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Old 01-22-07, 06:33 PM   #1
o-dog
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folding bike noob here, need advice/input

so I have a new job and a new commute. it's 3.5 miles away and along one of my favorite recreational routes. one problem: there are no bike racks, or anything else to lock a bike to for that matter, and there is no space in the office for a full-sized bike. obviously, I'm not letting that stop me. so, it's folding bike time.

now, I would normally say that I could do a commute that short on any bike. except for one thing: the first .5 miles is a climb up a steep hill (about a 4-5% grade) and the next .5 miles is on a fairly high-traffic road. the rest of the commute is flat and easy-going, but that first mile makes performance an important factor in any bike I get. plus I'm definitely going to want to put some extra miles in at the end of the day too. if it isn't quite as fast as my Jamis Coda Sport that's ok, the extra workout would probably do me some good, but to some degree, performance is still important.

I don't need the smallest, most compact fold ever, as I am not planning to take it on public transportation anytime soon, but I need it to fit in my work area which is approximately 6 by 10 feet

I've done some research and these are the bikes I'm leaning toward:
Dahon Cadenza - seems like the best one in terms of similarity to my full-sized bike, but doesn't seem to be available at any of my local bike shops (the closest one where it is available is 20 miles away)
Dahon Speed P8 - this looks like the best 20" one for me to get since the Speed TR and the Speed Pro aren't in my budget
Xootr Swift - also looks good, and seems like it's pretty close to a full-size bike in terms of performance but only two stores carry it here and one of them is a scooter dealership, not a bike shop.
Breezer Zag8 - I've actually test-ridden this one before and wasn't really into it but it is the most widely available folding bike here and the only one that my regular LBS has so I'm willing to give it another test ride at least

obviously I'm going to go to some shops and do some test riding but I thought I'd post here for some input also. how well do the above bikes climb and descend compared to full-size bikes? can they be ridden for long distances? will they accept lights (I'm particularly concerned about where the rear tail light would go) and fenders? also, some of the roads where I am are in pretty poor shape... how well does the frame/folding mechanism do on rough pavement?

Last edited by o-dog; 01-22-07 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 01-22-07, 08:31 PM   #2
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Pretty much anything will work.

The Cadenza basically is a full-sized bike, but won't fold small. I kind of doubt you could fit it under a desk.

Most 20" Dahons will have similar ride feels. The Breezer is either a rebadged or licensed Dahon, i.e. it's basically the same. The Dahons will definitely fit under a desk. However, the handleposts tend to be flexy, so if you pull back on it all the time it might eventually fail. You'd have to watch it while climbing.

The Swift, on the other hand, is much different. It has a substantially more solid ride, more standard parts, the fork / stem is rock solid, excellent performance, and the bike will be lighter than the Dahons (although not by much). The biggest differences compared to a 700c will be that the handling is much zippier and the ride will be a little rougher. It might well replace your Coda as your main ride.

The hitch, of course, is that it doesn't fold as small as a Dahon. It will probably fit under a desk but I can't guarantee it.

If you go for the Swift, you may want to swap out the rear cassette if the gearing isn't low enough. You can use an 11-32T without needing a chain tensioner.
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Old 01-22-07, 08:55 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe
However, the handleposts tend to be flexy, so if you pull back on it all the time it might eventually fail. You'd have to watch it while climbing.
this is a valid concern... I definitely tend to pull up on the handlebars while climbing.

the one bike shop that has Xootr Swifts is about 2 miles away from me. think I'll call them tomorrow and see if they have any in stock... and I'll definitely give those Dahons a test-ride too.

thanks!
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Old 01-22-07, 08:58 PM   #4
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Definitely do some test riding, since you have a chance, and also do some test folding, so you'll see what size package you're dealing with. Twenty miles may seem like a long drive to look at the Cadenza, but many prospective folding bike buyers can't even find a dealer within a day's drive. Seriously. Based on reputation, I'd certainly look at the Xootr, if those shops have them in stock.

I'm practically certain that the Breezer is a re-branded Dahon, although not the exact equivalent of any current Dahon model. It looks like it has a fixed height handlebar, which might not be ideal for everbody, depending on height. The Dahon Speed P8 still has an adjustable height bar, I believe, although the reach might be a little short if you're taller.

If you use a rear rack, or if there is a rear reflector mount that isn't going to be obscured by a bag, those can be good locations to mount a tail light. Headlights are not any problem to mount, but you might have to take them off the bars to fold the bike, so look for something with a quick release. Dahons have their own brand of fenders, and I'm sure I've seen pictures of Swifts with fenders on them.

Unsuspended small wheel bikes ride a bit rougher that larger wheeled ones. Wider tires can help. It's usually tolerable, unless you're always riding on unpaved roads, in which case you might consider suspension. Climbing performance with small wheeled bikes is usually quite good, if you can get the riding position right. Fast descents can be a little scary until you get used to the handling.

I've done my 25 mile (round trip) moderately hilly commute on my Dahon Speed P8. I usually use a Bike Friday now, but based on your comments, you probably don't want to budget for one of those.

Last edited by DaFriMon; 01-23-07 at 08:14 AM.
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Old 01-23-07, 03:10 AM   #5
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Brompton or Merc.
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Old 01-23-07, 08:23 AM   #6
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+1 on the swift. Add some bar ends and enjoy the ride.
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Old 01-23-07, 09:22 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o-dog
the first .5 miles is a climb up a steep hill (about a 4-5% grade) and the next .5 miles is on a fairly high-traffic road. ...to some degree, performance is still important.

Xootr Swift - ...only two stores carry it here and one of them is a scooter dealership, not a bike shop.
If you want "weird", I test rode and purchased my Xootr Swift from an automobile repair shop in Berkeley, the only California dealer listed on the Xootr website.

After a few weeks, that 4-5% grade won't make you blink... you could tackle it on a single speed if you choose.
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Old 01-23-07, 12:12 PM   #8
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1) 26" folders are typically heavy, and do not fold compact.
2) As you have a full size bike, buying a second as a folder is redundant.
3) You seem to be sticking to paved road surfaces, so wheel size and suspension are probably not an issue.

I would suggest 16" Dahon Brompton or Strida. 18" Birdy. There are also cheaper 16" bikes I see on ebay but have no recommendation, they probably appear on CL after maintenance problems appear.

Another possibility is getting a fullsize or BMX 'beater' bike used. Chain the rear wheel to the frame. Take the front wheel and seat post to the office. I doubt it will be stolen, but it might be tossed as junk, so you might leave a note with your cell# on it. A BMX might be small enough as it is. Since this is an office enviroment consider a cloth bag for your bike, or wrapping it with something so as not to attract too much attention to your dirty greasy bike. Your bike may also be stolen from the office.

It is also possible that while there is no place to chain near the entrance, there might be one near by or behind the building.

The traffic is a concern. Under no circumstances rush through the intersection. Assume you have no rights. Wear visible clothing and have the full compliment of reflectors and lights. Be especially careful the first 6months you commute.
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Old 01-23-07, 12:13 PM   #9
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Hello o-dog,

I have both 20 inch (Dahon Boardwalk) and 16 inch (Brompton Companion and Dahon Piccolo) wheel size. They all have a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed AW internal gear hub. To start off, since you cannot afford the higher end Dahons and the Bromptons are close in price to these Dahon models, I suggest you look more closely at the mid-priced Speed P8. This is considered a great buy and seems to match the terrain that you will ride it in. These bikes are very flexible and you will probably find youself applying it to other situations as well besides the commuter function. And the compactness will be easy to hide it under your workstation (I do so with even with my Boardwalk). Besides, after you buy your first folder, you may not find yourself stopping at that bike. You might find as I did, that this bike opens up a whole new way to enjoy cycling. If you do not believe me, see below at my signature.
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Old 01-23-07, 12:14 PM   #10
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Brompton or Merc

If money is an issue, Downtube.
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Old 01-23-07, 01:05 PM   #11
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so I test-rode the Dahon Speed P8 today... for it's size it's a decent ride... it accelerates fast and the wider tires take bumps pretty well. in terms of overall speed and responsiveness it definitely doesn't measure up to my full-size bike, but that was to be expected. I can definitely feel a difference though, ESPECIALLY uphill. it will probably be ok for my short and mostly easy-going commute but I wouldn't take it on any longer rides, I'd still use my Coda Sport for that.

it basically feels just like the Breezer Zag8, which if I'm not mistaken is a rebranded Speed P8 anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedub.Nate
After a few weeks, that 4-5% grade won't make you blink... you could tackle it on a single speed if you choose.
ehh, I've been going up that hill almost everyday for a year and some change and it's definitely gotten much easier... still probably wouldn't do it on a singlespeed unless it was geared really low.

Quote:
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Be especially careful the first 6months you commute.
thanks but I've been commuting for over a year and am familiar with traffic. I'm just new to the folding bike world.
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Old 01-23-07, 03:25 PM   #12
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O-dog:

I also recently entered the folding world from a roadie background. It also sounds like you want to be able to do pretty "sporty" rides on your folder. There's tons of choice here, but I went with a Downtube front suspension model (for $299) and added some upgrades. It is now my backup roadie (I sold my Lemond Zurich, which had previously been my backup).

I can attest that you can ride aggressively and pull on the handlebars all you want. I ride this bike on some of my group rides that are usually 40 miles or so, up and down hills in the SF area. It's solid. The bike weighs over 25 lbs new, but there are some easy weight reduction mods that will take 3-4 lbs off (seat, fenders, rack, kickstand, tires).

I upgraded mine a lot, but, at a minimum, I would change the BB and crank if you want to go fast on the bike. The derailleur works OK, but I changed mine to SRAM X.7 for pretty cheap.

I'm very happy with what I got for the money with this bike. Good luck in your choice...

Here's some bike pron for you:

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Old 01-24-07, 09:39 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by SesameCrunch
O-dog:

I also recently entered the folding world from a roadie background. It also sounds like you want to be able to do pretty "sporty" rides on your folder. There's tons of choice here, but I went with a Downtube front suspension model (for $299) and added some upgrades. It is now my backup roadie (I sold my Lemond Zurich, which had previously been my backup).

I can attest that you can ride aggressively and pull on the handlebars all you want. I ride this bike on some of my group rides that are usually 40 miles or so, up and down hills in the SF area. It's solid. The bike weighs over 25 lbs new, but there are some easy weight reduction mods that will take 3-4 lbs off (seat, fenders, rack, kickstand, tires).

I upgraded mine a lot, but, at a minimum, I would change the BB and crank if you want to go fast on the bike. The derailleur works OK, but I changed mine to SRAM X.7 for pretty cheap.

I'm very happy with what I got for the money with this bike. Good luck in your choice...

Here's some bike pron for you:

That's a handsome bike.
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Old 01-24-07, 07:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilV
That's a handsome bike.

Gee, Thanks!
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Old 01-24-07, 07:47 PM   #15
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Buy any 20" Dahon that you can afford.
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Old 01-24-07, 09:44 PM   #16
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I'll give another vote for a Downtube, in this case the VIII H, with a 8-speed Sturmey Archer hub. You need to replace the chainring or crankset to get a 38 or 39 tooth ring, replacing the bottom bracket wouldn't hurt. The basic bike is $400, you can pick up a chainring from Nashbar for $20 or get a used crankset w/ bottom bracket on ebay for $30-50. I like mine alot. It is way less money than your other choices, rides well, and is good value for the money.

Note the rear tail-light mounted to the rear rack. For serious commuting, I use a messenger bag with two blinkey LED tailights on it and add another headlight (old Vistalight Nightstick rechargable) on the front. You can never have too many lights when you commute in the fall and winter months.

I like internal gear hubs for folders since it gets rid of the "drop the chain" problem common to derailleur bikes that have a single chainring and no front derailleur. They also don't have a rear derailleur to bend when the bike gets bumped around or falls over when folded.

I like the Swift, but they want over $800 for one with a Shimano 8-speed Nexus hub. I didn't have the extra $$$ when I got my Downtube.

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Old 01-24-07, 11:54 PM   #17
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Hey Pine Cone, where did you get that chain guard? I need one for my Shimano 105 equpped Birdy.

Regarding an under the desk bike, the only bikes I can think of are the Downtube Mini, the Brompton (and spinoffs Merc and Flamingo), and the Birdy.

Don't know why you are finding poorer performance o-dog, the 20" wheels hold the world upright speed record (Moulton), and the smaller 16" aren't bad either. You just need the right tire on there and SPD pedals. Don't pull on the bars on any folder. Get cleats and pull with your legs. (Probably more efficient anyway.) And stay in the saddle.
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Old 01-25-07, 07:19 AM   #18
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I went and got the cheapest folder I could find (I had virtually zero money available at the time), and have regretted it ever since (lousy brakes that only lasted a few months, tyres that would puncture at the slightest bump).

I see so many folders on the journey into London every day, and at least from the looks, I figure the Dahon or a Downtube is the best bet - I know the Bromptons have a good rep, but at least cosmetically, the Dahon and Downtubes look massively better. Have had a chat to a few owners on the train, and none of the Brompton/Downtube owners have had a bad word to say about either of them.
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Old 01-25-07, 11:20 AM   #19
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Quote:
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Hey Pine Cone, where did you get that chain guard? I need one for my Shimano 105 equpped Birdy.
I made it by filing down the teeth on a 53 tooth chainring. It would work well with any inner chainring that is under 50 teeth. Might not work for your Birdy if you are already using a large chainring.
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Old 01-25-07, 11:43 AM   #20
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+1 for the Swift. I don't have mine yet, but Peter has built me a rear wheel with a Sram DualDrive which gives a lot of gearing range for the steep hills around Seattle. No, it isn't cheap, and no, it doesn't fold super small, but the strength of comments on the quality of the bike and the ability to mod it as my needs or interests sold me on spending the extra $.
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Old 01-26-07, 11:29 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pine Cone
I made it by filing down the teeth on a 53 tooth chainring. It would work well with any inner chainring that is under 50 teeth. Might not work for your Birdy if you are already using a large chainring.
Thanks! I think filing one is a bit beyond what I could do anyway.
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Old 01-26-07, 11:34 PM   #22
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Is the Downtube available with that 8 speed hub, or did you add that?
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Old 01-27-07, 12:33 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by That Forum Guy
Is the Downtube available with that 8 speed hub, or did you add that?
It's a production model sold for $399. Here's the link:
http://www.downtube.com/Downtube_200...ike_VIIIH.html
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Old 01-27-07, 10:26 AM   #24
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hey guys, thanks for all the help, but I've found a reasonably safe place to lock up my full-sized bike after all. in the unlikely event that my locking arrangement becomes a problem I'll probably be back here looking for a folder again.
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Old 01-27-07, 10:49 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o-dog
hey guys, thanks for all the help, but I've found a reasonably safe place to lock up my full-sized bike after all
.....and, just why should that stop you from getting a folder also? Hmmmm???!!
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