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  1. #1
    Senior Member Heraclitus's Avatar
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    My tax refund is coming and I am going to spurge on a new folding bike. Damn the cost (almost) I will consider it duly justified by the anticipated enjoyment, utility and health benefits.

    I am deeply fascinated with the Bromptons, and if I had to pick a bike today based upon my instincts and urges I think that would be it. My primary reservation with this is with the size of the cockpit. I am 6’4” tall. I weight about 190lbs.

    I am wondering if there is anyone out there who is also tall, and who is used to riding road bikes with frames 60cm and larger, and who has any good or bad experiences or opinions with regard to the sizing and the ride on the Bromptons. Also, specific feedback on best/worst handlebar set-ups would be good too. (I have done a lot of searching and reading, but any general comments or advice are welcome as well.)

    Here is a little more info:

    I have a beater fixed gear conversion that I often would rather take than my car when making trips all around LA (I will take on 25 miles each way without hesitation if I have the time.) I also have a nice road bike that I ride for riding’s sake and take on long club rides etc (no centuries yet, but I regularly do 60-80 miles and plan to go further. After the foldie experiment I may try out touring!) I can do my 9 mile commute on either of these and will not need a folder for that.

    I want a folder as much for a novelty as anything else. I want it to be “cool” and fun. Some of the potential uses it would see might be to combine it with public transport to get around the city without getting in the car, and without getting as sweaty as I do on my fixie. Another use I could envision would perhaps be pulling it out of the trunk and getting around on it if I am visiting, or day tripping somewhere, or in areas bad for parking, or even in an attempt to save cab fare and limit the potential liabilities of a short trip home from the bar sometimes. Finally, I think it would be fun to travel with it on planes and trains when I go to visit friends here and there, and thus have my own transportation at hand.

    So, I know how to enjoy and make the most of an efficient ride; but for a folding bike that would be a secondary concern to convenience. I get lots of fun zipping around on my two other bikes, the fun I expect to get from this bike is from having it when I don’t have any of my other bikes. Still, I can imagine putting in 20 mile rides or longer at times, and I don’t want it to feel boring or frustrating.

    So far I have not ridden any, but I have found a place where I will be going to check out some Bromptons and Birdys soon.

    And thanks to all for any input. There are some very informative folks in this forum, and I already appreciate all I have learned from you...
    Last edited by Heraclitus; 03-02-06 at 05:22 PM.
    Nothing endures but change.

  2. #2
    Raleigh20 PugFixie, Merc LittlePixel's Avatar
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    A lot of tall Londoners seem to find the Brompton perfectly acceptable as a commuter. I think it's to do with the full size wheelbase making reach the least of your issues. Beyond feeling cramped in the frame it's really all about how well you adapt to the different, more responsive feel of small wheels. For me it came in minutes and riding a 'big' wheeled bike now almost feels like riding in slo-mo.

    A test ride is paramount before buying but it sounds like you'll know what you like when you find it...
    Happy Cycling!
    Huw

  3. #3
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    I have a bunch of folders and I am not short. I do find that with the Bromptons if you are over 6' tall (and I am) you really need to get the extended seatpost or telescoping seat post. I have the telescoping one and it goes pretty high and still folds compactly. I also need to rotate the bars forward a bit and move the seat back as much as possible to be comfortable. The bars are very narrow as well. I have wide shoulders and the bars I liked best happened to be the ugliest of the lot.

    The most comfortable bike for me is my Swift. Get a tall seat post and handlebar stem and you can be quite comfy and have a fast bike that is more versatile than a Brompton. Plus you can have a Swift custom built to your specs if you so desire.

    You really need to determine how compact you want the fold to be. The Bromptons are smallest but sacrifice in many areas to do it. They have limited gear range and their brakes suck. Birdys are pretty decent but you definitely want to upgrade beyond the basic red model to get better components.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Heraclitus's Avatar
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    I would definitely need the telescoping seatpost.

    What about handlebar options: do you have the straight ones or the more common seeming U-shaped bar (or the "P" version is it?) Do you think the straight one gives you more of a lean? (On my road bikes my seat is probably just a little higher than my bars -- but of course I am stretched out a bit more than possible on the Brompton.)

    Does the crank length feel short?


    And when you say the Swift is more comfortable -- how long of a ride does it take you to really take note of that on either bike... I mean, I can ride a kids bike for 10 minutes or a mile or two and have fun... but after a while I am sure I will start to get uncomfortable in odd places... Does that happen on the Brompton for you?

    I like the swift, but as I have seen other people comment, that seems more like a bike that folds as opposed to a folding bike. I am really fascinated with the design and compactness of the Bromptons - but if it really does just feel like a little BMX bike or something then I don't think I would get as much use out of it.

    Thanks again!
    Nothing endures but change.

  5. #5
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    Welcome Heraclitus!

    I am very familiar with Los Angeles and especially with the Silverlake area since I once lived in East Hollywood. Alot of my friends lived up in the hills of Silverlake when I was in junior high, high school and community college before I went away to the university. My family still owns property in Los Angeles.

    For travel with the folder, I have used both folders (Dahon Boardwalk and Brompton C Type) on the new light rail system as well as the nonfolding 26" Phillips with no problems. The Brompton was the best in terms of fitting in the tightest spots-see Brompton Found! (Nothing Like I was Expecting) thread for more information on it's purchase and trip home. The MTA buses are another matter. Although I have taken the bus with the Brompton hidden in it's bag, with the extreme crowding that many of the lines are experiencing, I find that I rather ride the bike to my destination as I have done even before I purchased my first folder. The bus drivers sometimes bump you off (do not let you on) if the bus is very crowded. And the bike racks are usually full.

    The only place that I know about that sells both a Birdy or a Brompton is Nautique/Folding Bikes West in Oceanside. The owner is very knowledgeable about both makes. I purchase the Brompton there and never regretted it (she even sent me the owner's manual in the mail the next day after she forgot to give me one)!

    The folders can be both modified to fit taller people. You might have to add the telescoping seatpost to the bike, but it will be worth it to your knees. As for gear range, the three speed hub (with the right diameter of chainring) allows for most grades of terrain encountered. The hills surrounding the northern area of Los Angeles is rolling and sometimes steep, but the range is fine for me and I rarely have to walk the bike up). Make sure you are comfortable about it by actually trying it out before you make the purchase.

    The reasons why you want a folder is very similar to mine. For the past 2+ years, I have been increasing my bike riding because the bike stays with me all the time and almost eliminates theft. I love the small wheels which offer much more manuvering, control, and quicker acceleration than a larger wheel bike. I hope you enter the world of folders with the same excitement as I have when I bought my first one. I am sure you will not regret it.

    Please write and let us know what you have chosen to ride.
    Last edited by folder fanatic; 03-02-06 at 06:54 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Heraclitus's Avatar
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    Thanks folder fanatic. I have read some of your other very informative posts.

    Yeah, after riding fixed gear I am not so worried about gearing. LA is really not too bad for the hills. I am generally athletic and well coordinated (I can also ride unicycle and have done a lot of mountain biking) so I am really not worried about the "twitchy" feel of a small wheel bike -- sounds like fun.

    I really just think the Bromptons seem neat. I am mostly curious as to whether the ride for a tall person is awkwardly uncomfortable; or perhaps awkward at first, but something you can get used to and will not cause you to develop repetetive motion injuries or something.

    Has anybody measured the distance from the nose of the seat to the plane of the handgrips on their Brompton? (sort of a virtual top tube length perhaps) I have tried looking for similar information, but did not come across it yet.

    (BTW - I spoke to the woman at Nautique today - that is where I was going to go check things out sometime when I can make the trip.)

    (I have had the experience of being stuck at a bus stop with a friend on a bike who is sort of new to cycling and so not into the long trip home, and we couldn't get on for three buses coming by because the racks were full. I prefer riding too, but sometime I want to take it easy and not get too sweaty if I have far to go.)
    Nothing endures but change.

  7. #7
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heraclitus
    I would definitely need the telescoping seatpost.

    What about handlebar options: do you have the straight ones or the more common seeming U-shaped bar (or the "P" version is it?) Do you think the straight one gives you more of a lean? (On my road bikes my seat is probably just a little higher than my bars -- but of course I am stretched out a bit more than possible on the Brompton.)

    Does the crank length feel short?


    And when you say the Swift is more comfortable -- how long of a ride does it take you to really take note of that on either bike... I mean, I can ride a kids bike for 10 minutes or a mile or two and have fun... but after a while I am sure I will start to get uncomfortable in odd places... Does that happen on the Brompton for you?

    I like the swift, but as I have seen other people comment, that seems more like a bike that folds as opposed to a folding bike. I am really fascinated with the design and compactness of the Bromptons - but if it really does just feel like a little BMX bike or something then I don't think I would get as much use out of it.

    Thanks again!
    I have the U shaped bars (the M style) the others were quite uncomfortable. I wanted to go with the low flat ones but the but my arm at a difficult andgle and they aren't height adjustable. As for how quickly do I notice the difference in comfort between my Swift and Bromptons, it is immediate. I am more stretched out and relaxed on the Swift. Here is a link to one of my earlier posts on my Swift.

    swift folders

    Contrary to what you may think, gearing does become an issue on folders. You really shouldn't stand up hard on the pedals as that puts a lot more stress on the frame because of the long lever arm of the handelbars. It really can make the frame flex. You really need to adopt a sit and spin type of hill climbing technique on a Brompton if you are a big guy. I can make the bike flex like a noodle if I get out of the saddle on my Brompton while climbing a steep hill but I have no such issues on the Swift. Crank doesn't feel too short on the Brompton. You adapt quickly. The stock saddle on the Brompton is a POS to me but maybe you will like it. If you want to chance saddle it will NOT take a stock rail saddle unless you buy their little pentaclip ($30).

    I look at the Brompton as a 1-trick pony. It has a super compact fold but is a much inferior bicycle to the Swift (or many other folders for that matter). It is mediocre in many other areas but most Brompton owners overlook these issues for whatever reason (maybe they like the chic fold, status, etc.) they like but I don't mind calling a turd a turd. With upgrades it can be a much better bike but then the price starts to get way up there. The Brompton never lets you forget you are on a folding bike. After 10 feet on the Swift you would never know it is a folder.

    The fold on the Swift is different. It allows for a very narrow vertical package that personally I find much easier to take through turnstyle type metro systems than almost any other since it does fold upon itself therby doubling its width. It is a taller package when doing the quick fold but that fold is SUPER fast, ala 5 seconds when you get it down. If you need more compact take off the bars. By the same token I can fit it in a normal suitcase for travel with as much disassembly as a Dahon for example. I just spent a lot of time traveling with my Bromptons the past few weeks and they still need a big suitcase to fit in to when traveling.

    You also have much more tire choices on a 20" bike than on the Brompton. The Brompton is a bigger theft target so you BETTER take it with you at all times. They are thief magnets in Europe. I upgraded the brakes on my Brompton so now they don't suck as bad as they did at first but they still are not anywhere near the brakes of my Swift, Bike Friday, Dahon, etc. Look on the Brompton forums (elsewhere) and brakes are probably THE number one complaint (that and gearing) for people that live where there are hills.

    The Brompton has been around for a long time so there is a lot of info on what to tweak and it needs it. The Swift is very good right out of the box. Either one folded with fit in my trunk. When folding the Brompton I always have to make sure I move the levers back to where they don't hit anything since the stock position is not comfortable for me. Also while the Brompton may be small it isn't light. If I were to do it over again, I would but the Frog, a direct copy of the Brompton but with aluminum frame, and then fit the Brompton titanium bits on it for a superlight bike. To make a Brompton into a good bike requires a lot of upgrades and then you get a very spendy bike. Problem is Brompton has no real competition in its size so its evolution has stagnated. It not much different than it was years ago other than for some titanium bits and you can't get a 5 speed hub anymore. I like my Bromptons and hate them at the same time. For me they have turned into a money pit as I continue to upgrade parts on them as I learn what I really hate about them.

    To date I have upgraded the tires, pedals, brakes (levers, pads and cables and housings), seat, grips and other bits. If you really want to hate a Brompton just try changing a rear flat on the road. So far I have had 2 of the bastards and hopefully wont have many more as I changed the rear tire to a Kevlar belted Schwalbe Marathon and now have fitted a rear tube on the rear triangle so I don't have to pull the wheel to change a tube. Do this in the rain and you will want to pick up the bike and toss it or better yet, fold the little toy up and carry it home to fix it. If you buy a Brompton, take the time to take off the rear wheel and fit a tube on the rear triangle so that you don't have to take the time to pull the wheel to change it. Also don't try and retrofit a rack later as you will spend more than you would buying it upfront. Keep in mind that almost EVERYTHING on a Brompton is propietary or unique to it so if you do need a part somewhere you need to go to a Brompton specific shop and as a result most parts cost more.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Heraclitus's Avatar
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    Thanks a bunch Wavshrdr for the long and informative response. You have given me some great food for thought.

    And I like the looks of your swift. I do like to be practical, and it seems that I might get more satisfaction from the sensibleness of the Swift - especially if I put some of the extra $ I would need to spend on the Brompton into getting a nice set-up on theSwift. Maybe the Brompton is not as cool as I thought (I do get irritated sometimes about companies that do the thing with proprietary parts.) It is starting to seem like a brilliant idea with somewhat poor execution, from all of the niggling complaints that people have. The glaring difference is the tight little package that the Brompton makes, though, which I still think is very cool.

    I guess some test rides might be in order. If the actual ride on the Brompton is enjoyable to me it will remain a frontrunner.

    Thanks again.
    Nothing endures but change.

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