I got my first folding bike back in 1997, a treat to myself on my 40th birthday. A friend did the research and decided I needed a Bike Friday Air Glide, their highest performance 20" wheel folding, traveling road bike.
Since then I've owned several others, most of the best makes, including a Brompton and a Birdy and have been fascinated and obsessed by folding bikes every since. It's less the bike than the idea that whenever possible, I like to have a bike with me and folding bikes allow that to happen.
I've covered a lot of ground. The Birdys were perfect for Chicago - to doodle around the Loop, downtown, to throw on the train to Oak Park to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright houses.
My Bike Friday has taken me up (and over) the Alps, around Mallorca, and to various other destinations.
If you are a cyclist and you travel, you should seriously consider a Bike Friday. They look ridiculous but keep your eyes straight ahead and you would swear you were on a high performance road bike. They travel for free. And, with a little practice they suitcase pack and set up in about 5minutes.
Folding Bikes 101
There are basically three (3) good folding bikes, one each best suited for three different types of riding.
For Short urban cycling, less than... 20km, the Brompton is ideal. It folds fast (as quickly as a few seconds) and is the most compact when folded (so is easy to take on public transportation (and are allowed when full sized bikes are banned). Bromptons are a bit heavy though and are not easily sized. Its basically One Size Fits All (though you can get different handlebar styles and extended seat posts if you are very tall). They ride... OK but are really best for running around town and public transit.
Medium length rides (20-40kms) is where a Birdy excels. BIrdys are agile and fun to ride, most have 7Speeds. They just feel zippier than Bromptons. Though they fold less compactly and not as quickly (15 seconds versus 5s for a Brompton.
Long distance (50kms+) this is when you want a Bike Friday. It is one of the only folding bikes that can replace a traditional full sized road bike. The Pocket Rocket model rides .... 98% like a real road bike. A Bike Friday will take you anywhere. Over the highest mountains, over long long distances...
They take... 5-10minutes to completely disassemble and pack in a suitcase (and 10-15min to set back up on the other side.) And unlike Brompton and Birdy (where you remove none of the parts) with Bike Fridays you have to remove several: pedals, seatpost, stem, wheels..... so you need tools. and you have to keep track of the parts. (though all that can still be done in 5 minutes)
They can be half-folded without removing anything, but they are quite big and clumsy like that.
Folded size. Birdy versus Brompton
Bike Friday. Packed for travel.
Now, what's for sale......?
Birdy (one size fits all) 7S gripshift $1200 CAD/$1000 USD
I love Birdys. Zippy, compact, fun to ride. A great urban bike.