Friday, June 17, 2011

Beginner’s Guide to Bike Commuting in Singapore: Folder as a Commuter Bike

The folding bike is a great bike for commuting because of its ability to fold, which opens up many new worlds which other bikes are closed to... especially in the case of Singapore where our buses do not have bike racks, and neither do the trains. 

Too cute.

The only bikes that can fit inside a taxi with ease is a folding bike, and the only bikes that are allowed to go into buses and trains are folding bikes. Of course, you'll have to know the regulations...



FOLDABLE BICYCLE SCHEME
GENERAL GUIDELINES


b)   Foldable bicycles should be folded at all times in the MRT/ LRT stations, bus interchanges/ terminals and on trains and buses.

c)   Foldable bicycles should not exceed 114 cm by 64 cm by 36 cm when folded.
...
f)   Foldable bicycles should not block the aisles and doors or impede commuter movement at any time.
...

l)   Foldable bicycles are allowed during the following operating hours:  
       - Monday to Friday: 9.30am to 4.00pm, 8.00 pm to end of operating hours
   - All day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays

SMRT / SBS Transit station staff and bus drivers may disallow foldable bicycles if the actual situation within an MRT/ LRT station, bus interchange/ terminal or on board a train / bus does not permit foldable bicycles to be admitted safely and without inconveniencing other commuters.
I've taken the liberty to cut out the regulations that are more like guidelines, to be sure that your bike can enter the bus/train, these rules are generally more important and of course, use a good dose of common sense regarding other's convenience. Although, here's a secret... pretty much no rule is strictly enforced.

There are a wide range of folding bikes from the more common 20" format folding bike to the 26" foldable mountain bike from manufacturers such as Montague, to the 16" mini-folder from Brompton, Flamingo and whatnot. Of course, the ultimate brand that I'll be recommending today is a Dahon. That's because Dahons are good in value, nice to ride and have a wide variety.

But enough of my personal partisanisms. More importantly for you to better consider whether a foldable bike is for you, consider this:

Pros
  • Foldable - the most important reason
  • Upright position can be a boon for confidence and visibility
  • Err... I'm having a hard time writing another pro.
Cons
  • Small wheeled foldies suffer a higher rolling resistance
  • Generally, foldable bikes offer the upright position (i.e. slow)
  • Quality foldies with a good ride quality are expensive 

As I have mentioned previously, the ability to fold the bike helps you integrate your commute into alternative transport. In this case, you can literally park and ride (i.e. park outside CBD to evade ERP charges), or when you have a puncture, you can just take the train to wherever you can buy a new tube. There are many other contingencies which I can't think of where the ability to fold will truly help you get out of harms way.

A foldable bike can be very cheap, or it can be very expensive. The range is wide, but my impression is that if you spend anything less than $400, and especially if you buy from a lower-end manufacturer, you will get a folding bike that has quite poor ride geometry and perhaps unsuitable gearing too. You want something natural and easily adaptable, and these cheaper bikes won't offer them.

Conversely, if you buy a bike that is expensive, you won't want to lock it outside, but I'll recommend this over a cheaper bike because if the ride's no good, you'll quit commuting in no time. With the ability to fold, you can also carry the folding bike with you, or wheel it around, so that you won't have to lock it outside. A caveat, though, doing this can be rather tiring and clumsy. You'll attract millions of eyes as if you were walking naked. You'll be a roaming exhibition.

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