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  1. #1
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    Considering my first Folder

    I am considering the purchase of a folder and am open to any suggestions. It would be taken on board an aircraft 5 or 6 times a month, so ease of folding I'd think would be a priority. I ride around 400 miles a month and enjoy longer rides. I am not a commuter, and ride only for enjoyment and health. If it makes any difference, I'm about 6'1" and weigh in at 170 lbs. Once a year I would plan to load it up for a 7 or 8 day tour. It seems there are so many options from which to choose, it is a bit daunting. I've read good reports on the swift folder but am not so sure how well it folds. Brompton seems a good choice as well, but I'm not so sure how it would be on any ride of some distance. I appreciate any advice.

  2. #2
    Member, Schmember DaFriMon's Avatar
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    If the price isn't too much of a turn off, try looking at Bike Friday. It doesn't fold all that fast (except for the new tikit model), but they make models that are good for loaded touring. There's even an option to get a suitcase trailer conversion kit, so that you can tow the suitcase that you use to carry the bike on the plane.

    People have done loaded bike touring with Bike Fridays, Bromptons, Dahons, Swifts, Downtubes, the list goes on. Think about fit, load bearing capacity, and gearing range, to start with.
    Last edited by DaFriMon; 01-31-07 at 06:48 AM.
    You're right, I do have more bikes than I need.

  3. #3
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    If spending 30 minutes or more to make the bike "airport ready" isn't an issue, Bike Friday, Swifts, Downtube or Dahon are my suggestions (in that specific order). Keep in mind that you will be able to fix almost everything on a Bike Friday or Downtube anywhere in the world since most parts are standard.

    If you want something that comes out of your luggage and is ready to ride without tools or technical assembly, your choices become more limited (starting with the wheel size, that goes only to 16"). I travelled a lot with a Downtube and I will never again travel with a bike that needs to be "worked" to fit into internationally accepted luggage. Bromptons and Mercs became my only choice and I am very happy with the results.

    Good luck. Come back and let us know what you end up getting.

  4. #4
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    You might want to specify your budget in order to get better feedback from this group...

    Also, are you saying you want to do all 400 miles/month on the folding bike, or is it just intended for when you travel?

  5. #5
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    Are you a roadie? If so, you will only be happy with Bike Friday, Swift, Dahon Speed, or Airnimal for a speedy ride 'out of the box.' If you want drop bars and don't want to mess with upgrading after purchase, that limits you to Bike Friday, or Airnimal, or call Peter Reich in NYC to build you a custom swift,
    Juan

  6. #6
    No Rocket Surgeon eubi's Avatar
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    You may have to do some partial disassembly to get the bike to fit into a suitcase.

    Be sure you bring the proper tools to put it back together!
    Fewer Cars, more handlebars!

  7. #7
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    If you are unsure go cheap, either downtube or dahon with 20" wheels. Then see if a folder works for you. Then if you think your problem could be solved by a more compact fold, suspension, or whatever then buy another bike.

    Brompton has 16" wheels and costs $$$, Swift does not fold very compact and costs $$.
    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.

  8. #8
    Member, Schmember DaFriMon's Avatar
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    One thing I notice about the original post is that Northwestrider talks about taking the bike on "aircraft". That makes it sound more as if we're talking about private planes. If you're not going on a commercial flight, then it may not be necessary to do the disassembly, and packing in a suitcase routine every time. A quick fold may get the bike small enough to stow in the plane, and that won't take as long.

    Or I may be reading too much into the use of a single word.
    You're right, I do have more bikes than I need.

  9. #9
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    The most comfortable small folders for long touring would be Bike Friday (downside: it takes a long time to fold and isn't super small in size), Birdy (downside: replacement tires and tubes hard to find in some countries so you have to bring spares), or any one of a number of Dahon models (downside: has a frame hinge and has some quality control issues).

    The Birdy can hold a lot of luggage: 25Kg on the back and 10Kg on the front, if needed and is the smallest folder of the bunch mentioned above.

  10. #10
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Northwestrider
    I am considering the purchase of a folder and am open to any suggestions. It would be taken on board an aircraft 5 or 6 times a month, so ease of folding I'd think would be a priority. I ride around 400 miles a month and enjoy longer rides. I am not a commuter, and ride only for enjoyment and health. If it makes any difference, I'm about 6'1" and weigh in at 170 lbs. Once a year I would plan to load it up for a 7 or 8 day tour. It seems there are so many options from which to choose, it is a bit daunting. I've read good reports on the swift folder but am not so sure how well it folds. Brompton seems a good choice as well, but I'm not so sure how it would be on any ride of some distance. I appreciate any advice.
    So do you prefer ease of folding or ride quality? There is a lot of variation in the market.

    Are you close to a folding bike dealer?

  11. #11
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    "It would be taken on board an aircraft 5 or 6 times a month, so ease of folding I'd think would be a priority...I ride around 400 miles a month and enjoy longer rides. I am not a commuter, and ride only for enjoyment and health. If it makes any difference, I'm about 6'1" and weigh in at 170 lbs. Once a year I would plan to load it up for a 7 or 8 day tour. It seems there are so many options from which to choose, it is a bit daunting. I've read good reports on the swift folder but am not so sure how well it folds. Brompton seems a good choice as well, but I'm not so sure how it would be on any ride of some distance." -Northwestrider

    I have both a 20 inch folder and 16 inch folders. I find that the major differences overlap yet are better at some things than the others would do due to various situations such as distance in length of trip, need to fold at some point to fit a particular spot, how bumpy the road is (with most smaller wheeled folders, that is a critical point), or how comfortable is the saddle is to how long you are in it for a given period, etc. For most trips now, I tend to favor the Brompton for covering most of the situations encountered-especially the unknown ones. The 20 inch Dahon Boardwalk is great for comfortable distance riding, but it does not fold so compact, and the 16 inch Piccolo is a good compromise and although I have done long rides on it, I prefer to use it in a multi-modal fashion only.

    I recommend that you visit a folding bike store(s) that carry brands that you expressed an interest in and actually try them out before you buy. If you are still unsure about folding bikes in general or don't have a large amount of money to spend at this point, look into known brands such as Dahon or Downtube. And when you are ready to pick one, please read my new section on where the best places are to buy your bike on my Geocities Web site's Selection section, pages 6-7 (see below). I think that is the most critical and most important thing that anyone should do when they buy. I seem to pinpoint the most grief people experienced on their new bikes when the bike shop does not advocate for it's customers, no matter how experienced they are in using or buying other bikes in the past.

    Please let us know about how it went for you and if you got exactly the bike you dreamed of.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    So many great responses to my question, thanks. To be a bit more clear, yes I ride primarily on roads. The bulk of my riding will be on more traditional bikes, I will be using my future folder while traveling on Airlines. I guess I would value ease of folding slightly more than performance. However as I like to ride a couple of hours or more at a time, comfort is important as well. My wife and I will be visiting a folder shop in the Seattle area ( Brompton ) this week, and next month we will try to make it to Oregon to ride a Bike Friday if at all possible. BF seems to have a folder in the works that seem to fold rather easily ( if what I have seen on youtube is any indication) but I have no idea when it will be on the market. And to Folder Fanatic, thanks for the great web page, I'll be back for a few more visits soon.

  13. #13
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Hi Northwestrider,

    Gaerlan has a nice site on airline travel with a bike (http://www.gaerlan.com/). He likes Dahons and just stopped carrying the Birdy (I bought his last one), but can order one for you.

    My thought is that if you are only spending a few hours on the bike at a time, you'll be fine with a Dahon. But a Birdy will be more comfy and fit more easily into an airline legal suitcase (http://www.gaerlan.com/bikes/birdy/birdypk.htm) The Birdy doesn't sell well because it's a bit on the pricey side, but for a small folder it's great. You can pick them up in Japan as Bianchi OEMs (Bianchi Fretta) for a fraction of the US price. A Shimano 105 or Capreo equipped Bianchi Fretta will run about $1000 in Japan. (http://translate.google.com/translat...ari%26rls%3Den)

  14. #14
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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  15. #15
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    Northwestrider,
    Definitely check out the Gaerlan site and read up on what they say about the speed P8. To make a long story short, they outline why the Speed P8 is the bike you want to buy for airline travel over the other Dahon models (The Speed Pro and Speed TR have fixed stems and cannot fit in an airline legal suitcase because of it). In addition, they have an upgraded P8 with a 27 speed dual drivetrain that is equally as packable, but yield a 27 speed drivetrain. The upgraded 'P27' is still only $845. I've worked with Gaerlan and have only positives to say about them.
    BF is equally as good, but a little pricier. However, from what owners say, they are completely worth it. Just food for thought.
    Juan

  16. #16
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Northwestrider
    Brompton seems a good choice as well, but I'm not so sure how it would be on any ride of some distance. I appreciate any advice.
    Channell Wasson has a new airline legal hard sided case for the Brompton on his website. For frequent airline travelers who want to take a folder along this looks ideal. I frequently take my Brompton M6L with me on flights in a small private airplane, but have been reluctant to check it as baggage on the airlines because of concerns about damage from TSA and baggage handlers. I'm tempted to buy one of Channell's new hardcases and try taking it on the airlines.

    As far as concerns about riding long distances on a Brompton, for me it's simply not an issue. The Brompton is very comfortable for long rides. I would recommend the telescoping seatpost option, though.
    Last edited by Scooper; 02-04-07 at 10:46 AM.
    - Stan

  17. #17
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    For what it's worth, I rode a Dahon briefly and was then swayed by a post that stated that the Swift rode like a road bike due to the longer wheel base. I bought one untried and was wowed. I ride it as my standard bike now leaving my Canondale hybrid on the rack. I'm 5'8 and 165. It may not be the smallest to fold but it is easy.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    Thanks again guys. I have already checked out the gaerlan web page, and yes found it very useful. I expect it'll take another couple of months before I get a chance to ride a few of the various models, but when I do commit, I'll let you know which way I went.

  19. #19
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juan162
    I've worked with Gaerlan and have only positives to say about them.
    I too have positive experiences with J Gaerlan.

  20. #20
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Yesterday I bought the B & W Hardside Case that Channell Wasson is selling for carrying the Brompton as checked baggage. It's a rugged case with lots of foam rubber padding to protect the bike, it's well within the legal checked baggage weight and size restrictions without incurring surcharges, and most importantly the folded bike fits comfortably in the case without any hassle.

    Here are a couple of pictures I took. The bike is inside the case in the photo with the handle extended.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    - Stan

  21. #21
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper
    Yesterday I bought the B & W Hardside Case that Channell Wasson is selling for carrying the Brompton as checked baggage. It's a rugged case with lots of foam rubber padding to protect the bike, it's well within the legal checked baggage weight and size restrictions without incurring surcharges, and most importantly the folded bike fits comfortably in the case without any hassle.

    Here are a couple of pictures I took. The bike is inside the case in the photo with the handle extended.
    How much did this cost?

  22. #22
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SesameCrunch
    How much did this cost?
    It is expensive, but I view it as insurance against the bike getting damaged. $350.

    You could probably find it cheaper by shopping around.
    - Stan

  23. #23
    Folding bike junkie! Wavshrdr's Avatar
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    I've had good luck actually using the Brompton B bag and packing close around it for extra padding. It doesn't way much and with a hard case and a Brompton and current weight limits you are going to have too much free pounds to take actual gear besides the bike. As a plus the B bag can easily be put on the Brompton rack and ridden off. Not quite a slick as a Bike Friday suitcase setup but a lot less inconspicuous.

    If you are doing a lot of long distance rides, I'd go with the Swift. The Bike Friday is pretty good too but the Swift has been an amazing bike for me. I am a big guy and it's been just amazing. I went with hub gears and a dual chainring up front. I have a great touring bike and an awesome city bike. The fold could be more compact but that is about it. Keep in mind the fold isn't terrible but it isn't Brompton compact.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    I've already considered the Swift folder, however it seems to fold into a relatively large package and not really suited for frequent airline travel. I does look like a great bike otherwise. Correct me please, if I am wrong on it's fold ability. Thanks

  25. #25
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Northwestrider
    I've already considered the Swift folder, however it seems to fold into a relatively large package and not really suited for frequent airline travel. I does look like a great bike otherwise. Correct me please, if I am wrong on it's fold ability. Thanks
    If spending 30 minutes or more to make the bike "airport ready" isn't an issue, Bike Friday, Swifts, Downtube or Dahon are my suggestions (in that specific order). Keep in mind that you will be able to fix almost everything on a Bike Friday or Downtube anywhere in the world since most parts are standard.

    If you want something that comes out of your luggage and is ready to ride without tools or technical assembly, your choices become more limited (starting with the wheel size, that goes only to 16"). I travelled a lot with a Downtube and I will never again travel with a bike that needs to be "worked" to fit into internationally accepted luggage. Bromptons and Mercs became my only choice and I am very happy with the results.

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