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  1. #1
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    Downtube Review -- Issues/Failures

    First let me mention that I bought a downtube a few months back to replace my commuting bike. I have been very pleased with it and even fitted a homebrew lighting system. I frequently tow a trailer and I ride every day regardless of weather. I have had two issues and one "failure."

    1) The failure was corrosion/freezing brake and shifter wires/housings. This winter the shifting and braking starting degrading rapidly. If the weather ever got near freezing, the gd cables became almost unusably stiff. This is not unheard of - i have experienced this on other bike, but usually at much colder temps, and it could usually be corrected with lube/wd-40 squirted into the cable housing. That didn't work at all. I was never happy with the crappy sunrace gripshifter anyway, but as a result of the increased tension on the cables, the shifter unit actually just broke when I tried to make an upshift one morning. And when I say it broke, it literally came apart into three pieces on the bar. The happy ending is that I had a shimano 8 spd grip shifter with stainless cable that I installed and the whole bike is like a new (and better) machine. when I pulled out the old cable from the housing, it was badly corroded. Don't know what kind of material that cable's made of, but I have never seen one go south that quickly or that severely. I highly recommend a shifter/cable upgrade. brake cables, too. and by the way, with the new shifter and cables, freezing temps no longer incapacitate the drivetrain.

    2) I also find that every time the temp gets near freezing, my headset stiffens up dramatically. This is almost certainly because whatever grease is in there is super, extremely crappy and has a very narrow functional temperature range. I have never encountered this before and only even heard of such a thing in ice-biking in the tundra. This is not a functionality issue, and re-building the headset is no small task, so I have decided to live with this for the time being.

    3) Finally, my bottom bracket has developed noticeable play. I will be replacing it this weekend. This happened after about 3.5 months of riding - very poor indeed. Anyone know what size bottom bracket I need to buy?

    Admittedly, this bike gets hard use (abuse?) from me, but I have abused other bikes equally with better results. I am still very happy with the bike, but just wanted to update my review of the bike because even though it's much less expensive than it's competitors, there is a reason. (Oh - it still rides great and the frame is rock solid. great bike, cheap as turd components.)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tomaso's Avatar
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    Where's Yan when you need him.....

  3. #3
    Radfahrer Rincewind8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Super_Socks
    3) Finally, my bottom bracket has developed noticeable play. I will be replacing it this weekend. This happened after about 3.5 months of riding - very poor indeed. Anyone know what size bottom bracket I need to buy?
    I believe I put a 113X68 sealed bottom bracket in there, but I will measure the old one and post again.
    TH 1.81 (133kg*62)

  4. #4
    All ur bike r belong Enki james_swift's Avatar
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    It's obvious Downtube put price above quality. Compare to the entry-level Dahon Boardwalk: for $299 you get no suspension, no bar ends, no adjustable stempost, no free carrying bag. Dahon is a bigger, more established company, and even they themselves can't put together a fully suspended bike for $269, let alone a non-suspended 7sp bike for $269!

    I'd imagine the ideal Downtube customer would be someone who doesn't mind doing his own maintenance and upgrades, cuz at $269, there's not a whole lot of room for quality componentry. But look on the bright-side, at only $269, there might be enough cash left-over for upgrades.

    I predict the next compnent to go bad on your Downtube would be the rear Quando hub. My Swift has a rear Quando hub, and after almost 1,000 miles, the freehub engagement mechanism has developed a mind of it's own. Cheap components suck.
    Last edited by james_swift; 02-04-06 at 11:31 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Tomaso's Avatar
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    I agree with you, James. You can't ecpect a 300 dollar bike to be 'the best quality bike'. If that would be the case, Dahon, BF, and other Folder-Manufacturers would build an sell all of their bikes at this price. And Downtube wouldn't stand a chance selling their bikes to the public.

    I would never consider buying a full-suspencion bike for 300 Dollar, that's what I call a 'supermarket-bike' (step into a supermarket and you'll find lots of MTB's at this price, even folders, and how long will it last?)

    Still 300 bucks isn't a lot of money for a folder, and DT has lots of happy customers, so if people wanna buy a DT, I can understand.

  6. #6
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaso
    Where's Yan when you need him.....
    Just flew back to Philly yesterday...sorry to take a day off

    Thanks,
    Yan

  7. #7
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Super_Socks
    First let me mention that I bought a downtube a few months back to replace my commuting bike. I have been very pleased with it and even fitted a homebrew lighting system. I frequently tow a trailer and I ride every day regardless of weather. I have had two issues and one "failure."

    1) The failure was corrosion/freezing brake and shifter wires/housings. This winter the shifting and braking starting degrading rapidly. If the weather ever got near freezing, the gd cables became almost unusably stiff. This is not unheard of - i have experienced this on other bike, but usually at much colder temps, and it could usually be corrected with lube/wd-40 squirted into the cable housing. That didn't work at all. I was never happy with the crappy sunrace gripshifter anyway, but as a result of the increased tension on the cables, the shifter unit actually just broke when I tried to make an upshift one morning. And when I say it broke, it literally came apart into three pieces on the bar. The happy ending is that I had a shimano 8 spd grip shifter with stainless cable that I installed and the whole bike is like a new (and better) machine. when I pulled out the old cable from the housing, it was badly corroded. Don't know what kind of material that cable's made of, but I have never seen one go south that quickly or that severely. I highly recommend a shifter/cable upgrade. brake cables, too. and by the way, with the new shifter and cables, freezing temps no longer incapacitate the drivetrain.

    2) I also find that every time the temp gets near freezing, my headset stiffens up dramatically. This is almost certainly because whatever grease is in there is super, extremely crappy and has a very narrow functional temperature range. I have never encountered this before and only even heard of such a thing in ice-biking in the tundra. This is not a functionality issue, and re-building the headset is no small task, so I have decided to live with this for the time being.

    3) Finally, my bottom bracket has developed noticeable play. I will be replacing it this weekend. This happened after about 3.5 months of riding - very poor indeed. Anyone know what size bottom bracket I need to buy?

    Admittedly, this bike gets hard use (abuse?) from me, but I have abused other bikes equally with better results. I am still very happy with the bike, but just wanted to update my review of the bike because even though it's much less expensive than it's competitors, there is a reason. (Oh - it still rides great and the frame is rock solid. great bike, cheap as turd components.)

    Sorry about the problems!!! FYI the 2006 models have upgraded cables and housing. I also swapped the BB on all future 2006 shipments. Additionally, I will have the factory use a higher grade grease in the future.

    email me your address and I will ship you a BB on Monday.

    Thanks,
    Yan

  8. #8
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    "It's obvious Downtube put price above quality. Compare to the entry-level Dahon Boardwalk: for $299 you get no suspension, no bar ends, no adjustable stempost, no free carrying bag. Dahon is a bigger, more established company, and even they themselves can't put together a fully suspended bike for $269, let alone a non-suspended 7sp bike for $269!

    I'd imagine the ideal Downtube customer would be someone who doesn't mind doing his own maintenance and upgrades, cuz at $269, there's not a whole lot of room for quality componentry. But look on the bright-side, at only $269, there might be enough cash left-over for upgrades." -James Swift

    I agree with you, James. You can't ecpect a 300 dollar bike to be 'the best quality bike'. If that would be the case, Dahon, BF, and other Folder-Manufacturers would build an sell all of their bikes at this price. And Downtube wouldn't stand a chance selling their bikes to the public.

    "I would never consider buying a full-suspencion bike for 300 Dollar, that's what I call a 'supermarket-bike' (step into a supermarket and you'll find lots of MTB's at this price, even folders, and how long will it last?)

    Still 300 bucks isn't a lot of money for a folder, and DT has lots of happy customers, so if people wanna buy a DT, I can understand." -Tomaso

    Both of you are getting off track here. The budget level folding bikes serve people who are not too interested in fancy ego enhancement machines. They simply want to have a basic machine without too many bells and whistles (high tech suspension) to complicate matters-especially when a simple solution-like a sprung saddle-would do nicely. Remember that eventually all alumimun components will wear out and you will have to replace them. Or customing and modification of certain components will improve a particular customer's experience on that bike more than trying to sell an overpriced bike that does not meet or even assist in riding performance for that individual.

    Not all of us need or even want too much bike for what we use it for. Each bike should have room for modifying for basic requirements and exposures such as climate differences (extreme heat, cold or moisture) or meeting the needs of the indiviual rider (weight differences). You do not have to pay Bike Friday prices to meet a person's needs. Many people on this forum as well as other forums have address this themselves in their own ways.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by downtube
    email me your address and I will ship you a BB on Monday.

    Thanks,
    Yan
    !!! wow. Thanks, Yan. This guy is amazing. Like I said, I really love the bike and the idea that the guy running the company is this committed to dealing with issues related to his product is one of the most extraordinary instances of customer service I have ever encountered.

    Like others have said, this is a good operation and a good value.

  10. #10
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Only issue I have had so far is with cold temps. My BB is harder to turn and so are the handlebars.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by james_swift
    I predict the next compnent to go bad on your Downtube would be the rear Quando hub. My Swift has a rear Quando hub, and after almost 1,000 miles, the freehub engagement mechanism has developed a mind of it's own. Cheap components suck.
    Do you mind telling me what it is doing?
    I am planning to buy the Swift which will come with the Quando rear hub and an 8 external derailleur (not a DD), is it advisable to upgrade to a better hub and what would that be?. When I begin touring, I can easily do 1000 in a month. I have a 30 year old bike, so I still use a 5 speed freewheel. I have never held a freehub and cassette.

    SG

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wavshrdr
    Only issue I have had so far is with cold temps. My BB is harder to turn and so are the handlebars.
    Sound like it might be a good idea to repack the BB and headset?

    Sounds like your paying 70% for the frame and only 30% for everything else.

    SG

  13. #13
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    A pity to hear about some (minor and major) problems with the DT.

    A real Joy to hear how Yan is handling this, now that is speed and service!
    I seems like almost all the issues are a thing of the past on the newer models and i very much appreciate this extremely swift (no pun intended) action, is also of a quality and speed i have never encountered at all the 50 or more LBS i have patronized.

    But to put the failures in perspective, to my knowledge untill about 4 years ago Dahon was plagued my a lot of similair small problems and some larger ones resulting from poor design. I took some time for them to get themselves in gear and remedy this. Glad to hear that Yan is doing it at hyperspeed by comparison.

    About the BB, are you sure it needs replacement?! It is quite normal for new components/any bearing assembly to develop some play and need readjustment when they are brand new.. Maybe all it needs is a little 5 minute tweaking job....
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by v1nce
    About the BB, are you sure it needs replacement?! It is quite normal for new components/any bearing assembly to develop some play and need readjustment when they are brand new.. Maybe all it needs is a little 5 minute tweaking job....
    probably true, but there's no way to adjust a sealed cartridge bottom bracket.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Super_Socks
    !!! wow. Thanks, Yan. This guy is amazing.
    Agreed.

    This guy is amazing.

  16. #16
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    Ah,.. my bad, i missed the part about sealed cartridge (i am kinda old school in my component selection..)

    Nice that you are getting a new one. What was the brand and model of the old? That way i can avoid that one.
    http://www.rhizomes.nl/twenty.html
    My Tweaked and modded Raleigh Twenty. Lots of pictures and lots of general info on for example a different & Cheap Bottom Bracket solution as well as fork solution.

  17. #17
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Super_Socks
    probably true, but there's no way to adjust a sealed cartridge bottom bracket.
    Just got back in SC. FYI it is not a cartridge BB. I assumed you adjusted it and continued to have issues.

    Please try the following:

    Loosen the lockring (on the left side of the bottom bracket, opposite
    the drivetrain side) by turning it counterclockwise with a lockring spanner,
    such as the Parks HCW5. Then turn the BB cup with a 17mm wrench or
    cresent wrench clockwise to remove end play or counterclockwise to
    loosen the spindle then hold in position while retightening the lockring.
    Check adjustment at this point and repeat proceedure as necessary to
    acheive correct adjustment. Do not adjust fixed cup on right side of the
    bottom bracket. Do not overtighten!

    Thanks,
    Yan

  18. #18
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    I have both a FS and Regular model. If I was to upgrade shifter and derailleur, what exact models would you recommend? What are other upgrades you would recommend to someone buying this bike and being an occasional rider (up to 25 miles a week).
    HBob

  19. #19
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hbob
    I have both a FS and Regular model. If I was to upgrade shifter and derailleur, what exact models would you recommend? What are other upgrades you would recommend to someone buying this bike and being an occasional rider (up to 25 miles a week).
    HBob
    I like the Sunrace components, I would not upgrade them.

    My top list of upgrades would be:
    #1 Adjustable angle stem for comfort. This will improve shifting by helping the cable routing.
    #2 Shimano clipless and toe clip pedals in one....I think 300 series.
    #3 Kevlar cables and better housing
    #4 ISIS BB and cranks
    #5 Sealed cartridge bearing headset.
    #6 Sigma Sport Computer...they are cheap and good!
    #7 Planet Bike Lights

    I think the stem is the biggest upgrade.

    Thanks,
    Yan

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by hbob
    I have both a FS and Regular model. If I was to upgrade shifter and derailleur, what exact models would you recommend? What are other upgrades you would recommend to someone buying this bike and being an occasional rider (up to 25 miles a week).
    HBob
    The derailleur is pretty solid - I wouldn't mess with that - maybe a tad heavy, but good. I'd go with cables, housing and just about any other grip shifter or click-shifter you can find. I put on a shimano revo twist shifter which works great. If you really wanted to "upgrade" I would go with the SRAM 1:1 stuff - it's really impressive, especially when you get to the x.9 level.

    I'd also re-pack or replace the headset and the BB. Cranks would be a great, but fairly expensive, upgrade.

  21. #21
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    I am going to be putting my two Downtubes (one FS and one Standard) on a sailboat
    where they will be exposed to marine salt environment. I notice I am already getting rust
    components just in the garage, mostly bolts and the handlebar stem. What would you do to help
    the bike in a marine environment? I assume that I would swap cables. Should
    I repack the bearings and how do I do that? My experience with a Chinese boat trailer I
    bought is that the bearings and grease were very poor.
    HBob

  22. #22
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hbob
    I am going to be putting my two Downtubes (one FS and one Standard) on a sailboat
    where they will be exposed to marine salt environment. I notice I am already getting rust
    components just in the garage, mostly bolts and the handlebar stem. What would you do to help
    the bike in a marine environment? I assume that I would swap cables. Should
    I repack the bearings and how do I do that? My experience with a Chinese boat trailer I
    bought is that the bearings and grease were very poor.
    HBob
    With the exception of replacing all screws with stainless steel, I'd shot down must everything with something like the heavier (waxier) LPS line of lubricants or Boeshield. That will help quite a bit. OBVIOUSLY don't get it on the braking surfaces and be careful to limit overspray in that area. Of course keep it off the pads as well. I would recommend a cover of sorts as well or a bag to keep direct spray off them. Also if you have time to polish surfaces they are more resistant to corrosion. You could always try putting different lubricants/grease where possible. I bought 2 DTs for my usage. 1 is currently in Florida near the Gulf. So far I haven't seen any major issues with it. My mom uses it and it sets in a car port but very near the water. I sprayed it down with Boeshield before I left her with it. So far it seems to be working.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by downtube
    I like the Sunrace components, I would not upgrade them.

    My top list of upgrades would be:
    I think we should all realize how you suggesting upgrades for your own bike design is a great testament to your honesty in this design. You're aware of the weaknesses and strengths and are willing to share this with us. It's really great to see your desire to be involved with our experience with the Downtubes.

  24. #24
    Seņor Mambo
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    But if a *few* suggestions are to upgrade a huge part of the drive train (BB, cranks, etc.), cables/housing, and headset, he might as well sell framesets.

  25. #25
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spambait11
    But if a *few* suggestions are to upgrade a huge part of the drive train (BB, cranks, etc.), cables/housing, and headset, he might as well sell framesets.
    Is there an unwritten rule that all my quotes must be taken out of context?

    FYI I had a Ksyrium SL wheelset (MSRP $850) on my road bike that I recently upgraded to Topolinos. NOTE this does not imply anything is bad about Mavic or Ksyrium wheels.

    Thanks,
    Yan

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