Crossing The Brazos

“During dry spells, the whole river used to dry up into sandy bed, leaving only a faintly damp white trail. Years ago, on my walks I’d trace that trail upstream, searching for where the river had gone”
Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

Crossing the Brazos River alongside Interstate 35, Waco, Texas

One of the cool things you can do with a folding bicycle is to keep it in the trunk or back of the car on long road trips.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

That way, if you feel like taking a break – check Googlemaps on the phone and see if there are any bike routes or trails in the area (there usually are) and you can park and go for a little ride. It’s a great break from driving.

So Long As You Move

“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want–you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don’t know. I’ve forgotten the difference long ago, because it really doesn’t matter, so long as you move.”
Ayn Rand, We the Living

It’s been a difficult winter, but spring is here. I’ve struggled since January with allergies, infections, weakness and laziness. The worst of it is that I haven’t been riding my bicycle enough and have lost enough fitness to keep me from riding a long distance.

That’s bad.

The only thing to do is to start all over again. I’m trying to ride a little bit each day… every day, a little bit, and then, maybe, a little bit more. To keep everything going is tough, it’s too tempting to give up. One thing that helps is to try and at least make things interesting and there are a lot of compact places in town that I can drive, or better yet, take the train to – ride around a bit, maybe stop and read or get a coffee or a beer or something to eat. That’s not so hard.

So the other day I took my folder to the Mockingbird DART station and rode around a bit. I met Nick for lunch, then went home. No big deal… but it felt like one. A little bit every day.

My Xootr Swift Folding Bike at Mockingbird Station, Dallas, TX

That blue bag on the back of my bike is a Thomas EMS Emergency bag (I picked up two old ones that weren’t being used anymore) converted into a bike pannier. I removed most of the interior pockets and mount it with some carabiners to the rack. It works great as a small pannier (I have some grocery panniers if I have to carry something larger, like groceries) for daily rides. I have my camera, kindle, and lock inside and those outer zip pockets are exactly the right size for extra water bottles.

We Have Just Folded Space From Ix

We have just folded space from Ix
Many machines on Ix
New machines
Better than those on Richese
You are transparent

—-The Third-Stage Guild Navigator to the Emperor Shaddam IV, Dune (the movie)

My Xootr Swift folding bike, folded up against the wall of Four Corners Brewery, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr Swift folding bike, folded up against the wall of Four Corners Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

Sometimes I fold my bike when I’m locking it up. I’m not sure why – it certainly doesn’t make it any harder to steal – you could simply pick it up and throw it into a trunk. Maybe I hope it makes it look less like a bicycle and more like a random pile of pipes and parts.

I was thinking about David Lynch’s surreal, preposterous, and insane version of Dune, the movie from 1984. I read some old reviews – everybody hated it. A lot of people walked out. Someone said, “It sure isn’t Star Wars.”

Now, after all this time, I realize that (although I can’t even say Dune is a good movie) I actually like Dune better than Star Wars. It has certainly had more of a lasting effect on how I look at the world, that’s for sure.

 

I mean, what other movie ends with a real WTF knife fight to the death between Sting and Agent Cooper with Captain Jean-Luc Picard watching.

Xootr Swift – First Ride

Stock Xootr Swift - I only added the seat bag and bottle cage (click to enlarge)

Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

My Xootr Swift folder came out of the box and within a half-hour or so, was ready to go. The hardest part of putting it together was getting the packing paper off of the parts. I only had time for a quick run up and down the block before it became too dark.

So I did some work on getting my lights on the bike – which didn’t take too long. I sat down for a minute, put on a jacket, and then headed out into the night.

I had only intended to try the thing out, maybe once around the block. But you know how new things are. I’m not really into possessions – far from it – but a new bicycle… that’s different. Before I knew it I was at the end of the trail, four miles from home and I needed to get back. I had to be at work two hours early and here I was, in the middle of the night, on a bicycle too far from home. It was going to be a tough day tomorrow.

So far, I love the bike. It took a little getting used to – the small wheels are very responsive. But it is comfortable and fast. Like the reviews said, it is rock-solid.

So far I am very happy. And happy is a good thing to be.

Tomorrow, I’ll work on mounting the Crossrack and then start on thinking about the front derailleur kit. There is always more work to be done.

The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It simply pivots and folds in half - it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package - but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.

The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It basically folds in half – and it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package – but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.

I drive a tiny car - a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks).  I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. The handlebar and stem come off with a quick release for a little extra space. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

The First One in Almost Thirty Years

My road bike - an ancient Raleigh Technium.

My road bike – an ancient Raleigh Technium.

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.

My new Giant Rincon SE commuter bike.

My Giant Rincon SE commuter bike bought used off of Craigslist.

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.

The box. Pretty small for a bicycle.

The box. Pretty small for a bicycle.

A lot of packing material.

A lot of packing material.

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.

Bicycle Times Review

My Xootr Swift Folding bicycle – big photos.

bikes@vienna: Customer feedback on the Xootr Swift folding bike

Review: My Xootr and Me! Xootr Swift

Review of a 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.