I bought my first folding bicycle yesterday. I have ridden one folding bicycle before, a very nice and well appointed Bike Friday, and found it to be a great ride. I have been interested in acquiring a ‘folder’ for some time now. This bike will inherit the demands of my daily commute in NYC. At $2.25 per subway trip it will pay for itself after 27 days of commuting to and fro the office.
I bought the bike for $120.99 including shipping. It’s a Dahon knock off made in China, sprinkled with the cheapest components available and it weighs 35 lbs. It retails under the name of, get this – “YeahBike”. A six speed turtle of a bike. A veritable boat anchor. This is the first bicycle I have ever owned that is not destined for upgrades. I spend a good deal of time looking at bike porn [really nice bicycle stuff] and slobbering over carbon fiber, titanium, and other space age materials. Not for this bike. This is an “as is” ride that will be torn apart and rebuilt squeezing as much performance out of it’s poorly designed components as possible. It needs to be safe but it doesn’t need to be fast. It surely doesn’t need to look appealing to a would be thief. This is my new commuting steed. I am a bicycle commuter once again.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_in_New_York_City: Of all people who commute to work in New York City:
- 41% use the subway
- 24% drive alone
- 12% take the bus
- 10% walk to work
- 2% travel by commuter rail
- 5% carpool
- 1% use a taxi
- 0.6% ride their bicycle to work
- 0.2% travel by ferry.
Upon receipt I rode the 5 miles home and immediately threw this thing in the repair stand. Out of the box it seemed to be brand new, and rode OK, but who knows what evil lurks hidden away in the bearings of a cheap bicycle. I tore apart both hubs and the bottom bracket and all three were in a state of despair. After rebuilding all of the bearing points I trued the wheels. I added a pair of tire liners. I tuned the brakes and derailleur. I peeled off the ‘YeahBike’ stickers and I over inflated the tires to 100 psi. I took it outside and buzzed around Harlem NY trying to snap it in half. It’s supposed to fold and it does fold quite well. I just want to be sure it doesn’t fold while I am on it. I must say that it ‘wheelies’ really well and takes me back to the days when BMX, jumps, and bunny hops were all I thought about.
The decision to buy this bike was also driven by the impact on NYC’s mass transit system from Hurricane Sandy. I was very fortunate in that the storm only affected my ability to use the subway system for three days [hats off to the Metro Transit Authority MTA]. I don’t mind a long walk and I often walk the 4 miles either to or from work at east 3 times a week. I am a bit concerned about the amount of people that use the subway. I think that certain stations are becoming over crowded and border on dangerous. I don’t see this getting fixed so I fixed it for myself with this bicycle. Spending time on a subway train does not compare to spending time on a bicycle. It is an upgrade even on the coldest, nastiest winter day.
My commute is simply glorious by any definition. It starts in Harlem, snakes through Central Park and ends in Midtown. A combined 11 miles of riding every work day gives me the 30-45 minutes of ‘cardio’ [I HATE that term] that enables me to work out only when I feel like it. I realize there are shorter paths I could take in either direction but which would you rather ride by every day:
- Starbucks or Cleopatra’s Needle?
- McDonald’s or The Harlem Meer?
- Strawberry Fields or Best Buy?
The backdrop on the ride into work is NYC’s fabled Midtown. Posh Hotels and Skyscrapers poking up into the sky above the Central Park’s tree line, grow larger with every turn of the pedals. They seem to personify the change from my actual self to the guy my boss hired me to be. The park serving as a kind of Wizard of Oz like dimension that enables the transformation from my actual being to that one dimensional, willing, vacant, poorly dressed, office schmuck who spends his time worrying about problems his actual self cares little about. The ride home serves as a reawakening. Ten hours of staring at a computer screen has sucked the life from my veins, the angst that has built up goes right into the pedals and soon enough I become me again.
You can laugh but this bicycle will change my life. Since I moved back to NYC this go’ round I have strayed from riding. My goto bike is in pieces on my apartment floor waiting for me to pull the plug and buy a new set of wheels. While I over think the wheel purchase I move farther and farther from the zen state I understand bicycling to be. This $120.99 piece of crap knock off Dahon [the frame is actually made by Dahon] will reawaken something inside me and get me back on tour again. If you are like me any time spent on a bicycle conjures up dreams of wearing the ‘Yellow Jersey’. While in real life I am just heading to work in my mind I will be sprinting away from the peloton on on my way up L’Alpe d’Huez to claim yet another stage in Le Tour de France.