Thursday, December 10, 2009

Folding bike for urban apartment-dwellers

For green-minded apartment dwellers, it’s hard to beat a bike for transportation in the city. That is, until the inevitable storage problem arises. Let’s face it; our beloved bikes are a chore to store.

That’s especially true if you’ve paid up for a decent ride and are left without a place to keep it dry and secure. Rare is the urban apartment, or workplace, that provides tenants or employees with decent bike storage. Even condos often prohibit residents from storing bikes on balconies or hauling them up in the elevator.

Enter the Strida folding bike
To the embattled bike-loving apartment dweller comes a solution, the Strida folding bike. The Strida is a sturdy commuter that quickly folds for easy transport or storage.

The folding bike concept is not new. Companies including Brompton, Bianchi and Raleigh have been offered fold-away models since the 1960s. But a handful of features make the Strida unique. Most notable is its Kevlar drive belt in place of a traditional metal chain. The belt resembles a car’s fan belt and requires no lubrication. This ensures your tailored trousers and office carpet remain oil-free. The bike is easy to fold and unfold, with the entire process taking about 10 seconds. When folded, the bike can be wheeled along with one hand while you walk, much like those old-style baby strollers. It weighs in at about 22 pounds, making it easy enough to carry.

Test-riding the Strida
As a bike, the Strida performs quite well. At first it seems a touch unstable, but it doesn’t take long to get used to how it holds the road. Despite its 16-inch wheels and single-speed gearing configuration, the Strida can cover quite a bit of ground. But it might not be a good choice for regular rides of more than 5 kilometres.

During a test ride, I wheeled the folded-up Strida on Toronto’s subway system and was not accosted by transit staff. I unfolded the bike upon arrival at Keele Station, tore through the trails in High Park and arrived at the Lakeshore bike path in no time. I went out to Humber River Park, then back to my west-end home (8 km in total) with relative ease. The hand brakes were responsive and the seat comfortable enough for a longer ride. The Strida’s unusual triangular frame did draw some sideways glances. A few people asked if they could give it a spin.

Convenient, but how much does it cost?
With a retail price of $900, the Strida isn’t cheap. That price would buy a very nice commuter bike at most shops. But keep in mind that the portability explains much of the cost. Strida users can store their bike in a car trunk, in a coat closet, or among their checked luggage on an airplane.

In Canada, the Strida is available at Saved by Bikes, in the pedestrian mall beneath Toronto’s downtown core. Store owner Steve Inniss has sold Stridas to workers in Toronto’s financial district who needed a transportation solution they could take to the office.

Inniss is happy to let customers take the Strida home for a test ride, to see whether or not it will work for their daily commute to work.

“I sold one to one woman who was paying hundreds of dollars a month to park her car down here,” said Inniss, referring to Toronto’s congested downtown core. “The bike paid for itself in a few months.”

Inniss’s store is undergoing a renovation that will continue until March, 2010. But you can still buy a Strida online, and Inniss offers free shipping to anywhere in Canada.

Guest blogger Andrew Lupton is a journalist and editor, a transplanted West Coaster who now lives in Toronto.

All photos and text in this post are copyright Andrew Lupton, 2009.