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  1. #1
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    Pre-newbie questions

    So, I'm very interested in getting into cycling...i had tried moutain biking a few years ago, but it just wasn't for me. However I don't have a ton of free time to ride, and I feel that riding will really only be "fun" if you are a regular (the more you put into it, the more you get out of it). In order to get over the "time" issue I thought I would ride for part of my commute. Right now I drive to a Park & Ride, then carpool to work (we all work about an hour away from where we live). So I was thinking of riding from home to the park and ride...then taking carpool as normal. The drawback is what do I do with the bike? There isn't any storage at the park and ride. So I was thinking of using a folding bike to either store in somebodies car or just throw it in trunk on way to work.

    My question is, would you recommend a folder to someone as a first bike? My ride will be about 6 or 7 miles....about half of that on a great bike path through a riverside park. The other half however is a long hill from river to my house. On my mountain bike, with big ol' knobbies, this would kill me. I'm asking if the folder is going to be a good enough ride that I don't dread riding, and end up ditching the commute (there are already going to be enough hurdles to overcome...clothes, sweat, planning, etc..)

    I get the impression most of you switched to a folder from something else.....

    Anyways, I'm thinking of giving this a go...suggestions, warnings, etc...are welcome.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tomaso's Avatar
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    Hi Chuckles,

    Yes, a folder should be a good idea. I didn't ride a bike for 5years, then last year I decided talking up biking again. As I don't have a lot of storage space, I decided to go for a folder, I haven't regret my decision at all ! (Dahon Jetstream )
    A decent folding bike (Dahon, Brompton, BikeFriday, Swift,Giant Halfway...) gives you the same riding qualities as a 'normal bike'. There's a whole range of bikes available with exactly the same components as your MTB, you'll find the one which is best for you, just take a good look around. Daon & Brompton are the most popular, BikeFriday and Swift (or Xootr) are also very popular bikes.
    It all depends on what you can/would like to spend on your folder. You can buy a decent Dahon for about 500 USD, a Brompton will cost you almost double (same for the BF), a Xootr SWift will be yours at around 700 USD.

    No doubt a folder will make you a happy commuter too !

    Cheers!

  3. #3
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    Thanks Tomasso....I think I want to take the plunge, and see how it goes.

    What would everyone suggest as the required stuff to get started...keeping in mind that I am not experienced with the wrench work? Also, I'm 5'8" and 170lb.

    Bike: Looking at the Downtube. Maybe FS, or go with a thudbuster and hardtail (to make it easier with racks).

    Book: Bike maintenance. Probably sooner, rather than later...

    Tires/tubes: I really want to make the bike as "bulletproof" as possible.

    I can probably hold off on the extra commuter gear. I have some training to do before I go diving off into that, I think.

    Suggestions are welcome....

  4. #4
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    Chuckles,

    Welcome to the forum. If I were you I would evaluate the benefits of a folding bicycle and see if that's the best kind of bike to suit our needs. My understanding is that you will be depending on other people's car to take your folder with you (insider a car that will have other passengers) or lock inside a car that is not going anywhere while you (all together) are at work...it may work...it may not depending on...a lot of things.

    I don't know where you are in the planet, but maybe all you need is some upgrades on your mountain (including ultra-fast slicks and a rear rack) and a nice lock system.

    I do not have a problem recommending a folder as a first bike, but I would like more information about your case to recommend a folder to you. How bad is the hill? What problems are you facing to accomplish the course with your current bike? Do you think you can do better on a road? Perhaps a Strida?

    Just not enough info to give an educated advice.

    Rafael

  5. #5
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    Hi Chuckles2000,
    Tomasso gives good advice. In addition, if you have a serious climb, get a bike with at least 6-7 gears. If you are unsure, there are places online you can go to compute gear inches for different wheeled bikes. If you know what gearing was good for climbing your hill on your mountain bike, just make sure you have the same gear inches for your 20" or 16" folder.
    Although I don't own one, Downtube is a good product and should give you a decent range of gears(of course, if you live next to an alp, decent gear range is a relative thing) and a solid ride for the money.
    Smaller wheel bikes do have a mechanical advantage over larger wheels when it comes to going uphill. If you want a faster ride you can always upgrade to Schwalbe Marathons , or Big Apples for a fast(slower than Schwalbes) but smoother ride. Whatever you get, if you want the tires "bulletproof" go for a Kevlar belted tire.
    Lastly, I strongly suggest trying some folders out. If you can't try out a downtube, many bike stores carry Dahons, Giant Halfways, or the Trek line of folders. Get on them and see how you like them. In fact, if you don't live near Philly, start a new thread on this forum to see if there is a Downtube owner in you area that would be willing to let you give it a test ride.
    If you have been on a fullsize bike before, the steering may feel a little twitchy at first. This is normal. In less than a week it will feel like a completely normal bike that just happens to be able to fold. Hopefully one of your LBS's will have a folder with 7 or more gears so you can see if the gear range will be suitable for the climb on your commute. I have a 21 speed folding bike that has the same basic gear range as any standard roadbike, so hills are no problem for me (nor is it a problem keeping up with the avg recreational rider).
    Hope this helps,
    juan162
    BTW, If you haven't already, I would also start by considering a wider range of folders types and brands...each folder has its strong points, so looking at a good range of folders will give you a better idea of each one's strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your hill is so long and steep that you need a really big granny gear, you may decide to buy a Dahon Speed8 from Gaerlan online and have them install a larger range rear cassette. You might just decide to get the Downtube because of its cost and suspension and have your LBS add a larger range cassette. There are many different ways to go so keep your options open and have fun whittling it down to your final choice.

  6. #6
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    Welcome Chuckles 2000:

    I purchased my first folder in 2003 when I needed something that I could always take inside with me since I live in a high crime area with lots of bike thieves in various sizes, shapes and ages. I chose a simple Dahon Boardwalk S1 (single speed). I modified it to a three speed for all the hills that I go over, added a sidepull brake to the rear wheel, and a simple thumbshifter for ease of replacing it in case I must and I never regretted my purchase as I always like to add something more like kelvar protected inner tubes-than fancy gears that I do not need. I added a Brompton recently (same internal hub gear with simple suspension) since I am going to more places that require a smaller folded package and also extremely pleased and relaxed about taking it inside and anywhere I go. I do not lock my bikes anymore (except cables to prevent snatchers from running off with them when my hands are not on the bike) and only think of locks as nothing more than false protection against very determined (cutting and smashing) thieves.
    I observed that the only time folders are stolen is when the user treats it like a regular bike and locks it outside!

    Please consider your options carefully and match your folder to your needs as you done with any other bike you use or purchased in the past. Folders are usually not that foreign to you if you think back to your Stingray, BMX, cruiser, or some other bike in the past (small wheels, variety of gearing options). The main thing this type of bike does differently is collapse into a smaller package than conventional bikes could ever manage.
    Last edited by folder fanatic; 02-15-06 at 06:49 PM.

  7. #7
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    Lots of good info and advice....thanks.

    I have to admit, it's the price of the Downtube that is so intriguing....it gives me a little more leeway on just trying it out to see how I like it. I live in Wenatchee, WA, which does not have a bike shop that would have any folders...would have to drive 2.5 hrs over the pass to Seattle to try something, which is possible. But if there is something that will make the climb easier, I'm certainly open to suggestions...

    About my hill...it's about 3 miles long..uphill the entire way. Not sure about total elevation gain. Additionally, the prevailing wind would be against me that entire time as well. And since this would be on the way home, I would be getting that wind that kicks up in the afternoon/early evening (at least 3 out of 5 days we'll have noticeable winds, with 10mph+ not uncommon at all). Heck...maybe I should look at a recumbent folder? We do have a nice recumbent store in town...

    The reason I'm looking at folders is there really is nowhere to leave my bike once I get to the park and ride. I could, of course, just chain it to a fence or something, but I would imagine that would not work out over time. This way I could just throw it into the cab of my brothers pickup, which he parks at the carpool, or throw it into the truck of the car we drive to my office.

    Again, thanks for all the help.

  8. #8
    Senior Member caotropheus's Avatar
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    chucles, you haven't refered if those 3 mile climb are on dirt paths or paved road?

  9. #9
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    Chuckles--In many ways your purpose is EXACTLY what folders were designed for. As others have suggested, a good folder will provide you with a fine ride. I have a Bike Friday. Great bike, but not the quickest folding bike in the lot.
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DigitalQuirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuckles2000
    So, I'm very interested in getting into cycling...i had tried moutain biking a few years ago, but it just wasn't for me.
    There are a LOT of cheap mountain bikes that are pigs to ride (usually department store specials). Go up even a couple hundred dollars, and the difference is night and day. A light ChroMoly frame with good quality components and a proper frame to your body size (instead of the one-size-fits-all specials) will make any bike a pleasure to ride. Keep this in mind when buying a folding bike.

  11. #11
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    "I have to admit, it's the price of the Downtube that is so intriguing....it gives me a little more leeway on just trying it out to see how I like it. I live in Wenatchee, WA, which does not have a bike shop that would have any folders...would have to drive 2.5 hrs over the pass to Seattle to try something, which is possible. But if there is something that will make the climb easier, I'm certainly open to suggestions..."-chuckles2000

    Don't be put off by traveling to Seattle to check out folders. I was thinking about flying to Seattle to Folding Bikes West to check out their Bromptons. By checking out the UK official Brompton website, I found out that there is a southern coast branch of their bike shop located in Oceanside which is 2 hours by communter train from my house. I am glad I did as I tried out the demostrator model the untraditional bike shop had and purchased another one on the spot (see Brompton Seeking and Brompton Found (Nothing Like I Was Expecting) threads for more information).

    I purchased in the past by mail order through a bike shop that does not have folders like the Dahon (sight unseen) as well as by trying out an actual demostrator (the Brompton). I would encourage you to always go the extra mile-no pun intended-in locating the right folder for you by actually physically going to the bike shop that has folders, especially a shop that has a variety of makes. I assure you will be able to best select a folder that will suit you the most by talking to the bike shop personnel and trying out their demostrators. We, here on the forums, can offer support and suggestions but in the end the old fashioned way of checking out the merchandise is the best way.
    Last edited by folder fanatic; 02-16-06 at 11:49 AM.

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