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  1. #1
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    Folding bikes, performance on hills??

    I am interested in buying a folding bike to use as a commuter. My commute includes a steep (and unavoidable) hill. I see people on standard road bikes making fairly quick work of this hill all the time... I like the look of the dahons and they are in my budget range. Any buying advice? Do I need to shell out the $1,200.00 (US) for the Speed TT Pro?

    Thanks!

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    Senior Member caotropheus's Avatar
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    I suggest you test ride several bicycles in the budget you have. For 1200 USD you should consider also a Bike Friday and a Swift.

  3. #3
    Bicycling Gnome
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    If the bike fits your body, and is properly designed vis a vis its geometry, you will be able to exert enough power to get up any rideable hill as long as the bike has low enough gearing. Some well known and popular bikes like the Brompton have quite high gearing as delivered - bottom end of 45 inches. If you are strong and the hills aren't too terrible this might be low enough, but you'd be better of with low gears in the thirties. I think my mountain bike goes down to about 28 inches in its lowest gear. My folder only down to 38. I can climb steep hills on it, but it would be no good for touring in the hills.

  4. #4
    Explorer CaptainSpalding's Avatar
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    I feel your pain. I live in the hills, so almost every solo ride I do involves a climb. But where there's a will, there's a way. Don't feel like you have to choose a bike based on its drivetrain.

    There are several upgrade options to provide wider gearing:

    Sram and Shimano have gear hubs with 7/8 speeds.
    The SRAM Dual Drive: 8- or 9-speed cassette on a 3-speed geared hub.
    The Schlumpf Mountain Drive: a two-speed geared bottom bracket (used in conjunction with whatever your bike came with.)
    Then there's the Rohloff. Luckily I got mine before the bottom fell out of the dollar, so I only paid a stupid amount of money for it rather than an insane amount.
    Last edited by CaptainSpalding; 07-13-07 at 03:59 AM.
    I came to say I must be folding . . .
    Dahon Jetstream XP
    Dahon Helios SL
    Strida 5.0
    Twenty project


    or not . . .
    Fisher Mt. Tam (c.1988)
    Merlin Road flat bar project
    Schwinn Twinn Deluxe

  5. #5
    jur
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    Those steep hills will become less formidable as you get fitter. Trust me. A tiny little bump saw me almost losing my breakfast when I started riding. Now I wonder what the fuss was about and burn up those hills with the best of them. Gears that are initially suitable for the hill will eventually be too low for your taste.

    Hills are your friend. Choose the bike that you really want.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    My daily commute includes a 300 ft vertical, 1/2 mile climb, averaging about 10% grade with about a 50-100 ft section near 17%. I do it on a stock Downtube IXNS which has a lowest gear of about 30 gear inches.

    When I started (April) I did the whole hill in the lowest gear.

    Then about a month ago I started doing the first 1/2 in the 2nd lowest gear, switching to the low gear for the steepest section only.

    Last week I did most of the hill in the 3rd lowest gear, switching to the 2nd lowest for the steep section.

    Yesterday I passed a road biker who was spinning and then pooped out on the side of the road just past the steep section.

    You can get the DT IXNS for around $300 now. The only upgrade I did was to put in a sealed bottom bracket.

  7. #7
    All ur bike r belong Enki james_swift's Avatar
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    I live and ride in SF. I ride a fixed Swift. While I obviously can't go up the killer hills with a 67" gear and 165mm cranks, the Swift does, however, climb solid, silent, and responsive up any of the hills I point it at. On my suburban commute, I easily keep up with the roadies on the single climb (overpass) of my route.

    Had a Dahon. It was the uninspired climbing/sprinting characteristics of the Dahon that made me scramble to buy the Swift. Granted that with a low enough gear, you could sit and spin up hills, but you're really missing that whole other dimension of being able to rip up the hills rocking the bike from the drops (or flat bars w/ends, whichever you prefer).
    Last edited by james_swift; 07-13-07 at 11:19 AM.

  8. #8
    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    I'll back up with JugglerDave says. When I had my Downtube IX FS at Mont Tremblant, a ski village in Quebec I climbed some pretty good hills with it. Some of them kicked my butt, but for sure you can climb. The stock bike is a bit of a better climber than mine, since I changed my gearing, but even at that, if you've got the legs, it's got the ability.

    The only thing my DT does that I don't particularly like while climbing is have a little squeak in the handlebar quick release.

  9. #9
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KMS24
    I am interested in buying a folding bike to use as a commuter. My commute includes a steep (and unavoidable) hill. I see people on standard road bikes making fairly quick work of this hill all the time... I like the look of the dahons and they are in my budget range. Any buying advice? Do I need to shell out the $1,200.00 (US) for the Speed TT Pro?

    Thanks!
    The general answer is no.

    How compact does the fold need to be?

    How strong of a rider are you?

  10. #10
    Is this your card? woofman's Avatar
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    The question begging to be asked is: What do you intend to do with the bike once you've arrived at work? If space is tight, as is your budget, consider the Downtube mini. Don't let its 16" wheels fool you - this little rocket can move quite well.

  11. #11
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    We have considerable hills in the Seattle area. My 2007 Dahon Mu Xl, with a Nexus premium 8 speed hub, handles them quite well. It has a great lower gear range. The downside is that the higher gear range could be higher. This limits my top speed on the flats.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone!

    Quote Originally Posted by MillCreek
    We have considerable hills in the Seattle area. My 2007 Dahon Mu Xl, with a Nexus premium 8 speed hub, handles them quite well. It has a great lower gear range. The downside is that the higher gear range could be higher. This limits my top speed on the flats.

    Thanks for the advice everyone! I'm in Everett, Washington, pretty close. I will check out Swift and and the MU XL. I guess my primary reason for wanting a folder is that I don't want my bike stolen! I've test ridden only regular size bikes thus far and really liked the Specialized Dolce Elite. Great bike, loved it, but would have to lock it up outside.

    As I am knew to bike commuting, I'll keep an eye on the forums, great tips!

  13. #13
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    You might consider clip on pedals and biking shoes. Folders have extra long stems that shouldn't be stood and pulled on. I personally would not stand and pull on the stem of any bike--including the Swift, Birdy, Dahon, and Bike Friday--with small wheels. The stem is very long and puts tremendous force on bearings that were designed to take a much smaller load. While you are unlikely to snap the stem on a Swift, you may well damage the headset. The one small wheeled bike that allows you to pull is the Moulton. It has a head tube the size of a paper towel roll. But it's not a folding bike.

    Bike Friday owners will here will tell you they stand and pull all the time. Birdy owners, too. But if you talk to mechanics, they'll tell you that they've seen quite a few ruined head tubes.

  14. #14
    BF Risk Manager
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    KMS24, we probably live pretty close to each other. Let me know if you actually want to see my Dahon. As far as I know, the only dealer in the Seattle area that stocks more than one model of any folder is Eric at Electric Bikes NW down in Fremont. I ended up having to order my Dahon of the interwebs, since no one stocked it and no one was interested in ordering it.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  15. #15
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm124
    You might consider clip on pedals and biking shoes. Folders have extra long stems that shouldn't be stood and pulled on. I personally would not stand and pull on the stem of any bike--including the Swift, Birdy, Dahon, and Bike Friday--with small wheels. The stem is very long and puts tremendous force on bearings that were designed to take a much smaller load. While you are unlikely to snap the stem on a Swift, you may well damage the headset. The one small wheeled bike that allows you to pull is the Moulton. It has a head tube the size of a paper towel roll. But it's not a folding bike.

    Bike Friday owners will here will tell you they stand and pull all the time. Birdy owners, too. But if you talk to mechanics, they'll tell you that they've seen quite a few ruined head tubes.
    Head tubes or head sets?

    A head tube ... what precisely would that be? Would that be the frame section between the headset or the upper portion of a fork that gets inserted into the frame? I believe it is the former.

    The standard recommendation is to get a Chris King headset on the Bike Friday. Regardless, I still don't pull very hard on the handlebar while climbing since I can flex the swan stem a bit. But compared with alternatives, it is quite sturdy.

  16. #16
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EvilV
    If the bike fits your body, and is properly designed vis a vis its geometry, you will be able to exert enough power to get up any rideable hill as long as the bike has low enough gearing. Some well known and popular bikes like the Brompton have quite high gearing as delivered - bottom end of 45 inches. If you are strong and the hills aren't too terrible this might be low enough, but you'd be better of with low gears in the thirties. I think my mountain bike goes down to about 28 inches in its lowest gear. My folder only down to 38. I can climb steep hills on it, but it would be no good for touring in the hills.
    I agree. But when I order my "only" 3 speed bikes when new, I try to balance the need to have low enough gearing for the many rolling hills surrounding the area(s) that I ride my bike to the usual completely flat areas that connect them. This puts me in the mid-forties range. I simply compromise on speed (I am a sedate rider).

    Quote Originally Posted by MillCreek
    KMS24, we probably live pretty close to each other. Let me know if you actually want to see my Dahon. As far as I know, the only dealer in the Seattle area that stocks more than one model of any folder is Eric at Electric Bikes NW down in Fremont. I ended up having to order my Dahon of the interwebs, since no one stocked it and no one was interested in ordering it.
    I don't actually live in the Seattle area, but I have done business and bought a folding bike (Brompton) from their Southern California store in Oceanside. Great interesting-and unique-bike shop. I usually do not recommend to buy off the Internet when a good store is near by.

    Quote Originally Posted by KMS24
    Thanks for the advice everyone! I'm in Everett, Washington, pretty close. I will check out Swift and and the MU XL. I guess my primary reason for wanting a folder is that I don't want my bike stolen! I've test ridden only regular size bikes thus far and really liked the Specialized Dolce Elite. Great bike, loved it, but would have to lock it up outside.

    As I am knew to bike commuting, I'll keep an eye on the forums, great tips!
    That reason you gave is the primary one which pushed me into the exclusive use of folding bikes for the last several years. I know I will keep my bike as long as I wish to. Please keep coming back and let us know if and when you bought your bike of your choice.

  17. #17
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    I don't actually live in the Seattle area, but I have done business and bought a folding bike (Brompton) from their Southern California store in Oceanside. Great interesting-and unique-bike shop. I usually do not recommend to buy off the Internet when a good store is near by.
    My wife used to live in Oceanside when she was stationed at Balboa in San Diego. The last time we were in SD, I visited the store in Oceanside. Nice store, and they have a lot more electric bikes at the Fremont store than at Oceanside.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  18. #18
    Senior Member JeremyZ's Avatar
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    FWIW - The low gear on my Dahon Curve D3 is low enough for most hills, with me still in the seat.

    I find that when I stand up to pump while pulling on the handlebars, the pedals feel flexy. I'm much more worried about a plastic pedal folding out from under me than the handlebar bearing or whatever. Not standing, it is fine, but it isn't a granny gear. Just a low one.

    If your legs are ripped and/or you know how to pedal in a circular motion, you should be OK on most hills. With sturdier pedals, I wouldn't worry at all. I don't pull that much on the bars, I mostly stand up just to get some weight behind the strokes.

    The advise to go to clip pedals is good, as then you can really pedal efficiently. (because you can pull up as well as push down and pull back)

  19. #19
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    If you don't mind rolling down hills, rather than pedaling, then you can simply go with a smaller front chainring to lower the overall gearing of the bike for hill climbing. The gearing may be too low, however to pedal at 25-30mph speeds.

  20. #20
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    Head tubes or head sets?
    Both. Mechanics have told me that they see all sorts of folders with problems, including sheering. Damage to the headset will set you back $100, but damage to the frame...

    I would imagine that Bike Friday would replace the frame if it did happen. They use 1 1/8" headsets, yeah?

    While they didn't do a good job with their re-design, I do think that Dahon is heading down the right path by being proprietary for some things. A stronger headset and narrower hub (to prevent spoke breakage) both make good sense to me.

    I've never had problems with either, but it's frustrating using standard parts. Who wants a 32 hole hub on a small wheel?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm124 View Post
    You might consider clip on pedals and biking shoes. Folders have extra long stems that shouldn't be stood and pulled on. I personally would not stand and pull on the stem of any bike--including the Swift, Birdy, Dahon, and Bike Friday--with small wheels. The stem is very long and puts tremendous force on bearings that were designed to take a much smaller load. While you are unlikely to snap the stem on a Swift, you may well damage the headset. The one small wheeled bike that allows you to pull is the Moulton. It has a head tube the size of a paper towel roll. But it's not a folding bike.

    Bike Friday owners will here will tell you they stand and pull all the time. Birdy owners, too. But if you talk to mechanics, they'll tell you that they've seen quite a few ruined head tubes.
    Agreed.

    You need to be very careful with folding bikes because the stem was not made for standing. There is no shame in spinning up hills and quite a few hardcore cyclists have injured their knees (including myself) trying to muscle up hills. My 5 speed Dahon Vitesse has a very low gear now that I changed the rear sprocket. It's actually lower than my Jamis Touring bike! Who says you can't Tour on a Sprinter 5 speed??

    1st ----- 30.4 inches
    2nd ---- 36.5
    3rd----- 45.6
    4th ---- 57.8
    5th ---- 68.4

    I wonder if the SmoothHound has a flexy stem? It's a beautiful bike

    http://www.dahon.com/us/smoothhound.htm
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 07-17-07 at 11:09 PM.

  22. #22
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I wonder if the SmoothHound has a flexy stem? It's a beautiful bike

    http://www.dahon.com/us/smoothhound.htm
    I wouldn't think so! The head tube is about a foot long and the stem is short. Looks to be an amazing bike. No hinge, triangulated frame, and good component selection. I have to buck the trend on the forum. I like Dahon's proprietary parts. A narrow front hub and an integrated, extra wide headset make good sense to me, since both increase the strength and decrease the weight of the bike.

    Now, if they could just make that bike fold without a frame hinge!

  23. #23
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm124 View Post
    Both. Mechanics have told me that they see all sorts of folders with problems, including sheering. Damage to the headset will set you back $100, but damage to the frame...

    I would imagine that Bike Friday would replace the frame if it did happen. They use 1 1/8" headsets, yeah?
    I always forget the nomenclature when it comes to headsets and quill stems. Regardless, I have not taken the fork off, so I am not sure what the inside diameter is. I can tell you that I need a 40 mm wrench to tighten the headset.

    Quote Originally Posted by pm124
    I've never had problems with either, but it's frustrating using standard parts. Who wants a 32 hole hub on a small wheel?
    You can always lace a 36 hole hub to a 24 hole rim.

  24. #24
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    You can always lace a 36 hole hub to a 24 hole rim.
    I can't, but someone can! It requires 3 different lengths of spokes. The Birdy factory wheel builders do this.

  25. #25
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm124 View Post
    I can't, but someone can! It requires 3 different lengths of spokes. The Birdy factory wheel builders do this.
    Hmmmm, that is interesting. I never looked closely at the boss' wheel; but I thought that the spokes were the same length after a (very) casual inspection.

    I will look tonight and send a picture tomorrow.

    -G

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