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Mini folding bike offers eco-friendly commute

High gas prices and congested cities may soon force commuters to drive something even smaller than an ultra-compact Mini or Smart car. The new Mini Folding Bike may be the answer but it's not your average folding bike.

The Mini Folding Bike has a lightweight aluminum frame that, when folded, fits easily into the trunk of even the smallest car. However, this beautiful, compact bicycle is packed with features including 20" wheels, eight gears, a gel seat and weighs just 24 pounds.

This is a stylish bike compared to some of its folding predecessors like Schwinn or Kent, perhaps because it's designed by MINI, the British automotive brand owned by BMW. The bike comes in matt black with silver highlights, with the unmistakable brand logo on the handlebars. The bike's chain and bell are neon yellow, making for an eye-catching design that is a safety feature as well.

The Mini brand is long known for producing small cars that sport distinctive retro styling, so it's no surprise that this bike is easy on the eyes, while offering up a compact and eco-friendly ride. The original Mini car was launched by the British Motor Corporation in 1959.

The company made several ownership changes over the past 52 years leading up to its current ownership by BMW, the German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1916.

The inability to find a parking spot on the streets of busy cities like Boston, New York or Los Angeles is yet another reason this collapsible bike may turn out to be a popular purchase for commuters. Leave your car at a park-and-ride lot and head in to work on two wheels -- the perfect way to 'go green' and save money. The Mini can also be carried on public transportation for free when it is folded.

Commuters who are worried about getting their hands dirty while folding the MINI Folding Bike up will revel in the fact that the chain is coated with Teflon. Front and rear mud guards also keep dirt off of the wheels after a ride through a post-rain puddle.

The Mini Folding Bike debuts in August 2011 at select MINI dealers and will come ready to use right out of the box. Accessories are forthcoming, but for now, you'll get a storage and transport bag that fits right under the saddle when you don't need it.

Priced at 499.00 Euro (approximately $730 US), this may be the perfect answer to the transportation woes faced by many city dwellers and commuters.