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On Folding Bicycles

It's National Bike Month, Amazon just launched a bike commuter store, and so I thought it would be a good time to talk about how I get around town.

I own a Strida 5 SX folding bicycle. Some people tell me that it looks goofy.

But I think that it's pretty comfortable, and agree with designer Mark Sanders, who says that upright bicycles are the right design for most cyclists.

More importantly, the Strida is basically maintenance-free: there's no chain, only a Kevlar belt, so there's no grease. There's only one gear -- but on any terrain that isn't perfectly flat, I have no trouble keeping up. It's designed to be as lightweight as possible, yet it's unlike all the cheap bikes I've owned in that it never feels like it's going to fall apart. I'm not the only one: there's an active global discussion forum for Strida fans.

While it's one of the fastest-folding bikes on the market, the Strida doesn't pack down into a very compact package. It's roughly as tall and as wide as a large golf bag, and, consequently, there's a good chance that airlines will try to charge you overage fees if you try to check it (like I did -- ended up costing me $200). Still, it's fine to take on board the local light rail and subway trains; it takes up considerably less space than a stroller, for instance.

Still, the size has had me thinking about alternatives. I really like having a greaseless drive, with no chain to break or get me dirty. Dynamic Bicycles seems to be the leader in shaft drives; they make a pretty normal-looking folder. So do Kinn-Ovations and abio.

It's hard to go back to a standard design now, though, having used an upright bike for the better part of a year. I can't help but think that the ultimate ride would be a Strida with two gears (like the SD and MAS editions) and the ability to fold into a more compact package. Maybe for the Strida 6, I hope?