Small wheel sighting is often a challenging endeavor, especially in the Midwest. In the most promising flyover state locales--places like the Chicago Loop, or downtown Indianapolis--a short ride around will usually yield one or two small-wheel sightings. It's a bit like bird watching. Look around for a while, be patient, don't make any sudden moves, find a rare specimen, sneak up on it, snap a picture of it and feel all warm and fuzzy and fortunate about the whole experience. It's very rewarding. Small wheel sighting in Palo Alto, CA on the other hand is, well, not very challenging at all. The little guys are everywhere. They're breeding like rabbits out there. It's like bunny rabbit watching at a rabbit warren. There's one over there, another one over there, look out!
Palo Alto has some decided advantages when it comes to small wheel cycling:
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!
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Small wheels rule!