One of the beautiful things about biking is how incredibly diverse it can be- there are as many different types of riders as there are models of bikes. In a way, to think about which type of bike you want to ride is also to think about what type of person you are and how you want to experience the world around you.
Recently, I’ve been taking a closer look at the single speed folding bikes in our shop. I’ve always owned bikes that had tons of gears because I’m from Seattle which, unlike New York, actually has hills. Now I live up in Morningside heights, which, ironically, is probably the one place in New York that has a slight incline (the “hill” on Amsterdam at 125th) and I’ve thinking about what it would feel like to try out a single speed like the Brompton M1L or the Dahon Mu Uno.
Riding a folding bike
Riding a Dahon or Brompton folding bike is, itself, a very interactive experience. The act of folding the bike down, carrying it with you wherever you go, into your home or out to a coffee shop- one way or another a folding bike becomes an intimate part of your life. Riding a single speed bike would, in many ways, bring out these characteristics, heighten those aspects of a folding bike that already make it so unique.
Advantages of the single speed folding bike
With just one speed, the Brompton, already a light bike, would be at its very lightest, weighing only around 22 lbs. It would be fast, simple, incredibly easy to fold down and carry. The act of riding would also be simplified. No additional movements to change the gears up and down, just pedaling, coasting, riding.
The philosophy of the single speed biker is a casual one. You’re not trying to break any records, you’re not trying to maximize your efficiency, or beat your best time. You’re just enjoying the heck out of plain and simple riding. You’re just being present in the moment, and that is something that can be hard to do in a city as fast paced as Manhattan.
Brompton or Dahon single speed?
Both the Brompton M1L and the Dahon Mu Uno would be fun, both are about the same weight. The Dahon Mu Uno might be a little faster on a flat with its Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires, but the Brompton would fold down a little smaller, and has the high quality hand crafted parts.
If I had a little extra change, I would consider buying one of these single speed folding bikes as a more casual alternative to my road bike, something lighter, simpler and more portable to take a joy ride around the city. Next time you’re feeling like you’re needing a new bike, don’t immediately go for the most advanced derailleurs or the most high performance parts, could be that a little single speed meditation is just the thing.