finally got a folder

I really wanted to get a folding bike for commuting so that I could take it on the MBTA when it rains, but I was too heavy until recently. Once I got in range, I looked at BikeFriday (happened to be in Eugene, where the factory is) and also Xootr Swift since I know the co-founder.

I travel a fair amount and have spent upwards of $200 renting bikes this past year in various cities. Pulled the trigger on a Swift after finding a handsome Craigslist deal that came with the travel suitcase and some nifty quick-release pedals.

The great thing about a folder is that you can take it on the MBTA during rush hour without any hassle. Here it is on the commuter rail heading home at the end of the day. It was funny – I was wheeling it down the platform when the conductor stopped me to say “hey buddy no bikes” but then I folded it on the spot and he waved me on. (folding takes only five seconds)

The guy I bought it from was 6’4″, but remarkably the only change I had to make was getting a shorter stem (he had an extended one). Even the extended one isn’t that bad. The only real problem I’ve had is attaching a water bottle holder since the frame has no braze-ons, but the following hack seems to work OK, lashing a standard cage to the riser with zip ties and rubber spacers to keep the zip ties from sliding.

Some people thing that folding bikes are “toys”, but this is not true of the Xootr Swift (or the more-expensive Bike Friday). I have commuted to work on it and also took a ride out to Deer Island (below pic). It has the same number of gears as my everyday commuter (8) and plenty of speed. In fact I have outrun plenty of the spandex crowd on road bikes. A large front chainring compensates for the BMX-size wheels. True, there is some loss of efficiency compared to a “regular” bike (mfgr claims 3%; I’d say a bit more) and so I have thought of throwing a front derailleur on it and some skinnier tires.

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