Downtube VIII FS vs. Giant Halfway (both 7S and RS) – My personal perception
Under the strong influence of my girlfriend and I, my almost brother/roommate decided that he would also start a new lifestyle that will include the convenience to throw a folding bike into the car’s trunk and stop with the excuses to not enjoy a nice bike ride. After a short conversation covering budget and riding goals, the Downtube VIII FS (for full suspension) was the winner.
The bike arrived properly packaged and dummy-proof to finish the assembly. I wouldn’t suggest going for a ride without checking it entirely by a bike mechanic or an experienced rider (neither does the manufacturer) since some of the quick releases looked tight but were not ride-ready and some other minor things needed adjustments. This is not a Downtube review thread so I’ll stop here, just mentioning that if you never inspected a bike before and or don’t have the right tools, it’s a good idea to take it somewhere before you ride.
OK, now the comparison:
I am very impressed with this bike! First the comfort level due to bigger tires/low PSI + front and rear suspension makes any road biker cry. My girlfriend (who rides the Halfway 7S on a regular basis, it’s her bike) just went for a loop and came back with a smile that made me feel bad for giving her the Halfway. Of course, that comfort pays a high price over efficiency, since the bike “drags” a lot but that’s something that can be fixed with an investment of Aprox. US$ 40.00 on new, skinny slicks. I am NOT the master of the folding technology, but I had a chance to ride some Dahons, different Bike Fridays from friends, Giant Halfways and now the Downtube and I can tell you, by far, this bike is THE MOST CONFORTABLE one I rode. Some people already wrote that the front suspension fork is not the best technology out there and I agree. But I do not see room for improvement if you take in account the average user’s usage and the cost/benefit of having all DT-VIII getting better front shocks.
Here is the list of negative things I have to say about this bike:
- The distance between handlebar and the seat seems relatively shorter than on the Halfway. My girlfriend and I are both 5’9” so it wasn’t a big deal (my roommate is 5’6”, even better for him) but I can easily see an issue if you are a little taller. You may end up touching your knees on the handlebar if you are pedaling and turning at the same time.
- The quality of the handgrips is low. That’s the first thing I would upgrade (Yan: hint, hint!)
- The plastic pedal is not the ultimate performance pedal. Some of the more intense riders may feel it slippery even in dry conditions.
- The folding mechanism (for frame and stem) is a little tricky. It adds another level of safety (as well as a nice initial 20 seconds to fold/unfold for the first few times) and may disappoint some used with other mechanisms. After the first few uses you may not even remember it is any different.
- No kickstand!
- No way to keep everything together once folded. Both Halfways I have use plastic latches for the stem and Velcro for the wheels. Some other manufacturers use magnets or just some metal attachment. Would be nice to see something in the future.
Here is my list of positive things I have to say about this bike:
- Comfort level – Highest I ever experienced
- Fully customizable - the fact that every single thing that I felt weak, negative or that deserves an upgrade is easily fixed visiting your LBS. Need a new, longer stem? Good for you, no proprietary items, no special orders, no stress;
- It looks great. If Downtube invests the time, money and photographic skills that Dahon did for their 2006 catalog, these folding bikes will be out of stock in 2 weeks. The bike has so many beautiful angles that I can’t wait to start photographing one;
- The “el cheepo” components that come with the bike is way better than the average “Mal Wart” bike. Most users will never need to upgrade them and will be happy forever;
- Little bar extension – It looks funny and useless, almost ridiculous on the pictures, but those tiny things add a nice option for riding comfortably without compromising folded size;
- Bag included – It is a nice quality bag, I would pay US$50.00 for it;
- Rack upgrade – Reading this forum I found that Yan is planning on making rear racks available for the FS, and I can see the attachments/holes for it. Great idea. Adding a rear rack on a rear suspension bike can cost at least US$50.00 and I’m sure Downtube will make this upgrade affordable/competitive just like everything else;
- Customer service – Try making a phone call to Giant to ask if you can upgrade the seat post on a Halfway and you will understand what I am talking about;
- Did I mention the Price???????
I honestly feel like comparing apples to oranges. It’s clear that the Halfway (either 7S or RS) is a more sophisticated, better equipped bike designed as an excellent option for the city/urban environment, with no upgrades/mods needed but few desired. It is a fast bike (not the fastest as you know from my previous posts) and the cantilever wheels and the skinny slicks may be the selling point for some, but the advantages stop right here. For US$500.00 you can get a Downtube + most (if not all) upgrades you need/want to take the bike in the direction YOU want.
If we compare to cars, in the world of 20” wheels I think the Halfway 7S is a “Honda Del Sol”, with a small luggage compartment (the rear rack has a very low weight limit). Good for the road, good for the city, nice mileage per gas. The Halfway RS is an upgraded version, maybe a sedan, still a city/urban bike. The Downtube is like a Jeep Wrangler or even an SUV. Ready for the sand and very comfortable for not-so-well-paved areas. A little slower and will burn your “fuel” faster, but nothing will stop you from tuning it and making it more efficient for longer trips.
I am not selling my Halfway 7S to replace it with a Downtube. I am not selling my Japanese rear suspension Halfway either (specially after all the upgrades). I still think that the halfway is a better city bike as it comes out of the store. If you are not into buying stuff, upgrading, playing with parts and want a nice bike out of the box/store, the Giant Halfway still is an excellent option. But I am DEFINITELY BUYING A DOWNTUBE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, or right after my trip to Brazil. This is a great bike. If you are a folder enthusiast, you must at least try.
Rafael Guerra (soon to be downtubing like several downtubers from this forum)