Here’s one of the amazing views from the base of the castello of Castiglione della Pescaia along Italy’s Tuscan coast in late September. Between the red tile roofs and the horizon is the marina, an excellent location for bicycle spotters, especially those interested in small-wheeled machines.
The reason is simple. Marinas, along with private airports, are stereotypical gathering spots for folding bikes. Captains and pilots tend to favor bikes that leave room for other items, such as passengers.
I remember asking a Wisconsin shop owner about folding bike sales–she had a single Dahon on the floor–and she said she sold three or four of them a year because “there are only so many boat and airplane owners who want a folder.”
Boggles the mind, really, when you think about all the people who drive small vehicles to their favorite Wisconsin vacation spots. A few of them might appreciate the automatic weather protection and security gained by storing a bicycle inside a car instead of on top or behind it.
Could it be someone doesn’t want to cut into bumper rack sales?
Not all small-wheeled bicycles are folding bicycles. Still, this particular minivelo offers a low standover height, which makes it easy to mount and dismount, and the 20-inch wheels reduce the overall length, which makes for slightly easier storage.
Here are a couple of slightly more modern folders, each with rear suspension to smooth out the ride of the 16-inch wheels. The challenge with suspension, of course, is the additional weight you deal with every time you lift a bike from boat to land and back again.
When I think about buying a Brompton–and I think about it a lot–I’m always drawn to the models featuring one or two speeds and titanium frame bits–anything to make the bicycle easier to move up stairs and in and out of buildings, transit vehicles and cars.
Given a sufficient budget, I’d probably go overboard cutting the weight of a folder, but I don’t think twice about the weight of my regular road bikes–it’s just not that big a deal.
Even on a hill.