Friday, June 26, 2009

Cool Technology of the Week

I work in the Longwood Medical Area - a former cowpath that is now the only access to the center of biomedical research, healthcare, and informatics. It's a very challenging place to commute, especially on Red Sox games days. I carry a red sox schedule in my wallet to help me plan commutes - leaving an hour earlier in the morning or an hour later at night.

There must be a better way than trying to drive through a nightmare of red sox traffic, commuters, and road construction.

In July I'm going to try a bold experiment with a cool technology. I'm going to park my car away from the madness and use a foldable bicycle that weighs under 20 pounds for all my Boston city commuting.

I've investigating many folding bicycle technologies - Bike Friday, Brompton, and Dahon, but none is light enough, small enough, or quick to fold enough to just toss in and our of car/office/train in a few seconds. The Strida is.

The Strida was invented by Mark Sanders in the UK in the 1980's as part of his graduate work. It's use case is not long distance travel or hill climbing. It's a greaseless, chainless, gearless bike that folds in 10 seconds and is perfect for Park and Bike or Train and Bike travel.

My goal in July is to leave the car 2 miles from the Longwood Medical area in a place that's easy to commute to/from, then bike to all my remaining destinations. Admittedly our unusually wet Summer this year in Boston will make this a bit challenging, but my rayon and linen clothes drive fast. I have a messenger bag for my Macbook Air and meeting materials.

So if you're in Boston, look for me on a Strida, dressed in black and carrying a computer on my back. My only reservation is that rock climbing, ice climbing, and kayaking are completely safe compared to bicycling in Boston. My Mort level may go up a bit during this experiment. Those disc brakes on the Strida are likely to come in handy.

A lightweight, folding, greaseless bike to solve your commuting nightmares. That's cool!


Bernz said...

I've got the Zport Folding bike. Weighs about 25 lbs.

I also have a "real" bike.

If you want to go on the commuter rail, the Zport (or hopefully your bike) fits comfortably on the rack above.

I don't like it for riding more than 4-5 miles, though. The tires are too small and the lack of gear options are such that its not my thing for long distances. I prefer my real bike for that.

Still, it's a convenience and that's likely worth the tradeoff in your case.

Jacob said...

Voice recognition, John? .. The bike "ways" 20 lbs .. :-)

Maimónides said...

I've got one from an Spanish brand, and weights about 12 Kgs.

So, I take train as last 70Km from my office, with my folded bike, and when I arrived to Barcelona, unfold my bike and go to my office, I think two Km from rail station.

As you, I carry a bag with my HTC Shift UMPC computer.

It's a convenient way to move into a city, and a best way to move my legs!

Eric said...

You will love your Strida! I have a brushed silver one and ride to work regularly on it (about 1.5 miles in Cambridge). You can take them in stores, on the T, even on the bus! With practice, I bet you can get the folding time down to 6 seconds. :) Check out the Strida Forum for more info:

Unknown said...

My chainless bikes have 20" wheels (one has shaft & one has belt drive) but it's ~ 30 lbs. The advantage is that it can handle a long distance with much more comfort & has internal gears to handle the hills.

For short trips, though, I would definitely consider a Strida.

TC from

Unknown said...

John: I've always wondered if there's a medical benefit of riding a bike with a belt drive-train vs. chains.

My theory is that the impact/shock to the knees (& ankles) is dampen by the rubber belt. May be insignificant but over years of riding, it may make a difference.

What are you thoughts?

Ben said...

I think biking might be healthier than not biking. As far as I remember, a seven minute all-out exercise is enough to significantly reduce your risk of CVD. It might also be beneficial in preventing dementia.
I used to bike to the bus which would drop me of in the middle of the Longwood area.

Urraca said...


Your plan to bike is terrific. I myself commute 6.5 miles down the lakefront path in Chicago, heading into Downtown everyday. The minor hassles and adjustments in clothing, schedules (and number of daily showers) is totally worth it. Best of luck!

Doug said...

I don't own a Strida, but I've seen several. I own 2 Bromptons and would favor them for their ride and basically a more compact fold.

If you have a rack with the EZ wheels on the back, you can roll the Brompton along a surprising number of places (a fact that my wife appreciates when hauling hers around). We take them frequently on the NYC subways and only have to carry them when we hit the stairs.

Either way though, you can't go wrong, and a folding bike is a great tool.

cbmd4u said...

I bought a Brompton while in London after my trip to
the Oxford XML summerschool 3 yrs ago. Absolutely,
the fastest and simplest way to tour london. 400 lbs
or ~$800. Very compact fold and easy to carry. Not
2 secs, but not much more than 10. Accepted on bus
and tube in london. Especially handy after the bombing that summer. Frequent subway closures.
Fit in the largest suitcase available in Oxford. With
books I was over weight limit in the bag, but after
mailing books made it on the plane. Sadly, nicked
from garage in La Jolla CA.

Strida looks great. Will look for a local dealer.

Chris Bickford

Unknown said...

Wow....that's really amazing and interesting story.i am impress with this bicycle,it solve my many problem and it is very comfortable and affordable for me.

Resveratrol Ultra

Web said...

Dr. Halamka,

The Strida is a cool folder. It folds extremely quickly and rolls easily when folded. The Strida 5.0 folding bike cruises easily at 12-13 mph; the Strida SX cruises at @ 16 mph and offers a more comfortable ride.

By the way, if you haven't ridden a Strida yet, the way this folding bicycle handles may feel a bit odd initially but you'll get the hang of it.

Another Sub 20 LB Folding Bike
In case you had not heard, another sub 20 lb folding bike that's ideal for urban commutes is the CarryMe. The 1 spd version weighs in at just 18 lbs and this bike folds even smaller than the Strida. Roller wheels are mounted on the rear carry rack so you can roll the bike when folded and there is also a dual speed CarryMe DS...

Outdoor Steve said...


Great Blog. I am a former CIO, member of HIMSS, adjunct faculty teaching medical informatics, and an Outdoor Enthusiast. I appreciate your perspective and diversity.

My Outdoor Enthusiast Blog is found at

I, like you, try to balance my healthcare IT CIO background with my commitment and passion for outdoor adventures.


Howard Katz said...

Kudos for trying to commute by folding bike. I ride a Brompton, get my healthcare at BIDMC, and bike to appointments. A real pleasure!

By the way, I'm a tech writer good at explaining complex things to technical people clearly and concisely. Any openings?