Dr Strangefold, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Multimodal Commute

For my birthday, a decennial one, at my behest/pleading, the Official Wife very generously purchased me a Brompton folding bicycle, which I love. If it were red, I would call it my Bromptomato, but the bike is arctic blue and that color doesn't readily lend itself to fruit/vegetable portmanteau names and if the name of your bike isn't a fruit/vegetable portmanteau, what's the point of naming your bike at all? In any case, I ride this bike to work a fair amount and only rarely do I take full advantage of its foldability (or fold ability?) and bring the bike on the Metro. You see, I'm one of those bike commuters who actually likes to ride to work, but, this morning, confronted with a cold wind and a cold cold (it lingers, in spite of my best efforts and copious leechings), I decided that I would split my commute, sandwiching a Metro trip between two delicious slices of bike riding (kind of like grainy liverwurst on a buttery brioche). So, here are some things about that:

Destination Station- My workplace is nearest the red line and my home is nearest the Blue/Orange line. However, there's a red line station not too far away (maybe 2 miles) and I prefer to avoid transfers at all cost (like Arsenal). I find them to be an immense hassle for two reasons: 1) I don't ride the train enough to know the interior station layout, which escalators to use and which line goes in what direction. I frequently end up twirling about in MetroCenter before finding myself collapsed in a fetal position on the brown tile floor, rocking myself and whispering "Shady Grove or Glenmont?" over and over made catatonic by my inability to consistently recall which end station is the one I should aiming for, and 2) There is no length of time that feels longer than the amount of time that elapses after barely missing a train and waiting for the next one. If it's a 5 minute wait, it feel like an hour. If it's 10, I might as well be in the Chateau D'If. Furthermore, the added complication of carrying a folding bicycle makes it such that you really not want to be running to catch a train. It is highly likely that you will injure someone and even likelier that that someone will be yourself. Also because avoiding transfers can be the entire pretense (justification?) of the bike ride itself.

Some pretty obvious tips that I'll mention anyway:

  • Fold your bike out of the way of crowds of people. Don't be that guy who rides as close as possible to the escalator before dismounting. Doing that will ensure that you are history's greatest monster and you'll assuredly be burned in effigy for generations to come.
  • Don't try to walk down the escalator with your bike. You will probably hurt someone (yourself). And even if you don't hurt someone, the escalators really aren't wide enough, in my experience, to accommodate carrying a bike safely past other people. I like to stand of the escalator (ON THE RIGHT, lest one of regular straphangers shanks you) with the bike on the step in front of me. 
  • Have your fare ready before you even enter the station. Again, this seems really obvious. Even for when you're not bringing your bike. It's just good sense. 

  • Never ride your bike within the confines of the station. The Metro station is not a velodrome. It is not a hippodrome. It is not a palindrome. Your bike should remain folded for the duration of the trip, even if some tourists ask you to unfold it because "thereare no bikes like that where we're from." Politely demure and refer them to YouTube for a folding demonstration or for dramatic hamsters.  
  • Go to a less crowded part of the platform. If you can. I try to get to the front of the train because, for the most part, those cars are less crowded and have more room to fit you and your bike. When I get in the car, I immediately yell "I'VE GOT A SWEET FOLDING BIKE AND YOU'RE ALL GONNA NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR IT, BITCHES" and this is highly effective (at getting you punched in face). What I prefer to do is try to get to one of the ends of the train car and look for room for the bike against one the doors. Doing so, puts your bike out of the path of most people and that's really what I'm trying to accomplish: to be as unobtrusive and un-inconveniencing as possible. 
  • Never put your bike on a seat. You can try to fit your bike on the floor in front of your seat, but in my experience, there isn't really enough room for your bike and your feet. You have the option of self-amputation, but you could instead, place your bike in the aisle, as close to you as possible. If no seats are available, stand with your folding bike placed between your two feet, rather than next to you.  Always keep physical contact with your bike. This promotes a healthy bond between you and your bike and might also transfer useful antibodies and nutrients. Also, it wards off thieves and pickpockets and urchins because essentially, the Metro is an underground, rolling production of Oliver Twist

Bringing your folding bike on the Metro is really like being a guest at a party. Sure, it's a lame party and you had to pay a cover to get in and instead of Bugles, there's sad-faced, dead-behind-the-eyes federal employees, but you're still a guest and you need to focus on being polite. Simply put, the Metro is not the world of bikes (the outside world is the world of bikes) and you should try to take up as little room with your bike as possible. Because this is the polite thing to do. And also because it will allow you to practice crouching, which is a valuable ninja skill. You don't actually need to crouch, but focusing on taking up only the space you and your bike absolutely need should be paramount. Furthermore, try not to let your bike dirty anyone. Chain grease is the occupational hazard of bike commuters, but not something that train passengers should be expecting. Oh, and apologize if you accidentally hit someone with your bike. Come up with a funny excuse like "My bike hates you" and tilt your head back and laugh maniacally. Or be sincere because that's much better.

Splitting your commute, riding some on the rails and some on the roads, can be a great idea for times when you're sick, tired or when the weather is less than ideal or if you're trip is too far/hilly/strewn with bear traps to complete in the time you have allotted. While it's completely permitted to bring your folding bike on Metro (even during rush hour), it's still best to remember this is a significant privilege not to be taken for granted. Following the obvious suggestions above that you most likely already do anyway can ensure your multimodal commute is successful for you and everyone else, but mostly you.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I thought my comment posted twice, so I deleted it once, and now both are deleted.

    So in summary, ride downhill, tailwind + gravity will feel nice.


  3. I multi-mode most mornings with a non-foldable. At 5am it's not too bad unless a broken elevator is encountered then the escalator becomes a tad tricky to negotiate.

  4. Ah, hear hear! multi-modal, non-folder here too! I try to sneak in by 6:30, so I'm out by 7 when I have to include metro.

    As to the portmanteau appellation problem, I suggest blueberryompton. It kinda has a nice ring to it...

  5. May I humbly suggest:

  6. This. Is. Great.

    And hilarious.

    As a soon-to-be Brompton owner -- and bike commuter for the past year -- I really appreciate it. You sir may get a place on my blogroll!