I actually don't watch a lot of TV but every time I do, I seem to see this cute little green fellow. the Geico Gecko. He's some kind of fantastic example of computer animation and a very effective spokeman for his sponsor. He's so effective in fact that there is an anti-gecko campaign being launched by a competitor through posters on the LIRR. The poster inquirers in 144 point type, "Are you the victim of Reptile Dysfunction" - the question illustrated with a drooping green gecko tail.
Well this is a gecko tale of a different color. My Gekko is silver and spelled differently. Far from being dysfunctional, it functions very nicely as a commuter folding bike. My Gekko sits folded quietly in the aisle next to me as I ponder the insurance battle being waged in the commercial wars, thankful that I am not part of it, at least not today. You see I did not drive to the train station, I rode my Gekko. But it does make you wonder. You'd think if insurance provision was as much a losing battle, as the companies love to claim, that they wouldn't advertise so agressively for new insured's, but they do. I choose to ride my Gekko rather than listen to the ads.
So how is it?
I first learned of the Gekko when a Press Release was posted to PPOL News. Although I've wanted to test out a folder for some time now, I've never had the chance. I am interested because, I am a city commuter and the LIRR does not allow full size bikes on their peak rush hour trains. Being a dedicated cyclist, I am prevented from using my bike to commute to and from the train station. Unless, of course, I am willing to risk having it stolen from the racks at the LIRR (which I am not). But folders are allowed, so when I saw the press release, I contacted Larry Lagarde of ridethisbike.com, and had a sample sent in.
The bike arrived in a box, and I was fully anticipating having to assemble it. However since it is a foldable, it was actually fully assembled, just folded up, padded and stuck in the box. Aside from a minor brake adjustment (loosening slightly), once it was unfolded and the tires pumped it was ready to go. Now about the tires... The rating for the tires is 36 lbs, but weighing in at 186 lbs, this pressure was not adequate. In fairness the bike is designed for someone 5'8" or under and probably a tad lighter than i am. But, I can ride the bike and for short commutes it works fine, albeit it with higher tire pressure than maximum.
The folding and unfolding process once you have it down takes less than a minute, so, although commuting with the folder does take a bit more preparation, it is a time saver over all, vis a vis walking. The top speed of the bike without pumping the pedals like a jackrabbit in heat, is about 6-8 MPH and at that speed it is an enjoyable little ride. Surprisingly stable, the little guy is quite nimble, and within seconds you accommodate the "twitchy nature" of a short wheelbased, small tired little bike. When Orville rode it in the city (after reading a competitors very unfair negative review), he exclaimed, "Hey this is not bad at all! I could ride this!" Orville has a good inch on me and weighs in maybe a tad higher, but he is solid muscle. His 'regular" frame flexes as he pedals, but he also found the Gekko just fine for its design purpose. "That other review was grossly unfair!" he volunteered.
My conversations with Larry indicated that he held concerns regarding the short and unadjustable handle bar height for someone my height, but frankly it was the seat rise that I found be less than adequate (Again we pressed the envelope on seat post insertion, a really bad idea) but with that it is rideable even for 6' (and a bit) me!
Now speaking of riding, everywhere I have taken the Gekko I get comments like, "Neat Bike, Where'd you get that!" as I pass kids on the block. During today's commute into NYC, three people stopped and asked the details of the bike, and when I mentioned the retail price of $159.00 (including shipping) they typically replied, "You're kidding right?" incredulous at the affordability. On the way out, I missed my train explaining to a foursome from Maryland how neat the little guy was. The blonde younger woman asked me to repeat the price twice since she did not believe she heard me correctly the first time.
The bike is not light for its size. It is well built and it errs on the sturdy side of the design chart. But it does feature a caster on the bottom bracket that allows the folder to function in "golf cart" mode, so rolling the bike folded is an option, a good one... I adapted a bungee cord to hold the grip portions of the handle bars together, creating an extended handle to enhance the "golf cart" cart function, and although the bungee cord comes in handy securing the bike on the train, I'd like to suggest some sort of adaptation to allow rigidly fixing the entire steering stem into this position as a design improvement.
Specifically purpose built as a patch between your home, work, and mass transportation modes, the Gekkos functions as stated. The Gekko is not intended to replace your trusty around town local bike or any other specialty bike, but rather it is designed to be an inter-modal transportation solution which allows you transport and ride a bike where you normally could not. As such it performs well and affords quite a delightful solution. If you wish to have a bike available at both ends of your commute. It is quite simply a load of fun and a natural conversation starter. It is almost as good as a golden retriever puppy in that regard, except of course for the puppy breath!
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