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  1. #1
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    Dahon Presto Review

    The cycling gods were kind to me because I paid $150.00 dollars for this Dahon Presto and it has to be the steal of my whole life! You always hear about people getting lucky buying used bikes but this time it happened to me! The Presto was practically brand new and you could tell because the condition of the rims and tires were hardly used. The bike was in mint condition and looked as though it was used once or twice and parked for two years. The woman who sold it initially wanted $125.00 but it was clearly a $300.00 dollar bike (or more) based on its excellent condition.

    Hereís my review of the Presto.

    The bike is more attractive than my Vitesse or Piccolo and I wish Dahon would use this same polished frame on more of their bikes. Itís the same frame as the Presto Lite with a very nice finish and the stickers make it glisten. The bike weights 24.2 lbs without racks, fenders and with a heavy suspension seat post. I think the bike looks better without fenders and racks and Iíll put them on should it become necessary.

    To my surprise, the Presto is actually larger than the Piccolo I purchased 5 years ago! I tried but could not fit the bike into my double ply bag that was big enough to cover the Piccolo. The cock pit of the bike was the same as my Vitesse. In other words, the distance between the handlebar and the saddle were the same as a 20í inch wheel folder. The larger Presto forced me to buy the Bolso bag which is definitely an improvement over the double ply bag. That bag also fits my Vitesse and will also work for 26 inch folders from what I read on the web. Dahon realized several years ago it was more important to expand the wheelbase (Biologic Frame) of the bike for the sake of stability. I felt the difference right away and Iím glad the company made this change making it less twitchy than my Piccolo.

    Sturmey Vs Sram Spectro

    Iíve never had a bike that used Sram Spectro 3 but Iím happy say that itís a solid product. To my surprise, the Spectro 3 feels heavier than the Sturmey 3 but thatís about the only deficiency. Its obvious SRAM makes a better 3 speed hub for two reasons. First, setting the ďAssembly Locating SleeveĒ is a much more elegant solution when making slight changes to the cable connected to the indicator chain. This feature makes it much easier to make adjustments once cable starts stretching and the shifter begins missing gears. Second, the Spectro 3 had a slightly more efficient 3rd gear than the AW-3! Itís something you have to feel to experience with two very similar bikes and I put thousands of miles on my Piccolo to know the AW-3 in third gear was less efficient than my Presto in the same gear. Then again, I am using clipless pedals with the Presto but the AW-3 in third gear felt crunchy. Overall, 3rd gear with either hub was too high for anything but going downhill but the Spectro 3 felt solid when putting the power down.

    Gearing:

    I always liked the gearing Dahon choose for their 3 speed bikes (16í inch wheel) because Direct Drive was just right at 50 inches. In fact, the gearing was much more appropriate on the Presto/Piccolo than my Vitesse which had a 56 inch direct drive and was way too high. I used to ride all day with my Piccolo and did Bike New York (40+ miles) without any problems on a low 50 inch direct drive. A low direct drive doesnít require the rider to shift up or down for start up and itís perfect all around gear for a town bike. Some people may feel that a 50 inch gear is too low but this can always be remedied by going to a 12T cog. Unfortunately, 1st gear is not low enough at 36 inches which makes this bike impractical for anything but city riding.

    Dahon Presto Gearing: (also for Presto Lite and Piccolo)

    13t cog, 48t chain-ring, 16 inch wheel. (Using Sheldonís Calculator)

    1st gear -------------- 36.4 Low gear
    2nd gear ------------- 49.7 Direct Drive
    3rd gear ------------- 67.6 High gear

    Brakes:

    My Presto came with a front brake and a rear coaster brake! I havenít had a bike with a coaster brake in years but my Bianchi Milano had a rear hand activated rear roller brake which was very good. In fact, the one feature I missed from my Milano was the rear roller hub brake that made stopping effortless with none of the regular maintenance that goes along with brake pads. I was able to make 95% of my stops using the hand brake alone preserving the front brake for emergency stops.

    To my surprise, the coaster brake on my Presto was very effective in stopping the bike and rarely used the front brake at all! Iím still getting used to having a coaster brake because I can no longer pedal backward at stops to get it into position for acceleration at red lights. Furthermore, I would sometimes hit the brake by accident while riding so itís something Iíll have to learn but the advantage is an incredibly strong coaster brake. The problem with coaster brakes is the fact that you can only brake at the 3 oíclock position. With clipless pedals, this is no longer an issue because I can pull back at any position. I donít know why there arenít more commuter bikes (other than the Milano) that use coaster or roller brakes. I never ran out of brake on the Presto and didnít really notice any fade at all. I was skeptical at first but not anymore and I would have been ecstatic if Dahon had used a roller hand brake.

    The rear V-brake on my Piccolo was never as strong as my coaster brake on the Presto so I donít miss it at all. Itís too bad the Presto was discontinued because the Lite version uses V brakes so youíll never get the chance to experience the power of this old technology. I think part of the problem with coaster brakes is the stigma associated with kidís bikes. The bottom line, coaster brakes work well and are low maintenance, perfect for a commuter bike.

    Handlebar/Seat post

    The bike came with an adjustable handlebar stem necessary for smaller riders. I canít tell you how important this feature is because I had to go out and buy an adjustable handlebar stem for my Vitesse since it lacked one. A folding bike without an adjustable handlebar either leaves you sitting straight up or stretched too far down.

    The first change I made was adding the Dahon suspension seat post. I donít know Dahon didnít include this upgrade but itís practically necessary for a 16í inch wheel. It really makes a difference as I was able to ride without any saddle pain at all for three hours on the initial ride. I made this upgrade on my Piccolo and did Bike New York (40+ miles) on that folder. People though I was suffering over the bridges because of the small wheels but I was perfectly fine. I also added Tuffy tire liners inside the wheels because you want to limit the number of flats. (more on this later).

    The Ride.

    Overall, the bike felt like my Piccolo (but less twitchy) as the seating position was straight up and riding it brought back fond memories of my first bike. The Presto is a real attention getter and people on the street think youíve just escaped from a circus! I could lower the handlebars for a more aero position but that would throw off the geometry and this bike is meant for you to be sitting up. The Presto has a solid frame and I didnít notice it was made of aluminum due to the suspension seat post.

    Land Speed Record

    In terms of speed, the Presto is a slow bicycle. My GPS shows I was traveling at 16 mph at top speed on a flat straight way in 3rd gear. I donít consider it a deficiency and fine for this type of commuter bike while others may disagree. Direct drive will bring you down to 12 mph and I can ride in this gear for hours. I think the bike would go faster on Primo Comet tires but the next upgrade will be Schwalbe Marathons. A straight line speed of 16 mph is more than enough for a commuter.

    Land Rider Vs Presto

    During my initial ride, there was a cyclist ahead of me traveling at 6 mph on what I though was a department store bike. He was pedaling like crazy going nowhere and I thought he was stuck in the granny gear or riding on a flat tire. To my surprise, he was cycling on a brand new informercial Landrider that cost more than a PrestoLite! The guy had the nerve to laugh at me but quite frankly, I felt sorry for the poor man. I blasted past him in Direct Drive!

    Changing Rear Wheel Ė Flats.

    The bike had two flat tires when I purchased it and changing that rear wheel took nearly 25 minutes! I never changed a flat tire with the Sram Spectro 3 but I expect over time it will get faster but not too much faster. The process of flat tire repair is slow and cumbersome which is why I installed Tuffy tire liners on both wheels to cut down the number of flats. Changing the rear wheel required four separate tools because you also needed to disengage the coaster brake arm.

    Folding Time/Chain guard

    The Dahon folder always had some of the faster folding times. I folded the Presto in 21 seconds (not rushing either) which is what you look for in a commuter bike. I could probably get that time down to 16 or 18 seconds but itís not necessary to stress myself over 5 seconds. The PrestoLite and Piccolo now come with a plastic chain guard that covers 2/3 of the chain so greasy clothes are a thing of the past. I donít know why more commuting folders donít come with chain guards (Is Dahon the only company that includes a chain guard for 16í folders?) because these bikes are ridden in street clothes and adding them is an inexpensive feature. I canít tell you how many pants were soiled by chain grease on my old Piccolo when I biked to work years ago. The 2006 version uses a magnet that keeps the package together when folded (mine did not) so this is no longer an issue.

    Fenders/ Rear Rack/ Bolso bag

    This bike came with fenders and a good quality rear rack. I once carried a sewing machine on my rear rack so itís strong enough. Even though I removed them, the option to put them back on is available. Dahon sells a slip cover for transit and Bolso (sp) bag for carrying on buses or trains. I tried the Bolso bag and to my surprise, it fits both my Vitesse and Presto and I can get the bike inside in about 10 seconds. I boarded the bus the other day with no problem at all thanks to this bag.

    Deficiencies

    The biggest deficiency of this bike is the lack of a suspension seat post. I had to go out and buy this upgrade or change to a Brooks Champion flyer. The gearing is barely adequate and I hope Dahon discontinues using the Sram Spectro 3 and starts installing the Sturmey Sprinter 5 speed which has more than enough gears for commuting. Once Dahon releases the Curve, there really will be no need to keep the Piccolo or Presto Lite anymore in the lineup. I would also like Dahon to move to the 349 Brompton wheel as the additional size would increase performance with not too much of an increase in size.


    Summary

    There seems to be an assumption among forum members that the Presto is the poor mans Brompton but I disagree. The folding is certainly fast and the package small enough for multimode commuting. I can board trains and buses during rush hour as long as the bike is covered. With the suspension seat post, Iíll have no problem riding this bike 40 miles or more which is more than enough for multimode commuting. The Presto is certainly fast enough to do the job at 16mph (3rd gear) and I can probably get better efficiency with higher pressure tires as the ones currently on the bike have a maximum pressure at 65 psi. The low gear of 36 inches isnít too bad and will get you up most small rolling hills without a problem. The chain guard makes it a clean bicycle and you really donít know how important this feature is until you have one. I will not remove mine even though my fenders and rack are in storage, thatís how much I value the plastic guard. The bike is one of the lightest in production and comes with enough accessories to make anyone happy. If one needs to cross hills for commuting or travel more than 20 miles per day, a larger wheel folder with more gears would certainly be in order.

    Well thatís about all and no Dahon did not pay me one dime but if they do send a huge check, Iíll make more glowing endorsements! Just kidding ;-)
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  2. #2
    SeŮor Mambo
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    Thanks for this review Steve. I've been contemplating a Piccolo for a while now (mainly because I like that it's cromo), but am waiting to see how the new Cadenza fares. However your Presto looks nice indeed, esp. at that price!

    Just want to get your opinion about the "rebar" frame design: some people say it makes noise when they ride, and I want to know your opinion on this. Also I've read that the lock ring part can get loose - again, does this jibe with your experience?

    Also, you strangely don't mention wanting to add Big Apples as a form of *cheaper* suspension - do you have a reason for not doing so?

    (I think the Piccolo's design will be much stiffer when it comes to pulling a child trailer. After reading the Brompton list and all the potential problems with the rear triangle getting loose at the hinge, I'm now loathe to continue using it to pull. But with a Piccolo, I don't forsee the same problem.)

  3. #3
    jur
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    Steve, besides the fork, is the frame the same as the 20" Helios P8? You can check by measuring the wheelbase and chainstay length. Bottom bracket height also.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    Quote Originally Posted by spambait11
    Thanks for this review Steve. I've been contemplating a Piccolo for a while now (mainly because I like that it's cromo), but am waiting to see how the new Cadenza fares. However your Presto looks nice indeed, esp. at that price!

    Just want to get your opinion about the "rebar" frame design: some people say it makes noise when they ride, and I want to know your opinion on this. Also I've read that the lock ring part can get loose - again, does this jibe with your experience?

    Also, you strangely don't mention wanting to add Big Apples as a form of *cheaper* suspension - do you have a reason for not doing so?

    (I think the Piccolo's design will be much stiffer when it comes to pulling a child trailer. After reading the Brompton list and all the potential problems with the rear triangle getting loose at the hinge, I'm now loathe to continue using it to pull. But with a Piccolo, I don't forsee the same problem.)
    I really didn't expect to buy a new folder but the price was too good to pass. I didn't know the ring part can get loose but I'll check it out. The bike was mint so it has no problems yet. I wasn't aware of the Big Apple tire size fitting the Presto but it probably would not be enough in my opinion. A 16' inch wheel is a very rough ride and you need some sort of suspension or the roads have to be smooth. You'll notice the Brompton, Birdy and Yeah folders all have suspension for a reason. A Brooks Champion flyer with springs is the other alternative but fat tires alone may not be enough. I use the Champion flyer on my Vitesse and it works perfect and can ride that bike for miles and miles.

    Frame suspension systems tend to start experiencing problem as the bike gets older while the Champion flyer actually gets better with age. Suspension seat posts also break down but replacements are rather inexpensive.

  5. #5
    SeŮor Mambo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    I really didn't expect to buy a new folder but the price was too good to pass. I didn't know the ring part can get loose but I'll check it out. The bike was mint so it has no problems yet.
    Sounds like your older Piccolo had no problems then either?


    I wasn't aware of the Big Apple tire size fitting the Presto but it probably would not be enough in my opinion. A 16' inch wheel is a very rough ride and you need some sort of suspension or the roads have to be smooth. You'll notice the Brompton, Birdy and Yeah folders all have suspension for a reason. A Brooks Champion flyer with springs is the other alternative but fat tires alone may not be enough. I use the Champion flyer on my Vitesse and it works perfect and can ride that bike for miles and miles.
    I'm with you on this, and agree. (I just mentioned the Big Apples because someone in the Dahon forums fitted some to their Presto Lite frame, but I don't remember if the tires interfered with the fenders or not.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by spambait11
    Sounds like your older Piccolo had no problems then either?



    I'm with you on this, and agree. (I just mentioned the Big Apples because someone in the Dahon forums fitted some to their Presto Lite frame, but I don't remember if the tires interfered with the fenders or not.)
    I sold my Piccolo this year and I'll admit it was abused. The bike was still taking a beating but was vandalized on several occasions. The bike was still shifting like new even though it was abused like a beater bike.

    With the Curve coming out next year, I would wait for that bike unless it doesn't come with fenders and racks. The Sturmey Archer 5 speed is a huge improvement over the 3 speed and worth the wait. If it's high geared, just buy a larger cog and you're set.

  7. #7
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Steve, you got my Presto! That woman told me that I could go to NJ to pick up the bike, and she picked you at the last moment. You lucky dog. How did you do it?

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    How is the ride over rougher terrain. That is my problem with 16" wheels. Brompton seems to have some sort of suspension system.
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pm124
    Steve, you got my Presto! That woman told me that I could go to NJ to pick up the bike, and she picked you at the last moment. You lucky dog. How did you do it?
    I gave her all my information, including full name, address, company name, cell phone number and company number. She knew all my personal information including where I worked which was important. She was a woman and lived in the burbs so providing all this info made her feel secure that I wasn't some crazed maniac. I also offered more money, told her I could meet her that same day and that sealed the deal.

    It wasn't a Presto Lite like advertised but I wasn't complaining at all. Where are you going to get a mint Presto for $150.00 dollars?

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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    How is the ride over rougher terrain. That is my problem with 16" wheels. Brompton seems to have some sort of suspension system.
    I have ridden over rougher terrain and while the rear isn't so bad, there's not much you can do with the front. The Brompton does have a suspension system but they tend to ride with higher pressure tires but I've never ridden one for a long period so I can't tell you how effective it is.

    The Presto with a suspension seat post is fine for 25 miles or more. I think a Brooks Champion flyer or a Thudbuster seat post will probably get you more miles.

  11. #11
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    "...I paid $150.00 dollars for this Dahon Presto and it has to be the steal of my whole life!" -Dahon.Steve

    I fully agree with you. I have never seen such a true bargain in a folding bike (or any other kind of bike) except for a questionable origins of any given bike attempted to being sold out on a streetcorner. You got your money's worth for a bike that never was really used by it's previous owner. Congratulations!

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    Quote Originally Posted by folder fanatic
    "...I paid $150.00 dollars for this Dahon Presto and it has to be the steal of my whole life!" -Dahon.Steve

    I fully agree with you. I have never seen such a true bargain in a folding bike (or any other kind of bike) except for a questionable origins of any given bike attempted to being sold out on a streetcorner. You got your money's worth for a bike that never was really used by it's previous owner. Congratulations!
    OH NO! Now ou made me feel like the bike was stolen!

    Here's why I think it wasn't.

    First, the woman and her husband were very well off living in a huge home I estimate cost 500-700K. In addition, they were in the process of moving and needed to sell of garage full of junk and this bike was among the pile.

  13. #13
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    I gave her all my information, including full name, address, company name, cell phone number and company number. She knew all my personal information including where I worked which was important. She was a woman and lived in the burbs so providing all this info made her feel secure that I wasn't some crazed maniac. I also offered more money, told her I could meet her that same day and that sealed the deal.

    It wasn't a Presto Lite like advertised but I wasn't complaining at all. Where are you going to get a mint Presto for $150.00 dollars?
    Indeed, it was a good deal! Hopefully, I don't sound suspicious on the phone. But I thought it was a Presto Light, too. And I didn't really need it. Congrats!

    The bike definitely wasn't stolen. She was a very nice lady.

    Incidentally, one can pick up a real Presto in Beijing for about $160. Before I knew anything about folding bikes, my girlfriend and I bought decent imitations (probably worth about $200 here) for $60 each and rode all over the city with them. These bikes were well under 20 pounds (9.7Kg) and had a nice stiff alloy frame and decent rims, but lousy tires and hubs. Good place to get a bike.
    Last edited by pm124; 10-27-06 at 06:58 AM.

  14. #14
    mini mini joy joy dcoli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm124
    Incidentally, one can pick up a real Presto in Beijing for about $160.
    Don't remind me: I was committed to getting one, and then thought I'd better prioritize and by some cheap tailor-made suits. I'll probably wear those suits once or twice a year, but I ride my bike every day! Some priorities ...

    I have a teacher there who owes me $40, and will buy me something worth that and send it to me - but I'm afraid it won't cover buying and shipping a new bike

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    I did not mean that you accepted a stolen bike in any way, Dahon Steve. I just meant that you have found the ultimate find in hardly used good quality bikes (that's not a department store special) of any kind-especially folders.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jur
    Steve, besides the fork, is the frame the same as the 20" Helios P8? You can check by measuring the wheelbase and chainstay length. Bottom bracket height also.
    The Helios P8 is large folder and I think my Vitesse is smaller. I happen to think the Helios is the longest 20' inch folder in Dahon's lineup for even larger riders feel fine with that bike.

    The chainstay length of the Presto is about 14 1/2 inches and the BB height about 10 1/2 inches. I don't know if my figures are accurate but Dahon made both cockpits the same length by relaxing the seat tube on the Presto. It's odd that both my 20' and 16' folders have the same cockpit but that is the case.

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    jur
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    My Dahon Helios clone (YA062) has a 39cm chainstay, 28cm BB height and 104cm wheelbase geometry. From that I would conclude the frame is different. Makes sense I suppose since smaller wheels need a higher BB to prevent pedal strike.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    "Incidentally, one can pick up a real Presto in Beijing for about $160."

    While I can understand things being cheaper it seems the 3 speed gear box and tires should be the same in China and the US. I think some parts might be cheaper substitutes. Shipping whole bikes might be a problem but it would be too simple to buy IG hubs in China and sell them in the US for $75 on ebay. My guess is that there is a difference between a Chinese purchase and a US purchase. I also wonder why with all the Chinese that travel to the US (School ect) none have figured out that they should bring a Dahon and sell it in the US.
    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.

  19. #19
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    I'll let you know as soon as my friend comes back with his. If that's the case, perhaps you could explain why a Bianchi Fretta Monocoque goes for $1,100 in Japan, but the identical Birdy Monocoque sells for $1,700 here! Also, @geo8rge, how is the $250 Birdy you picked up coming along? That's the biggest steal of all time!
    Last edited by pm124; 11-01-06 at 10:07 AM.

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    It seems that if stuff is that cheap in china you could just bring a suitcase filled with IG hubs and tires to the US. It seems that the difference between $150 China and $550 USA is not just extra margin.

    $250 Birdy you picked up coming along?

    Things I have done.
    1.) Replace missing spoke with custom cut spoke.
    2.) Overhaul front hub.
    3.) Overhaul rear hub.
    4.) Overhaul headset bearings.
    5.) Super glue chain stay 'pillar'.
    6.) Rim tape rear wheel
    7.) New green elastomer

    To Do
    Brake cables
    Derailer cable
    fenders?
    Touch up paint
    rim tape front

    I think $250 was fair as a new upgraded one is $1000 or so. The rear rim is also highly scored. The Tires were almost new. The rear tube was dippled from not having rim tape. If you check the Birdy board at Yahoo there is a recall dealing with steering stem failure, $100 to replace (I probably will not do it immediately). The hub overhauls might have been unnecessary, and perhaps unwise, the headset needed new bearings for sure. The welds seem to be in good condition.

    I suspect that the original owner somehow broke a spoke, LBS did not have one for 18" wheels, and did not suggest a LBS that could cut one. I know the previous owner removed the cassette to remove the spoke, and also screwed with the headset bearings(but do not know why). The original owner may have also heard about the recall and gave up at that point perhaps figuring on getting a new one for $1000-$250. He did say he would not be responsible if the bike fell apart.

    The Birdy pump was also missing, he gave me a used generic pump as a gift.

    Original manuals were also sold to me.

    The bike is now ridable and I have put about 40 mi.
    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.

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