Catherine gets a new bike!

Full disclosure:  before this week, I owned 5 bikes: 1) road; 2) mountain; 3) cyclocross; 4) commuter/beater bike; and 5) extra cross bike at my mother’s house in South Carolina.  One might think this was enough.

But no.

It is a well-known fact among cyclists that the correct number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is the current number of bikes one owns.  It’s true.  It’s in fact rule #12 of The Rules, from the Velominati page:

For cyclists, bikes are kind of like shoes:  there are different ones for every purpose and every occasion, and one wishes to update one’s collection when new features come up.

For me, I have been wanting this bike for a long time.  Let me introduce you to it.  It’s a Brompton folding bike.  Brompton is a British company that has a cult following among road cyclists, bike commuters, touring cyclists, and (most important for me) cyclists who want to travel with their bikes.  What makes the Brompton special is how easily, quickly and compactly it folds.  In order to make that possible, Brompton did some very spiffy engineering and design on the bike.  I could rhapsodize at length about this, but instead I’ll show you.

Here’s the bike folded up (in my dining room):

Note that it is stable in this mode, and even has little wheels for towing if you pull up the handle bars (I told you this bike was soooo cooool!).

To unfold it, first pull out the left pedal (it also folds very ingeniously; did I mention the superior design of this thing?) and pull up the seat post.

Then you give the handlebars a gentle push to extend them into place.

Note that nothing is wobbling.  Remember the little wheels I mentioned?  You can, from this position, tow the bike behind you, and it will roll happily along on its little wheels.  If you prefer bigger wheels, Brompton will sell you some.  They have (for the right price), many modifications for their bikes.

One thing I failed to mention:  all the parts secure with little clamps that are easy to tighten and loosen.  At the bottom of the orange (isn’t the color glorious?) handlebar stem is a black thingy for tightening the stem into place where it fits perfectly.

Then you move the front wheel into place.

Notice that it’s still stable– no tipping over in this position.  And, the stem is a little cockeyed-looking, off to the right a bit.  That’s a feature, not a mistake.  It’s just part of the Brompton’s quirky charm.  Now we are ready for the last step:  pulling the bike up, where in one move, the rear wheel locks into place:

The reason I bought this bike is that I travel a fair amount for work– I go to conferences and give talks– and whenever I get where I’m going, I really really wish I had a bike with me.  I’ve rented bikes often (easier in cities with bike share programs– every city should do this), and occasionally brought a bike with me.  But it’s expensive and kind of a hassle to break down a bike, box it up, haul it (paying often $100–180 each way to fly with it), set it up, and THEN finally get to ride it.  If I’m going to a conference for 3–4 days, I’m never going to do this.  But Bromptons pack into either a soft or a hard case that can be checked as luggage without incurring those awful fees.  Yay– Brompton for the win!

But now I don’t have to.  I’ve got my new Brompton!  Also, I got a 6-speed model with flat handlebars to make it the closest thing to having a road bike that I can get with an easy-to-use travel bike.  So Samantha and Natalie– expect to see me at your doorsteps sometime this spring or summer, with my beautiful two-tone Brompton, ready to ride!

Getting the Brompton is actually encouraging me to do some far-away conference travel, too, so I am going to the Netherlands for a conference, and will fit in some easy touring with it.

I can also ride the Brompton around town, and even take it on buses or subway.  It has what I call a modesty cover that you can pull over it, and unzip a bit to carry it (mine weighs around 25 lbs– not bad for a little carrying).

Oh, you might wonder:  how does it ride with those little wheels?  The answer is:  very smoothly.  The steering takes a little time (maybe a few minutes) to get used to, but then it moves very well.  Since I got it (4 days ago), the weather has been incredibly cold, then snowy, and now rainy.  ARGH!  But hopefully tomorrow I can take it out and see what it can do.  Will report back on progress.

There’s nothing like a new bike.  Readers, are any of you getting any new gear that you are in raptures over?  Please share your joy or wishes here.

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