|A wild Dahon appears!|
You can tell a lot about a town by looking at its Craigslist pages. If you're looking for a bicycle, as was I, in Biloxi, Mississippi, you'll find there aren't many to choose from. Is this because Mississippi is the most obese state in the America? Maybe. I like to think Biloxi was actually a cycling utopia, but then hurricane Katrina came through and washed away all the bicycles, leaving only heavier items behind like trucks, SUVs, and local residents. But we all know that's not true, and its not funny to make light of devastating natural disasters even though, let's be honest, this is a terrible location to build anything. Fortunately enough for me, of the two and a half bikes untouched by Katrina, one was a Dahon folding bike.
Now, I've seen some folding bikes around Japan in the second-hand stores, and some people were riding them in Tokyo, but I never gave them much thought. Plenty of bloggers have written reviews of their Bromptons, Bike Fridays, and whatnot, but I'd only seen Dahons featured in Bicycle Times ads, never in real life. So, I figured if Bicycle Times gives their approval, why not. My only other option would have been renting a bike from the base Outdoor Recreation center, and those were all aluminum mountain bikes with knobby tires which I had no interest in whatsoever. The guy was asking $100, which, after price checking around the internet, seemed to be a fairly modest price. So I walked the hour or so to his house, handed over the cash, and walked away with the Dahon.
Walked away? you say, incredulously. Why would I walk when I just bought the most efficient form of human-powered transportation? Well, I really only walked the next block over. I still had to get acquainted with how the thing even worked, and I didn't feel like standing in the guys driveway trying to figure out how to the ridiculously lengthy seat post or tweak the derailleur. I did, eventually, get on and ride it back to my room, the chain squealing in dire need of lube and the a strange wobble that, at the time, I accredited to it just being a folding bike.
The wobble was not because of it being a folding bike. It was this:
Yeah, that is the tube emerging through the tire. The sidewalls on the rear tire had practically disintegrated, and the wobble was the structural collapse of the tire itself as it supported my weight on it. Needless to say, I found myself in the market for a new 20" tire. The closest place to get one was the Base Exchange just down the street, which had two 20" BMX-style tires in stock. After a brief internal struggle over the legitimacy of Bell tires (and reading a couple Amazon reviews), I picked up the Bell Freestyle 20" with Kevlar. I don't know much about Kevlar other than you can make a canoe or a bullet-proof helmet with it, so hopefully that means this tire is at least kinda durable. Unfortunately, it was also a bit wider than the stock tires (20"x 2" vs. 20"x 1.5"), so I had to remove the rear fender for it to fit properly. After I got it installed, I took it for a spin and it seems to work just fine. In fact, having a wider tire in the rear softens the ride while allowing the front tire to remain nimble.
|The true test of bicycle utility: providing the High Life.|
Even though the newer models have even more features, like dynamo lights and a tire patch kit in the handlebars, this one does have a couple, such as an integrated floor pump in the seat tube and some proprietary bungee system on the rear rack. The best part of course, is this:
All in all, I kinda like having a folding bike. It doesn't have the same elegance of a sleek, normal-sized bicycle, but it does have its own utilitarian appeal. It also can fit in a suitcase, which will be important when it's time to say goodbye to ole Mississippi, a land where maybe the bicycle is just misunderstood.