Why We Fold

Excuse the tautology, but if a folding bicycle is interesting, even to people who don’t ride bicycles, it’s because it folds, an unexpected capability in a world of bicycle frames that maintain a consistent distance between handlebars and head tubes, seats and seat tubes, and front and rear wheels.

tikit at rest

But interest doesn’t often lead to adoption. In fact, people tend to lose interest after watching you fold a bicycle once or twice or three or five times. (You’re warned that some people are simply interested in watching you screw up the job.)

A person who doesn’t ride a bicycle is unlikely to buy one simply because it now does something they didn’t expect.

In the same way, people who ride bicycles and witness the transformative properties of the folder are almost equally unlikely to adopt the vehicle.

One reason is price. Everything else being equal, a folding bicycle is more expensive than a bicycle that doesn’t fold. But the more important reason is a lack of perceived utility. To become a true object of desire, the folder must offer benefits that people want.

Here a few of the benefits.

1) A folding bicycle takes up less space when folded, which should make it easier to transport in other vehicles and store.

2) If the fold is small enough, you can take the bike inside when you’re in pedestrian mode. Because you never leave the bicycle alone, you don’t need a lock.

3) Some folders sandwich the drivetrain between the wheels when folded, preventing damage to delicate parts of the bike while protecting the rest of the world from the mark of an oily chain.

None of which matters if you don’t need those benefits.

If you have plenty of space to store your diamond-frame bicycle, you’re likely to be satisfied with it. If you never park your bike, you don’t need a bike that does away with parking. And if you’ve never rubbed up against an oily chain, I only have one word for you.


About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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