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  1. #1
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    speedy all-weathers folder - Cycle and Train In/Out of London

    My potential first foray into “Folders” and rather than just rely on trade expertise I would really appreciate the impartial advice from owner experts.

    I’m looking for something to ride for a possible cycle/train commute into London and after riding into work today or my road bike, realise that ideally I want something quick as well as compact and transportable.

    I’m a regular cyclist and have owned a variety of road bikes, MTB, Hybrids and traditional, but my technical knowledge is average. Cycling style is speedy, with occasional need for a blast to blow away the cobwebs.

    The journey (each way):

    Cycle 3.5 miles to station – two small, short hills
    Train – often very full – 1 hour
    Cycle 3.5 miles to office

    Local dealers stock Brompton, Birdy, Airnimal and Dahon, so logically I’d like to stick with those. Mezzo I will consider as well as they’re a plenty in London.

    Budget is up to £1k.

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    rhm
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    multimodal commuter rhm's Avatar
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    I would suggest you consider the Strida as well. It's fine for comparatively short rides, and is really excellent for taking on public transportation since it's easily managed with one hand while folded. It is also probably the quickest and easiest fold. Granted, the ride is not for everybody; it won't make you want to sell your road bike; but for a commute such as you describe, it may be just the thing. --Rudi

  3. #3
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I'd go for a Brompton.

    It has a great fold -- very small and clean. The chain is inside the fold, so you won't get chain grease all over. Narrow tires, some suspension, fenders, built-in rack, internal hub. Perfect choice for a multi-mode all-weather commute.

    Airnimal doesn't fold, it just packs into a suitcase. So that's out.

    Birdy is sportier but doesn't fold as well as a Brompton.

    I know some folks like 'em, but IMO Dahon sucks. Lots of proprietary parts -- I can't even swap out the rear derailleur on my Mariner D7 -- and the handlepost is flexy so you can't pull back on the bars at all.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the advice; I'll look at the Strida.

    I realise my title was confusing. The Speedy bit I'm referring to is the bike, rather than the folder.

  5. #5
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Hmmm, the very full train ...

    Well, I would think that the train ride would limit you to Brompton/Merc, Birdy, or 16" Dahon. The Brompton/Merc has the smallest fold and a decent size wheelbase compared to the Dahon. For a thousand pounds, I believe you could get a Steve Parry version which would improve the performance considerably; although I have never ridden one myself. The Brompton/Merc has the smallest fold, can carry a lot of stuff, and can be rolled while folded.

    Performance-wise, I think that the Birdy is a superior bike. You can get one with a Nexus-8 on the rear as well as several derailer options.

    -G

  6. #6
    jur
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    How about the Airnimal Joey? It would allow you to go the full journey on occasion. Folds quite small despite slightly bigger wheels.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

  7. #7
    Senior Member mr_tom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ningnangnong

    Local dealers stock Brompton, Birdy, Airnimal and Dahon, so logically I’d like to stick with those. Mezzo I will consider as well as they’re a plenty in London.

    Budget is up to £1k.
    I've just bought a Brompton for a similar commute in London, and so far am very happy with it. The fold is small and well-engineered, and the ride is good. (Although I did need to put a jubilee clip around the rear suspension block, to stiffen it up a bit)

    I've not got the luggage, although the received wisdom is that it's great.

    I did look at the others: Airnimals are wonderful, but aren't folders in the traditional sense - more like 'can be packaged up in a suitcase in 5 minutes'. The Birdys and Dahons have more cumbersome packages, and although you get more gears, London is still pretty flat. 2 gears are doing me nicely.

  8. #8
    Dr Kickstand
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    I think the Brompton, Birdy, Airnimal or Dahon would do the job very well. Ask you bike dealer if you can try out the models. For pure speed, the Airnimal.

    DrK
    www.bikesTHATfold.com - All about Folding Bikes
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  9. #9
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    If you live in the UK, get the Brompton. You should also get the Brompton bag in case it rains or should the conductor make a fuss about bringing a "Bicycle" during rush hour. The bike should be in a bag if it gets wet during rain storm.

    Is there a spot on the train that you can place the bike?

  10. #10
    Member windywheels's Avatar
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    I have a Merc. It is exactly as a Brompton but cheaper. You can buy it on Ebay or check Mercbike.com. I've bought the bike for the same reason as you.
    At the moment I am travelling on the underground in my way to work and riding in my way home. I am doing 12 miles to home but soon I will start commuting by bike both ways with a total of 24 miles.
    My experience with the Merc is just wonderfull, it costs £330 and comes with absolutly everything, including in the price the front bag and the big bag for the bike, etc,etc. With the Brompton you have to buy all the accesories separated.
    The Merc is very well build. I don't want to start a discussion about Brompton/Merc, there are other threads about it. I am just giving my opinion as a owner of one. I am MORE than happy with it.
    I have the bike with me wherever I go and I have never had a problem in the underground in rush hour. I am using the Districtic Line and/or Hammersmith and City Line.
    Hope this helps.

  11. #11
    To fold or not to fold?
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    I'm using a Mezzo d9 and have done for best part of a year in London, with no time off for rain. Nippy, stiff ride (as no hinge), looks sharp and fits the bill perfectly for multimode commuting. I take mine (plus two kids, one carried - the bike in other hand) on the (frankly crazily busy) north London line to nursery at 8am every morning and then do a 3-4 mile bike into work in town. Every couple of weeks, it goes with me on the train to Cambridge and back when I visit one of my outer offices. And its accompanied me on the tube and bus with no problems at all. No probs in rain, and Mezzo do a nice bag which fits on the back, holds a laptop and a change of clothes, and has a waterproof cover for when it rains and is perfectly presentable as a work bag/case during the day (albeit a slightly pricey one at £65). The fold is great, fast, secure and compact - a bit bigger than the Brompton, about the same size as the Birdy), riding, it feels much more positive and responsive than either the Brompton or the Birdy (a friend with the latter is intending to switch bikes having tried the Mezzo). Its tough as old boots. And at weekends, I use it for trips around far more than my Downtube because its just..fun to ride. i'm an enthusiast - I reckon you ought to borrow one for a test ride and see what you think.

  12. #12
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    Hi Matt, Interesting what you say about the Mezzo - there has not been much discussion of them here, so your feedback is valuable. I have only ridden one inside a shop, so my experience is rather more limited .

    But, I found the handle bars to be quite flexible (cf the Brommie and Strida 3, my normal rides). They seem to be on a long, adjustable post, on a very long stem. Are they OK in situations where you have to really pull on them ... or do you just get used to them ?. Also how are all the snap joints, and front wheel fixing joints doing after a year .. I guess these may actually improve with use ??

  13. #13
    To fold or not to fold?
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    First of all, the self-locking catches at front and rear are VERY good indeed - extremely well engineered positive and firm. No problems at all with them - I'd be surprised if any other folder matches them for practicality or durability. And because of their adjustability, they don't really wear in - once set up right, they seem to keep on doing what they are supposed to do in exactly the same way. The front catch has had a couple of big bashes when the bike has been dropped accidentally, and has survived without any ill effects (bar a little scratching to the black paint) - its a very solid bit of metal

    Front wheel catch has not been problematic. It has worn in slightly, which I think has made it a bit easier when folding. The only issue here is the plastic nut on the QR skewer, which does sometimes need a bit of adjusting to ensure the QR isn't getting too loose or tight. The safety clip on the front wheel is very good indeed - a couple of times over the last year in a haze of absentmindedness I've forgotten to clamp the QR on the front wheel, and only found out when I've got home (thanks to the safety, without incident).

    I've not had probs with the handlebars - at first I found them a bit creaky and flexible, but then I got my allen key out and adjusted the snap/clip - each one is micro adjustable through a pair of small threaded screws. Once it was perfectly set up, I had no problems at all - rock solid (having said that I may also have become accustomed to them a bit over time - I guess its hard to say). My friend with the Birdy liked the Mezzo in part because of the way the front feels - he found the balance of the Birdy meant that he tended to sit back a bit; he prefered the Mezzo because he likes to work hard on the handlebars. The picture at http://www.mezzobikes.com/wp-mezzo/?p=5 is 95% PR puff, but i guess it shows that the bars can't be THAT flexible...

    The only negative on the bike that I have found are the tyres, which are cheap chinese low-mid-pressure jobs and worth replacing. And maybe the decision by ATB not to build the rear wheel around a Capreo hub is a bit daft, as limits your highest gear to the 11t on the 11-26 SRAM cassette it comes with. Low gearing is fine, but it might have been nice to have the option of the Capreo 9-26. If you spend your life at the top of your gearing then might prove a bit frustrating. But i've found that in London traffic its not an issue.

  14. #14
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    "Train – often very full – 1 hour" Brompton or Strida have 16" wheels that make the bike compact. Otherwise Dahon Mu XL (20") is a very good all around bike, perhaps with a carry bag to shield others on the train from your bike.

    If you are into retro consider restoring a Moulton Mini.
    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.

  15. #15
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    The Moultons are VERY odd looking but a couple do fall within this price bracket, so might consider them. What are they like?

    Conflicting opinions on the folding of the Airnimal I see. Any owners out there able to comment?

    I'd like to think that I would have enough time not to have to worry whether it takes 10 secs or 45 to fold the bike. Size will be a deciding factor on a train - yes there are spaces - luggage racks as well as behind some seats.

    The gearing is a issue for me as I love top gears and don't want to be pedaling like a lunatic with a ratio too low. A good range is essential.

    I intend to commute semi-casual and occasionally ride around in a suit.
    Luggage will be needed.

    Steve Parry's version is a possibility, but I'd like to try one as well as not wait months for one!

    Thanks again.

  16. #16
    jur
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    Re the Airnimal folding, I saw an article quoted here just a week or so ago, can't remember where, but I read it and was very impressed by the folding performance going by the review which had some pics. It was a Londoner who was unimpressed by the likes of Brompton (he called it a dog), and speed and train issues were important to him, as they are apparently to you. He tried a Joey and bought one after just 1 test ride.

    I hope someone can supply the linky...?
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

  17. #17
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    I found it, thanks. Going to print it off and read it later.

  18. #18
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    I've read it and I can't help but wonder whether on the really busy routes with people standing in the "vestibule", whether it is just too big, even when folded?

  19. #19
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    I've read it and I can't help but wonder whether on the really busy routes with people standing in the "vestibule", whether it is just too big, even when folded?
    If it's that busy in the vestibule area, I would not go with a Joey. You also have to take the front wheel off, which makes it a fussier folding process and a less stable folded package - not good for multi-modal use.

    I don't think you would go too far wrong with most 16" or 20" folders for the shortish commute you have planned, however, if space really is tight on the train, a Brompton/Merc, Mezzo, or Birdy would probably be best...If not, a Dahon would be good choice...

  20. #20
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    That was my thinking. Would be a bad buy if the train turned out to be too busy for the bike and the bike caused a lot of ill-feeling.

    I'm edging towards a Brompton LX (mod'd to 6 gears), Mezzo D9 or Birdy (Red or City, not sure) or Dahon Jetstream P8 or XP - very nice looking in photos.

    Matt52 - option of the Capreo 9-26 - is that something that can be added? Do you ever find yourself wishing for another higher gear?

  21. #21
    Mechanically Challenged
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    I read a review of the Mezzo a year or two ago in Cycling Plus. If I remember correctly it scored 8 out of 10 but would have got more if it came with the 9-26 cassette.

  22. #22
    To fold or not to fold?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ningnangnong
    That was my thinking. Would be a bad buy if the train turned out to be too busy for the bike and the bike caused a lot of ill-feeling.

    I'm edging towards a Brompton LX (mod'd to 6 gears), Mezzo D9 or Birdy (Red or City, not sure) or Dahon Jetstream P8 or XP - very nice looking in photos.

    Matt52 - option of the Capreo 9-26 - is that something that can be added? Do you ever find yourself wishing for another higher gear?
    Not sure what the gearing is on other options, but on Mezzo, gear ratios for 52 x 11-26 are (according to the Mezzo site (I haven't got a calculator to hand)): 11t: 76, 12t: 69.6, 13t: 64.3, 15t: 55.7, 17t: 49.2, 19t: 44.0, 21t: 39.8, 23t: 36.3, 26t: 32.1

    The Brompton L6/T6 gearing is (by comparison) 40.3, 46.5, 54.8, 63.3, 74.6, 86.1 - giving you that extra high gear. By way of comparison, if the Mezzo had a 9t high gear, that would take you up to 92 inches on top gear.

    Having said that, I've found the Mezzo fine on the lower gears, certainly no danger of running out of gears going up Havistock/Rosslyn Hill from Camden to Hampstead. In terms of higher gears, there are the odd occasion when it would be nice to have one more high gear, but frankly in London I find the gearing works ok for me - I prefer a reasonably high cadence, and I've never really felt that restricted by the 11t. I certainly don't find myself pedalling faster than I want to to get to the speed i want to go at (if that makes any sense).

    But it does still baffle me a bit that ATB put a standard hub on the Mezzo (as part of their commitment to "all standard parts") - all this offers is the possibility of swapping the 11-26 cassette for a 11-32/34, giving me extra gears where I don't need them (unless someone does a 9 speed cassette with normal hub fitting starting at 10t - I haven't seen one).

    As to swapping to a Capreo hub - I guess you could do it, but it would involve building/rebuilding the back wheel, which might be more bother than its worth, though I'm sure someone could do the job for you - you can pick up a hub for £40 from SJS http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/product.asp?pf_id=13433 , another £60 for the Capreo cassette and pay some more for the wheel building. I guess that might provide a clue as to where ATB are coming from - by opting for a standard hub and SRAM PG-950 cassette, they saved themselves about £60-£70 on parts. But if you've got £1k to spend and want to custom specify your bike, it might be worth the bother.

    [edit] Final word of warning - the Mezzo originally came specc-ed with a 12-26 SRAM cassette, but upgraded to 11-26 sometime last year. I swapped out my 12-26 when I had a service last and replaced with the the current cassette (on basis that it only cost me £25 extra). If you find a Mezzo at your bikestore which still has the 12-26 on it you WILL notice the missing high gear. Even I did...

    Best of luck deciding. Let us all know what you eventually go with, and how you feel about your decision a few weeks/months in.
    Last edited by matt52; 05-01-07 at 03:13 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    The Moultons are VERY odd looking but a couple do fall within this price bracket, so might consider them. What are they like?
    Not good for a busy train, but they ride great. I would not consider them for your intended use.

    I'm edging towards a Brompton LX (mod'd to 6 gears), Mezzo D9 or Birdy (Red or City, not sure) or Dahon Jetstream P8 or XP - very nice looking in photos.
    I don't think you can get a Jetstream XP in the UK, but the P8 looks good value for money. Do the roads warrant that degree of suspension though? It is also a larger folded package.

    I would give the Brompton a la carte system quite a bit of thought (and ideally, test ride a few off-the-shelf configurations). I noticed no difference in the ride or handling characteristics of a monocoque Birdy and the older Red. The issue between them is whether you want a hub or derailleur system. The Mezzo's under gearing will only really matter on downhills - but you could freewheel once you got to 35mph or so.

  24. #24
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    I bought a Dahon Jetstream P8 (2006) for pretty much the same reasons as you, though my commute is 8 miles each way. So far, I've only used it on the tube (Northern Line) once -- when I picked it up from the bike shop in Waterloo. Since then, I've enjoyed riding it too much to think about getting the tube for all or part of a journey -- and the weather has been great since.

    The Jetstream is a great bike that rides really well (it's comfortable, too!) and has a good gear range (Muswell Hill is a killer...). It also seems to have few folder compromises and rides much like a normal bike. That said, the fold isn't particularly small and it makes an awkward package. I had to use velcro tape to hold the wheels together when I last carried it on the tube, and it's difficult to carry without a bag -- the fold isn't flat and there's no easy way to hold it. It's also tricky (but not impossible) to fold so that it can be pushed along on one wheel.

    As a folder for last-resort train/tube use (puncture, sudden foul weather, unexpected inebriation...), it's great, but there's no way I could recommend it to someone who wants to carry a folder on the underground every day. The 16in wheel Dahon's may be better, but the 20 inchers are just too bulky.

    Edit: Oh and check with your employer to see if they support the Ride to Work scheme -- you get a bike for half price!

  25. #25
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    Matt52 - Thanks again for the in-depth info. The point about the cassette is a good one and I will certainly be wary of it. The bike is looking a strong contended.

    Fear&Trembling - The Jetstream XP is available in the UK and (just) within budget. I am considering it as the suspension will make one bone-shaking route to the station a comfortable and regular option. How much larger a folded package is it? Ideally I'd prefer a hub gearing - cleanliness and maintenance only.

    Adlopa - Not for the tube but okay for the train? The Jetstream P8 is also high on the list and yes, the company does support Cycle Scheme

    Thanks folks - test rides this weekend.

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