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  1. #1
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Review of my Downtube VIIIH with internal hub (long review)

    Background

    This review is targeted at those of you who are looking for a good folder at a great price and want an internal hub instead of a derailleur. Even if you are considering a derailleur equipped bike I suggest you read the review to get a better idea of the current state of Downtube bikes. Some of you may not be familiar with the Downtube bikes at all. If you havenít had a chance to see them in person Iíd highly recommend checking them out. I wonít bore you with the details of the how the company got started or their philosophy. I will tell you what my experience with them has been and give a review of one of their latest models the VIIIH (internal hub). Iíll abbreviate Downtube as DT as a convenience.

    Just for the record I have no financial stake in DT. I am not being paid to write this review by DT. I am not receiving any sort of remuneration of any kind; no free product, nothing! I was not asked by anyone to write this and I do it of my own free will just to help inform others who might be considering buying a DT and specifically the VIIIH model with the internal Sturmey Archer 8psd hub.

    As some of you may know I am an early adopter of the DT line of bikes. I bought 2 DT FS (fully suspended) models about a year ago. I bought them off eBay at a price to low to believe but not as cheap as some purchased them. My rationale was to buy a decent bike for my children that would grow as they would grow. I had done the dime store, Walmart, Target route where I would buy a bike from them and maybe get a year out of it before it was dead.

    Each year it was like buying a new pair of shoes and honestly it got expensive. I didnít want to buy them a piece of garbage bicycle that they wouldnít enjoy yet I could see throwing away a few hundred dollars each year just to have them grow out of it next year. The folding bikes seemed like a perfect option since I had such good luck with mine in general. Problem for me was I didnít want to spend $1000 on a very high quality one yet I didnít want one that would fall apart in a few hundred miles either. As we all know Tonka toy trucks are indestructible until you give them to a small boy. You could drive over the little Tonka toy with your car and it would survive but give it to a child and he can break it in hours.

    My First Downtubes

    So I knew I needed to buy something decent that would stand up to the rigors of very active children. You know the type, the ones that view every curb as a jump. Every hole in the road is an opportunity to bunny hop the bike over it and so on. I did a lot of investigating and it led me to buying my two initial DTs.

    I bought them and a week later they arrived. My boxes had some shipping damage. Gears wouldnít shift properly and it appeared there were issues with the derailleur hangar brackets. I called up Yan and he said no problem and promptly shipped me out a replacement. Seems UPS was a little over zealous with shipping some of the bikes and mine were still able to be ridden but the indexing was off and it hunted between gears.

    General impression was that while DT advertised it somewhat as comparable to a Dahon costing about $900 it didnít compare that favorably. In some areas it did compare favorable as I had less frame flex when riding it than when I rode an expensive Dahon. In general it performed well, had decent spec parts and was better than most mid-range ($500 Dahons) but not up to the level of their upper end stuff. Considering I paid less than half of the price of a mid-range Dahon and got a decent bike bag and full suspension it was a screaming deal for me.

    Since that initial purchase about a year ago Iíve had more time to think about the DTs in general. I really admired that they used very standard sized parts and nothing really one-off or proprietary. My concern was what would happen if the company went out of business and I had an orphaned bike with non-standard part. Iíd have something I could repair if it broke.

    Well to date nothing has broke except one of the little ting bells. Not really a surprise as my son managed to kill 2 of these on his Trek bike in about a week so when the DT failed it didnít shock me. To date nothing else has broken. The only issue I have is that in cold weather (below freezing) the crank is stiffer than other bikes I have. It takes a few miles to warm up so whatever grease or lube was used doesnít flow well at low temps. For most of you this wonít be an issue. Since I donít ride it a huge amount in cold temps it is an inconvenience. If I rode it more I would honestly replace it as it bugs me but it isnít a serious issue. It is more of a psychological one in that I think in the cold it is sucking up my energy and it does for a few minutes until it warms up a bit.

    Downtube VIIIH Initial Impressions

    Fast forward to the current purchase and the arrival of the VIIIH. The bike arrived with what appeared to be a better box. Lesson learned from the evil treatment of the UPS drivers! No offense UPS but over the last year Iíve had a lot of issues with the treatment of my packages. Thankfully the last month they seemed to have gotten better. I opened up the box and I was actually shocked at how nice the bike looked. Pictures on the DT website to NOT do this bike justice.

    The silver paint was very nice. New emblem up front on the headset. New metal pedal. MUCH better handlebars. If the last DT I owned was version 1.1 we have now leapfrogged to version 4.1 in the span of 1 year. I couldnít believe the bike came from the same company. My initial thought was we have a serious player on our hands. This bike wonít just appeal to the cost conscious but I were a bike shop I wouldnít be ashamed to park this next to a Swift, Brompton or higher-end Dahon. It really has improved that much. Even being a bike geek I was still pretty impressed.

    Since it was to be birthday gift for one of my kids I knew I should test ride it to make sure there were no issues. Bike setup like the old one but everything felt ďbetterĒ in a tough to quantify way. This isnít to say the old one was bad but in some areas its price was obvious in other ways youíd believe it was much more expensive.

    What It Comes With

    It is well equipped. It has front suspension fork. It has a nice seat with some internal suspension. It has a rear rack. Improved chain over the last model and appears to be better than most folders. It has metal folding pedals. It has a good kickstand. Height adjustable handlebars. Adjustable front bars with bar ends. Safety catches dual mode (better than Dahons) on all folding parts. Lastly it has the main reason I bought this model; Sturmey Archer 8spd internal hub with twistgrip shifter.

    The Good and Great

    All this doesnít mean anything if the bike doesnít perform well as a bike. So how does it ride? In general I was very impressed. I know this is going to seem almost like heresy to some of you but my initial impression is it felt a lot like my Swift. No joke. Maybe it was the internal hub and how I had the bars setup but it really did feel very much like my Swift. I looked down a couple times just to make sure.

    Of course initial impressions may change so I rode it for a few miles. I realized the front fork is probably best if you are under 200lbs. Iím not but it still helped. The brakes squeaked a bit so I made a mental note to check the toe-in when I got back from my ride. Gear changes were very positive and a wide range to the hub. Downshifts are not as easy to execute as my Nexus 8 spd internal hub but much better than the SA 3speeds on a Brompton. By the end of my ride the break squeal went away as the pads bedded in. Just a quick not on braking performance; I would rate it as good to very good.

    All in all I kept making comparisons against my Swift. Donít get me wrong, I am not saying its better than my Swift because its not. However it finally invites comparison and stacks up pretty well.

    Compared to many other folder this new DT makes no excuses. It doesnít need to. It has improved that much. Seat is better. Tires are better. Fit and finish is better. In every area I could see and feel the bike is better. While this may seem overly gushy it truly is improved that much. At its price point nothing I've ridden offers the value this bike does. So if life is bowl of cherries, where are the pits?

    The Not So Good

    So whatís not to like? A few things but so far they (to me). First off while there is a rear fender it is sort of short and could stand to be longer unless you have something on the rear rack. If we have a rear fender why not a front one too? Donít I need a front if I have a rear? Still hate the sponge grips but easily swapped. The bike I think is geared too high. I definitely was wanting a lower first gear and I think I would have a pretty low cadence at 20 mph. I donít need an 8th gear where I can still be pedaling at 30 mph and helping move the bike forward. Honestly on mine the shifting effort seems high. That may improve as it breaks-in. Cable routing isnít an issue. Iíll try lubing the cable as well. It wasnít a major issue for me but my son with sweaty hands had a very hard time turning it. Most adults wonít have much of an issue but Iíd rate the force needed as about 50% more than my Nexus.

    I am a BIG fan of internal hubs on commuter bikes and folder; less muss and fuss and generally less mess. I love being able to shift at a stop. This is a major plus if you have a child who will ride your bike or someone less experienced with derailleurs. Even though I have a lot of miles ridden I still like internal hubs. Their efficiency is much improved over what they were. They tend to be very quiet and long lasting. Nothing really sticking out to get busted off or collect dirt. For me this is one of the big pluses when you are running a small wheel; no derailleur bits hanging low to collect dirt and debris.

    Areas for Improvement

    So what would I change on it? First Iíd toss the stock grips but my son likes them. Iíd add a front fender and a longer rear one. Seat was surprisingly comfy. I might find a lighter weight one though. Iíd think about different tires when the stock ones wore out. They too are an upgrade from the old bike. Last ones I tossed almost instantly. They really sucked a lot of my energy. New ones seem much better in that department. If there were some way to adjust the front fork, Iíd set it up for my weight. I donít know if you can and I havenít investigated this yet. I think the gearshift is a little stiff. Iíll lube the cable and if that doesnít help Iíll upgrade the cable and housing.

    One aspect of the VIIIH I will change immediately is the gearing. Those of you with hills may want to consider lowering the gearing. Iíd definitely consider adding about 3 teeth to the rear sprocket. There also seems to be a big jump from 1st to 2nd gear and then 7th to 8th. I rather like it but with the ultra-tall gearing it is a pain. I do like that gears 2-7 are in effect close ratio. Then you have the much lower (relatively) 1st gear and then the much taller (relatively) 8th. The reason I like that is I have closer ratios around the range I use the most and I have a bail-out gear on the bottom and one tall one for down hills. If I play a bit with the gearing I think I can have a very usable range of gears. Iíll run the calculations when I count the sprocket teeth.

    Functional Improvements Over Old DT

    In general this bike is MUCH better than my last model. I think the Sturmey Archer 8spd internal hub is a great addition to this bike. It really transform the bike in so many ways. The bike has so much more curb appeal than before you canít really appreciate until you see it in person. The improvements arenít just bling, they are functional improvement and improvements in the quality of the components. I think that this model, the VIIIH, represents arguably the best value in their lineup. There is a reason Yan is selling these as quickly as he gets them.

    Gearing

    Right as I was finishing up this review I did the math on the gear inches for the gearing and it confirmed my suspicions. This bike is geared SUPER tall. It has a GI range of 39-119. This is probably too tall for most people. I sent an email to Yan regarding this and he says he will make changes in the next batch to come. In the meantime you can easily use standard size front chainring to re-gear if you want. As I mentioned the middle gears are nice and tightly spaced with a granny 1st and overdrive 8th. Here are how the actual numbers breakdown. You can see that the top and bottom gears are about a 30% gap up or down and the middle gears are about 13% change.

    Gear GI Change
    8 118.9 28.2 %
    7 92.8 13.3 %
    6 81.9 12.9 %
    5 72.5 13.4 %
    4 63.9 13.1 %
    3 56.5 13.3 %
    2 49.9 28.0 %
    1 39.0

    Who Should Consider This Bike?

    If you multi-mode commute like biking and then taking a bus or train this probably won't be a great choice and neither would most Dahons or other 20" wheeled folders. If you are looking for the ultimate small folder this is NOT it. You'll still need to look at a Merc or a Brompton. If you want something that you can fit in the trunk of your car but not have to carry around from bus to train and back then this is definitely worth considering. If you are looking for a low maintenance folder that is pretty versatile and well constructed then you might want to consider it. If you don't have a lot of money to spend and you want a lot of bike for the money, then this should be on your list of candidates as well.

    Conclusions

    Based on my experience I would definitely recommend this bike. It offers a lot of value at a great price. If you are on the fence about buying a current DT bike, go directly to their website and order one. Sure the website could be improved but like their bikes it has improved too (just not as fast). If the other models (derailleurs) have improved as much as this one you are going to be very pleased with your purchase. Quite honestly even though I liked my old DT FSís theyíll be going on eBay pretty soon. One plus though of the older models over the newer ones is their super strong wheels. If you are a big guy (like I used to be) then this is the model you want. The new wheels are lighter and less strong but no more so than the average folder. So if you weigh in the 260+ range like I used to then buy the older model. It is truly one of the few folders Iíve seen that will easily support you and you wonít sack out the suspension.

    It is obvious Yan has spent a lot of time doing what any wise business would do and improve their product. He has listened to all of our feedback and incorporated many of our suggestions. He has really figured out the way to give you very good bike at a great price. No damning the product with faint praise; no excuses given, none needed. This is not ďa good bike for the priceĒ it is simply a good bike at a great price! I am sure I speak for many others, such as Anna and Woof who also have bought this model, when I say thanks Yan! Keep the improvements coming.

    I'll post photos when I have a chance to take them and upload them. I'll update this thread as the bike accumulates a few more miles.

  2. #2
    SeŮor Mambo
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    Thanks for the initial impression, Wav. Looking forward to future reviews.

    Just one tangential question though: What do your kids think about you eBaying their bikes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wavshrdr
    Quite honestly even though I liked my old DT FSís theyíll be going on eBay pretty soon.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    Excellent initial review. You should rework it and submit it to the folding society after putting a few hundred miles on the bike.

    The VIII H also comes with front disc brake tabs and braze-ons for a water bottle – both additions are commendable.

    If this model folded smaller and weighed less it would be a fantastic multi-modal commuting machine, but as this is not the bike’s primary purpose, it seems churlish to criticize it on this front…

    The value for money of DTs is simply outstanding.

  4. #4
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    Wav:

    Thanks so much for your timely review. Like you, I'm a great fan of internal hubs, especially for the recreational, errand-running & utility use I plan for my folder (my first). My current utility bike (full size) uses a SRAM 7-speed hub which I've been pretty happy with. I've been trying to decide whether to switch to a folder this year or wait till next spring. My dream folder is a new steel Swift with the new SRAM i-Motion9 hub. But,financially, that is down the road a ways.

    The DT VIII-H attracted me right from the start. My only real indicision at the moment rests with the non-adjustable suspension front fork. At 225 pounds (down from 250 when I returned to cycling last year), I'm not confident the current front fork will be good for me. I'd much prefer the simplicity of a rigid front fork and the ability to run Big Apples (with front & rear fenders) instead of having a suspension bike. I could always add a suspension seat-post if I felt it was necessary. Oddly, DT does appear to use a rigid front fork on the new, smaller 16"-wheel internal hub model. Curious why the 20-inch VIII-H was spec'd with the suspension fork. Maybe DT will offer a non-suspension version in future.

    I agree about the gearing and I'd prefer a switch to lower gear-inch as well. For the mostly city-area errands and recreational & bike-trail riding I'd be doing with this bike, and because of my knee troubles, I'd gladly compromise some of my top end to get the "less-stressed" hill climbing the lower gears would provide. Interesting that Yan is considering such an alteration on future bikes.

    Thanks again Wav. I look forward to seeing your pictures and reading future reports from you and other VIII-H owners.
    Regards,
    Seamus

  5. #5
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    I appreciate the feedback on the review.

    SP11 -As for eBaying my kids’ bikes there is hope among them that if we get enough money we can pick up another VIIIH or a Mini.

    F&T – All DTs have the water bottle braze-ons it seems though I am not sure about the Mini. I wish more companies would do it. I agree it is a big plus. As for the disc tabs on the forks, nice touch but not useful for me or most. While I like discs in general on a folder they are too susceptible to getting bent if you aren’t careful with the bike. Since it is often transported and not just ridden it is at more of risk. Some might find it a bigger benefit than me.

    SeamusD – While the fork is not setup for someone big it still does help. It is not like I totally sack it out when I am on it. It just bottoms more easily than it would for most people. So in general it smooths out a lot of the normal bumps you will hit but doesn’t do too much for me on the really big ones. At your weight it would definitely help more than me so don’t be too quick to discount it. I may look into taking it apart and see if I can adjust the pre-load on the springs. Dampening isn’t bad. I need a heavier spring rate but then it wouldn’t be as good for my children.

    I love my Swift and I was really looking forward to the SRAM 9 speed but I looked at the weight figures and it appears to be as heavy as a tank. Let’s just say that tempered my enthusiasm for it a bit. While final specs haven’t been released it looks to way about 2300g. That is about 800g more than my Nexus 8spd red label hub on my Swift. I don’t think it is worth adding over 1.5 pounds just to add one gear and increase range 10% (307% Nexus 8spd– 340% SRAM 9spd). That is just too big of a penalty for me especially if I am toting the bike around. When I factor in the shift quality of the Shimano Nexus 8spd nothing touches this hub. I have yet to try an internal hub that shifts nicer and is quieter than this Shimano. It is the ONLY one I’ve tried that actually will shift under a load without REALLY letting up on the pedals. Unless I am literally standing on the pedals, the bike will downshift while going up a hill. Even if I am standing on the pedals it usually will but no guarantees. The SA 3spd on my old Bromptons I’d have to almost stop or back-pedal to get it to shift. The Merc was much better but I’d still need to at least ease up. The SA 8 spd on the DT is better than most but still not in the league of the Shimano.

    Part of me still wishes that DT went with the Shimano. I really like that hub a lot. Grudgingly I’ll admit that there are many things I do like about the SA 8 spd though. Shifts are quite positive though my effort is higher (mine may be an anomaly so I won’t be too quick to judge). I do like the bigger gaps (changes in ratios) at the top and bottom as I don’t use those gears as often and I love the tight grouping of the middle gears. I don’t like that the 1:1 (most efficient ratio) is 1st gear. I’d prefer that gear to be the one I use the most so I use less efficiency while riding. On the Nexus this is 5th gear and I geared my bike so that I am in that gear the most. I can understand the logic (somewhat) of making first gear 1:1 on the SA as if you are in that gear you are probably climbing a big hill and who wants to waste energy doing that.

    I must say that this is not a major point as the efficiency of internal hubs has improved a lot over the years. The SA design has always been quite efficient anyway. In general the 3spd SA hubs were better than the 3spd Nexus. I think that the 8spd Nexus is probably just below the 8spd SA in efficiency and the 8spd Nexus red label (premium hub) is definitely above it. I have not empirical data to back this up. I just have a bike with each one of these hubs.

    Based on how good these hubs are would I consider a Rohloff? At this point I don’t think I’d ever buy another Rohloff. I sort of was leaning toward saving the money for one until I rode a friends velomobile with the Rohloff. It immediately reminded me of all the quirks that annoyed me about it. The 500% gear range isn’t that appealing to me anymore now that the 8spd internal hubs are in the 300% range. I’d go with a Schlumpf up front and one of the Shimanos or SAs than a Rohloff and pocket the change which would buy another DT!

    The Rohloff is a great hub but it is noisy, heavy, expensive and a great target for thieves. On a 20” wheel the first several gears are almost redundant. This is what I really like about the SA. That first big jump means I don’t have 3 or 4 gears covering a very small spread of gear inches.

    If anyone has any specific questions about the VIIIH or the SA hub fire away.

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    comparisons?

    Thanks for all this detailed feedback. I'd like to ask you to talk a little more about your comparisons with the Swift. I'm going back and forth between these two bikes (and a Dahon Helios P8, too, I guess). I _can_ afford the Swift (though probably not with a Hub gear), but the question is, is it really worth it for my needs for a FAST all-weather commuter (For comparison's sake, I'm currently on a light (welded carbon fiber) MTB with narrow slicks, and while I'm not pokey, I don't want to go slower than that bike. I do want to get smaller-- but Brompton small isn't necessary).

    I've never ridden the Swift or the DT (I rode a helios and like it , but I'd like to be able to get a more agressive position)-- you seem to have experience with all the bikes I'm interested in, so anything you can say that puts them into perspective would be helpful. For example, in what way is the Swift preferable to the DT (is it just the hub? Would you choose the DT over a derailleur Swift?).

    Thanks so much for any advice.
    Last edited by mathilda; 08-01-06 at 12:14 PM.

  7. #7
    Is this your card? woofman's Avatar
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    Many thanks for your insightful and thorough review, Wav. Your posts are always more contemplative than doctrinaire, and a valuable resource for those of us still learning about folders, especially DTs.

    My experience (after 3 weeks) would essentially echo yours, except that at 142 lbs. I have no criticism of the suspension. My major quibbles (complaint seems too strong a word) would be that the gearing is too high, and I'd like it to weigh a little less. As I get closer to 60, lifting the bike in and out of the car becomes more of an issue.

  8. #8
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Mathilda Ė I am VERY biased toward my Swift so it is hard to be totally objective. There is just something about the Swift that I connect with when I ride it. It is like the ultimate chameleon bicycle. It can become whatever you want it to be. So for me to even start to think about the DT in the same context as the Swift was a major improvement.

    With respect to any folder you buy, tire choice is going to play a huge part in your speed. Whether you are on a MTB or not, your tire choice makes a huge improvement in your speed. In general IF you put good tires on the Swift or DT, you shouldnít go any slower than your MTB. The typical riding position on most folders is not as aerodynamic as fast road bikes. So I donít think youíll see a huge variance in your current speed and possibly an increase if you go with a set of good Schwalbe tires.

    You can make the DT and Swift into a more aggressive position if you want. The DT is easier with the height adjustable handlebar stem. Swift youíll have to cut it to the size you want or ask Peter for the size you want to start with.

    If you are considering a derailleur based bike, the new IX series of DT have some good improvements that you might benefit from vs. the VIII models. I really wanted (more like required) the bike to have an internal hub. I give up a bit in efficiency (1% or so) but the pluses for me outweigh that little loss.

    I used to be a big Dahon fan. Then I bought a DT and a Swift. For me I realized there were better bikes for the money I wanted to spend. Dahon is like the Chevrolet of the folding bike world. Iíd say a Swift is like an Acura or Audi and DT is like a upper level Hyundai but at a better price. Hyundais have come a long way in the US market and compare very well against the Hondas and Toyotas now. I couldnít say the same 5 years ago. This is how I see DT positioning itself. They want to be the value leader and I think they are succeeding there hands down.

    So if you want, PM me your exact budget and I can give better suggestions offline. I realize finances are not something everyone likes to discuss.

    Woofman Ė Thanks for the compliments. I try to be pretty objective and lay out my case and as much supporting info as I can. I am not married to any one company and try to carefully research any bike before I buy it. I try to be the ďgoodĒ version of a bicycle based ďConsumer ReportsĒ.

    Change the gearing on your DT and you will be happier for sure. If you want suggestions I recommend getting your low gear somewhere around the high 20 gear inch range. Youíll still have a tall enough gear for those higher speed bursts and you will have 6 other nicely spaced gears for when you are out cruising.

    If you want to save weight on a bicycle it will cost you money. Just like in racing there is the adage in bicycle; ďHow fast can you afford to go? In bicycles it is more ďHow light can you afford your bicycle to be?Ē Lighter tires and seats would help you. Big Apples tires arenít going to be lighter but they do ride very well and are fast if you do want better ride quality in the rear. You could take off the rack and rear fender and get a lighter weight kickstand. Lightweight tubes would shave ounces AND improve acceleration.

    Hope this helps.

  9. #9
    Is this your card? woofman's Avatar
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    Woofman Ė Thanks for the compliments. I try to be pretty objective and lay out my case and as much supporting info as I can. I am not married to any one company and try to carefully research any bike before I buy it. I try to be the ďgoodĒ version of a bicycle based ďConsumer ReportsĒ.

    Change the gearing on your DT and you will be happier for sure. If you want suggestions I recommend getting your low gear somewhere around the high 20 gear inch range. Youíll still have a tall enough gear for those higher speed bursts and you will have 6 other nicely spaced gears for when you are out cruising.

    If you want to save weight on a bicycle it will cost you money. Just like in racing there is the adage in bicycle; ďHow fast can you afford to go? In bicycles it is more ďHow light can you afford your bicycle to be?Ē Lighter tires and seats would help you. Big Apples tires arenít going to be lighter but they do ride very well and are fast if you do want better ride quality in the rear. You could take off the rack and rear fender and get a lighter weight kickstand. Lightweight tubes would shave ounces AND improve acceleration.

    Hope this helps.[/QUOTE]

    Wav, more than a ďConsumer ReportsĒ for bikes, I tend to think of you as the "Folders for Dummies" guy. (Hey, now there's an idea for you to mull over.)

    Thanks for the suggestion about lowering the gearing. Is this something I ought to attempt or should I defer to the local bike shop?

    I also appreciate your ideas to reduce the weight. I initially removed the rack and reflectors; next to go will be the rear fender. In order to compare the weights of different tires I'll need the weight of the stock Kendas - something not found on the Kenda site. I wrote Yan to see if he knew, and to see if he knew the weight of the stock Wellgo pedals (also not on their website).

  10. #10
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    To lower the gearing wouldn't be too difficult to do at home. I would suggest changing the rear sprocket first. It will be cheaper to do AND you'll learn what you need to do in the case of changing a flat and what it entails with the rear internal hub. Going to a 26 or 27 tooth rear sprocket would help you out quite a bit. I haven't done it yet so I don't know if you might need to add links for the chain or not or if there is enough room to move the wheel forward to give you more slack. You are on your own here for that part.

    Sadly while doing a little research for you there only appears to be 2 sprockets for this hub, 23T and 25T. Looks like you could try the 25T and that would help you out a fair amount but not quite as much as I think you might need. It would give you the following gear inches:

    109.4
    85.4
    75.3
    66.7
    58.8
    52.0
    45.9
    35.9

    This is a decent range but if you want lower you will have to go to a smaller front gear. I'd say change the rear and see if you can live with. If not then you are better just changing the front to something like a 37T or 39T. Hope this helps. I think the front chainring is a 110. It is either a 110 or a 130mm size. Most bike shops WILL stock these diameters and probably something close to the size you need. Keep in mind you will likely lose your chainguard.

    I am personally going to try a 25T first and see how that works out. Should cost less and I'll keep the chainguard up front and that helps with chain issues. As a minor point IF you went the the smaller front ring you would shave a few grams instead of adding them. If you don't need the bar-ends you could ditch them too to save a little weight. Go with lighter brakes too and shave grams.

    The pedals are hefty. Take them when you go pedal shopping at your loccal shop. They should have a scale. Weigh your potential replacements and see how they stack up.

    Make sure that if you do order the rear sprocket that the normal SA sprockets will NOT work on the 8 speed!

    FYI - here is the link to the manual for the SA 8spd hub.

    http://www.sturmey-archer.com/pdfs/XRF8.pdf

    I am not sure what size chain is on the bike but I found the 2 possible part numbers for the SA sprockets.

    25T for 1/8” chain is 3202.0125.002
    25T for 3/32” chain is 3202.0125.004

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by Wavshrdr; 08-01-06 at 10:42 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    As for the disc tabs on the forks, nice touch but not useful for me or most. While I like discs in general on a folder they are too susceptible to getting bent if you aren’t careful with the bike. Since it is often transported and not just ridden it is at more of risk. Some might find it a bigger benefit than me.
    I am in broad agreement - I doubt many DT devotees will upgrade to discs, but I wish more manufacturers would give us the choice.

    A few things that are likely to contribute to potential damage include: the choreography involved in folding the bike (and your ability to fold it), the stability of the bike when folded, the configuration of the parts in the folded package, and the number of times you need to fold the bike. Folding bikes will therefore be susceptible in different ways and to varying degrees.

    Another factor when considering discs is the environment in which you stow the bike. If you have a folding bike due to space constraints at home and can secrete it out of harm's way, the likelihood of disc damage is minimal. For multi-modal commuting, where you can often wedge the bike in a nook, or keep hold of it, I think discs are a boon and not particularly liable to damage (although, if you have to wheel or carry the bike in the rush-hour you do need to be wary of stray feet/elbows). However, if you put the folded bike in the boot/trunk untethered or fold the bike in a suitcase for airline travel, damage to the rotors/callipers is a more serious possibility.

    I am sure in the next few years we will see more folding bikes with disc brakes (Dahon surely?).

  12. #12
    Life in Mono
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    Thanks Wav ... supurb report & follow ons, ... makes this forum very worth while ....... Qdos !

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    Is this your card? woofman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the explanation of the gearing, Wav. I think I'll wait to see how you like the modifications you make before I make my attempt at changing things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by woofman
    Thanks for the explanation of the gearing, Wav. I think I'll wait to see how you like the modifications you make before I make my attempt at changing things.
    Hi Woofman, if you need any help with the gearing on your DT, feel free to come my place in San Rafael... I've done lots of gearing changes on my folders... installing a Redband Nexus 8spd hub wheel on my DT FS was a fun drivetrain project I did last year... you could ride mine to get an idea for gear range choices.

    Bruce

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    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Woofman - if Bruce can give you a hand I'd highly recommend his expertise. Seems like an all around nice guy and a gearhead to boot. I'll let you know what gearing I end up with. I am going to find someone who has a 25T sprocket and get it ordered. They aren't usually expensive.

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    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Latest ride update

    Our temps finally dropped below 100 and I took out the DT to put some more time on it. I made sure I got prior ďpermissionĒ from my son to ride his bike. I asked him this past weekend if he minded if I rode it from time to time.

    I went out on about a nice 10 mile ride. Temps in the mid 80ís and some newly paved bike paths. The more I ride it the more I like it. This bike is eerily silent while you are pedaling. Tires donít make noise, hug doesnít make noise and you scare the bejeezus out of people if you donít alert them before you come up on them.

    As expected some of my initial impressions are reinforced and others have changed somewhat. I really am enjoying the SA hub but still donít like the shift effort too much. The hubs biggest jumps being 1st to 2nd and 7th to 8th really seem well thought out for my riding. I love having those middle gears more tightly spaced.

    Riding it on some bigger hills reinforced it really needs the gearing lowered. I could still climb most of the hills I needed to but I needed to get out of the saddle to climb one of them since first gear is so tall. This was the first time I got out of the saddle and really pushed on the pedals and mostly sprinted up the hill. Everything felt very tight. I was pretty shocked. Iíll see how it is in a few hundred miles but so far it rates very highly on this test since I am not a small guy nor am I a weak rider!

    Going down the hills 8th gear was too talk to be very useful. In reality I could spin this gear fast enough going downhill to still be pedaling in excess of 30 mph. This is just way to tall for the purpose of this bike. I should have another sprocket to try pretty soon. Glad to say the brakes were quite impressive. They look like an upgrade over the past ones too and they werenít bad either.

    One aspect of the bike that impressed me more than the first few rides was the front fork. Even when I was off the newly paved paths I noticed that it does a better job than I initially thought it did. I carefully watched its movement over the bumps and it rarely bottomed out with me on it yet did a good job on most hits to be worth having. I actually could feel the difference between the front and the rear when I hit bumps.

    Hitting bumps actually allowed me to feel the sprung seat actually work as well. It noticeably had an effect on smoothing out the road. This was a big plus. It is not a junky seat much to my continued surprise. Downside for me is I need a longer nose and a narrower width for how I like my bar to seat relationship. IF you sit more upright then you will like this seat more. If you like your bars LOWER than your seat, start shopping now. Speaking of bars the adjustable bars are great. The not only go up and down but they have an adjustable stem that allows you to very the angle of them as well.

    Tires seemed to work well so far but not super efficient. Iíd look for something better personally when these wear out. This doesnít appear to be anytime soon. Iíd like an excuse to toss them but I canít justify throwing something still serviceable away. Maybe I am a little bit spoiled by my Schwalbe and Scorchers but I miss the speed AND good ride of these tires. Donít get me wrong, they arenít garbage but once you try something better youíll know what I mean. For the target market of this bike they are a reasonable choice and better than last years tires. At high speeds they didnít vibrate or handle bad. Actually high speed handling was excellent. I donít have a cyclometer on it but I would guess I was in the mid to low 30 mph range down the hill and the bike felt quite stable.

    Last thing to note is the grips. Actually I shouldnít write what I feel about the grips. Letís just say my words would border on expletives. There are just slightly better than gripping the metal handlebar. I came back from my ride and my hands hurt for the first time in a long time. Fortunately they arenít expensive to replace and I will do some ASAP. I also noticed that the VIIIH didnít come with a bell like my last DTs did. Maybe an oversight or maybe no longer standard equipment. As quiet as this bike is you really need one.

    So far no buyerís remorse has set in. Quite the opposite as my appreciation for it has grown. So far the only real upgrades it MUST have in my opinion are lower gearing, better grips, front fender and a narrower seat (this one you may not need). Tire would be nice but not 100% necessary.

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    Hi Wavshrdr and Woofman,

    I've been following your discussion closely, and have similar concerns to Woofman's wrt the gearing. I'll be printing out the details of how to lower the gearing so that maybe I can find someone to do it this winter.

    I had wanted both back and front fenders as well, Wavshdr, but Yan told me he was sure the front one wasn't necessary. I haven't ridden in the rain yet, but we get lots of it here. Why do you feel it's necessary? If you find a source for the right front fender, please post it!

    Are you sure you didn't get a bell in your bike bag? Take a look - I got one with my VIIIH.

    And has the little rubber pad that goes on the bar that prevents damage to the pedal crank thingy when the bike is folded fallen off anyone else's DT? (I love showing off my command of bike tech jargon!) I still have it but it doesn't seem to want to go back on properly. Maybe I should super glue of 'Goop' it back on?

    Anna

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wavshrdr
    Based on how good these hubs are would I consider a Rohloff? At this point I donít think Iíd ever buy another Rohloff. I sort of was leaning toward saving the money for one until I rode a friends velomobile with the Rohloff. It immediately reminded me of all the quirks that annoyed me about it. The 500% gear range isnít that appealing to me anymore now that the 8spd internal hubs are in the 300% range. Iíd go with a Schlumpf up front and one of the Shimanos or SAs than a Rohloff and pocket the change which would buy another DT!
    Why would you want to put a Roholff on a utility bicycle? I suspect it would attract theives like flys to honey. The 8 speed is more than enough for city riding. For crying out loud, I only use 4 gears at MOST on my 24 speed touring bike (3 X 8) in the city.

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    Anna, Wav:

    I share the same concern about the fenders, but fortunately these too can be upgraded without too much difficulty. I'm still riding my Dt VIII to work everyday, and bought it partially because it had the fenders (as opposed to the FS model). The rear fender is just too short, and I'd still wind up with sand/grit/muck on my arse when I had to pedal in rainy weather. The front fender seems serviceable enough, though I'd prefer if it had a rubber mudflap at the bottom.

    I finally got around to ordering a set of Freddy Fenders (20" recumbent size) for my planned Swift upgrades, and ordered an extra rear fender for the DT as well. What an improvement! I'm not particularly mechanically-inclined, but was able to install it with no troubles, and since then have kept my butt dry, even when riding in pouring rain. I use the fenders and a bike poncho to keep me dry from above and from below. I wear sandals when I ride, and will get a small amount of spray/spash on my feet and ankles, but that's it.

    The Freddy Fender doesn't look as out-of-place on the bike as I thought, either. Bike is silver, fender is black. I'm thinking of putting a front one on too.

    I can't stress enough that if you're going to sell a bike with a fender on it, they really should be long enough to provide full coverage and eliminate splashing up onto the rider. It just seems a shame, wasteful to buy a bike with a fender only to find that the fender's not good enough, and so toss it out and replace it with an adequate one.

    When speaking to Yan, he said that he'd take my suggestions under consideration. They may or may not get incorporated in future bikes. He also mentioned that he found very little splash-up from the front wheel in extensive testing; most of it getting stopped by the frame-tube.

    Anna, if you ride the bike to work and plan on riding in all-weather, I'd really recommend getting a set of Freddy Fenders for your bike. Not only will you be saving your own derriere from road grit, you will also reduce the amount of grime that gets thrown from the front wheel into the crank/chain.

  20. #20
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    Why would you want to put a Roholff on a utility bicycle? I suspect it would attract theives like flys to honey. The 8 speed is more than enough for city riding. For crying out loud, I only use 4 gears at MOST on my 24 speed touring bike (3 X 8) in the city.
    Steve- I understand your point. I am not advocating buying a Rohloff for this bike. I mentioned it in passing in that the CURRENT state of internal hubs has advanced so much that in many cases a Rohloff is a waste of money. It is definitely a theft target as well. This is also directed at people who like to tour on folding bikes like I do. Anytime I go on vacation Iíll normally take my bike with me.

    Since I may be riding in different areas Iíll have different terrain to deal with. So for most people a 500% gear range would be overkill on this bike. Quite honestly this hub is a much better combination on this bike than I thought it would be. It will be even better once I get the gearing lowered a bit. I don't live within a large city so I make use of almost all the gears on my DT every day. I have some steep hills near me. I need a lower gear going up and taller one going down.

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    Hey Wav, great and informative review. You are definitely de folda man. Wish I had a place to store my beautiful and expensive Swift so I can buy and take this DT instead on my world adventures.

    Excellent idea about storing a spare on the frame. I think i'll give it a try. I never liked having to flip the bike on it's handlebar and seat to remove my rear wheel. It can also be quite messy and complicated with the steel swift frame rear derailleur setup.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    I am sure in the next few years we will see more folding bikes with disc brakes (Dahon surely?).
    I have tempered my advocacy of discs on folders after riding my MTB down some 45 + mph hills in Devon. The heat coming off the rotors was pretty intense and for clumsy fingered people (myself included) hot rotors and stray digits could prove dangerous when folding the bike. Admittedly, most people do not ride their folders especially fast, (and consequently, the heat should dissipate quicker at slower speeds) but it still made me think twice about their application…

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wavshrdr
    This is a decent range but if you want lower you will have to go to a smaller front gear. I'd say change the rear and see if you can live with. If not then you are better just changing the front to something like a 37T or 39T. [...] Keep in mind you will likely lose your chainguard.
    First off, I want to say thanks for the great review! It's been a huge help to me as I look to get my first folder. I live in a very hilly area (the Seattle area) so I'm a little concerned about the gearing. Being an impatient person, I don't really want to wait until Yan incorporates lower gearing -- I'd rather go ahead and buy the bike now and then make whatever modifications necessary. My only concern is what you said about the chainguard.

    I know nothing about how bikes are put together so I'm curious why the chainguard would have to go when changing the front chainring. If I understand correctly, the current front chainring is 48T. If I only took it down just a couple of teeth (rather than all the way down to 39T) would it be less likely that the chainguard would have to go?

    Thanks! (And I understand if this is an unanswerable question. Like I said, I'm stumbling in the dark here...)

    ~~Charles

  24. #24
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    Charles - it would easier AND cheaper to change the rear sprocket. I'd do the front only as a last resort. Then you retain your chain guard as well. By easier I mean you don't have to fuss with the chain guard and neither sprocket will be all that difficult.

    I don't have the bike indoors at the moment so I can't tell you for sure how many teeth you might be able to go down on the front and keep the chain guard. I am betting almost none at all. Keep in mind that for each tooth you add to the rear sprocket is like removing about 2 from the front. You might be able to get by with a 25T rear sprocket.

    I'll tell you what I'll do. Tomorrow I'll go ride some hills on my DT Mini. Second gear on it would be equivalent to a DT VIIIH's FIRST gear IF you were to put on a 25T rear sprocket. I'll see how it is to climb hills with that setup. See my review on the Mini as well to get an idea of its gearing. Anyway this will give me an idea of if the 25T rear sprocket might be enough drop for most people. This would be about a 10% drop in gearing.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fear&Trembling
    + mph hills in Devon. The heat coming off the rotors was pretty intense and for clumsy fingered people (myself included) hot rotors and stray digits could prove dangerous when folding the
    But how long does it take for the rotors to cool? It seems like the long descent capable of warming things up would not likely be located right before when you are getting ready to pack up?

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