Bicycling is something that most of us do as kids. Our bike is our first true sign of independence. A bicycle is often our primary mode of transportation for a number of years unless we rely completely on our parents for getting around.

Once we're able to get our driver's license and a car, we discover the joys of faster transportation. Unfortunately, this mode of transport takes it's toll. Congested highways and city streets create a stressful commute as well us unanticipated delays. The cost of fuel has escalated in recent years, taking a bite out of already tenuous budgets. On top of this, is the guilt that some of us feel knowing that we're polluting the air. Even those who are unconcerned with a car's emissions, have to admit that our sedentary lives are only enhanced by the somewhat passive mode we choose to get around.

All considered, returning to the days when a bicycle was our primary mode of transportation seems tempting and perhaps advisable in many circumstances. There are barriers though, even for urban dwellers who often have less than 10 to 15 miles to commute. Bicycles are rather cumbersome, difficult to get onto a bus, a subway, or train. Even if you want to take it on a longer trip for cheap transportation once you arrive, you have the hassle and risk of using a bike rack.

If you live in a small apartment or have limited garage space, just storing these bulky bicycles can be a problem. Even if you do ride your bike to work, there's also the problem of where to put it and keep it secure.

Despite the fact that all of these problems are real, there are solutions. Folding bicycles can reduce or eliminate these issues. Because they aren't as mainstream as a traditional bike however, consumers are hesitant. They have questions. The following is a list of commonly asked queries about folding bicycles.

1. Are folding bicycles large enough for adults?
Yes. Many folding bicycles are indeed smaller than a traditional bike. If they weren't, they wouldn't be very portable. Many adult size folding bikes have 16" or 18" wheels, these are the most compact and are great for urban commuting. Others have 20" wheels and are a bit better if you have to ride longer distances. Some have 26" wheels which clearly make it easier to go farther and faster.

Adjustable seats and handleposts can help assure a good fit that allows an upright riding posture. Shoppers should always examine the manufacturer's specifications to see if the bike can accomodate their height. Dahon for instance has folding bicycles that can accommodate people from 4'8" to 6'4".

2. How difficult is it to fold and unfold one of these folding bikes?
Don't worry, it is seldom a complicated process and you don't need an engineering degree to do it. In fact, keep in mind that these bikes are built with hurried commuters in mind. If you're rushing for the subway, you don't have 3 or 4 mintues to get your bike collapsed.

Some of these bikes can fold up or unfold in 15 seconds. It's a matter of releasing a lever or two and snapping some parts into place.

3. Will these bikes fit in the trunk of my car?
It depends on the size of your trunk and the size of the bike you choose, but very often, yes, they will fit in the trunk of your car. Manufacturers will indicate the folded size of the bike so it's a simple matter of measuring your trunk. If you are a smaller person, you will no longer have to struggle with getting your full size bike up on the roof rack or investing in a trunk mounted rack and scratching up your car.

4. Sure, they fold, but are these folding bicycles heavy?
You're wise to consider the weight of the bike you choose. If you need to routinely lift the bike, folded or unfolded, to get it into your trunk, onto a bus, and so forth, weight is very important. Some of the less expensive folding bikes have frames and parts that are primarily steel (and plastic). These tend to be heavier. Some of them weigh over 30lbs. Others are significantly lighter. They may be made of aluminum alloy and weigh between 20 and 25lbs.

5. Do these bikes ride as well as my traditional bike?
Folding bikes come in a variety of styles. Some are road bikes and some are sport bikes. Some have cushier tires than others. The ride depends in part upon the tires. It also depends upon suspension and this varies from bike model to bike model. In general, a bike with smaller tires will have a harsher ride. In addition, they will tend to require more pedaling to go as fast as you want. In other words, these bikes may be a bit slower and a bit stiffer as far as the ride, but a high quality folding bike can compete with a nice traditional bike. The best thing to do is take one for a test ride before buying.