Really Ready for Summer with Halfords – Are folding bikes any good?
By Ian Morris
I’ve loved cycling since I was a kid. Growing up in a village away from big towns and cities meant that if I hadn’t had a bike I wouldn’t have had very much to do at all.
So, in those tricky teenage years, before I could drive and when my parents couldn’t do anything right (in my hormone-soaked eyes), my friends and I would go on long rides together.
Like many youngsters, my earliest experience of cycling to work was a paper round. These days, of course, a paper round doesn’t pay the rent and I’ve switched a village for the big smoke. And like many adults, I use public transport to get in.
So when I asked Halfords if I could borrow a commuter bike to rekindle my love of cycling I was thrilled when they said yes.
A few days later I was in my local store collecting a Carrera Transit Folding Bike, £320.
A folding bike gives you options
I live about 15 miles from my office, so a folding bike gave me options. While I’m not new to cycling I wasn’t, like a lot of people, sure if jumping on a bike for the first time in ages and attempting a long ride was a good idea. The Carrera Transit Folding Bike allowed me to use the train during rush hour to cut some of those miles off.
Most railways are tolerant of folding bikes, even during busy hours, but you might need to use some personal judgement about how busy your local station is. (You might not make new friends if you fill an already busy carriage with a bike, no matter how compact.)
My main goal was to skip the bits of my commute that I dislike. The bus to the station – gone. The worry about a rail strike also evaporated, if there was no train at my local stop I could simply ride to a bigger station with services running.
And most important of all, I got to ditch the overcrowded public transport in the city.
All about the Transit
The Carrera Transit Folding Bike is an affordable bike. Some folding cycles cost more than £1,000 but this one is just £320, making it far more suitable for someone who’s just getting in to the idea of commuting by bike.
What’s perhaps surprising is that for the money you get quite a lot. There’s a bag rack on the back, which would be very handy for a change of clothes for the office. It also has mudguards, which mean you won’t end up with a hilarious strip of mud up your back after a rain shower.
Halfords can also help you pick the right helmet for your needs, whether you’re looking for something lightweight, or you’re interested in the latest gadgets and tech – it’s important to have one before you set off.
When I picked the bike up from Halfords the colleague helping me was pleased to show me how to fold it. It’s not a difficult process, but I didn’t want to have to try and do it at a crowded train station while people pointed and laughed as I entangled myself in the various hinges and mechanisms.
I needn’t have worried. A clip releases to allow the handlebars to fold down and hinge in the middle means you can easily fold the bike to take it on the train, or into your house – I live in a split level, first floor flat, so this is important as I have no storage outside. Once you get the hang of it, it’s done in a few seconds.
Carrying the Transit is manageable but the bike is quite heavy. I don’t think this is an issue though – taking it into the station and out the other end wasn’t a problem. I opted to hop off the train and unfold it on the platform so I could wheel it out. Carrying it more than a couple of hundred meters would be a challenge – perhaps it’s a good way to work on upper body strength, while cycling deals with the build the legs up.
What I was quite surprised with was the gear system. My only real experience of hub gears was years ago on my mum’s bike. Things, I’m glad to say, have improved enormously since then. The gears are smooth and I liked the ratio a lot, it’s perfect for commuting. The advantage of a hub is that it’s enclosed, making it less susceptible to damage from knocks when being carried. Hub gears are also more resistant to dirt and grime, which should help with reliability.
The three gears offer more than enough range to tackle a hill, while still giving you a low enough ratio to gather some speed on the flat. I never felt like I was having to work too hard to move myself along, and crucially it meant I wasn’t getting too hot and bothered before starting work.
And there’s another great reason to cycle
One thing I realised as I cycled along the river was just how much nicer the city is when seen on two wheels. For one thing the UK is finally investing in cycle lanes. I was able to ride from the office to the mainline train station almost entirely on a bike lane separated from the main road.
And as I whizzed along the riverside road I found myself really enjoying my journey. The view is better than being underground in boiling hot metal cylinder and I was happy to cycle a less direct route to enjoy the views. I even decided to head into the city to see a friend, knowing that it would be more fun to cycle than use trains or buses.
And the Carrera Transit Folding Bike is actually a great companion for these city rides. Are there some things I’d change? Perhaps. Would I like an eBike for those days where I’m tired? You bet! But having a bike I can store in my flat and store in my office has made a huge difference.
I’d urge you to get on your bike this Cycle to Work Day. You might save some pennies, or rediscover a passion that you had forgotten about, or never knew you had.
Cycling to work was great. I got some good exercise and enjoyed the city from another vantage point. I also avoided overcrowded transport, which helped my general mood.
The Carrera Transit Folding Bike was a loyal and trusty companion, too. I quickly became attached to it and really loved the fact I could put it in my flat and still get in the front door. Riding it around the city was brilliant. The gears got me away from lights with ease and with a bit of effort you can keep up with most other cyclists. You won’t break speed records on the Transit though, but it’s really not aimed at doing that.
It kind of amazed me how quickly it felt like part of the family. Handing it back to Halfords after my loan was a bit of a bind, which was only soothed by them agreeing to lend me something else, but more about that in another article.
I’d say that for anyone toying with the idea of cycling part of the way to work, or people who work within a few miles of home, this bike would be perfect.
Make sure you are Really Ready For Summer with Halfords. Visit www.halfords.com or go in-store for full details on all offers and services.
Prices correct at time of publication.
This article was written in partnership with Halfords for express.co.uk.