to the rear rack. When the bike is folded, these wheels hit the ground and the bike is ready to roll. ''You can pull it like a dog,'' she said.

To people like Edward Rubeiz, a computer programmer who lives on the Upper West Side and works on Wall Street, a collapsible bike offers a convenient way to supplement a gym workout. Riding the bike lets him add ''about 300 calories to my daily diet, which is nice,'' he said. Mr. Rubeiz takes his bike down from his apartment on the third floor and opens it in the lobby for his ride downtown, on the bike path along the Hudson River. After a workout at a gym near his office and a shower, he heads for work, flips the bike shut and stores it under his desk.

Others, perhaps less motivated by the desire to exercise, choose collapsible bikes with motor attachments. Rupert Cebular, owner of NYCEwheels, a shop on York Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets, said he started adding folding bikes with electric motors to his stock about two years ago. The bikes must still be pedaled, but users can switch on the electricity and choose how much help they want from the motor -- when they are going uphill, for example, or are just too tired to pedal furiously after a long day.

HIS shop installs the motor, battery and control panel, or customers can buy a kit and do the job themselves. One popular bicycle in his shop, the Birdy, costs about $1,050 without a motor and $2,100 with one -- an electrical system called BionX. ''You can ride your Birdy to work using the electrical system and arrive without sweating,'' he said. ''Then, on the way home, you can turn it off and get some exercise.''

For those who want to add substantial electrical power, Mr. Cebular suggested the TidalForce M-750X. ''It's about as powerful as a folding bike gets,'' he said, adding that it could go 28 miles an hour.

Ron Oddo, who lives on the Upper West Side, rides a folding TidalForce. For many tasks, he said, it is handier than the motorcycle he also owns. ''My motorcycle is in a parking garage six blocks away,'' he said. ''With this, I come out of the apartment and I'm rolling.''

Mr. Oddo uses the bike, which cost about $3,300, with or without electricity, depending on the circumstances. ''I ride with some hard-core bicyclists who are half my age,'' he said, ''and sometimes I need something to even things up.''

Ms. Bhaerman, the researcher, said that she loved her collapsible bike but that it had one disadvantage. She can no longer wear a favorite pair of maroon slacks to work: the color clashes with the red bike. ''Now, when I start to buy clothing,'' she said, ''I have to think, 'Hmm, will this match?'''


Blogger peakguy said...

Ok, you are really starting to tempt me into getting a folding bike. 26 pounds is very doable. Now if it only came with anti-dooring and taxi deflectors shields, I'd be totally on board.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great read man.. always a pleasure.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mike- ummm. holy shit, have you seen this??? i have no idea what to say. -jamie

9:12 AM  
Blogger destquad said...

You can buy a Mobiky Genius for $699 with free shipping at

6:54 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'm a big fan of the Dahon 7 speed Folding Bike it's just over $300.

1:02 AM  
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