Extended Reach

As much as we like to use public transit in combination with our bicycles for transportation, limited service on the weekend sometimes forces us into the car. We drive a tiny, fuel-efficient vehicle, and we don’t like racks on the outside because they negatively impact fuel economy, so a pair of folding bikes that fit in the back are a perfect way to extend our reach.

This past weekend’s excursion was a great example of how the folders work for us. It was too far to ride from our house to the events downtown. We could have taken the bikes on the train, but because of limited weekend service, it would have been a 13 hour day; not too practical for a 3-hour event. The alternative was to throw a pair of folders in the car, drive to town and park in a central location, then use the bikes to get around. It was a reasonable compromise that met our needs while keeping our fuel consumption to a minimum.

18 Responses to “Extended Reach”

  • Logan says:

    Folding bikes are an interesting contraption that really fits many needs. I remember reading a story about a tour on a folding bike by a fellow named Darren Alff. He did solo through Europe on a folding bike friday. http://community.bikefriday.com/darrenalff/europe09

    It sounds like the folding bike made it possible for him to ride European trains and accept car ride offers occasionally where he would not have been able to with a normal bike. :)


  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    That tantalising side-by-side shot makes me eager for a comparison review of the two bikes!

  • Alan says:

    Great story, Logan. Thanks for the link!

    Best regards,

  • Alan says:

    @Lovely Bicycle!

    We’ll have a Brompton review for you later this summer. We posted a Flik review back in January:


    We’ll be sure to draw some comparisons between the two in the Brompton review.

    Best regards,

  • Brad says:

    Just how much does putting bikes on a car rack affect mileage? My car/bike rack is on the back and I drive a minivan so I don’t notice one tittle of difference.

    Let’s say that putting bikes on the top of your car changes the mileage from 30 to 28 and that the round trip is 70 miles. With folders, you have consumed 2.33334 gallons and with bikes on top, you have consumed 2.5 gallons. That 0.16 gallons of gasoline will cost you $0.56 at $3.50/gallon, not too much ahead. Perhaps someone could share the calculation of the carbon pollution created by that .16 gallon of gas.

    Here’s a fun side calculation, in order to pay for that cost of the folding bike designed to save the car gasoline consumption and assuming that the bike costs $1300, you would have to drive your car 162,500 miles

    Of course, if you have the tendency to run the bikes into your garage on the way back from the ride, I suppose that you would be a few more dollars ahead taking the folders……..

  • Brad says:

    Oh, I forgot, that’s just for one bike.

  • Erich Zechar says:

    Alan, what “tiny fuel efficient vehicle” do you drive? Just curious.

    Our Honda Fit has a rear-mounted bike rack and it does not seem to affect mileage all that much. On a trip with bikes it got ~35 mpg, comparable to another trip taken without a rack and bikes.

  • Alan says:

    Hey Eric,

    We have a Honda Fit as well. It’s a 2010 model with the sport kit, so it will only take a roof rack. Besides the mileage issue, a standard roof rack won’t accept most of our bikes because of the long front fenders. The one alternative that might work would be an MTB-style rack that holds the bikes at the downtube, though I’ve never really liked those racks and they’re expensive.


  • Alan says:


    “Just how much does putting bikes on a car rack affect mileage?”

    Probably not that much, especially if you only put the rack on the car when you move the bikes. And a rear-mounted rack probably has no affect at all. Our car will only take a roof rack, so I could remove it when it’s not in use as well. I used to do this on a different car, but I eventually tired of taking the rack on and off all of the time. And like I mentioned above, the fenders are an issue with many racks.


    PS – Thanks for the calculations… :-)

  • Alan says:


    “Of course, if you have the tendency to run the bikes into your garage on the way back from the ride, I suppose that you would be a few more dollars ahead taking the folders……..”

    I did this… once. Brand new bike on the way back from the dealer, no less. This was back in the 1990s.

    I’ve also damaged a bike on a bumper mounted rack by bottoming out the wheels on a particularly deep/steep gutter.

    Funny story… One time I was driving down the freeway and up ahead of me was a bike that had partially come loose from a bumper mounted rack. One wheel was free and it would drop down, touch the pavement, then bounce about three feet vertically, drop down again, touch the pavement and bounce, etc., etc., like a bouncing ball. The poor driver was completely oblivious to what was going on behind him. I was able to speed up around him and get his attention before the bike ended up on the freeway. I’m pretty sure it ruined the wheel.

  • Bert says:

    I don’t own a car but we rent about 3 times a year to go camping/hiking upstate New York. I usually try to get that 4 cylinder Subaru Station Wagon, beautiful little car. Since we live in the city, space is at a premium and a full size bike and storing a bike rack is not an option.

    Two Brompton folding bikes, an inflatable kayak, camping gear, the dog and firewood all fit nicely inside the car. Its also much easier to go on day trips if you don’t have to deal with the bike rack. I always use to worry about that rack at highway speeds getting knocked around, possible falling off any second. (I ride a motorcycle and never follow a car with a bike rack for that reason – or maybe its an excuse to twist open the throttle)

  • RI SWamp Yankee says:

    Nor far be it for me to downplay the niftiness of folding bikes and mini-velos in general, as they are nifty things indeed, but we have these things called “Bicycle Racks” that attach to an automobile, and allow you to take any sort of bike anyplace you can drive a car… :D

    Mine was $30 at Bennie’s Hardware… while they go up in price considerably from there, it will probably be a =little= cheaper than buying a Brompton for park-and-bike situations.

    It does make sense if you’re car-pooling as part of your multi-modal commute – you don’t need your buddies to put a rack on their car.

  • Thor says:

    I love those calculations ( Alan was indeed asking for it, didnt he ? ) But lets not forget the fun about riding a bike . I have no problem with folks throwing their folders into a trunk of their car and drive a little bit to places which are safe friendly and or interesting to ride your bike. Versus not riding at all. Sure there is no gas saved this way , but surely the fun folks have riding a bike must make up for this. These are folks who would otherwise not ride at all. And a few will get hooked and use their folder to commute afterwards….

    about that 1300 dlr folder in the calculation ..I can do a little better :-)
    roof rack : indeed awful aerodynamics
    rear rack : makes the bike enjoy a gunk bath when it starts to rain ..ykes
    folder in the trunk: great as they cannot get stolen either
    garage door …. ahem ..yes …. it was a long time ago


  • townmouse says:

    Of course town mileage is much lower than highway driving, so if you park at the edge of town and ride in, you probably save a fair bit of the fuel costs.

    I just hate to see bikes on racks being driven around. Bikes want to be ridden…

  • Charlie says:

    If I understand this right, your reasons for not wanting to put the bike on are 1) you don’t want the worse aerodynamics, and 2) You have a spoiler on the back of your car which a) prevents putting a bike on b rear rack, and b) makes the aerodynamics worse, as can be seen by the two mpg worse highway EPA mpg of the “sport” model Fit. Too late to trade in for the regular model?

  • Alan says:


    Those aren’t the only reasons, but that sums it up well enough. The other reasons have to do with the inadequacy of bumper racks and the inability of most roof racks to carry bikes with full length fenders, or bikes with anything other than “normal” downtube configurations.

    We’ll be keeping the existing car because it belongs to my wife and she loves it. :-)

  • Jeff says:

    Hey Alan – Sounds kinda what we did in Davis on Monday. We all played hookie (me, wife, and kids) to check out the start of stage 2 of the ToC. We put three bikes on our hitch rack, the trailer in the back (we have a 99 4Runner), drove to a friend’s house in Davis a few miles from downtown, then rode into the festivities. I would’ve like to ride further but that’s the best we could do with a 3 yr old and a 6 yr old. The weather was a bit dicey but it was altogether a great outing.

    – Jeff

  • Erich Zechar says:

    Why not a hitch-mounted rack? That’s what we went with on our Fit and it works great. I would never use one of those bumper-mounted racks…

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