Bicycles, Weight, and Women

I want the lightest bike possible. I carry it around, up and down flights of stairs, through airports, and generally having to haul it around town on my shoulder when I’m not riding it. I want it to have fenders, a rear rack, smooth ride, kevlar puncture-proof tires, dynamo hub for light/power generation, have 18 speeds, and be fun to ride. The current market assumes if you want a light bike, you want a racing bike. This fact cuts out most of the features I want on a bike. It’s crazy. I hear the argument that weight is irrelevant, because when the bike is being ridden, weight doesn’t matter so much. This is apparently especially true when the bike is loaded up with groceries, shopping bags, or commuting bags. I disagree with these arguments and the market which equates lightness to racing. The fact that so many people bring up this argument (just gain muscle, weight doesn’t matter, etc) seems like a ripe opportunity to disrupt the market.

In riding with, and watching, women (and some men) struggle with their bikes, they routinely give up and just lock it up somewhere, hoping the bike is still there when they return. Having a super light and durable bike would be great. A super light and folding and durable bike would be fantastic. In talking with women at bike stores, they generally seem to want a light bike, but acquiesce for a bike that’s heavier than boulders. In talking with men at bike stores, they want the same thing, but most seem to assume they can build the muscle to handle the weight. In fact, the women can build the muscle too, but carrying around a 15 kg bike is no fun for any amount of time, especially up flights of stairs.

This is especially true for folding bikes. According to the Folding Bike Buyer’s Guide, most folding bikes weigh just as much as normal bikes, if not a bit more. For a folding bike, I want a bike that’s light enough to carry through airports. I understand some folding bikes have trolley wheels to make dragging/pushing the bike on smooth surfaces easier. However, a folding bike isn’t as stable at a brisk walk, so carrying it is a must. Optimally, I’d like to throw it into a big canvas bag, sling it over my shoulder, and walk away.

This leads me away from steel and titanium to carbon fiber. There are carbon fiber folding bikes. I don’t know how well they weather the daily commute over the years, but they sure are pretty light. However, they aren’t dramatically lighter than non-carbon fiber folding bikes. If expense was no barrier, I’d probably try one out.

Now imagine you’re a woman and you want a folding bike. You’re either forced to succumb to the market of heavy folding bikes, like Brompton’s, or keep waiting for a super-light weight (under 8 kg) competitor to appear. Brompton’s are fantastic bikes, please don’t misunderstand, but they are heavy. They can be wheeled, but not really carried for any period of time, like say 1km across an airport, or through a subway system.

Thanks to SC and the folks at Harris Cyclery for the inspiration and background on this post.

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