I am on a Brompton folding bike, taking back roads from Heathrow to Windsor, a small town outside of London. It’s a short stretch from the airport: around the Queen Mother Reservoir, through the village of Datchet, over the Thames, and past some wet cricket fields near Eton. The bike is a funny-looking thing, snub-nosed with a low-slung frame and small, high-pressure wheels. Folded, it fits in an overhead rack or under a desk. Held from the saddle, it hangs at your side like a well-balanced suitcase. Unfolded, it rides surprisingly like a bike.
The transition requires no tools. Flip the rear wheel under the frame, wrap the front wheel back, drop the seat, drop the handlebars. You can fold the Brompton in as few as seven seconds. The last bit of the stem drops into place with a satisfying click and a ring.