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You can hop onto a train or bus with a folded bike to accelerate your commute. The bike takes up little space. Then, you finish the journey to work by bike.
This style of commute is known as an intermodal or multimodal commute, but is it really that simple?
How easy is it to carry a folding bike onto public transport in reality?
This article looks at the folding bike commute and its various pros and pitfalls.
Why Commute With A Folding Bike? (And Why You Should Not!)
There are good reasons to commute with a folding bike, and not all of them involve buses, taxis, or trains.
Security | Peace Of Mind (Good Point)
When you commute on a full-sized bike, the normal practice is to lock it in your employer’s exterior bike shed. Depending on where you work, this may be accessible by the public or hundreds of unknown employees.
A commuting bike in a bike shed is vulnerable to theft. Yes, you can ride a low-value bike to reduce risk or spend a fortune on locks. With a folding bike, you needn’t do either; you can just store it under your desk.
Weather & Punctures (Good Point)
On a commute with a full-sized bike, you’re pretty much stuck with your plan. If it rains, you get wet, and if you get a puncture, you might have to fix it before continuing your commute.
With a folding bike, nothing is cast in stone. If there’s a change of weather, you can fold your bike up and jump onto a bus or the underground. You can call an Uber. This is harder to do if you have an unwieldy full-sized bike.
Lunchtime Convenience (Good Point)
If you have a bike stored under your desk at work, you can just hop on it at lunchtime and head out to wherever you want. There’s no need to collect your bike first.
Multimodal Commutes (Good Point)
A folding bike can fold into a compact size within 15 to 20 seconds. It will usually be compact enough to carry onto a busy bus or train.
One of the benefits of folding bikes on trains is that you don’t normally need to locate a designated bike storage space or carriage before boarding. You can carry your bike on board as luggage.
Pushing a full-sized bike onto a bus isn’t always possible (although some buses are setup to take bicycles) and doing so on a train is often inconvenient. You can easily end up jostling with other commuters, trying not to snag them with the handlebar or whack them in the shin with a pedal.
A multimodal or intermodal commute has several benefits. The cycling leg of your journey helps keep you fit, and any public transport travel is more eco-friendly than solo car trips. The flexibility also helps you work around problems like transport strikes.
Heavy To Lift Or Carry (Bad Point)
Some folding bikes are heavier than conventional bikes. This is often because of a bulky frame or crossbar, which has to be denser than traditional diamond frames for safety reasons. Cheaper folding bikes also have heavier components.
A good weight to aim for in a folding commuting bike is under 30 lbs. Anything between 20 to 25 lbs is very light. These are weights most people can lift or carry.
Check to see if a bike can be wheeled in its folded state before buying, especially if it’s on the heavy side.
Using Public Transport With Your Folding Bicycle
Although folded bikes are treated as luggage on train journeys, size restrictions often apply. These are usually generous enough to accommodate most folded bikes.
Examples of folded bike regulations on trains around the world are below:
- US (Amtrak) – the folded size must be below 34″ x 15″ x 48″ (86 x 38 x 112 cm). You do need to locate appropriate passenger cars to transport a folded bike as carry-on luggage. As well, the bike must have a latched frame to qualify as a folding bike, so bikes that fold at the wheel count as regular bikes.
- Australia – regional restrictions apply, but folding bikes are widely accepted on trains. In Queensland, for example, you can travel on any Translink service if your folded bike fits inside a 35.4” x 27.5” x 14.2” bag (90 x 70 x 36 cm).
- New Zealand – folding bikes are allowed on trains free of charge in their folded state, though regional rules apply. For instance, Metlink in Wellington restricts folding bikes to a 32.3” x 27” x 15.3” size (82 x 69 x 39cm) with a 20” max diameter wheel.
- UK (National Rail) – bikes with 20” wheels or under are carried without restriction in their folded state, though you may need to cover it and place it in luggage racks during busy periods.
- France (SNCF) – folded bikes or disassembled bikes are allowable as luggage provided they do not exceed 51.2” x 35.4” in length and height (130 x 90 cm).
- Germany – folding bikes are widely accepted as luggage on German trains, including high-speed ICE trains. On the latter, they must be protected in a maximum 47.2” x 35.4” case or cover (120 x 90 cm).
Folded bikes are widely accepted on domestic bus services around the world, unlike full-sized bikes.
If a folded bike blocks an aisle or seat access and there is no luggage space, there may be instances where you’re not allowed to travel.
Here are a few examples of global folding bike regulations on long-distance buses:
- US (Greyhound) – folding bikes are allowed as luggage provided they are carried in a suitcase or carrying case. The bike will go under the bus and must fit in a case with a maximum 62” (157 cm) linear size*.
- Europe (Flixbus) – folding bikes must be carried in a case in the luggage compartment as “special luggage” subject to available space. This attracts a modest extra fee. This luggage has a 94.5” linear size restriction (240 cm).
- Australia – there is widespread acceptance of folding bikes on Australian buses. The Greyhound Australia service allows two pieces of checked luggage for free up to 44 lbs (20 kg) apiece. A folded bike would need to be in a case.
- New Zealand – New Zealand Intercity buses accept collapsed or folded bikes with a linear size of 62” (158 cm). This counts as one of two free checked luggage allowances.
*Linear dimensions are the total length + height + width.
Video: A Folding Bike Bag Or Case Is Essential For Some Trains & Buses
Can You Store Your Folding Bike At Work?
The ability to store your folding bike at work may be important in your commuting equation. Otherwise, it may be just as convenient to ride a full-sized bike. This will often give you a smoother ride, even though it’s less flexible to transport.
What are your folding bike storage options at work?
Under The Desk
Probably the most popular workplace storage option for folding bikes is putting them under the desk. Most folding bikes will fit neatly in that space. Now, do you trust your work colleagues, and how secure is the building?
To be doubly sure of security, you can lock your folding bike to your desk. The benefit of keeping a lock at work rather than on the bike is that you can make it a heavy one. A thick chain lock or a Kryptonite New York lock will make casual theft impossible.
If you mostly trust your work colleagues and there aren’t outsiders drifting in and out of the office, you might make do with a cable lock. Your choice of lock should hinge on how valuable the bike is and whether there are always honest staff nearby.
What About Workplace Lockers?
In all likelihood, few folding bikes are going to fit inside any personal locker you have at work. You might have a fighting chance if your bike is a Brompton, which is the most compact folding bike on the market bar one or two.
If you don’t have a locker or it’s not big enough, do you have access to any locked cupboards, cloakrooms, or storerooms? That might work provided you can trust everyone else with access.
Behind Reception Or With Human Resources
You might be someone who doesn’t work at a desk. It still should be possible with most reasonable employers to store your folding bike indoors.
Aim for a storage space that is always manned and maybe has a security camera or two, like a reception or HR department.
Maybe there’s a break room or security dept. where you can store a bike?
Your work colleagues may be more obliging if you wrap the bike up in a bag before requesting storage space.
Conclusion: Should You Ride A Folding Bike To Work?
If you want a versatile bike for multi-modal commutes, a folding bike is almost the only answer.
It is the only answer if you regularly hop onto buses because that’s impossible with a regular bike. Taxis can be awkward, too.
A folding bike gives you all the health, fitness, and economical benefits of a regular bike. There’s nothing really to lose and much to gain.
Read more: How to fold a folding bike