For bicycle enthusiasts, key innovations are making human-powered, non-polluting transportation distinctly more conducive for commuting.

iXi's belt drive: 

The award-winning iXi Bike is one of the most forward thinking and delightfully designed commuter bicycles available. For starters, the iXi is equipped with a greaseless rubber belt drive that replaces the so-very-nineteenth-century greasy chain, eliminating the geeky necessity of tucking your pant leg into your sock to avoid grease stains or dangerous snags. Next comes a well-placed cup holder for your morning java so you can sip easily while pedaling. While the wheels are smaller than a conventional road bike, the iXi’s quality, four-speed gearshift provides solid performance on hills and other gradients. If it rains, you’re in luck because the iXi comes with a poncho stored inside the bicycle’s aluminum frame, along with a tool repair kit in case of flats. The iXi is also particularly suited to confined spaces. Both the handlebars and the pedals fold flat against the frame, creating a slim profile when stored flush against a wall. And one model of the iXi can be quickly disassembled into two parts and stowed in carrying cases — a convenience that works equally well in an elevator or an airplane.

Brompton's portability

Storability and portability are front and center — or more likely, tucked away in the corner — in the line of high-performance folding bicycles from Brompton. Each bicycle is handmade at Brompton’s production facility in London, England, and engineered to be easy to fold and carry, and fun and comfortable to ride. The full-size frames weigh between 20 and 29 pounds and can be folded within 15 seconds to a size that is about two feet square and less than 10 inches wide. Carry it with you using the handle or stow it on a train or plane using a specially designed Brompton storage bag. However you choose to take it, the Brompton is your mega-convenient commuting option. And it’s in good company. As improved bicycling performance helps folding bikes become realistic commuting options, customers are also turning to Dahon. The world’s largest manufacturer of folding bikes has been making and refining them for 25 years. Dahon sets its internal bar for innovation very high, demanding that its development team improve bikes by at least 15 percent per year in areas like design form, riding performance, comfort, weight, folding function and durability. The results speak for themselves, as Dahon has sold more than 2 million folding bikes worldwide since beginning production in 1982. Reasonably priced yet performance-driven, Dahon bikes offer eight urban fold-up models, and the company also provides mountain and road-bike models.

Bike Friday's personal design 

For a fully customized folding bike designed to match your exact body dimensions, turn to Bike Friday. The company will build to order a touring, road, mountain and commuter folding bike that is built, quite literally, just for you. And if you are on the triathlon circuit, Bike Friday will design a triathlon bike that travels with you in your standard luggage and then folds open on race day so you can conveniently compete wherever the race may lead. 

Xtracycle for heavy duty tasks

For those looking to assign more heavy-duty tasks to their bicycles — like transporting kids to school, dogs to the vet, or surfboards to the beach — an Xtracycle SUB (sport utility bicycle) system may be right for you. Dubbed the Free Radical, Xtracycle’s innovative attachment shifts your bicycle’s rear wheel back 15 inches and adds a long, stable platform on top of it accompanied by big, sturdy saddlebags. Rather than hitching an unwieldy trailer to your bicycle to provide additional hauling capacity, the Free Radical transforms your bicycle into an integrated SUB that’s still lightweight, easy to handle and fast. The system is designed for rapid installation with a basic set of tools and can be purchased independently to install on your current bike or purchased pre-assembled on name-brand bicycles directly through Xtracycle’s website. The Xtracycle can easily handle loads of up to 150 pounds. To make that kind of heavy hauling easier on your body, a company called Cleverchimp introduced the Stoke Monkey, an electric assist system that works seamlessly with the Xtracycle SUB to give an added boost to human pedal power. It’s no longer just a bicycle— it’s a bicycling lifestyle!

Excerpted from Josh's forthcoming book, "The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget."

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.