A compact folding bike such as a Brompton, Tern Link, or Birdy can change the way you think about cycling. You can take it anywhere – although there are easier and harder ways of doing that…
Smaller-wheeled folding bikes excel at journeys with single-digit mileages. In town they’re nippy. On long rides they’re often slower. Need more zip? Consider a lower, flatter handlebar, slicker tyres such as Schwalbe Kojaks, and recessed-cleat clipless pedals.
Fold, unfold, fold
Carry it as little as possible. Folders are heavy and have to be carried in one hand. Walking down a platform to your train? Unfold, wheel along, then fold again. Some folded bikes can be rolled along smoother surfaces on their own wheels or on casters.
Stuck for a seat while waiting? Lower the saddle on the unfolded bike and sit on it with both feet flat on the floor. Use the wide ticket gate to get to the platform; a bike will go through the normal ones but you might get stuck. There’s almost always a lift for changing platforms, which beats dragging 12kg over a footbridge.
Boarding the train
A given service will stop at the same point on the platform. Get to know it and wait where you’ll be near the door for your carriage. You want to be early on so you can secure a floor-level space for your bike in the luggage rack – although a Brompton will fit between seat backs. Sit where you can see your folder, if you can.
Don’t take a lock
A folded compact goes indoors with you. It can sit by the coat stand, under a desk, in the cloakroom, in a supermarket trolley, etc. Don’t ask; it gives someone the chance to say no. If challenged, apologise and explain you don’t have a lock and so don’t have a choice. If you might be refused – for example, you’ll be boarding a coach – take a cover for it, either a dedicated one or an improvised one like an Ikea bag.
Luggage is best on the bike as long as it comes off in seconds so it won’t delay folding. Brompton front bags are great, as are Carradice SQR bags and various KlickFix products. Get a removable shoulder strap (for a pannier or camera) if your bag lacks one. You can then carry bike and bag with one hand free for doors.
Lights on the handlebar or seatpost sometimes interfere with folding. The fork crown is better for a front light, the saddle rails or a pannier rack for a rear one.
Do you need to revolutionise your commute?
Tyres come in a range of sizes and tread patterns. Here's how to choose the right ones for your bike.
As well as lights and reflectors, cycle commuting at night requires some adjustments to the way that you ride.
Here’s why you might want to choose a belt over a chain – and why you might not.