Monday, September 15, 2014

Dear Connecticut Gubernatorial Candidates: Cycling Matters


    Cyclists in Stamford steering out of the bike lane to avoid an illegally parked car on Jefferson Street, Aug. 2014

Today, I attended the CCIA's transportation forum. In doing so, I felt as though I was in the middle panel of a Dilbert comic strip. 

The reason is because the forum was held in North Haven, which is about ten miles from the closest Metro North Station. It was held at a hotel that was not served by a road that has bike lanes, sharrows, or share the road signs on it. It took place during a time of day when bikes are not allowed on Metro North. And directions on the invitation said I could get there from two roadways where cyclists are not permitted to travel: "Exit 12 off I-91 or Exit 63 off Wilbur Cross/Merritt Parkway (Rt. 15)".

Note the use of the word "or" as if nobody could possibly, possibly fathom anyone getting there any other way but with a car.

So right out of the gate I was unhappy with this forum. I wanted to take an early train and ride there - possibly with the Dahon Matrix - but neither of the two New Haven bound trains would have worked. 

Unhappily, I chose to drive. Sorry, WTNH's Teresa DuFour: if there was a traffic problem on I-95 or I-91 today, I was part of the problem. 

After I arrived and parked my Honda Element, my unhappiness deepened as none of the questions, responses, or opening statements from either candidate made a mention of the value of cycling. I was also appalled that Tom Foley made a point to mention how awful traffic is, particularly in Fairfield County, but twice said something along the lines of a strategy to "push people out of their cars" probably wasn't going to work

I really wanted to tell him about the people I've met everywhere who tell me that they want to ride their bike to work, to a friend's house, or to a grocery store but they can't because they don't feel safe. So they do what I did today: they took the car because they felt they had no other choice. 

As for Governor Malloy, he blew it on a question about how to alleviate the parking problem at train stations. His response should have mentioned that making secure and welcoming bike parking available at train stations and making sure any and all roads leading to the station have bike lanes and good sidewalks. Station bike parking needs to be improved: the moped-choked Stamford rack isn't cutting it. 


Nobody is being pushed out of cars by building bike infrastructure. They are encouraged to get out of the cars on their own and thus give extra automobile spaces to people who really need them, since bikes take up a whole lot less space than cars do. 



I hope both candidates think about these things as they continue to travel throughout the state on the campaign trail. And I hope they keep an eye on their inboxes because I am inviting them both to Stamford's Mill River Greenway event on October 11th, sponsored by some great local businesses, and to take a short bike ride with me

On the way home from the event today, around 1:00 in the afternoon, I got stuck in traffic on I-95. I had put 'home' in the GPS after stopping in New Haven for lunch, and like all devices it shows what time you will reach your destination. I got to watch 20 minutes of my life slip away quietly. 

When my car was at a dead stop, I put on the parking brake and opened the door so I could lean out to take the picture below (I wasn't texting and driving) but a couple of motorists nearby probably thought I was pulling an R.E.M./'Everybody Hurts.' 



If neither candidate takes cycling issues more seriously - and if we don't work harder to make sure they speak about it -  all we can all hope for is to get used to this view. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thanking Stamford Businesses that Support Cycling

As some of you know already, People Friendly Stamford has partnered with Mill River Park Collaborative, Harbor Point, Stamford Downtown and Regional Plan Association to create a bike ride and rally to support the Mill River Greenway (and a more bikeable/walkable city) on Saturday, October 11, 2014 from 10:00 to 2:00pm. It'll start with an optional bike ride from Scalzi Park to Kosciuszko Park, which will feature food trucks, music and entertainment. 

I'm volunteering for People Friendly Stamford when and how I can, and one of the things I wanted to do was reach out to four businesses I'm familiar with to ask for sponsorship. There is a poster and a flyer - both being designed by an astonishingly hard-working and talented person named Emily - that need money to get printed as well as other things that need to be paid for to make the event successful. 

I sent four emails to each of the four businesses within a few minutes of each other. Before I had finished sending the fourth email, the first person I contacted had already responded with the words: COUNT US IN!

The capital letters and exclamation point were hers. 

And at that point, the tone was set as the other three responded saying they wanted to be sponsors, too. I was four for four. 

I know I'm an ineffective salesperson so getting them to become sponsors clearly had nothing to do with my interpersonal skills. These folks - and a lot of business owners, for that matter - are already sold on how much better the city of Stamford will be if more people ride bikes in it; and those who aren't need to consider some statistics

Here, in no particular order, are the four businesses I pedaled to this week that I, and every commuter in this city, have to thank. First up: Lorca, which is at 125 Bedford Street. 


Lorca is the caffeine fueled nerve center of Stamford and the kind of independent coffee shop you wish you had in your hometown. It is led by a woman named Leyla, who once gave a presentation about the art and science of coffee at the Ferguson Library. Take my word for it: she is a coffee Jedi Knight. 

Lorca hosted my artwork for a month. I meet friends there. And they make a great breakfast sandwich, an always tasty quiche of the day - and cookies. As I've pointed out, I save enough money by biking to Lorca to buy one of their ginger cookies instead of driving, but it is the alfajore cookies that are stuff of legend. I recently hid one in my wife's suitcase when she was about to leave on a business trip that happened to fall on her birthday. When she found it at her destination, a picture of the cookie appeared on Facebook with the hashtag #besthusbandever

That is the power of Lorca's cookies, everyone. Go have one today or order a plate for your next dinner party. 

Next: Danny's Cycles at 850 E. Main Street - and the only wide photo available is from my Bike to Work Day promotion in May. 


Danny's Cycles - whose mechanics I have so far been unable to stump with my odd wheel size requests - is also a sponsor. For fans of Folding Bike Week, you know they carry the Dahon, but they also have a lot of other good bikes and accessories. The day I visited, they were talking with a representative from the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program, which develops youth cycling programs and is presenting next weekend's Connecticut Cycling Festival in Hartford. The manager put the CCAP poster in their window before I even had a chance to leave: hope a lot of Fairfield County cyclists register for the Connecticut Cycling Festival, which is taking place in Hartford September 20th and 21st. 


Next up: Exhale Stamford - and for some reason I do not have a photo of the outside of the building handy, so I offer this. 


Exhale has a full gym as well as spin, yoga and barre classes. A barre class, for those of you who don't know, is an addictive class that transforms your body into its own torture chamber for an hour but leaves you feeling rather pleasant and energized at the conclusion.

You already know how I feel about yoga: it is a great chance to be in a room full of beautiful women once a week and gain flexibility useful when installing a kitchen sink.

That isn't a euphemism. But I guess it could be. 

Anyway: I've met some of the nicest people (instructors and classmates) at Exhale, and right now they are doing a special promotion for first-time guests: one month of unlimited classes for $99. Visit them at 2200 Atlantic Street or go to exhalespa.com/stamford for details - and look for them as the Oct. 11th ride goes right by their front door. 


Not far from Exhale is Pacific Swim Bike Run, located at 575 Pacific Street. 


When I biked there on Wednesday, I was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable member of the staff. 


But first I said hello to the dog, Linus, who was relaxing by the door enjoying the warm weather we were having this week.

I apologized to the two-legged personnel for being unable to attend what I heard was a very successful bike rodeo the store ran on August 30th (similar to the one I volunteered with at my sister's village in Red Hook, New York)

PSBR is the equivalent of the mountain village where Bruce Wayne got his training in Batman Begins - but with better clothing and a nicer atmosphere. 

In addition to selling some beautiful bikes - some of which cost more than the Blue Book value of my Honda Element - PSBR does high-end equipment rentals, mostly aimed at triathletes in training. But recently they began doing bike rentals: several comfortable beach cruisers are for rent, so if you want to participate in the Oct 11th rally, don't have a bike and want to rent from a place near the event, give them a call.


So those are the four businesses I needed to give a shout out to this week. Others are joining them, and in general businesses are collectively realizing the benefits of bike infrastructure, complete streets, and just intelligent city planning. Be sure to visit Danny's Cycles, Lorca, Exhale and Pacific Swim Bike Run and thank all businesses that support cycling and encourage the skeptics to come around. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.




Friday, September 5, 2014

Four Great Things Said at Stamford's Public Safety Press Conference (And Four Things That Should Have Been Said)


On Tuesday - almost a year to the day I took a one-mile bike ride with then-Stamford mayoral candidate David Martin - I rode my newly built city bike (I still hate Presta valves) to the Stamford Government Center and parked at the rack inside. As it happened, I locked up next to the bike from Danny's Cycles that was given to the Mayor of Stamford on Bike to Work Day a few months ago. 

I noticed the tires were fully inflated and I didn't see dust on the seat when I looked closely.

Good, I thought. Not only does that bode well, but the gift from Allied Barton and the Stamford Downtown Special Services District doesn't look like it's going to waste.

But I'm off the subject.

                      Stamford Mayor David Martin 

I came to the press conference to see the Stamford Street Smart public safety and awareness campaign take off (the link is here: http://www.stamfordct.gov/stamford-street-smart). 

Stamford Mayor David Martin, Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau, Sergeant Andrew Gallagher and others made a serious presentation in front of a good sized audience. After all: three pedestrians have been killed so far this year (and in the most recent case, according to today's Stamford Advocate post, the driver was charged).

The city of Stamford is moving in the right direction with this initiative - kicked off by a 21- day crackdown on distracted driving and a $25,000 grant. There were a lot of great things said at the event, but for the purposes of this 'listicle' I'm going with my four favorites: 

"Safety is a shared responsibility." - Mayor David Martin

Some motorists out there are just dangerous and, like I've said, the stakes are different when a car hits a pedestrian or cyclist, but I was glad to hear the mayor wasn't letting cyclists or pedestrians off the hook for their (our) own bad behavior. The message out of the gate: be safe and look out for others no matter how you get around. Gold star. 

"If we are just giving tickets, we are not successful." - Sgt. Andrew Gallagher

In some places I've lived - particularly in rural New Hampshire - it felt as if police had an incentive to give out tickets so the town may collect the fine. I remember, years ago, being upset about the size of a fine but don't recall ever being told to drive slower - and speed traps put a lot more emphasis on the 'trap' part with deserted, Fargo-like roads given an impossibly low speed limit. Sgt. Gallagher had no glee, hidden or otherwise, when talking about giving tickets and issuing fines. They are absolutely going to be doing those things (and I've already seen them do it), but the main goal is to convince people to drive and get around more safely. 


It was good to hear someone other than me remind cyclists, drivers and pedestrians that they should take ownership over their own safety - and the 'be predictable' and 'rules of the road' part can't be said enough when one is talking about cyclists. Stamford is a great place to ride, but when cyclists don't ride with traffic, don't pay attention and don't do their part when it comes to sharing the road -  nobody wins. And please, cyclists: even if it is safe, stop going through red lights. You wouldn't do it in your car - and besides: you make the rest of us cyclists look bad and hand ammo to The Angry Town Hall Attendee - and there's at least one in every town. 

"Daylight hours are getting shorter." - Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau

I saw plastic pumpkins for sale at Fairway this week, which kinda freaked me out. I also noticed apple cider and wince when I hear my 110 psi road tires crunching over leaves more. Yes, summer is over and the icy hand of autumn death is closing in. 

Nobody wants to hear it, but the police chief's reminder means that cyclists need to start remembering the bike light and the reflective vest when going out in late afternoons - because daylight a mere four weeks ago isn't at the same time as daylight now. It is a good time to revisit my three-part feature on staying safe safe while riding at night. 

And now, here are four things I wish were said at the conference:

"Please take your seats, everyone." 

When you do communications consulting and research for a living, it's hard to turn that part of the brain off. It sounds like a little thing, but it matters. At the press conference on Tuesday, there were a lot of people there, including representatives from the Stamford Downtown Special Services District, the Mill River Collaborative and city representatives. There were also other folks in the room, but almost all of them were standing behind the chairs - and the TV cameras. When News 12 Connecticut's Allison Bybee's great story on the Stamford Street Smart campaign (complete with a familiar-looking area cyclist) came out later, the opening shot of the conference made it look like just a few people were in the audience. Take my word for it, there were a lot of people there, but because few were sitting down, it didn't look like a lot of people were interested in hearing about safer streets in Stamford.

"We're keeping a dialogue open on Twitter with the hashtag (#blank), so please remind your friends, family and colleagues to be safe and let us know of problem areas you know about."

The News 12 story indicated there will be a social media component of Stamford Street Smart coming out in the future. But Tuesday's conference would have been a great time to allow word to spread to those who were not there - especially given the size and scope of the kickoff event. Social media mostly works when you get people to do your promoting for you, and even though the city and the police department are clearly no strangers to doing more with less, putting social media out there on day one would have made the conversation about safety even louder. There'd be junk posts, for sure, but it would also allow the city to learn more about dangerous roads and intersections that may have been overlooked.  

"If it can be done safely, bike and walk more and drive less."

As you remember, I was very frustrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy when Governors Dan Malloy, Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo didn't say those thirteen words. Thousands upon thousands of people - many of whom had their lives turned upside down from the storm - were running around Fairfield County searching for gasoline like a business casual Mad Max film.


I tried my best to keep the line at the gas stations short by using a bike during that period; I even towed a cooler with me so I could do big grocery trips. Imagine if state and municipal leaders actually said those words. 

Most people would have shrugged it off, but we have to be realistic about something: the fewer cars there are on the road, the fewer traffic jams and car accidents we will have. Not only that, but motorists will have an easier time finding a place to park if more people bike instead, and Stamford will collapse and fall in on itself if every single person living in one of the new condos and apartments sprouting everywhere drove a car whenever they wanted to get around. You know those fights people have been having on airplanes lately about a couple of inches of legroom? With cars, it will be worse.  



"People don't choose to live in unsafe cities. They also don't choose to go shopping, open businesses, or take a job in cities or towns when they don't feel safe."

Obviously, the leaders at the podium were right to talk about the pedestrian deaths the way they did - and Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau nailed it when he mentioned the massive growth of residential properties in the city. But there's another point that needs to be hammered continuously: the future of this city depends on safer streets - and on implementing a complete streets policy. If there's no music, they can't dance, if they can't dance, they can't kiss, and if they can't kiss, they can't fall in love. 

Wait: that's a line from Back to the Future.

Let me try again: If Stamford picks up a reputation for being a dangerous city, families and businesses will move out. If they move out, apartments and commercial properties go vacant. If they go vacant, tax revenue falls…and so on. Safe streets aren't just important, they mean everything to everyone. 

I thank the city of Stamford for creating the Stamford Street Smart campaign. I hope it works and everyone does their part to be a better driver, a better cyclist, and a better pedestrian. And it's time for some grit: it took decades of good leadership and good policing to create a city mostly safe from muggers. It'll take a lot more than $25,000 and a lot more than 21 days to make Stamford an ideal place for cyclists and pedestrians. Be safe today, tomorrow and forever more. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Building a City Bike on a Budget



Remember the Make Offer bike from my trip to Concord? That was supposed to be cut up and turned into a sculpture by now. But like the classic Schwinn Worldsport I got a couple of years ago - and tried unsuccessfully to sell it in Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy - it just proved too nice to take it to the reciprocating saw.

So I decided to see if I could make it work for a city - with the extra challenge of not spending any money on the bike aside from tires and a chain. 

The only reservation I had is that the 700c is a new wheel size. Not only that, but deciding to keep the bike might make others think I'm endorsing the Presta valve. I'm not. I still maintain that Presta valves are to bikes the way eating a pizza with a knife and fork is to Jon Stewart. 

That is my position. But back to the build. 

First thing I needed to do was get rid of the road bike handlebar. That involved peeling off the handlebar tape and being left with a sticky result I could - barely - squeeze through the opening on the handlebars. It also meant I got to get rid of a fossilized bug that was stuck in the brake lever.


It happens. 

Next I had to push an aluminum handlebar I had lying around through the opening - after I shortened it slightly with a pipe cutter.


Then came the task I dread: putting on new grips. I made the mistake of trying a set of silicone grips I must have acquired from a joke shop. I did find, when I was building a singlespeed, that hand sanitizer works well as lube - but I wasn't getting off that easy this time. 


I reasoned that pushing a piece of bike part through the handlebar it would cause the spring to proportionally compress the grip and force it onto the bar. 

I reasoned wrong.

Instead, I pulled the grip off after 30 minutes of struggling. Rummaging around, I found two black rubber handgrips that didn't match. 

Then I remembered I had a cheap SRAM twist-grip shifter. I never understood why shifters on these old bikes are down by one's knees anyway, so it seemed like a good time to get rid of those. 


I also decided that now would be a good time to figure out if I could get away without a front derailleur - something I've always had trouble adjusting. Plus, I thought: what do I need a climbing gear for in downtown Stamford?

A 52 tooth gear from another Saved from the Scrapheap bike fit perfectly on the spider…and made the others seem quite small.


I wasn't in the mood to remove the bottom bracket, so the reciprocating saw was used to get rid of the gears I didn't want. So instead of a 21 speed bike, I had a seven speed. 


Now I needed to figure out how to get the cables to stay where I wanted them to. When I modified the recumbent a couple of years ago, I found a metal bit from an old bike that would hug the frame and give the cable a place to rest. At first I thought about using a plastic bracket from a reflector.


After worrying about the pressure it would be under - and not caring for the look - I ended up finding a metal bracket that may or may not have come from The Mysterious Raleigh Sports.


With the shifter in place, the cable where it needed to go, and a rear rack I had lying around and the bag from my former office bike, I had myself a new ride.


Riding this reminded me of the compromise that is made between speed and comfort. The ride is fast but stiff. Still, it beats spending $0.17 per mile to drive my car. 


And with little traffic I can get from my house to Lorca in about ten minutes (As an aside: there are a lot more bikes showing up on Bedford Street and in downtown Stamford so I'm hoping the city takes action with bike parking soon - I'll hopefully have more for you about that in another post).


In addition to being useful for Lorca and grocery runs, it can go a little bit further if necessary. I took it to the Rowayton Arts Center just yesterday - the day they were having their Chantey Sing.


The 700c wheel size makes it big and rather unwieldy on Metro North; I tried it on a non-peak train. And my legs felt like lead when I biked home. Still, it's a good fast bike as long as it stays in Stamford.  Look for it on the road or chained to a parking meter in front of Lorca - and be safe out there on your own bike. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Folding Bike Week 2014: Just Go Ride, Already.


Now I was going to do a very detailed post today about the Microbike - the little Swedish folding bike I picked up at a tag sale last year. I emailed Sven (you remember Sven) and asked for an update. He said he hasn't yet found a commercial partner in Sweden but is currently - and optimistically - looking in the rest of Europe. 

That's a Microbike update I could have put in a tweet. It doesn't really lend itself to a long post.

But I decided to elaborate a bit more on that point by taking my Microbike out for a long-awaited outdoor spin - it hasn't been anywhere since I fixed it last summer. 

That meant inflating the 12" tires. The design of the rims makes it difficult to fit an ordinary pump in place - I hope Sven thinks about that if/when the Microbike is brought back. 


Lucky for me, I didn't have to hook up my air compressor at 6:30 in the morning - because I have the seatpost that came with my Dahon Matrix when I bought it in 2009. Today, I have a Cane Creek Thudbuster which makes a more comfortable ride, but I do like the idea of a pump integrated within a seatpost. 


The tire inflated easily, and I rode off to the beach. The belt was very smooth and the bike was quiet. When I came to the sand, the bike fit right in.


So that's how best to bring folding bike week to an end: get on your bike, whether it has hinges or not, and ride somewhere. Somewhere fun that brings a smile or incites laughter. I don't know where that is, but I'm sure that you do. So log off and take a ride. Thanks so much for joining DIYBIKING.COM for Folding Bike Week 2014, and thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 



Friday, August 15, 2014

Folding Bike Week 2014: The Mystery of South Norwalk…Revisited


Two years ago I was out on a bike ride and I found small, abandoned folding bike on a sidewalk in South Norwalk. I figured out how to attach it to the side of the bike I was riding and carried it 13 miles to get it home - where I nursed it back to health - eventually adding a DIYBIKING.COM sticker to the blank top tube. 


I began using it, but quickly realized I wanted a bigger chainring and crank arms that were less stubby, so about a year and a half ago I went ahead and changed the bottom bracket from a Saved from the Scrapheap bike, which was tricky but successful operation.


When I welded a homemade tow package to the bike, I found I could use it to transport bicycles short distances and have a way to get back home - such as my Free to a Good Home - in Cleveland trip that brought me to the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op


Even without the rack - or when I wasn't using it - I found myself using the bike quite often - usually for trips when I wanted to ride but didn't want to have to lock a large bike someplace. 


It's small size also gets it on board Amtrak easily, which is why the bike went with me to the League of American Bicyclists 2014 National Bike Summit this past winter - where the bike stood up to an incredible amount of Hoth-like abuse.


And who can forget the bike's role helping Bike Walk Connecticut promote a successful Bike to Work Day Event in Stamford?


Just the sight of Lorca makes me want an alfajore cookie.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice subtle changes to the bike over time. I replaced the handgrips, seat, tires, both wheels, chain, the chainring, brake cables, brake levers and the front and rear brakes. I knew it would never be a disposable bike or something I'd turn into a sculpture, but I didn't expect it to carve out a respectable place in my life. Today, the newest change is the wonderfully loud bell I bought for 100 Rupees ($1.66 U.S.) during my Delhi and Gurgaon adventure earlier this year. 

But over time it began to bother me that I've never seen another bike like it - anywhere. So I decided I needed to find out where the bike came from. 

Like Philomena in reverse. 

So I started looking online. The 14" wheel size was a distinguishing characteristic so I used that for a lot of the Google searches hoping to find a match.

I didn't find anything.

I emailed Michael Embacher, the famed bicycle collector in Vienna who is responsible for the great coffee table book Cyclepedia (also an app, of course) but haven't (yet) heard back. A search for the serial number gave me nothing. Posting on a bike forum also gave me nothing. A visit to foldingcyclist.com also didn't get me closer to the origins of my ride, but I did get to learn quite a lot from them about the long history of folding bikes

Some of the searches of South Norwalk's partial or complete serial number (which starts with the letters: KD) brought me to truly odd results, such as the Canadian Police Information Center, which briefly made me wonder if South Norwalk was a fugitive from the Canadian government. But that was a dead end, too. Even though I finally found a folding bike that had 14" wheels, SoloRock, at Bike Expo New York, I knew it wasn't related to my ride.


Unbelievably enough, I found my answer on eBay. All I did was type in the words 'folding bike.'

Rolling through the pictures, I came to find someone selling what looked to be an identical bike (two days left on that auction, if you're interested). Even comes with a bag to carry it in. And on the top tube the words "Roll N Fold" appear.

A few more searches of that term brought me a couple of more online classified ads for identical bikes. That clinched it. 

"You have brothers and sisters," I said to South Norwalk, which was sitting in my home office at the time. 

Even though I found the name of the bike…the search quickly went cold again. From what I could find, 'Roll N Fold' had been an  'abandoned' trademark for more than a dozen years, and the trademark had been (or, possibly, still is) owned by T.V. Products USA Inc.

This made me wonder if my bike was once the star of a television informercial: some cheery woman with perfect teeth pulling out a bike and riding it off only for Ron Popeil to tell her: "You're not going to pay $100 for my product."

And a guy watching at home, slouched on a couch in a dark living room,  smearing peanut butter on Cheetos*, looks at the TV and thinks: "That's what my life needs. A folding bike."

Eventually, I got an email reply from foldingcyclist.com: someone had sent him a photo of a Roll N Fold some years earlier and notes suggested the bike was bought at an RV dealership. The person who contacted me speculated the bike may have been imported from Asia and sold through RV dealerships or RV magazines. 

But anyway: I couldn't find anything more. But I did find out South Norwalk's name: Roll N Fold. It's a cheap folding bike that actually, in my opinion, works very well…after swapping every component but the frame. 

From here on out, I am still going to refer to that bike as South Norwalk. There is precedence, here: when you found out the name of the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files he was still the Cigarette Smoking Man, wasn't he?

Whatever the name is on your folding bike: enjoy your ride. 


*I've never tried that. I don't think anyone should. Not so much the taste but the tensile strength of the Cheeto couldn't support…never mind. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Folding Bike Week 2014: The Dahon Formula P18

As most of you know, my appreciation of folding bikes began when I bought the Dahon Matrix in 2009. I still use that bike to this day: 26" wheels, easy enough to go on Metro North, durable enough to hook a trail-a-bike to, and dignified enough to ride in Manhattan in a suit and tie.

But I've soured on Dahon since finding out the Matrix had been discontinued. There really wasn't another one like it and it was frankly irritating to be the owner of yet another 'orphaned' bicycle model. 

Now Dahon never said the words: "How can I make it up to you?" but they may as well have...because I've had the chance to ride this.


This is the Dahon Formula P18 lent to me by NYCeWheels. This bike doesn't have the same M.A.S.K.* vibe as the Matrix - because the Matrix doesn't look like a folding bike and this obviously does - but Dahon packed enough folding bike goodness in this thing to make it something special. 


For starters, you've got disc brakes. You never realize how massive disc brakes are until they're fitted on 20" wheels. You also never realize how powerful disc brakes are until you're on a little bike like this. I'm pretty sure if enough Dahon Formulas rode on the equator and they all stopped at once it would affect the tides. But if you're riding in a place where you'd want the ability to stop suddenly (like New York City) sensitive brakes are a nice feature. 


You also have plenty of speeds thanks to the 9 speed cassette in the back on the dinner plate-sized chainring in the front. The flat handlebar allows you to grip the bike like you mean it - but comfortably - while the push button shifters make you feel like you're on a mountain bike.

But this bike isn't made for off-roading. What it seems to be built for is long-haul road rides - and I got to take it on a couple that were more than 20 miles each. This bike likes speed, and I found myself standing out of the saddle quite often to really feel the wind roar by. 


And unlike the Tern I reviewed earlier, which is a little on the large side, this bike actually becomes quite small when you fold it. However, the fold is different since you have to adjust the handlebar height so the bars can fit between the wheels on the fold - and not interfere with the magnetic clasp. That also means that each time you unfold the bike you have to take a few moments to bring the bars back to the preferred position. But on the plus side: when it is folded, one can bring it into a coffee shop without seeming to bother anyone. 


I also carried the bike into Whole Foods just to see if anyone would try to stop me. Nobody did, but that may have been because I smelled pretty bad at the time (it was a very hot day) and store managers may have just wanted to avoid my Pig-Pen cloud. And carrying it a long distance - to the dairy aisle and back - reminded me how pleasantly light it is. 



So I still miss the bigger, heavier, slower, cheaper but stealthier Dahon Matrix, but I do have to give credit where it is due for the Formula (available, of course, at NYCeWheels). Having to adjust the handlebars to get it to fold (and the fact one should carry a mini tool with them at all times in case a hinge needs an adjustment) isn't a deal breaker: if you want a pedal-powered rocket sled, the Dahon Formula P18 will not disappoint.

*If you had to look at this, you probably didn't grow up watching cartoons in the 1980s. You also probably don't know that V.E.N.O.M. stands for Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem.