It was nineteen eighty six (or so) when I bought my Raleigh Technium. That was the last new bicycle I’ve bought (I bought a used mountain bike in 1992 or so and another used one last year when that broke and I needed a commuter bike). For a long time I’ve been wanting to buy a new bicycle, but having two kids in private college has made me too broke for too long of a time.
Now, I have only one still in school (Lee has graduated and is a financial analyst in New Orleans, if you can believe it) and the second is almost done so I tamped down my inner cheapness and bought the thing.
I have been thinking about what bike to get for years. At first, I wanted a modern, carbon, lightweight road bike. But that’s not the kind of riding I have been doing. I’m not in anywhere near good enough shape to do justice to a bike like that.
What I like to do is ride slowly, around the city. So, the second type of bike I thought about is an urban cruiser – maybe a throwback old-school steel bike, or a touring bike. That would have been a smart purchase and that’s what most of the folks I ride with use.
But what I’m really interested in is trying to fully integrate my bicycle riding with the rest of my life. Here in the vast sprawling DFW Metroplex that means using other transportation – the train or even a car – in conjunction with a bicycle.
Thinking about that aspect of riding – I kept coming back to the idea of a folding bicycle. Something that I could keep in the smallest of trunks, or on a train…. The versatility of a good folder would open up a lot of opportunities. Plus, I have my commuter bike already… and my Technium is an old-school road bike – there is no reason to give up on them. A folder would simply add to the possiblities.
It was two years ago (time flies) that I considered buying an inexpensive folding bike, but decided against it. I bought a fancy-smancy fountain pen (a Sheaffer Pen for Men) instead.
That was actually a good thing. A cheap folder would have been a mistake.
There are a number of folding bicycles out there. There is the Brompton – a beautiful complex design that has an intricate folding method that collapses into an incredibly tiny cube of metal. Then there is the Bike Friday – very well made but very expensive. And the huge line of Dahon bikes – there is one for every wallet and need.
As I did my web research, I came across an odd bike, called the Xootr Swift. It was made by a company better known for their kick scooters. As I looked at it, though, it seemed to make more and more sense.
It is known as the best riding of the folding bikes – it rides like a full-sized bike.
It uses standard bike parts and can be infinitely customized.
The Xootr Swift has a weight limit much higher than the others (unless you buy a special “heavy option” Bike Friday – which is very expensive) – the vertical fold of the Swift is stronger than the hinged designs of the others.
The big disadvantage of the Xootr Swift is that it doesn’t fold very small. For me, that wasn’t a concern. I wanted something that will fit in a trunk or take up a little less space on the train – I don’t plan of flying with it.
There was one final item that convinced me to get the Xootr Swift – and I’m a little ashamed of this. I looked all over town, at all the rides, for another Swift, and never saw one. Nobody I talked to, even folks that had other folding bikes, had even heard of a Xootr Swift. As far as I could tell, nobody in Dallas owns a Xootr Swift. I know that can’t be literally true – but for all practical purposes it is. It would be cool to own a unique bike.
The last negative thought was that I would look stupid and ridiculous on a folding bike – sort of like a bear riding a clown bike. But what the hell – losing your last bit of pride and self-respect is a very liberating thing…. So fuck it.
My final decision was what accessories to get. I struggle up steep (and not so steep) hills. I want this bike to be as useful and as versatile as possible, so I ordered a front derailleur (the stock setup is 1×8), shifter, and a smaller second front gear to use on those steep inclines (and to get home when I’m really tired).
Then I had to decide on getting a rack. If left to my own devices I’d fill a bike up with all sorts of crap, and I already have my commuter bike for that (front and rear racks, fenders, a plastic ammo box bolted to the front – that sort of shit) so I thought about keeping the Swift clean.
But, again, I want this bike to be versatile – and that means I will want to carry cargo sometimes. Xootr sells a special rack for their folder called a Crossrack. Looking at the design, I realized the homemade panniers I just made would fit like a glove – so I broke down and ordered a Crossrack.
Five days ago I logged onto the Xootr website and placed my order. Standard shipping was free. Today, about an hour after I came home from work the doorbell rang and when I opened the door, there was a brown truck speeding away and a cardboard box on the front porch.
The box was surprisingly small and light. I guess that’s what you get with a folding bike.
So now I have to start putting the thing together. I should have enough time to get a quick test ride in before it’s too dark. That will have to wait for another entry – so for today, if you are interested in the bike, you’ll have to be satisfied with some of the links I found while researching the bike.
Ride report tomorrow.
My Xootr Swift Folding bicycle – big photos.
bikes@vienna: Customer feedback on the Xootr Swift folding bike
Review: My Xootr and Me! Xootr Swift
Xootr Swift on Amazon (I didn’t buy it from there, but the reviews were useful)
An Associate Professor at MIT that commutes on a Xootr Swift
How he modified and customized his Swift as a commuting bike
A newspaper article about him and his bike commuting.
A massive message board collection of posts on the Xootr Swift
Photo collection of a customized Xootr Swift
Flickr hive of Xootr Scooters and Bikes
This guy Obsessed over the Xootr Swift like me
and here he gets his box like me
Another Swift Single Speed conversion (it has horizontal dropouts, perfect for a single-speed)
The Folding Society – a comprehensive web site with tons of information on folding bicycles
Gallery of Xootr Swift Photos from the Xootr site
Gallery of Crossrack photos from the Xootr site
Folding Bike Buyer’s Guide – UK specific, does not include the Xootr Swift – but still an interesting read for general information on folders. I enjoy the negative reviews.
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