However, NJ Transit recently updated its policy to make it pretty difficult to bring a full-size bike on a train. Bicycles are only allowed on and off at high-level platforms, which includes exactly none of the stations I frequent. Now, I'm reasonably healthy and can walk or jog two or three miles from the station to my eventual destination, but for those late-night assignments I was faced with the choice of walking 20 miles home, hiring a cab or sleeping at the (outdoor) station until the 6 a.m. train.
Fortunately the rules still permit "collapsible bicycles" (and furthermore, collapsible - or folding bikes as they're more commonly called - are allowed on even during peak hours. Regular bikes are not). Unfortunately, I'm pretty much broke, and while there are some brilliantly designed folding commuter bikes out there, I can't afford a single one of them. Fortunately, I'm pretty handy at fixing up bicycles, so when the option to buy a used Raleigh Twenty came up, I jumped on it.
The bike, as I recieved it, was in pretty good shape, but needed a bit of work. There were some bearing and clamp issues, and while it was pretty rideable, a compulsive tinkerer like myself couldn't leave it at "pretty good".
|Within five minutes of paying for it, I'd already customized it - I added a cupholder.|
The first step was to replace the stem and bars with some mountain bike parts I had lying around
|You better believe I kept the cup holder though (also donated by Neil)|
|Mr. Dremel says "no problem."|
Once I got all the componentry together, I took it for a leisurely shakedown ride on the D&R Towpath between my home in South Bound Brook and my friend's place in Highland Park, about an 8-mile total trip. I figured it would make for an interesting test of handling, because the canal path had been washed out during Hurricane Irene and is currently fairly rough and rocky. The Twenty behaved predictably, and was comfortable and stable to ride, if not as fast as my 700c-wheeled commuter bike. The folding mechanism on the Twenty is a bit different from the hinge on many modern folding bikes (Dahon etc), the frame is interrupted in the middle of the main tube by a pair of angled plates, which swivel around a thick bolt and are held in place by an L-bolt. The connection seems very strong and stiff, and, although the bike doesn't fold up nearly as compactly or as quickly as some of the modern folding bikes, it's quick enough and becomes a small enough bundle for a big guy like me to easily carry onto a train (and is, in fact, far smaller than some of the luggage I see folks carrying). Most importantly, though, from my perspective, is that because of the stiff folding joint and the slightly longer wheelbase, the bike rides more like a full-size city bike than many of the other small-wheel bikes I've tried.
|The "Cracks of Doom" at Landing Lane Bridge in New Brunswick, I had to get off and walk the Twenty across, but I've had to walk everything except for an actual mountain bike across here. It's a good fishing spot though.|