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  1. #1
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    Another multi-mode request

    I'm close to pulling the trigger for a folder for an almost daily commute. As usual I can't quite narrow it down to the near-perfect folder, maybe you can help. Commute is 1 mile to train station, then 3 more miles to work with a STEEP hill. 300 ft vertical in 3500 ft or so, max grade 17%.

    The usual and unusual requirements are:

    1) 16" or 20" wheel ok
    2) safe and confident going 35 MPH down one steep hill, GOOD BRAKES
    3) low gearing for getting back up said hill. My current bike has 24 gear inches, but I probably haven't used the lowest gear so 27-30 gear inches is probably needed.
    4) Amtrak-friendly (Keystone line between Philadelphia and Paoli).
    5) FULL fenders with possible mudguards for rainy commutes.
    6) rear rack nice but not required
    7) internal hub gears preferred
    8) internal hub dynamo nice-to-have, otherwise I'll just use battery lights
    9) City-appropriate tires (downtown Philly).
    10) Comfortable for the occasional 10-25 miler.

    So far I've considered (not in any preference order)

    1) Brompton, not sure which model, maybe M6L with 12% reduced gearing. They're going for $1000, and I've heard the brakes are not so good, worries me for the steep hill. Plus, the low gear is 33 gear inches, maybe too tough for my uphill

    2) Dahon, maybe Mu XL (?). Looks to be all around everything perfect, but with a less compact fold. $900

    3) Downtube VIIIH or Mini. Looks like the fender issue here, but good pricing. I've read thru the reviews.

    4) Dahon Curve???
    5) Others???

    thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    There's a bike shop called trophybikes on walnut street in philly that has the widest in stock selection of folding bikes of any store I've been able to find.

    The guy was kind of a dick when I talked to him on the phone, but if I were you I'd go there and try some bikes. Although I don't think they carry downtubes, I believe downtube is headquartered in philly, so you might be able to ask downtube if you can swing by for a test ride.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    There's a bike shop called trophybikes on walnut street in philly that has the widest in stock selection of folding bikes of any store I've been able to find.
    I'm familiar with Trophy Bikes (and have test ridden a different Dahon a couple years ago, when Trophy Bikes was at 3rd and Market st). I saw the owner with his Brompton at a community meeting just last week. Downtube is in Bensalem PA and I might go by their shop too. But I'm looking for experienced opinions here for other models to consider besides the ones I've listed or to confirm that those are reasonable choices.

  4. #4
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Trophy Bikes does have the Swift, Brompton, and Bike Friday's in stock.

    If you look at a similar named thread (makeinu began it) you will see the comments on the Brompton/Merc. My big complaint is the lack of gear range. But if it is low enough for you then it is a great commuter.

    -G

  5. #5
    To fold or not to fold?
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    Is the Mezzo imported into the states? Good gearing for what you want (most complaints are that it is on the low side); stiff frame, so can stand on pedals if the hill gets too much; good fold for multimodal use (about same as Birdy, a bit bigger than Brompton, way better than any Dahon or Downtube); built in fenders/mudguards; choice of 9 speed derailleur or 4 speed nexus hub; pretty decent luggage/rack set up (not as good as Brompton, but carries all I need for work in morning - change of clothes and laptop). Price in UK is about 600. Check out www.mezzobikes.co.uk

  6. #6
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    One more critical piece of information: How tall/big are you?

    Yours is a pretty tall order - lots of different conditions. I'm most familiar with Downtubes. If you're looking to go 35mph, I would not suggest the Mini, as much as I love it. Its short wheelbase and wheels make it too twitchy to go that fast, at least for me, anyway. And, if you're taller than 6', it's not a good fit for you.

    I would highly recommend the VIIIH though. The frame is really strong, and you can stand and pull on the handlebars when going up hill if you want to (I've heard the Dahons have problem in this area - you might want to look into it). I know it can handle 35mph for sure, I do it all the time. Strongly suggest you change the brake pads asap - get KoolStops. Big difference and you want to have confidence when you're bombing down hills.

    The VIIIH is a little on the heavy side, but there are easy things you can do to lighten it by 3 or so pounds (seat, pedals, kickstand, tires). It comes with rear fender and rack. You may have to lower the gearing if you get it - that's a simple modification. The fold is not exceptionally small (kind of depends on how your handlebar is set up), but you can do it fast and fit it onto a train (bus, no). Best of all, the price is very attractive. You could buy two for the price of some of the others...

    Good luck with your choice.

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    Since you're using SEPTA trains, I would go with a 20' inch wheel folder. I'm going to go off the chart here and be different because that hill at 35 mph would scare the daylights out of me if I had to go down it each month especially in the rain. I would really look at a folder with disk brakes or you're going to wear out a lot of brake pads each day. Unfortunately, there aren't many folders out there with disk brakes but I'm sure Bike Friday will make a custom job for you. Dahon makes the Matrix with disk brakes but that's a 26' inch wheel bicycle but I'm sure SEPTA won't give you a hassle if it's folded and it a bag. They will require the bike to sit in the vestibule regardless.

    The other choice is the Dahon CIAO P5. This bike has everything you wanted in your list including dynamo lights (front and rear), rack and chainguard which I consider VERY IMPORTANT for the commuter. I stained a lot of pants with my old Presto back when it didn't have a chainguard. In addition, when bagged, it will be accepted by SEPTA and AMTRAK but there's more.

    I think the Ciao comes with a rear hub coaster brake which is a major plus for that big down hill at 35 mph. I have become a huge fan of the rear coaster brake since acquiring a Dahon Presto that has one built into the rear wheel. I'm able to coaster brake almost all my stops and hardly ever use the FRONT brake except for emergencies. I know there is some fade on a coaster brake (there will be some at the end of that 35 mph hill) but it's never a concern and I'm always able to lock up the rear tire if need be. You can always use the front brake if need be but most of the time, the coaster brake will be enough. In short, the coaster brake is low maintenance and will preserve your front brake.

    The only thing I don't like about the CIAO P5 is the handlebar because it's fixed and maybe too high if you're under 5'10. Otherwise, this is my choice.

    OH. One more thing. I have the Dahon Vitesse P5 and it uses the same rear hub without a rear coaster brake. ;-( I found the Vitesse to be too high geared in direct drive so I fixed this by purchasing a larger cog (Sturmey Archer compatible - Thanks Sheldon) and now the bike is perfect. Some people feel the gearing is fine.
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 01-14-07 at 12:13 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member wubrew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    I'm close to pulling the trigger for a folder for an almost daily commute. As usual I can't quite narrow it down to the near-perfect folder, maybe you can help. Commute is 1 mile to train station, then 3 more miles to work with a STEEP hill. 300 ft vertical in 3500 ft or so, max grade 17%.

    The usual and unusual requirements are:

    1) 16" or 20" wheel ok
    2) safe and confident going 35 MPH down one steep hill, GOOD BRAKES
    3) low gearing for getting back up said hill. My current bike has 24 gear inches, but I probably haven't used the lowest gear so 27-30 gear inches is probably needed.
    4) Amtrak-friendly (Keystone line between Philadelphia and Paoli).
    5) FULL fenders with possible mudguards for rainy commutes.
    6) rear rack nice but not required
    7) internal hub gears preferred
    8) internal hub dynamo nice-to-have, otherwise I'll just use battery lights
    9) City-appropriate tires (downtown Philly).
    10) Comfortable for the occasional 10-25 miler.

    So far I've considered (not in any preference order)

    1) Brompton, not sure which model, maybe M6L with 12% reduced gearing. They're going for $1000, and I've heard the brakes are not so good, worries me for the steep hill. Plus, the low gear is 33 gear inches, maybe too tough for my uphill

    2) Dahon, maybe Mu XL (?). Looks to be all around everything perfect, but with a less compact fold. $900

    3) Downtube VIIIH or Mini. Looks like the fender issue here, but good pricing. I've read thru the reviews.

    4) Dahon Curve???
    5) Others???

    thanks in advance!
    I ride a Brommie 6ML. A great folder but not a hill climber by any measure. Good only for short distance commute. I also have a Dahon OEM folder by Trek. A joy to ride a #$%^& to fold. I rode a Birdy 9 speed last summer and still can not forget the experience. I rode up a 30' hill 1/2 mile long without even a huff. That silver folder will fulfill all the criteriae you mentioned. I am planning to get one, soon.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the informative responses. Some replies and follow-ups:

    How tall am I? 6' even, with 32" inseam. Sounds like most bikes should be generally a good fit.

    SteveDahon: I would switch to Amtrak with the folder, rather than primarily SEPTA. Sounds like they should still accept 20" folders with a cover.

    Chainguards are probably very important.

    The 2007 Dahon Ciao P8 and the Dahon Mu XL are looking like top contenders, with no real flaws as I can tell.

    The Ciao/Vitesse P5 doesn't have low enough gearing for me. The Mezzo bike looks interesting but I didn't like the gear range on the 4 spd hub. The DowntubeVIIIH lacks chainguards and front fender, otherwise would be good (though would need to add lighting). Birdy looks nice but once again not too much in fenders or chainguard, and fairly expensive.

  10. #10
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    I took the liberty of seaching Dahon's web site for some ideas. I used the zip code *19154*. These two bike shops were listed as Dahon's Stocking Dealers, which means that they have should have some bikes on their shop's showroom floor and have at least one mechanic that is familar with Dahons. These are requirements that I followed when I purchased my own Piccolo a couple of months ago with sucess.


    JAY'S PEDAL POWER BIKE SHOP
    512 E GIRARD AVE
    PHILADELPHIA PA US 19125

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    BIKE KING
    364 W TRENTON AVE
    MORRISVILLE PA US 19067

    I also have a Brompton C model with 3 speed internal hub, and another Dahon, a Boardwalk S1-now with a AW three speed internal gear hub. I live in a hilly area and have used each one with no problem with climbing or braking. But it might be different with you. You might carry a large load, have heart problems, or just can't break out in a sweat for business reasons. These factors might change your requirements. Feel free to check out my web sites for more information on how I modified each bike to fit my own terrain, plus how they look and the bikes actually in use on public buses and trains.

    If you need more help, feel free to ask. We are here to help others.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    Thanks for all the informative responses. Some replies and follow-ups:

    How tall am I? 6' even, with 32" inseam. Sounds like most bikes should be generally a good fit.

    SteveDahon: I would switch to Amtrak with the folder, rather than primarily SEPTA. Sounds like they should still accept 20" folders with a cover.

    Chainguards are probably very important.

    The 2007 Dahon Ciao P8 and the Dahon Mu XL are looking like top contenders, with no real flaws as I can tell.

    The Ciao/Vitesse P5 doesn't have low enough gearing for me. The Mezzo bike looks interesting but I didn't like the gear range on the 4 spd hub. The DowntubeVIIIH lacks chainguards and front fender, otherwise would be good (though would need to add lighting). Birdy looks nice but once again not too much in fenders or chainguard, and fairly expensive.
    You will not be able to board Amtrak if the bike is not folded. I know, it happend to me.

    The Ciao/Vitesse do not have a low enough gear for you and I agree. However, you can change this with a larger rear cog. When I purchased my Vitesse P5, it had the following gear range:

    20' inch wheel, 13T sprocket

    Inches
    1st 37.4
    2nd 44.9
    3rd 56.2
    4th 71.1
    5th 84.2

    As you can imagine, 3rd gear is to high (direct drive) and it left me exhausted after cycling a short while. Furthermore, 1st gear is not low enough and I found myself riding in 2nd gear to get a relief from third gear that was too high. But shifting to 2nd gear too low for regular riding. In short, the gearing on the Vitesse is ALL WRONG and I told this to Dahon. I then purchased a 15t cog from Sheldon Brown and the gears are now the following:

    20' inch wheel, 15T sprocket

    Inches
    1st 32.4
    2nd 38.9
    3rd 48.7
    4th 61.6
    5th 73.0

    It's almost pefect and I consider direct drive slightly too low at 49 inches but regardless, I can ride in that gear all day. The first gear of 32.4 inches is VERY low and a hill climber for sure. I find myself shifting to 4th gear all the time (I never did this with the old gear setup) once I get the bike up to speed. With this low gear setup, I'm now using all 4 gears instead of three so you can see why I feel very positive about the Sturmey Archer Sprinter 5. I never thought a 5 speed would have enough gears but boy was I wrong. I'll be honest and say that I don't feel the need for any more gears and consider the Nexus 7, 8 or Rohoff excessive!

    I may even buy a larger cog (18T) and drop 4th to a 51 inch gear thus making that gear, my new direct drive! That way, I'll be using ALL five gears and although I'll have only one high gear, 1st gear will be drop dead low at 27 inches! That's even lower than my Jamis Aurora touring bike with a triple chain ring!


    20' inch wheel, 18T sprocket

    Inches
    1st 27.0
    2nd 32.4
    3rd 40.6
    4th 51.3
    5th 60.8


    I had a lot of fun making these changes and altering the character of the bike. You may have to buy a new chain but it's is worth it.

  12. #12
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    If you are really stuck go with DT because it is cheap, and easy enough to re sell if you decide against it. Once you ride for a year you will be an expert and can decide upgrade or start with a new bike.

    You might also check CL/ebay for dahons and others for sale in Philly, you might get lucky.
    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.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    20' inch wheel, 13T sprocket
    Inches
    1st 37.4
    2nd 44.9
    3rd 56.2
    4th 71.1
    5th 84.2

    As you can imagine, 3rd gear is to high (direct drive) and it left me exhausted after cycling a short while. Furthermore, 1st gear is not low enough and I found myself riding in 2nd gear to get a relief from third gear that was too high. But shifting to 2nd gear too low for regular riding. In short, the gearing on the Vitesse is ALL WRONG and I told this to Dahon. I then purchased a 15t cog from Sheldon Brown and the gears are now the following:
    [hijack]I am obviously doing something wrong because 70" is my cruise all day gear with the 80"+ for 'go fast' riding. A 50" cruising gear would take me forever to get anywhere.[/hijack]

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LWaB
    [hijack]I am obviously doing something wrong because 70" is my cruise all day gear with the 80"+ for 'go fast' riding. A 50" cruising gear would take me forever to get anywhere.[/hijack]
    Interesting!

    I guess my legs are weak but then were're not all made equal. I would die on a 70' inch gear. I've met another person on this forum who also though the Vitesse was geared too high. The OP said the Dahon 5 speed bikes were geared too high and the bottom was not low enough at 37.4 inches. I simply wanted to prove that with little investment, one can change the gearing on a 5 speed hub geared bicycle to please even a weakling like myself. ;-)

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    The OP said the Dahon 5 speed bikes were geared too high and the bottom was not low enough at 37.4 inches.
    Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll try the hill on my current bike (Giant Cypress DX) and see what's the highest gear that can get me up the steep part of that hill... That bike has 24 gear inches on the low side, and I can't remember ever using the 1/1 gear, though I've had to use the 1/2 in rare circumstances.

    I finally figured out that bike/amtrak/bike would take me 55 minutes in the AM and 75 in the PM, which is only about a 15 minute 'penalty' over driving. My walk/septa/bus is 90 in am and 100 in PM.

  16. #16
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    ..
    Last edited by makeinu; 11-24-08 at 08:05 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by LWaB
    [hijack]I am obviously doing something wrong because 70" is my cruise all day gear with the 80"+ for 'go fast' riding. A 50" cruising gear would take me forever to get anywhere.[/hijack]
    I apologize for furthering this thread hijack, but I'm curious, what's your average cadence? I run a 57" single speed and at about 90 rpms I am going 15mph. I would like to go a little bigger to 63" of 64". This would give me a cruising speed around 16-17 mph at about 90-95 rpms. I wish I were fit enough to rock a 70" single speed. At 70 gear inches, my cruising speed at 90 rpms would be 18-20mph. Just so you know, I'm not trying to "peck a fight" or make fun of your riding style. I am just interested in how other people ride,
    Juan

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Doesn't Amtrak cost an arm and a leg?

    It costs $25 to ride Amtrak from Baltimore-Pennstation to BWI Airport and that's only a 15 minute ride!.
    This is from 30th ST Philly to Paoli, PA, about 20 miles (22 to 35 minute train ride).

    $6.00 one way fare ($7.00 on friday afternoon)
    $5.40 AAA 10% discount
    $58.00 10-trip
    $171 monthly.
    However, if I buy one-way fare, I get 100 Amtrak points, which is worth $1 (towards home depot,
    macy's, etc.) So in theory it costs equivalent of $4.40 for a single one way trip.

    SEPTA (regional line, 45-50 minute ride) is $4.25 one way peak, $128 monthly.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    I apologize for furthering this thread hijack, but I'm curious, what's your average cadence? I run a 57" single speed and at about 90 rpms I am going 15mph. I would like to go a little bigger to 63" of 64". This would give me a cruising speed around 16-17 mph at about 90-95 rpms. I wish I were fit enough to rock a 70" single speed. At 70 gear inches, my cruising speed at 90 rpms would be 18-20mph. Just so you know, I'm not trying to "peck a fight" or make fun of your riding style. I am just interested in how other people ride,
    Juan
    I run with a 76" (52/13 - 406) and have a cadence of around 95 rpm. A 57" gear would simply not work for me either.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fear&Trembling
    I run with a 76" (52/13 - 406) and have a cadence of around 95 rpm. A 57" gear would simply not work for me either.
    Wow,
    Sounds like you're quite a bit more fit than I am . Well, thanks for the reply. I hereby end my hijack,
    Juan

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