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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Cycle, go and fold

Folding bicycles are not all built for speed, but fans like their compact size and portability
The Sunday Times - November 6, 2011
By: Cheryl Faith Wee
| More
Cycle, go and fold Folding bicycle enthusiasts Hamidah Sulor, Cheryl Koh and Mei Liew go everywhere on their portable bikes.-- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

When bike enthusiast Woon Taiwoon goes travelling, his check-in luggage includes more than clothes - there is a bicycle folded away neatly inside, too.

The 37-year-old design consultant and his 11.5kg Brompton folding bicycle have been to Japan and Thailand.

Cycling around Japan was especially memorable for him. 'I experienced rush hour when people were packed like sardines. My bike and I were simply swept into the train by the crowd,' he said.

Taking a bicycle with him abroad allows him to explore farther than he normally would on foot.

He said: 'When you walk, you get tired after about 5km. But if you cycle, you can cover distances of up to 20km.'

Mr Woon belongs to the group of people here who use folding bicycles to get around overseas or for daily commuting or leisure activities during the weekend.

Folding bicycles are as affordable as conventional non-folding bicycles and range in price from $79 at supermarkets to fancy ones at specialist bike shops costing more than $5,000.

One drawback, though, is that some folding bicycles are unable to go as fast or as smoothly as regular bikes because the wheels are much smaller.

Mr Simon Siah, 39, who owns LifeCycle, a store which sells mainly folding bicycles, says business is good with a steady growth in sales ever since it opened last year.

Folding bicycle specialist Diginexx, which has been around since 2007, says sales have grown at a steady pace as more people begin to accept folding bicycles as an alternative mode of transport.

Folding bicycles are practical here because they usually have smaller wheels and take up less space in Singapore's 'shoe box' houses, says Mr Siah.

Their compact size means that they can be stowed away unobstrusively, even in places of worship. This was what made 43-year-old Hamidah Sulor and her husband decide to get another one.

The manager for organisational learning said: 'I already had a folding bike. But just before the fasting month, my husband wanted to get one too so that we could cycle to the mosque together and conveniently hide them somewhere. That didn't happen in the end, but he got his bike.'

Another advantage is that folding bicycles can usually be taken onto buses and trains.

Land Transport Authority (LTA) guidelines say that folded bicycles should be no larger than 114cm by 64cm by 36cm in size, and can be carried on public transport only on weekdays from 9.30am to 4pm and after 8pm.

For those who work regular office hours, this makes it difficult if they wish to cycle and use public transport on their daily commute.

According to the LTA, the protruding parts of the bicycles may cause injury and inconvenience to other commuters in the confined space of a train car or bus during peak hours. The bikes are allowed on board all day on weekends and public holidays.

Indeed, Saturdays and Sundays are popular times for folding bicycle enthusiasts to take their bikes out for a spin.

A group of about 60 cyclists get together every Sunday through lovecycling.net, a website founded by Mr Woon 1? years ago. Anyone with a bicycle can join, but the bulk of participants show up with folding bicycles.

They go on mini-tours to places such as the city area near the Esplanade and along the Singapore River.

Others prefer cycling at night when it is cooler. And if you are too tired at the end of the night, you can pop the folding bike into the boot of a car.

This is usually the case with Ms Cheryl Koh, 33, who is between jobs. She has been going on weekly night rides organised by Diginexx for more than two years. She said: 'We usually finish up between midnight and 1am. Whoever wants to can grab a bite and later, we catch a cab home with our bikes.'

DIFFERENT FOLDS

Here are some folding bikes available here and what they are suitable for.

ALEOCA

Sold at Carrefour, FairPrice Xtra and Giant supermarkets. The bicycle frame has a one-year warranty. Single speed to 12-speed bicycles are available.

Price range: $79 to $399

DAHON

Travels smoothly and is good for those who like some speed. Ranges from single-speed to 27-speed bikes. Cannot be wheeled around after it is folded.

Price range: $475 to $5,000

CARRYME

Wheels are only 20cm wide so it is not as stable as bikes with fatter wheels. Suitable for short distances. Folds into a compact, slim shape which can be pushed around.

Price range: $699

STRIDA LT

Its unique, triangular-shaped collapsible frame might attract stares. After it is folded, it vaguely resembles a unicycle and can be wheeled along. Suitable for medium distances.

Price range: $750

MONTAGUE

These are mountain bikes which can be folded. They have a hardy frame suitable for travelling across rugged terrains, but they are too large to carry onto public transport.

Price range: $850 to $3,400

BROMPTON

Can be customised in bright colours. It folds compactly and can be wheeled around, which is handy if you want to walk around.

Price range: $1,750 to $3,850

BIRDY

Full-suspension folding bikes, good for those who want to ride on off-road trails. Has to be carried after being folded.

Price range: $2,199 to $4,000

BIKE FRIDAY

Folds within seconds in a single swift motion, it is ideal for boarding the bus in a hurry.

Price range: $2,200 to $5,000

 

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