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  1. #1
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    Hi everyone,

    I'm seriously considering a Downtube to replace a bike that was stolen recently. Prior to the theft, I used a Trek 7300 hybrid for commuting (<3mi each way, city & town streets), for errands and grocery shopping, and as part of a weight-loss plan (215 lbs and going down). I occasionally take the bike on off-road trails, but usually only on grass and hard-pack dirt, nothing too strenuous.

    The Downtubes seem like pretty good bikes, great actually for the cost, but only available in a limited variety.

    1. Does Downtube kit-out their bikes with extras like kickstand, rear rack, etc or will I need to go to the LBS to get these put on?

    2. I really like the "comfort" reviews of the FS model, but also need a rear rack (and hopefully pannier/side baskets) because of the errands that I use the bike for. Any experince with this? a. Can a FS model be fitted with a rack? and b. If so, can the rack be fitted with panniers or side baskets, or would they scrape the ground? (I used to use Wald folding wire baskets; a bit heavy, but great utility, exactly the size of a paper grocery bag!)

    3. Based on my riding habits, and assuming that I pick-up a bit more on riding more for leisure and excercise, what upgrades would anyone recommend over the next year, in order of priority?

    Thanks for any help with this; although I've been "back" in riding for about 6 months, I'm still a "bike-newbie" with regards to repair, maintenance, upgrades and component selection.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by bookishboy
    Hi everyone,

    2. I really like the "comfort" reviews of the FS model, but also need a rear rack (and hopefully pannier/side baskets) because of the errands that I use the bike for. Any experince with this? a. Can a FS model be fitted with a rack? and b. If so, can the rack be fitted with panniers or side baskets, or would they scrape the ground? (I used to use Wald folding wire baskets; a bit heavy, but great utility, exactly the size of a paper grocery bag!)
    Topeak has a rack that clamps on the seat post that can take a top bag and can add side frams for
    a pannier system. The system and its parts are available on eBay or at many dealers on the web.
    I bought one for my FS and it works and looks great. Weight limit is 20 pounds, as it is only attached
    by a single beam. It is strong and very well made. The rack should cost you well under $50.00, the bags and panniers and side frames are reasonable and can be purchased as a set.
    I have not found a kickstand yet.

  3. #3
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    1. Does Downtube kit-out their bikes with extras like kickstand, rear rack, etc or will I need to go to the LBS to get these put on?
    The non-FS version has these, at least in the 2005 version. The FS does not.

    3. Based on my riding habits, and assuming that I pick-up a bit more on riding more for leisure and excercise, what upgrades would anyone recommend over the next year, in order of priority?
    Don't know if you saw another DT thread where Yan, the company owner and designer of Downtube, wrote the following:


    "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"

    Note that some of these upgrades already occur in the 2006.

    Personally, I've only had my DT FS for a few weeks. So far, I've changed the saddle to my old Ideale and have switched to higher pressure tires. I'll need to ride more to decide if I feel the need to upgrade anything else. Everything is working fine so far.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trocadile
    The non-FS version has these, at least in the 2005 version. The FS does not.

    Personally, I've only had my DT FS for a few weeks. So far, I've changed the saddle to my old Ideale and have switched to higher pressure tires. I'll need to ride more to decide if I feel the need to upgrade anything else. Everything is working fine so far.
    Which tires did you go to? I am looking for a good road tire that is also good for a little rural road too.
    Hbob

  5. #5
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    Thank you for the responses.

    hbob, I thought about trying one of those seatpost-mounted rear racks, but I'm afraid that I regularly use the rack for more than that could handle. Although I realize that a folding bike may not be able to handle quite as much as my Trek did, I regularly carried 2-3 (paper) bags of groceries home at one time. This would often include bags of flour, cans of soup, you name it; noticeably more than the 20lb weight limit of a seatpost-mounted rack. On those occasions when it seemed that the combined weight of the groceries + me was too much, I pushed the bike home, treating it like a personal shopping cart. Do you have any suggestions/solutions for something a bit heftier?

    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 had seen this, but thanks for pointing it back out to me; I've been reading up on various forums, and probably glossed over some pertinent info because of the sheer volume that I've been reading.

    I went back to the downtube website and found this:

    New improvements for 2006 include

    * Adjustable angle removable faceplace stem
    * Disc brake tabs on the front fork for all FS bikes (not included with VIII bikes)
    * 24H/28H spoked front/rear wheels for lightweight
    * 1.5" front tire (lighter than 2005 1.75")
    * Alloy chainring
    * Thicker replacable rear derailleur hanger
    * Higher quality cables
    * Stainless Steel spokes
    So, if I buy the 2006 model it looks as though the adjustable stem and upgraded cables are already included, which would put the clipless pedals highest on the list (and lights, since I ride home from work at night). Ok, this is all helpful info.

    -Out of curiosity, how much pressure do the stock tires use?

    Thanks again for any help, I would still very much appreciate any suggestions for adding a utilitarian rack/baskets to the rear of a VIII FS.
    Last edited by bookishboy; 02-28-06 at 03:41 PM.

  6. #6
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    Which tires did you go to? I am looking for a good road tire that is also good for a little rural road too.
    That's what I was looking for as well. I chose the Primo Comet Kevlar 1.50s, but I've barely ridden them yet, so can't say if they are right. Might get in a ride tomorrow and be better able to comment. I may end up switching back to a stock Kenda in front, but first I'll try the Comets at different pressures. Part of the reason I got them is they are supposed to perform well at a wide range of pressure (I'm running them at full 100psi to start).

    -Out of curiosity, how much pressure do the stock tires use?
    They are listed at 40-65psi. I used them at 65 and they weren't bad. I'm just curious to see how the bike is with more of a street tire. The stock Kenda is what I think is called a "combination tire" - that is, it has knobs on the sides but not the center of the tread and it does pretty well on rough paths.

  7. #7
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    If it is a weight issue for the rack system you might go for the standard model. I do ride around with my son on the rack that comes on the standard model Downtube and I don't know he is even back there. He is a first grader and I ride him to and form the bus stop on the back. When I grocery shop with the FS model
    I put some on the Topeak rack and the rest in a backpack on me. You can also get a handlebar bags
    that will hold very small but heavy items.

  8. #8
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    Tires,.. i used to be a huge fan of Tioga Comp Pools,.. No More! They let me down in the end. I agree with member Wav, the Big Apple tires are the best folder tire out there in all regards unless you are into racing (hope i don't change my mind on these...!). When you carry a lot of weight the Big Apple is an especially good choice.

    Racks and Pannier? Look at my thread on Bike Buckets or Jerrycan panniers. I think that will give you some ideas for cheap tough systems that will carry huge amounts of freight. The main thing would be to get a kick ass rack that works with the suspension. Yan can probably advice with this. Here in the NL i could recommend you 2 great cheap racks at least, but i don't think they are available out side the Netherlands.
    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.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dave Hickey's Avatar
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    I don't mean to hijack this thread but I just ordered a Downtube Vlll. Does anyone know the spacing of the rear triangle? Is it 130mm, 135mm????

    I'm going to use it as the basis for a project bike.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hickey
    I don't mean to hijack this thread but I just ordered a Downtube Vlll. Does anyone know the spacing of the rear triangle? Is it 130mm, 135mm????

    I'm going to use it as the basis for a project bike.
    My VIII FS is 135mm .. I would be surprised if the spec wasn't consistant for both models.

    Bruce

  11. #11
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    Bought it, got it, ridden it...overall thoughts on it

    Ok, so I got my Downtube VIII, non-FS, 2005 model. This is my first folding bike, and a scant 3 months ago I didn't even know that there was such a thing as folding bikes... at least not ones that would be up to everyday practical use. I've had it just over a week now, and have been riding it pretty much every day since, including to work.

    Before I say anything else about the bike, I'd like to say Thank You to the forum members here, for fostering a great atmosphere to talk about folding bikes at all different levels.... skill, price, knowledge. Part of my reading-up involved going back to the oldest of this forum's pages and perusing any threads that seemed to be of interest, and doing more focused searches here and elsewhere as I narrowed down my choices. Even if you haven't interacted with me directly, chances are that I've read some of what you've had to say in these threads.

    Why I went with the Downtube: The price, coupled with the generally satisfactory reviews of both the bike's performance and responsiveness from the company (Yan). I chose the 2005 model because it was slightly less expensive without a big drop in components. The non-FS choice was because I'm using it to commute to work, and the included fenders, kickstand were all important to me. It didn't hurt that the non-FS was cheaper, but in this case I would have bought the FS model if it could have come equipped with rack, fenders and kickstand; it looks like others have had to do some searching in this regard, with very few exact fits ( e.g. a seatpost-clamping rack, which has a lower carrying capacity).

    I'm not especially knowledgable about bikes, components, repair, upgrades, etc. (YET....which is why I won't comment on component selection/quality very much), and I intended this bike to affordably replace a Trek hybrid model that was less than a year old and stolen this past February. Since I considered the Trek ($400 new) to be an expensive purchase, I didn't wish to spend as much or more on a folding replacement. We all have different opinions on what is acceptable to spend on a bike.... I have a feeling that I'll become a bit less budget-conscious on my next purchase, as I'm learning about what bikes are out there. So my budget seemed to dictate either a lower-end or used Dahon or a new Downtube.

    Purchase experience * * * (out of 5)
    I bought it off ebay, and the order was processed quite quickly.... this was on or about 3/18(weekend). The bike was shipped out UPS on Mon or Tues, and I tracked its progress from only one state away. Somehow it got turned around on Wednesday due to an address problem, and I saw it get delivered back to the point of origin on Friday, just in time for the end of the business week. Strangely, the UPS email that I was sent included my correct address exactly, so I don't know what the problem was. I waited another week, expecting that it would be shipped back out or that I'd be contacted for an address clarification, but nothing else happened. I emailed Yan directly 3 Mondays after the auction ended, and he got right on it. It was frustrating to wait, then to see that nothing was done to correct the problem by itself, but I give Yan a lot of credit for taking it in hand to have the problem fixed once he became aware of it. The bike finally arrived last Tuesday 4/11. Also, after the auction ended I'd phoned the number he'd previously provided to me, to ask about the possibility of purchasing one of the adjustable stems separately or as an upgrade, but he had to let me know that they only sell bikes, not parts or upgrades.

    Overall, my impression is that Yan is a solid person to do business with, but I think that the growing success of his Downtube bikes might be growing at a rate that's hard to keep up with. Some things that I think would improve the brand:

    -Being able to buy parts and upgrades separately, directly from downtube.com. Alternately, forming a relationship with a retailer who stocks "downtube-compatible" parts and is knowledgeable about fixing/upgrading them. I count at least two folding-bike-related retailers in this forum, one of whom is preparing to stock Downtubes, so this might be the more likely option. I've also seen Yan mention the possibility of selling frames, and I think this would be a GREAT opportunity for LBS's who have been considering adding a folding bike to their line, but want some flexibility in how to specc it for their customers. Basically, I'd like to be able to easily kit a FS bike with a rack, or replace a bent seat-tube, or replace one of the parts from the clamp mechanisms in 10 years if they go bad.

    -COMPLETELY re-vamping the website. If "Downtube folding bikes" are the main thing that Yan's doing, then they should be the most visible, most clearly featured thing on the front page of Downtube.com. The site is functional, but it's not very attractive. If not for the good reviews from forum members here, I'd be suspicious of the company as another fly-by-night chinese bike knockoff, just because of the site design. The classifieds and bulletin board over there have been taken over by spammers, and questions about the bikes get answered sporadically at best. This works against Yan in two ways: One, it makes the business look less professional. Two, he does most of his question-answering over here, which some people like (I do) and some people mistrust. If he got a V-Bulletin forum going over on his site, and a few volunteer moderators to cut down on the crap/spam, lots of the Downtube info/FAQs/answers could be distilled over on his own turf. This would make the business look more responsive, build a community of enthusiastic customers/users, and cut down on the bad blood that "all those farkin Downtube threads" seems to have engendered over here. People talk about them so much over here not just because they're nice bikes, but because there's really nowhere else to talk about them (like Dahon owners have)

    Shipping: * * * * (out of 5)
    Other problems aside, the box arrived rather beat-up, with the seatpost tube poking out of a hole that it'd punched through the side of the box. Also, for such a small folding bike, the box was on the big side. This worried me a bit as to what condition the bike would be inside, but it turned out that I needn't have. Everything inside the box was fine, nothing dinged, nothing bent.There was cardboard wrapped around most of the tube parts for the bike to keep it from getting scuffed/scratched. The bike was in nearly-assembled condition, and needed no tools to assemble, and some air in the tires.

    The bike itself: * * * * (out of 5)
    This doesn't factor in cost/value. I think that from what I've seen, I would have had to spend *significantly* more money in order to get that 5th asterisk. The ride took only a few minutes to get used to. The steering is, as many have observed on folders, "squirrely", but the low center of gravity helps it keep its balance. It's nicely light and suprisingly agile for a small bike with a long steering tube. The seat tube and main frame hinges have given me no problem, but the hinge on the steering tube creaks slightly when I'm pedalling hard, for example uphill climbs. Since it doesn't close as tightly as some of the other lever-joints on the bike, I think that it could be fixed if it could be tightened slightly....but there doesn't seem to be a way to do that. At first I wasn't entirely happy with the gearing (the highest gear felt a little lacking), but this turned out to be because the derailleur needed adjusting. The chain wasn't being moved to every one of the cogs, including the smallest one. After a little adjusting/fiddling, it seems to be fine

    The fold: * * * (out of 5)
    Honestly, I wish it could fold smaller, and fold more easily. Perhaps I should have saved up for a Brompton or Merc, or waited for the mini-version of the Downtube to be available. The 20" wheels are the biggest limiting factor here. I may still get one of the DT-minis in the next year if they prove to be reliable and available. Again, the steering tube fold doesn't latch down as tightly as I'd like, and I don't see a ready way of making it tighter. It looks like adding a washer onto it might do the trick, but the nut seems to be glued or secured onto the pin. I'd love a magnet-securing feature for the DT when it's folded, even if it's offered as an aftermarket accessory. Also, when the bike gets folded, the derailleur cable gets pulled a bit through several cable-stays. When the bike gets unfolded again, the cable housing "bubbles" outward from the frame and has to be nudged carefully back into place. The folded package is ungainly, and I wish that there were an integrated handle near the balance point of the folded package. If it didn't interfere with the structural integrity, I also wish that there were a hole along the bottom of the frame for the seat tube to poke down through, so that the seat could be compacted even further down. On a positive side, I did like the small stand underneath the bike, an extra loop of aluminum which supports it like a kickstand while its folded, and keeps the chain from going down into the dirt.

    Value + Extras: * * * * * (out of 5) For the price, I couldn't be happier with what I wound up with. Kickstand + fenders + rack + carrying bag makes this a great value, and a solid commuter so far. Some things that I've liked:
    -The kickstand. Since it's mounted so far to the rear, it doesn't interfere with the pedals at all. Nearly every other bike I've had since childhood, the bike couldn't be rolled backwards out of the garage without nuding the kickstand up, because the pedals would catch on it.
    -The adjustability of the bike lets multiple riders use it. I've already had one friend riding it, with favorable reviews, and the bike might get employed this Summer in teaching my 28-yr-old housemate how to ride a bike, since she never learned. I may get a second one for my girlfriend, and if we go riding, we could switch off bikes without a problem, just by adjusting the seat tube and handlebars.
    -The barends. It's really nice to have an alternate grip on the handlebars without the fold getting too bulky.
    -The carrying bag, for NO extra money

    Satisfaction: I'm very satisfied with my new bike. I have a few other suggestions which I'll save for a new post, with pics to illustrate; this one is long enough already.


    Oh, and the comment factor: I had my first person shout a comment from a van within 5 minutes of getting on the bike and riding it around the block a few times to test it out. He shouted "Nice bike!" after me, but I couldn't tell if he was genuinely complimenting it or making fun of an odd-looking bike.

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