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The Nyfti folding bike, an excellent urban commuter

This is a review of the Nyfti Folding bike, which as far as I know, is the only locally built folding bike in the Philippines. It is a truly awesome bike. However, while reviewing this wonderful piece of Pinoy engineering, I also felt that I had to vent out my frustrations on the problem that the Nyfti is trying solve. So please bear with me.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Edsa during rush hour is the Eighth Circle of Hell. It’s a kind of punishment you would wish only on your worst enemies, and only if your own soul has become so warped and devoid of empathy that you’re willing to inflict extreme torment and suffering on another sentient being.

The fact that millions have to endure such a soul crushing ordeal 5-6 days a week is a testament to the insensitivity of the government and its abject failure to provide basic services to the public.

Crush hour on Edsa. The red lights might as well be brim stones burning in the fires of hell. Image linked from philstar.com

And sadly, the infernal gridlocks of Edsa and other major Metro Manila roads aren’t going away anytime soon. Presidential candidates will promise to ease traffic, but they are talking out of their asses. The fact is: with car sales reaching record highs and thousands of new vehicles pouring into the highways each day, there isn’t really much that can be done in the short term.

Meanwhile, with the mass transport system remaining as irrational, inefficient and chaotic as ever, we may be doomed to remain neck deep in this simmering, stinking, soul-destroying quagmire for quite a while.

But there is a way out of the pain and suffering. Bike advocates have been pointing to it for a long time.

Nyfti Folding Bike
Bike or car?

Some car enthusiasts may say that it’s not the number of cars that’s the problem, but the lack of discipline among drivers–especially of buses and jeepneys. I beg to disagree.

Discipline can only take you so far. You can try and instill as much discipline as you like, but when the problem is vehicle volume, you’re screwed no matter how much discipline you knock into anybody’s head. Since wise men allege that a picture paints a thousand words, I’ll just leave this GIF here.

If you ride a car, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. Image from the Washington Post

I’ve been regularly commuting to work for several months now by bike. By car, it takes me a minimum of 25 minutes to negotiate the roughly 5.5km distance from my home to the office. Then I have to spend another 5-10 minutes just looking for parking. By bike, it takes me 15 minutes at most to get to my place of work. And since the company I work for provides secure bike parking, I don’t really have to worry about my ride getting stolen.

Nyfti Folding Bike
No, I don’t work in BGC. But I’m impressed at how bike-friendly it is

I also feel better after biking to work. When I’m driving, I oftentimes feel helpless–like a prison inmate counting the days til his parole. This helplessness in the face of traffic easily gets transubstantiated into anger and rage against other motorists.

In heavy traffic, you stop seeing other drivers as human beings. Empathy goes out the window. Instead they become hordes of assholes encroaching on your precious, precious slice of pavement. And sometimes you can’t help but vent your anger and frustration on them. Traffic can turn erstwhile decent human beings into wannabe mass murderers. I am actually surprised that incidents of road rage don’t happen more often.

Nyfti Folding Bike
The Nyfti is a pretty stylish bike

But when I’m biking, I don’t feel so helpless–in fact, I feel in control. I can pedal and weave through the sea of seething, non-moving dead weights. Even in a gridlock, I know I can find a space I can weave through. I don’t feel like an animal trapped in a cage. And more importantly, I don’t feel like treating other people on the road as pests encroaching on my turf. I can even empathize with them.

My regular ride to work is my mountain bike. But last July, I was lucky enough to get a demo unit from Nyfti cycles.

Like I said in an earlier post: folding bikes have that geeky-cool factor to them. They’re like Voltes V or the Transformers or a Swiss Army Knife. The Nyfti is no exception. But it is pretty exceptional.

Photo courtesy of Nyfti Bicycles
Photo courtesy of Nyfti Bicycles

For a folding bike, the Nyfti feels a bit hefty. It’s made of steel after all, instead of the usual aluminum alloy that’s become the material of choice for most bikes nowadays.

But while it may be a bit heavier than some folding bikes, the steel construction makes the bike feel more supple. Despite having small 16 inch wheels, I could hardly feel any vibrations from the road. The steel bike also felt bulletproof. At no point during my one-month review of the Nyfti did I feel like it was about to crack up on me.

Nyfti Folding Bike
The fold be with you :p Sorry, I just had to pun that up

The weight wasn’t much of an issue with the Nyfti either because of the ingenious way it folds. You could fold it in such a way that it becomes akin to a pushcart. If you’re riding the LRT2 (because the MRT and LRT1 are completely out of the question right now) you can just wheel in the Nyfti onto the train. The only time the weight actually felt like an issue was when I had to stash the bike into the car’s trunk.

The Nyfti, whose price starts at Php 36,000, may seem a bit expensive. If your budget’s a bit too tight, this is probably not the right bike for you. But if you’re someone who thinks Bromptons are “swak sa budget” you should definitely take a look at the Nyfti. It’s a steal. You’re not just getting a handcrafted steel bike, you’re also helping a Pinoy company promote alternative transport in a country that could really use some out-of-the-box and out-of-the-car thinking.

Nyfti Folding Bike

Carl Mamawal, CEO, and Isidro Marfori III, Chief Designer, of Nyfti understand what alternative transport means. While in DLSU, they were part of a Pinoy engineering team that designed and built Sikat II, a solar-powered car which ran a 3000 kilometer race in the outbacks of Australia. They did pretty well too, bagging the bronze medal in their category.

The Nyfti isn’t a solar car, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless. That being said, the Nyfti isn’t perfect. Since the bike obviously is an urban commuter, I would have preferred if they’d left it as a singlespeeder. The rear derailleur hangs so low that it sometimes gets snagged by objects on the road. If you’re not planning to take the Nyfti to places like Antipolo or Sierra Madre, you could probably set it up with just one gear.  An internally geared hub would probably be the best solution if gearing is absolutely necessary, but I understand that would add to the cost.

Carl said that besides the Nyfti folding bike, he and his team are also working on other wild ideas on bike designs. They’ve already done a cargo bike. I hope that someday they’d also work on a steel mountain bike that can handle the toughest trails of the Cordillera. I am thinking of the Stanton and Chromag bikes, but these guys can probably design and build something even better for the MTB community (wink, wink).

For more info, check out the Nyfti website and Facebook page.

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