Palo Alto has some decided advantages when it comes to small wheel cycling:
- Palo Alto has a Caltrain station. This allows one to easily ride and bike from San Francisco to San Jose and anywhere in between. They even have special cars for bikes and a video to show you how to ride the train with your bike. For a small-wheeler, it's a bit of a Keystone-copish video. It shows a lot of people lugging big bikes into the big bike cars where they bungee cord them to other bikes and hope they are undamaged and unstolen when they return for them. Caltrain allows small-wheelers to place their bikes under the seat in front of them or in the storage compartment--safe, sound, and handy--a much more civilized and humane way to go if I do say so.
- Palo Alto has comparatively super nice weather--not too hot, not too cold, no freezing rain, salt, potholes, or snowplows.
- Palo Alto has lots and lots of stuff to see and lots of sibling cities just next door with characters all their own. Small-wheel bikes are the best for sightseeing and people watching in close quarters. Palo Alto and its surroundings have lots of sights, lots of people, all in close quarters. Can't wait to go back--with the ISWE Brompton this time instead of a giant Dell Laptop from work--the beast of a thing feels as if it weighs more than the Brompton!
- Palo Alto has super bike-friendly infrastructure, complete with a 299-page City of Palo Alto Bicycle + Pedestrian Transportation Plan. The + sign in the title is nice--feels like a budding romance.
- The Palo Alto area also appears to have five Brompton dealers. That's a lot of Brompton dealers. There are also dealers for Tern and Dahon, sometimes more than one on the same street. Not sure any of the shops are as comprehensive as PortaPedal Bike, but man, there are a lot of shops, one should have no trouble finding a bike. Wow.
Anyhow, back to our sighting. Sorry for the grainy picture. Work kept us busy and despite there being as many small wheels about as one would imagine in a Richard Scarry book about small wheel bikes (if only there were one) we only have this one picture of a Dahon at dusk. The little guy is a Speed Uno. Uno means it's a single speed Dahon. It's not a fixie. It has a coaster brake. It has 20" wheels and it weighs 24.2 lbs. (about 2 lbs. less than the ISWE M6R Brompton). Basically, it's like a folding BMX bike. It's a tank, a thrasher, an urban assault vehicle. And look at the width those bars. They look like the horns of a Spanish bull, ready to throw hapless pedestrians from the streets and sidewalks of Palo Alto--so much for the + sign here. Regardless, an impressive steed and not too expensive for a high-quality, simple and durable folding bike. I quickly Googled one at $364.00. But, what about that one-gear thing?
Single-speed folding bikes, and ones with three speeds, are quite common on sites like eBay and Craigslist. I just pulled a similar used single-speed Dahon up for $180 OBO. I bet they would take $150. It could be the reason these models are so common used is that once people discover what they are capable of with one speed, they quickly start thinking what they could do with 6, 14, or 15. There is something certainly to be said for the simplicity and durability of the single-speeders, but one has to wonder whether they are primarily a gateway to something more?
Craigslist sites for major cities in the Midwest usually have listings for a handful of used small-wheel and folding bikes. If one is careful to go with name brand manufacturers, these bikes are likely to be good deals. Small-wheel and folding bikes are generally built really tough. Used, they will probably fair much better than a lot of their big wheeled counterparts. Craigslist also provides a decent way to try out some small wheels in the event that you're not fortunate enough to have five Brompton dealers or a comprehensive shop like PortaPedal Bike close by. Send an email, take a drive, and take a ride. Some of these folders are even listed by conventional bike shops looking for unconventional customers. You could be that person. Go!
P.S. If you're not handy, there's something to be said for buying from an authorized dealer. Small-wheel and folding bikes, especially those with internally-geared hubs, can be a little tricky to work on. Not everyone is familiar with them. Buying from a dealer will give you a resource for doing maintenance yourself or, heck, just have them do it so you can spend your time riding. It's worth considering. But, either way--used or new--Go!