Here’s a confession: I love folding bikes. You know, the ones with the joint in the middle that fold in half and sometimes in a lot of other ways too. I love them. I find them irresistibly alluring and the ephemeral culture around them interesting to no end. People take them to work and fold them up under their desks. They’re ideal for public transit and studio apartments. Some tourists even take them around the world. So why exactly do we love them? Well, I think I've figured it out.
To begin with, folding bikes, or “folders” as I like to refer to them, are not fast, performance oriented machines. I know they make road bikes that fold, but I’ll stick to my broad generalization. Folding bikes are not race machines. In fact, they almost require you to go slow. Or, something I particularly like about them, they require you to ride each one in a very distinct and potentially unique way. And that way is usually at a casual pace. Simply put, folders don’t feel like sleek power transferring testaments to efficiency. They are, more often than not, heavy roll-through-it-all tanks.
So, why would you want to go slow? And isn’t the mark of a well designed bicycle its efficiency? This gets to the heart of the matter because sometimes we all need to slow down. And part of the inherent and absurd contradiction that is “folding-bikes” revolves around the fact they’re not at all designed to be absurd. These are not tall bikes or lowriders. They are strictly utilitarian. Function determines form, or form after function or whatever. The bikes are first and foremost designed to fold. This is all based on the idea that a bike that’s easier to have and take with you would also be ridden more. What an absurd idea riding a bicycle is…
Voilà, the fun of folding bikes in a nut shell; you can design a bike that’s perfect to ride or you can ride a bike that’s perfect to have. Don’t get me wrong. I have a road bike. I love it too. But sometimes we all need to slow down.