The Gadget: Strida's 5.0 Foldable Bike. The Price: From $799 for the standard colours (white, red, brushed silver, matte black, yellow, pink, orange and dark blue). A limited edition cream model is available for $899. You can also add a whole heap of optional extras, like a kickstand ($30), LED headlight ($40), saddle bag ($35), water bottle bag ($30), rear top bag ($50) and a bike bag ($100).
The Verdict: Folding bikes are only going to get more and more common as fuel prices continue to increase and people from the outer suburbs try and find alternative ways to get to the city. At the moment in Sydney, if you want to take a full-sized bike on the train with you during peak hour, you need to buy it a child's ticket. The Strida 5.0 folds up nicely so you can cram it between your legs and not have it take up too much room on public transport.
The first thing you notice is that it's built extremely well. It weighs about 9kg, which can get a bit heavy after a while, but at least you can still wheel it around like a stroller when it's folded up to take a lot of the weight off. Folding and unfolding it is incredibly simple, but does take a little bit of practice to be able to do it efficiently - Strida claims it can be done in six seconds, but it generally took me between 10 and 15, even after two weeks practice.
One of the great aspects of the Strida 5.0 is that when you want to take it on a train, you can easily sit on it, which takes up even less space and gives you a place to sit on crowded trains. It can get a bit uncomfortable after a while though, be careful if your hemorrhoids are flaring up.
Riding the bike itself is a mixed bag. For one, there's no gear system, so you won't want to be using this for gruelling hills or difficult rides unless you like the fact that your legs feel like jelly and your business shirt is soaked with sweat. But the biggest problem is the weight distribution - the design of the bike means that when you're riding, most of the weight sits entirely over the rear wheel. This causes big problems when you need to put in that extra effort on hills - every time I tried to exert myself by standing up to pedal, the front wheel actually came off the ground and I almost had a very intimate date with the pavement. you can counteract this by leaning (occasionally obscenely) further forward than you would on a normal bike, but it takes a lot of getting used to.
You would never use this as a recreational bike. But that's not what it's for, really. It's an urban transport vehicle, meant to help you navigate through the city or supplement public transport. With that in mind it does a really good job, so long as you can a) afford it and b) get used to its quirks.