Why Folding Bikes Aren’t Just for City Living

Believe it or not, the tiny two-wheelers belong in your adventure routine

A picture of a folding bike in the outdoors.
These things are more robust than ever, and Brompton recently teamed up with Bear Grylls on an adventure-ready folding bike.
Courtesy of Brompton

Folding bikes are having a moment. Either that, or I’m losing my mind, because I’m seeing them on a near-daily basis in my Brooklyn neighborhood. Long popular in London, a good folding bike is an easy pitch for the active urban-dweller: it fits well in an apartment, it’s compatible with metro commutes and it’s a low-stakes way to Trojan-horse some exercise into your day.

That said, a folding bike’s utility in suburban or exurban settings is a little less obvious. Why pay a sum worthy of an excellent gravel bike just to save some space? You’re saving on buying a clunk bike rack for your car, maybe, but how would a folding bike fit into your fitness routine, anyway?

Are Folding Bikes Worth the Hype?
We tried out Brompton’s award-winning, 16-pound T Line One

Consider the Ruck-Cycle

One of our favorite wellness credos right now could be called “mixed-use cardio.” The most obvious example is the run-walk. Some of the very best ultrarunners in America champion the approach — two or three miles of running, a mile of walking, and so on.

From a physiological perspective, the switch-up in effort trains one’s heart a chance to regroup and adapt to different cadences, which optimizes cardio recovery. From a psychological perspective, this sort of programming makes sure your attitude stays fresh, and you don’t grow bored or overwhelmed by a single activity. (For instance, one of my favorite workouts I ever did was a round-trip jog to a beach in Oahu, interspersed by intervals of ocean swimming.)

The same, two-way sensibility can be applied to folding bikes, via a “ruck-cycle” adventure. Folding bikes are compact to pack down into backpacks, which you can then ruck through terrain that’s more typical of outside-the-city living. Think: fire roads, power-line trails and farm tracks.

Bear Grylls X Brompton

Crucially, folding bikes are also light enough to carry along on a rucking mission. Most in the rucking community will lug weights anywhere from 20 pounds up to one-third of their bodyweight. Folding bikes are usually in the 30 to 40-pound weight range, and the top-line, handmade ones can come in below even that.

Rucking and cycling is a dynamite combo and essentially longevity bingo. It’s cardio, it’s weighted, it’s full-body, it’s even green exercise. We all know how effective cycling is, while rucking — a special ops staple — is capable of burning more fat than running, and that cutting doesn’t come at the cost of muscle loss. Ruckers burn an unholy amount of calories, up their VO2 max and actually tend to gain muscle on their walks.

Pretty much the only flaw in this plan is that folding bikes aren’t built for the hinterlands … hence their ubiquity on my concrete city block. To wit, we recommend looking into more beefed-up folding bikes, like Brompton’s recent Bear Grylls collab (the Brompton x Bear Grylls C Line Explore). The six-speed bike is just 26.9 pounds, yet boasts a steel frame, Schwalbe tires and a weatherproof saddle.

The bike released last week, and Grylls (whom we interviewed last year) called them “a fast, versatile companion that opens up a world of adventure.” If folding bikes are good enough for the most famous swashbuckler alive, they certainly deserve a place in your outdoor fitness rotation.

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