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  1. #1
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Folder / 20" on (Fast) Group Rides?

    Unlike some folks around here, I don't have a lot of experience with road bikes. I've mostly used hybrid and folding bikes, specifically a low-end Dahon and a Xootr Swift. I'm in decent shape and ride 125+ miles a week, but am not formally training at this time.

    I normally ride solo, and 20" bikes are perfectly fine for that. However, I've noticed that when I do group rides, it seems like the 20" is less than optimal.

    On slower and casual rides, the only problem I've noticed is that due to the *ahem* highly responsive handling of the smaller wheels, I have problems making hand signals. Even with practice, I need to concentrate and/or tighten my grip to stabilize the bike, and this slows me down when making a signal.

    I did a group ride that was faster than usual, and I used the Swift, which right now is mostly stock -- 65psi Kenda Kwest tires, handlebars about even with the saddle, and flat bars. I've added bar ends and use a racing saddle. I'd be OK on the flats up to 17-18mph, but when the group went over that I was often getting left in the dust. On the occasions that I was in the middle of the group, I found it very difficult to make hand signals, especially if I had my hands on the bar ends.

    So my questions are....
    Is anyone using a performance folder on fast group rides, and experiencing these or other issues?
    Is it possible to optimize my Swift to ride faster?
    Or, is the Swift basically as fast as a typical road bike, and it's just a matter of training?
    And for those who know both folders and road bikes: how much rougher is the ride on a 20" folder than on a 700c road bike? (Assuming no suspension and similar saddles on both)

  2. #2
    Member, Schmember DaFriMon's Avatar
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    About the fastest average speed I'll ride at, even with a normal road bike, is around 17 mph, for a road jaunt of no more than 30 miles. 15 mph is more typical. On group rides with a local club, average speeds are around 14-16 mph. That's with stretches in the low to mid 20s on the flats, but there are also a lot of hills. My fastest average on a century was 16 mph, on my old BF New World Tourist that I no longer have. I don't try to keep up with the folks who will average 20+ for a whole ride, regardless of the bike I'm riding.

    So at that level of riding, I do about the same with groups on my BF Crusoe as I do on my Bianchi. However, if a few of the stronger riders decide to go all out for a few miles on the flats, they will pull ahead of me (and others), guaranteed.

    I find the ride on my Crusoe not much rougher than on my Bianchi. A sprung Brooks flyer saddle on the BF smooths things out a bit; I use B17s on my 700c wheeled bikes.

    The main control problems I have with 20 inch wheels are on really long, steep, descents, with narrow roads and lots of curves.

    Don't know if that helps in your situation. The top gear on my drop barred Crusoe is 98 gear inches, low for a road bike, but higher than a stock Swift. It has 100 psi Primo Comets. I suspect that I would go about the same speed on a Swift with a similar gearing range, tires, and riding position. How you would actually go about modifying your Swift is a question I'll leave to those who own them. Well, the tires are easy, at least.
    You're right, I do have more bikes than I need.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    Bacciagalupe

    1. As someone whose amateur racing days are long behind them, I would not choose a folder (unless it was a high-end BF or Airnimal) if I wanted to ride in a chain gang at 25 mph pace for any distance. More importantly though, are the people you are training with in better shape than you? If this is the case, you will struggle no matter what you ride. As for stability at speed, I do prefer 700c wheels - particularly when descending. Hand signals are not a problem for me, but I cannot ride no-handed on my folders.

    2. Yes. I would get drops if folded size is not important (for better aerodynamics), invest in a Capreo cassette and hub (for taller gears), and get tyres with better rolling resistance.

    3. Training is the key here (as I am sure you know). You simply need to put more miles in if you want to see real improvements in your performance.

    4. Well, there are a lot of variables - but reductively speaking, the ride on a 20" unsuspended folder is not as good as on 700c road bike...

  4. #4
    Senior Member caotropheus's Avatar
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    I do not have any sort of experience riding with a folder together with road groups. I thing that a reasonable equiped folding bike will ride as fast as a road bicycle. I give you this example

    http://www.khsbicycles.com/10_F20r_06.htm

    As for the stability case of a 20" wheel road bicycle, you are absolutely right Bacciagalupe, the front part of the bike is less stable when compared with road bikes, but hey, you have to keep riding your folding bicycle until you fell confortable, even without hands on the handlebar.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    I do not have any sort of experience riding with a folder together with road groups. I thing that a reasonable equiped folding bike will ride as fast as a road bicycle. I give you this example

    http://www.khsbicycles.com/10_F20r_06.htm
    The KHS will be under-geared for long, steep descents and, with its long stem and frame hinge, it will not be as stiff as a racing bike when putting the power down...

  6. #6
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    H'm, food for thought. Part of the problem is that in the NYC area, the organized group rides are either slow and casual and stop every 10 minutes, or hammer at 20+ mph -- there's very little middle ground (and I'm not the only rider who's noticed this). I'd have to go out to Joisey to find something like a B15 ride, not easy as I don't have a car.


    Quote Originally Posted by caotropheus
    I think that a reasonable equiped folding bike will ride as fast as a road bicycle....
    FYI, that assumption is why I upgraded from the Dahon to the Swift. It definitely is a faster bike, but my thinking (mostly confirmed so far) is that the stock Swift is 1-2mph slower than a road bike or a BF Pocket Crusoe with drop bars, aggressive geometry and fast tires. Minor miscalculation on my part, I guess, but it should work out OK since I really don't need anything faster than the Swift when I travel.


    I'm planning to start training next year; this year is more about "building the base," as they say. So perhaps I ought to stick with the Swift for awhile, optimize it for touring and centuries, and pick up a 700c for fast/group rides sometime next year.

    By the way, is there a benefit, performance-wise, to setting the flat bar a few inches below the saddle? I assume this will lower my profile, but I won't be as stretched out as with drops.

  7. #7
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Assuming the folder is properly geared (e.g., Capreo) and you have low rolling resistance tires, such as the stelvio lights, the same rider should theoretically be exerting roughly the same energy to maintain speeds of 20-25 MPH on a 19 pound folder and a 19 pound 700c road bike. But at higher speeds, the gyroscopic effect of the larger wheel will be advantageous. That's the theory. But there seems to be a lot of controversy over this point. See: http://www.jimcarson.com/a/2005/03/s...capreo_1.shtml.
    Last edited by pm124; 09-23-06 at 01:58 PM.

  8. #8
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    I am *not* in great shape or a fast rider, but I did notice a very definite decrease in rolling resistance when I changed out the Kenda tires on my DT for Primo Comet Kevlars. I had to get at least one new tire anyway, so I went with some of the reviews on here and tried them out. The high pressure and almost lack of tread seems to make a big difference.

    Could be one thing to try. If you do, be kind of careful on wet streets and VERY careful on wet metal (manholes, construction covers, etc)

  9. #9
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    One other thought, though it brings up a troublesome issue with the brakes.

    How easy is it to swap out the 406 wheels for a set of 451's? And, would it make a noticeable difference for the type of riding being described?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    @Bac - My flat bars a considerably lower than my saddle:


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/1611497...n/photostream/

    ERTO 451s will work with Swifts (and alter the geometry), but I don't think it's worth the effort and cost. There is also a lack of tyre choices in the 451 size...

  11. #11
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Are 451's noticeably skinnier than 406's? If so, I assume that swap-out would make for a rougher ride....

  12. #12
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    Most of the tyres (although not all) in the 20" / ERTO 451 size are 1 1/8 (28mm) - pretty skinny for a folder. However, if you want a smoother ride, I would just get a wider tyre in the 406 size, not a slightly bigger wheel which has repercussions for your brakes.

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    Sorry if this is getting off-topic, but:

    1. Are ERTO 406 wheels available in "skinny" variants?
    2. If so, would they give similiar speed benefits as the skinny 451 tires? and
    3. Is the availability of different "skinny" 406 tires better than 451's?

    Finally, if yes to all of the above,

    4. Why the preference of some people for 451 tires? I wasn't measuring them specifically or inspecting the tire markings, but when I went on the folding bike ride up in NYC it seemed that a sizeable number of the more expensive 20" folders used the skinny (I think) 451 wheels.

  14. #14
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Well, that was an informative ride. My stem has a 2" rise. Did a couple of easy miles to warm up, reset the odometer, did a 2.5 mile loop (no stop lights or intersections), checked the average. Flip the stem, reset the odometer, do the loop, check the average, no change. I think this is about as accurate a test as I'm going to get without using a power meter. Not super-thrilled with the ride that way, I forsee a lot of neck pain in that position, definitely felt different though.

    There goes the "lower profile is faster" theory....

  15. #15
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    There is a reason they do not use 20" wheels in bike races. You are pushing the 'envelope' when you try to use a 20" to keep up with 26+" who are themselves pushing close to their maximum speeds. Moulton claims to be able to match full size performance on decent paved surfaces, I doubt any other maker would make that claim. Folding bikes typically make many tradeoffs that reduce performance/stability ect.

    Is it possible to optimize my Swift to ride faster? Contact Swift, they actually do alot of custom bikes. If I had to guess, it is possible a different fork, and a suspension system. New handlebars or a tighter headset might help with the fork fluttering. There is a book 'bicycle sceince' (or similar name) that has alot of formulas for stability, it might help.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  16. #16
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    Even motorcyclists who enjoy different kinds of riding make the effort to own two or even three or more different kinds of bikes for the different kinds of riding that they do. Horses for courses is not just a quaint expression. That said, I believe previous posters are correct when they attach more importance to the lack of gearing range and upright geometry of the folder vs purpose built 700C road bike than any inherent deficiency in the 20" wheel. I am sure it is possible to build a 20" road racing bike that wil perform as well, if not outperform a 700C bike but it will not look or cost what a Swift folder does. Recently I moved to Staten Island and had to leave my floor pump behind for the first few weeks of my move. Of course I figured I could fill tires by feel after so many years of riding. Wrong! When I got my pup back and saw that I was running less than 60lbs in my 80lb 406 x 1.5's I was flabbergasted. It was like getting a new bike!! I could cruise 2 gears higher. My Giant Halfway has seven speeds covering a 33" to 75" spread. Most times a shift is two clicks of the gear changer. I am beginning to think I could run bigger jumps between gears and get a much wider overall range without too much loss of utility. Rather than buy new wheels that is the avenue I would be exploring if I were the o.p. 80lb or even higher pressure tires, absolutely and a taller top gear without sacrificing the current low which is probably not even low enough but certainly don't make it any higher.

    H

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe
    So my questions are....
    Is anyone using a performance folder on fast group rides, and experiencing these or other issues?
    Is it possible to optimize my Swift to ride faster?
    Or, is the Swift basically as fast as a typical road bike, and it's just a matter of training?
    And for those who know both folders and road bikes: how much rougher is the ride on a 20" folder than on a 700c road bike? (Assuming no suspension and similar saddles on both)
    I set my Swift up specifically to be able to run with a mixed group of roadie friends who are approximately my age, with some of the women in the group being very competitive in Tri events... There was some skepticism when they first saw me ride up on 20" wheels, and comments about not wanting to wait for me, but, to their amazement, I stay with the pack just fine..on our 22 mile runs as well as the 50 milers... Most benefical changes I made were to run lightweight, low spoke-count wheels, lightweight, high pressure Stelvio tires at 120psi and a Pantour suspension hub which smoothed out the bike and gave me more control at higher speeds, especially on the downhills on rough roads. I switched to a 9spd 11/34 mega-range cluster, Sram 7 derailleur and trigger shifter, hollow pin chain and a 58t front chainring to give me a better top end at over 100 gear inches .. with a strong, young, seasoned rider (not me) the bike can be quite fast..

    Bruce
    Attached Images Attached Images

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bookishboy
    Sorry if this is getting off-topic, but:

    1. Are ERTO 406 wheels available in "skinny" variants?
    2. If so, would they give similiar speed benefits as the skinny 451 tires? and
    3. Is the availability of different "skinny" 406 tires better than 451's?

    Finally, if yes to all of the above,

    4. Why the preference of some people for 451 tires? I wasn't measuring them specifically or inspecting the tire markings, but when I went on the folding bike ride up in NYC it seemed that a sizeable number of the more expensive 20" folders used the skinny (I think) 451 wheels.
    1 406 are available in skinny (Conti Grand Prix, Schwalbe Stelvio, etc)
    2 I think so (rolling resistance is minimal with good tyres anyway) but many follow the 'bigger is always better' theory
    3 About the same, restricted to better shops
    4 See 2 above.

  19. #19
    Prodigal Son
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    It very much depends on your training and skills. I've been riding for the better part of 26 years (I'm 39 yo), I've spent many winter seasons riding on rollers (great for learning technique), and while not the fastest person in the world, am no slouch either. I spent 8 days in Paris, and spent every early morning riding in the Bois de Boulogne on my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Pro. A couple times, I found myself in a fairly large pack of riders, often riding at 23-24 mph, occassionally tugging, and more than held my own. Yes, 700c wheels are more stable, but I think it is really more your background, training and comfort level.

  20. #20
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    I have a BF Pocketpilot road bike. I routinely ride 40-50 miles both with a group and solo.
    I agree about being a little more cautious when taking one hand off the bars. It can get a little squirelly at times.
    I have road my bike on some longer rides and the ride was pretty consistent with my full size roadie.
    Here is some pics of a Century ride I did las month.
    finished my first century on a folder

    Kenal0

  21. #21
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    I think it has more to do with what kind of shape you're in. I own a custom built raleigh twenty running on 406, 1.35 primo comets and with a sram dual drive 21 speed drivetrain with a 54 tooth chain ring. I don't know the exact gear range, but I was able to ride with a few roadie friends of mine for a while at 20-22mph. BTW, I still weigh 240 lbs. I did finally pop of the back of the group, but I think that has alot more to do with the 240lbs I weigh. I am interested in trying out a lower spoke wheel as BruceMetras has on his Swift...I'm currently running a BMX 48 spoke front wheel. I think a lower spoke count front wheel will give me a little more speed.

  22. #22
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    One thing that I've found in the 2 years of riding a folder is that keeping your wheels perfectly true, and especially keeping your wheel bearings in perfect running order helps average speed far more than it does on my larger bikes. After riding my jetXP through last winter, my rear hub, which seemed to roll fine in hand, was binding a touch when mounted. My average speeds were _way down and when I bought a set of the Rolf wheels with the DT Swiss rear hub, my bike felt itself again instantly. These days I ride my Birdy in the rain and snow and I'm now very picky about which days that DT Swiss Rolf sees the road. If the ground is even a little damp, on goes the American Classic hubbed Rolf.

    BTW, does anyone know where I can get good replacement bearings for that aformentioned American Classic rear hub?

    DG1

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Moulton claims to be able to match full size performance on decent paved surfaces, I doubt any other maker would make that claim. Folding bikes typically make many tradeoffs that reduce performance/stability ect.
    In fact, don't Moulton still hold a speed record, on a bike with 17 or 18" wheels? So what's the secret? Just how different is it from similar sized folders? It certainly isn't lighter.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannyg1

    BTW, does anyone know where I can get good replacement bearings for that aformentioned American Classic rear hub?

    DG1
    Did you try American Classic for replacement bearings? They had a recall on some of their hubs in 2005, of which my XP hub was included, and were very prompt about sending me the replacement part.

    Bruce

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclistjohn
    Just how different is it from similar sized folders? It certainly isn't lighter.
    It is, however, probably a great deal stiffer. And are you sure that it isn't significantly lighter? In any case as has been said throughout this thread: its 95.5% rider/4.5% bicycle. Remember when the U.S. Olympic Cycling team took a truckload of bicycles costing the entire gross domestic product of many a third world nation only to lose many races to riders on equipment far, far less exotic. But if you make a bike and you want to get some good press for it you have only to entice a fit, experienced time trial rider, pick a perfect day (the maximum tailwind allowed by the rulebook), run some special 160psi tires and lacking any coordinated challenges from competitors the record is yours to claim, and use as advertising cachet.

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