When I was early in my pregnancy, I wondered how long I would be able to ride for. I gave up my Giant Cypess earlier this year and I immediately regretted it, even though the main reason I got rid of it was that I couldn’t carry it, which would have only gotten worse. I think, with rack and lock, it weighed 30+ lbs. So I mentioned to Mr. Porro that if I couldn’t keep riding my hybrid, I was thinking of getting a folding bike. With a low standover frame and very adjustable handlebars, I could get as upright as I needed to, and folding bikes are more lightweight than other bikes.
I knew the most common folding bike was Dahon, but I also knew that those were on the pricier side. I went to an Alleycat with a girl who had a folding bike, and she seemed pretty happy with it and able to keep up. I remembered the brand being Citizen, so I googled Citizen Bikes. I was immediately intrigued by the low price point and the variety of styles that they offered. I looked into the bikes carried by our local bike shops, which were Dahon, Downtube, Fern, and Brompton, but they were all more than I wanted to spend on a bike that I might only ride for 3 months. I checked Craigslist and even set up an alert.
The real push to buy the folder happened at the end of June, when I was offered my new job, because having a folding bike would mean that I could take it on the train. Which meant I could make my new 30 mile commute by train instead of by car, which is infinitely appealing to somebody who loves to read and hates to drive. I still wasn’t sure how the bike would actually ride and wasn’t sure which model to get. Then my friend in the courthouse mentioned his coworker rode a folding bike to work, and I checked it out, and there it was, a Citizen Tokyo! She let me test ride it around the office and gave me an honest review of how it worked to take it on the train, etc. I had been worried that the 16″ wheels would be too small, but riding it around the office, they were just fine. I was all set to order, and Citizen was out of the colors that I wanted – I was deciding between the orange and the light blue, and suddenly they only had black, gray, and red. I called customer service and they assured me they would have the other colors in stock soon. So I waited (although they said they could pre-order, but I was still deciding.) Once they came back in stock, I think it only took about a week for my bike to show up, but I had it shipped to my sister’s house because people steal packages in our neighborhood. So, that was the purchasing process, and here is my review:
Citizen Tokyo with rear rack and comfort saddle (both optional upgrades):
Riding: A folding bike is not going to ride the same as a road bike. It just isn’t. At least not when it has 16″ wheels. If I wasn’t pregnant and worried about carrying it on the train, I would have gotten the 20″ wheels and I think that would have been better. It also only has 6 speeds. So it actually handles going up hills pretty well, but going downhill, you can only pick up so much speed and then you just have to coast, which is really frustrating when you know you could normally catch that light on your hybrid but your pedals are spinning aimlessly. I actually now understand the appeal of a fixed-gear folding bike, but I don’t think Citizen actually makes one – they make a single speed, which maybe you could fix yourself? I dunno. I spend most of my time riding in the 6th gear, occasionally shifting down at hills. However, for the most part, it is fun to ride and faster than walking. I haven’t yet figured out how to mount a lock.
Hauling: The rear rack also is so low to the ground, and has slightly thicker tubes, that I thought my Racktime bag wouldn’t fit, but it does. My regular Ortlieb panniers do not, so farmer’s market has been tricky. I bought a bag/basket for the front, but installed it upside down and also can’t quite get it to work, so I may need to call somebody about that.
Folding: Folding is mostly easy, but there is a small pin that fits into a thing, so you have to yank really hard to get it open and push it really hard to get it closed. If it doesn’t lock into place, it tends to swing open. Once it is folded in half, it can be pushed and rolled, kind of the way you would push a stroller. It’s a bit unwieldy for long distances (which is why at my old job I locked it up rather than bringing it into my office) but fine for the train. I rarely fold the handlebars down and lower the seat, but when I do, the whole thing fits in the trunk of our Corolla. I no longer have to walk on days my husband picks me up from work. I have found that it is much much much easier to carry a backpack than deal with my Racktime bag while I fold the bike, so I’m on the hunt for a good tote bag that converts to a backpack. Our city has a free boat shuttle system I’ve taken the bike on a couple of times and I haven’t even had to fold it up to do that, but it’s been pretty easy to maneuver except the steps are wide. If you are pregnant, accept help from anyone who is willing to help you carry your bicycle. Frankly, if you are a strong looking person watching me struggle with my bike at 29 weeks pregnant, I’m going to judge you. Especially if you tell me not to hurt myself but don’t offer to help. I took it on the train for the first time yesterday. Getting up the steps with it folded isn’t easy, and there isn’t a great place for it, but otherwise it worked really well. Except that I got on the last car of the train and had to walk through three cars to get off at my stop, which meant rolling it through 3 cars where the handlebars are ever so slightly wider than the seats and I had to navigate around each one. I have a bag but haven’t used it yet. I mostly bought it just in case we ever fly or take a bus/train with the bike and need to check it.
Commentary: Something about the folding bike opens you up to a lot more commentary. If you do not want people to talk to you while you ride to work, do not get one of the pretty colors. I get a lot of, “hey, nice bike!” or “I love that bike, hon” or “what kind of bike is that?” comments. My friend who has it in black says she also gets a lot of commentary, but I think it’s probably worse with the more eye-catching color. The good thing is, most of this commentary is actually bike related – people ask me if I fold it up, if I can put it in a suitcase, they want to know where I got it, they want to ask how I like it. I’m not big on talking to total strangers while riding a bike 29 weeks pregnant in a city where bike theft is really common, but so far it’s been positive and harmless.
Pregnancy: The standover frame is great. It’s such a relief to not have to swing my leg up and over. It’s still easy to step over it. My belly is getting in the way a bit, and the handlebars don’t adjust quite as far up as I would like. The bike itself is not lighter than my Canondale Quick 3, because I bought the lightest hybrid possible, but at 26lbs, it’s not bad and the frame makes it pretty easy to carry up the steps. I am SO GLAD I sprang for the comfort seat. The regular saddle that comes with it is probably perfectly comfortable for the average person, but if you are on the heavier side or expecting, just pay the $18 and upgrade the saddle. It’s SO comfortable.
There is a lot of flexibility that comes from having a folding bike, and I’m definitely thinking about the possibilities of my husband having one as well. It would be so easy to just toss them in the car and head up to my in laws house, and ride our bikes to the beach, instead of fussing with the rear rack. (One of my coworkers has a Yepp Mini mounted to her folding bike, so hauling children is totally possible.) It would be great on days when I need to pick him up at work, and so simple for the two of us to take the train to another city on weekends and have instant mobility when we get there! Mostly, I think I wish that the two of us had gotten folding bikes a couple of years ago, when we could really enjoy being childfree traveling cyclists, and really taken advantage of it. I think if we were getting a second Citizen, I would either want to spring for the Gotham, or would just get the Miami, with it’s bigger wheels and 7 speeds. Though, that means my husband will be a lot faster than me, and while he originally said he’d be willing to ride my light blue Tokyo, when it came out of the box he was like, “um, no.”
Anyone else ride a folding bike? Anyone have any questions?