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  1. #1
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    Why are downtubes cheaper than Bike Friday's?

    I'm considering buying a Bike Friday New World Tourist. But when I checked out Downtube's website, their prices came in almost half of the NWT. I will be doing a tour through the "Western Express". Does Downtube make a suitable touring bike for this ride? I'm a newbie, so my knowledge of bikes is pretty limited.

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    Part of the difference in prices is in the semi-custom sizing of the NWT and the fact it is made to order in Oregon. The Downtube is imported from China and is stock. NWTs also use more branded components including very high-end components, depending on the model. The NWT is a small-wheeled touring bike designed to that purpose. There are a whole range of touring accessories like racks and convertible trailers made to work with that bike. The Downtube seems to be made mostly for commuting and leisure but not for extended touring. There are other small wheeled bikes that can be used for touring, including Brompton and Gaerlan. But if you are choosing between the Downtube and a NWT for an extended tour, I recommend you buy the NWT.

  3. #3
    jur
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    I have a different opinion. I have toured, along with my wife, me on a modded Raleigh Twenty, she on a Yeah (rebranded Dahon Helios). You wouldn't get many people that would regard these bikes as suitable for touring, yet we were just fine on our 1200km 3-week tour of Tasmania (see sig for link to photo album). As long as the bike has suitable gearing, mudguards and racks and panniers can be fitted without heel strike, I think just about any bike is good. So I think the DT is good for that, especially the internal hub version.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    You haven't said how you plan to do your touring or your level of experience. The route takes you through the Sierras to the Rockies, so gear-inch range will be important if you go loaded. I suggest you get a 24 or 27-speed NWT if you are going with a folder (and why a folder, BTW?) especially if you are going loaded. If you don't want to pay for a new NWT, look at the used bikes Bike Friday carries. Also, look at Gaerlan's GoTravel bike.

  5. #5
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Per earlier comments.... Downtubes are inexpensively manufactured and assembled in China, and use a lot of no-name parts. They basically have about 5 or 6 frames in pre-determined colors. They are a "one size fits all," so they can knock out a ton of frames at relatively low prices.

    Bike Fridays are made in the US, most are custom-made and custom painted, and all come with high-quality components. Cost-wise BF's are on par with, if not less expensive, than some custom frame builders.

    It's a snap to order up a BF with drop bars and proper gearing. With a Downtube, at a minimum you'd have to get better tires and drop the front chain size -- so that's about $75 - 100 more right there.

    You could tour on a Downtube for a few weeks. Heck, you can tour on any bike you find comfortable, as long as the parts aren't so esoteric that you can't fix stuff. But CHenry is right, the BF is designed for touring and the DT is not. So if I was going for the long haul, I'd give serious consideration to a bike built for touring and that has drop bars.

  6. #6
    Member, Schmember DaFriMon's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what you mean by the Western Express. This? Just curious.

    In addition to what others have said, BF makes its frames from Chromoly steel, while Downtube uses aluminum. There's been lots written on frame materials, and I can't add anything new, but many touring cyclists would trust steel more for the long haul. At any rate, it's something you should note.

    With Downtube, you'll probably be doing more improvising in figuring out how to carry your luggage, pack the bike in a suitcase, etc. With BF you get more of a complete package, that's built according to what you tell them that you want. On the other hand, it certainly will cost you. If the NWT you're considering is only twice the price of the Downtube, then you're probably looking at the low end options, with less expensive components, or perhaps a used one?
    You're right, I do have more bikes than I need.

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    I looked at the Bike Friday wesite and their most inexpensive New World Tourist is just an 8 speed. But you can have them make a version of that 8 speed with drop low gear of 24 inches. I think that version will set you back about $900 USD and well worth it.

  8. #8
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    They are a "one size fits all," so they can knock out a ton of frames at relatively low prices.
    But DT frames are infinitely adjustable - long seat posts, handlebars heights are adjustable, stems are easily changeable. I would think that's an advantage over having different, fixed frame sizes for the same model. My DT Mini has been ridden by a 6 year old girl and yours truly (at 6' tall) simply by adjusting said parts, which took about 2 minutes.

    Also, a BF poster named Crankypants has taken his DT Mini on a 3 month tour of Eastern Europe. Formidable!

    To the OP: I do agree with the previous comment that you need to describe what type of touring you're planning before we can provide any substantive input to your question.

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    A few things haven't been mentioned:

    - lifetime warranty on Bike Friday frames, downtubes are from 30 days to 1 year, and trust me, there are not exceptions to this even for obvious flaws in their mfctring process.

    - BF's completely come ready to ride, with them guaranteeing everything is in good place. If you properly follow all the instructions Downtube states that you must after receiving the bike, you're talking about at least a $50-100 job at the bike mechanic (this stuff takes time, and the major things are NOT coming properly adjusted (headset, hubs, bottom bracket, other fasteners are way overtorqued). If you don't do this, then you're going to uncover these problems later on, and you'll be out of the warranty period. Search for my posts on bottom bracket issues with them. Someone in the past had posted spending hours of time trying to free their seized BB.

    - they can cover you with custom parts and stock replacement parts, ie. SesameCrunch is lucky at 6' being able to have proper leg extension. At 34.5" cycling inseam, I don't. I lack about an inch. There is no replacement seatpost for Downtube and the giant seat that they put on there means that you've already gotten a free inch. Bike Fridays are designed to accomodate people up to >2m.

    I think it's this: you may get lucky and find that Downtube fits your needs, and get one that has been built properly. But you're still uncertain of its future. With Bike Friday, you're guaranteed this and will be supported in the future.

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    Thanks for all the quick advice. I'm a rookie tourist, but I'm young and generally fit. I'm planning to go from Florence, Or and down the coast to SF, where I will then take the "Western Expres" route over through the Sierras and into Nevada, Utah and end Colorado.

    I'm considering a Friday mainly because I intend to do some international touring next summer and want a folding bike. I also live in Eugene, and have heard great things about their warranty, service, quality, etc. I would be most likely going with a 24 speed.

  11. #11
    Member, Schmember DaFriMon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I looked at the Bike Friday wesite and their most inexpensive New World Tourist is just an 8 speed. But you can have them make a version of that 8 speed with drop low gear of 24 inches. I think that version will set you back about $900 USD and well worth it.
    I do recommend Bike Fridays in general. One thing to be aware of, though, in looking through all their "standard" configurations, is the components that they use. If you look at the lower priced ones, there are often a lot of things you might want to upgrade. For example, they have a 24 speed NWT for just under $1000, but it comes with SRAM's low end 3.0 rear derailleur and twist shifters, 65 PSI Kenda tires, flat bars, generic hubs, BB, headset, etc., and as is standard with them, the price doesn't include saddle or pedals. All of which is fine, the components will get the job done, and can be easily upgraded if you want, or you can specify higher end stuff when you order (at extra cost). As for saddle and pedals, you can often end up changing those out anyway, even on bikes that come with them. It's just good to be aware of this sort of thing ahead of time
    You're right, I do have more bikes than I need.

  12. #12
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allanmac00 View Post
    Thanks for all the quick advice. I'm a rookie tourist, but I'm young and generally fit. I'm planning to go from Florence, Or and down the coast to SF, where I will then take the "Western Expres" route over through the Sierras and into Nevada, Utah and end Colorado.

    I'm considering a Friday mainly because I intend to do some international touring next summer and want a folding bike. I also live in Eugene, and have heard great things about their warranty, service, quality, etc. I would be most likely going with a 24 speed.
    From what I gather, it looks like some of the high-end Dahons with the SRAM Dual Drive or the low-end Bike Fridays will function well for you.

  13. #13
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasong View Post
    SesameCrunch is lucky at 6' being able to have proper leg extension. At 34.5" cycling inseam, I don't. I lack about an inch.
    Actually, my inseam is 34" also. The only DT model that fits me in a textbook sense is the Full Suspension. On the other models, it's just a tad short (based on the minimum insertion line). But they're OK for schlepping around town.

    Back on topic: Based on the kind of touring the OP is talking about, I would agree that Bike Fridays are better suited, if he has the bucks.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaFriMon View Post
    I do recommend Bike Fridays in general. One thing to be aware of, though, in looking through all their "standard" configurations, is the components that they use. If you look at the lower priced ones, there are often a lot of things you might want to upgrade. For example, they have a
    It's too bad that very few companies offer a basic frameset. Surely BF no longer does this out of experience with many people buying a frameset and setting it up poorly. So the result is that you may be buying components you don't want at first..

    I bought a Swift frameset a bit back but haven't built it up. It's not as easily a compact fit [into a suitcase] without removing stuff (crank/derailleur/or it's back triangle) though. I get get my BF Pocket Tourist into a F'lite 31 case very quick (<5 mins) without endangering any fasteners.

  15. #15
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Sounds like you will be packing and unpacking frequently. So, get a small bike or a big suitcase. For a Bike Friday, you'll need to spend a lot of time trying to fit it into an airline legal 29" suitcase. We use these for the much smaller Birdy. You probably won't get charged for a F'lite 31", but if you can go even bigger suitcase (like the Dahon case), you will be happier.

    Check out Gaerlan Custom Cycles for a selection of Dahon bikes custom modified for easy packing and with custom gearing for taking hills.

  16. #16
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasong View Post
    A few things haven't been mentioned:

    - lifetime warranty on Bike Friday frames, downtubes are from 30 days to 1 year, and trust me, there are not exceptions to this even for obvious flaws in their mfctring process.

    - BF's completely come ready to ride, with them guaranteeing everything is in good place. If you properly follow all the instructions Downtube states that you must after receiving the bike, you're talking about at least a $50-100 job at the bike mechanic (this stuff takes time, and the major things are NOT coming properly adjusted (headset, hubs, bottom bracket, other fasteners are way overtorqued). If you don't do this, then you're going to uncover these problems later on, and you'll be out of the warranty period. Search for my posts on bottom bracket issues with them. Someone in the past had posted spending hours of time trying to free their seized BB.

    - they can cover you with custom parts and stock replacement parts, ie. SesameCrunch is lucky at 6' being able to have proper leg extension. At 34.5" cycling inseam, I don't. I lack about an inch. There is no replacement seatpost for Downtube and the giant seat that they put on there means that you've already gotten a free inch. Bike Fridays are designed to accomodate people up to >2m.

    I think it's this: you may get lucky and find that Downtube fits your needs, and get one that has been built properly. But you're still uncertain of its future. With Bike Friday, you're guaranteed this and will be supported in the future.
    How many times can we repeat the same issue? I think you have posted the same statement in about 10 threads. This is the second and last time I will address this repetitive issue, I would prefer to move forward.

    #1 I did make an exception for your frame to inspect it after warranty. However you did not accept my offer (you did not respond to my email). Then 1.5 months later you requested an inspection, unfortunately the season started at a very fast pace and I made it clear I was too busy to inspect it. My offer was made in the off season on a $200 bicycle purchase. I am 100% sure you can not find any other bikes at the price you paid, or even three times the price, with the same high quality control. I am also sure all other manufacturers wouldn't even make the offer on a bike out of warranty, but I did. Am I at fault that you did not accept the offer in a timely manner?

    #2 The argument I posed earlier....are you qualified to judge? How many folding bikes have you worked on? What kind of QC numbers do you have? I have had about 1000 Dahons pass through my hands, and our QC is much higher than theirs. I believe I am qualified to judge....are you? I hope you buy a few Dahon's and post your thoughts on these forums. I am sure they will not be positive.

    #3 Very strange that someone would buy a bad bike, then buy another, and then another. Most would assume a repeated purchase is made when a customer is happy. You are a threepeat customer over a year, and now you are soooo unhappy. Is this is a personal issue because I did not replace your bike.....why else would a repeat customer be so disgruntled a year and a half later? After one year you were happy enough to buy a third bike. If this is a personal issue keep it going, I will ignore future posts. If it is not personal please educate yourself by buying/building bikes from our competitors. One Bike Friday does not make you an expert in the field.

    #4 The bike you purchased was a closeout $200 bike, not a $2000 bike. Did you expect perfection? It is normal for variations of tolerances. You were able to install 2 of 3 bottom brackets, does not installing 1 of 3 make the bike horrible? Or does the ability to install 2 of 3 make the bike usable as a bike?

    #5 I would find it educational if others posted issues of "major defects" about our bikes. Unfortunately all "major defects" posts are the same post by the same user over and over. In these forums I hear from many happy customers with minor issues.....and one unhappy customer. Or am I missing something?. FYI we have resolved all past issues ( and are working to resolve future possible issues ).

    Thanks,
    Yan

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by downtube View Post
    #1 I did make an exception for your frame to inspect it after warranty. However you did not accept my offer (you did not respond to my email). Then 1.5 months later you requested an inspection, unfortunately
    I don't always have time to package something up and send it off for inspection. I also got the impression that maybe this would be under warranty, maybe not, to your discretion in defining what BB tap specs are. So, then I'd get hit for 2 way shipping on something that might not even find a solution. Plus, you're solution was for the frame halves not properly mating. You implied that you could look at the BB, which further gave me the impression that this was optional. I have all the email correspondence.

    #2 The argument I posed earlier....are you qualified to judge? How many folding bikes have you worked on? What kind of QC numbers do you have? I have had about 1000 Dahons pass through my hands, and
    These aren't issues specifically related to folding bikes, they are to bikes in general (frame halves is). Yes, when 3 BBs I tested show that it's clearly off axis, yes, I can judge that. Relevance of Dahon isn't there. I don't own a Dahon (the post at
    Will the Downtube bikes come down in price? gave some reasons why I would, were in a position of spending $300 for a folder, would look at them more closely)


    #3 Very strange that someone would buy a bad bike, then buy another, and then another. Most would assume a repeated purchase is made when a customer is happy. You are a threepeat customer over a
    I think I explained that before. I bought one (1) in fall 2005, rode that a little, recommended one to a friend in fall 2006 (2), and then bought a new one in 2007 (3) to try and outfit new. Upon taking apart components on the #3, I saw the QC / fabrication issues. Then I saw this on #1 (worse), and looked at my friends (#2) and saw similar issues. This highlights the short warranty periods: those wishing to do mods will suffer after, and you won't cover issues that were inherent from the beginning. Actually, I do think some frame mfctrs would cover such an obvious fabrication error. Though I wouldn't know, because your bikes were the ONLY ones (even among $30 frames I've bought from other companies) to have that specific issue.. which can in effect total the frame (the only reason I wanted to buy the bike). No cartridge BB can properly be installed into either of my bikes, especially not the 2005. I could feel the bearings getting loaded as the cartridge's shape was changed by the BB shell.

    year, and now you are soooo unhappy. Is this is a personal issue because I did not replace your bike.....why else would a repeat customer be so disgruntled a year and a half later? After one year you
    I'm not that unhappy. Both my DTs are sitting in a garage upside down with the BBs still out of them. I'm riding the other bikes I mentioned.

    But I do feel obligated to chime in with experiences when I see a bunch of posts about how great these bikes are, and to remind people that they need to inspect a few items quickly. Isn't this part of the "open source" philosophy of your company?

    it is not personal please educate yourself by buying/building bikes from our competitors. One Bike Friday does not make you an expert in the field.
    How did I imply I'm an expert? Why does one need to be an expert to show that something has been improperly fabricated? Certainly BF could fabricate something incorrectly. Or ABC company. Whether or not they'll stand behind that issue is relevant.

    #4 The bike you purchased was a closeout $200 bike, not a $2000 bike. Did you expect perfection? It is
    Price isn't relevant; with a $30 frame I would have complained if I had noticed that a fundamental part of the bicycle couldn't be replaced with a standard component. A $200 bike that doesn't roll does noone good.

    #5 I would find it educational if others posted issues of "major defects" about our bikes. Unfortunately all "major defects" posts are the same post by the same user over and over. In these forums I hear from
    How many customers have taken out the BB? Or gone through all the QC defects? Too many people praise the bike as being a value, and I think it is if you've gotten these issues taken care of, but there are other sides to the story. PS - most of my points that were in the post in the other thread were not related to the problems I had. THey were to the advantages of going with another company and some of the downsides of the downtube, or why some of the items in the checklist spreadsheet weren't important or a good comparison. I think you're reading too much into this, but you should respect the consequences of not standing behind your products when they have issues that came from the company. Why not offer a 5 year warranty on your bikes if they're so solid?
    Last edited by jasong; 07-22-07 at 10:41 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasong View Post
    But I do feel obligated to chime in with experiences when I see a bunch of posts about how great these bikes are, and to remind people that they need to inspect a few items quickly. Isn't this part of the "open source" philosophy of your company?
    I did not know repeating onself over and over is called open source....please excuse my ignorance.

    Quote Originally Posted by jasong View Post
    How did I imply I'm an expert? Why does one need to be an expert to show that something has been improperly fabricated? Certainly BF could fabricate something incorrectly. Or ABC company. Whether or not they'll stand behind that issue is relevant.
    The point is everything is imperfect in some way. An expert would be able to judge QC #'s of one company vs another to decide which has more problems. Anyone can quote problems for any brand and repeat themselves....the relevant information is frequency of issues over time for each brand. I know our frequency is much lower than our competitors. Hence I am shocked that we are being referred to as "bad"....over and over and over.


    Quote Originally Posted by jasong View Post
    Price isn't relevant; with a $30 frame I would have complained if I had noticed that a fundamental part of the bicycle couldn't be replaced with a standard component. A $200 bike that doesn't roll does noone good.
    Actually price is relevant. People expect more QC and better tolerances from $2000 bikes vs $200. $2000 judgments belong with $2000 bikes not $200 bikes.

    Quote Originally Posted by jasong View Post
    How many customers have taken out the BB? Or gone through all the QC defects? Too many people praise the bike as being a value, and I think it is if you've gotten these issues taken care of, but there are other sides to the story. PS - most of my points that were in the post in the other thread were not related to the problems I had. THey were to the advantages of going with another company and some of the downsides of the downtube, or why some of the items in the checklist spreadsheet weren't important or a good comparison. I think you're reading too much into this, but you should respect the consequences of not standing behind your products when they have issues that came from the company. Why not offer a 5 year warranty on your bikes if they're so solid?
    Not sure how many customers do this......I do know most of our customers prefer riding the bikes and they seem to ride with minimal issues.

    I said it before, but I'll say it again. Our warranties are standard for the industry. Most warranties for folding bikes vary from 1-2 years purchased at the retail level, ebay warranties are usually shorter. Hence 30 day for ebay closeout bikes & 1 year on retail purchases is normal. We have the best bikes for the best price with industry standard warranties. In the future we will allow customers to purchase an extended warranty for very low prices ( in 12- 18 months ).

    Thanks,
    Yan

  19. #19
    Senior Member JeremyZ's Avatar
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    Well, to this outsider, both parties have valid points.

    1) Just because something is a closeout item, I don't think it should have a shorter warranty. Yan, I don't think you want to even start comparing your bikes to the typical folders on ebay, so I don't think I'd go there. If it is a closeout bike because it is inferior to a normal stock bike, you should state that ahead of time. However, in DT's defense, he seemed to state the warranty ahead of time, and he also seemed to make an effort to back you up immediately after the warranty expired. You should have jumped at the chance, jasong, or hold your tongue.

    Also, jasong seemed to be doing some real modding here, which usually voids the warranty. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    To get back on topic now...

    allanmac00: How tall are you? Over 6'? If so, it seems that BF might be the better bet, but I bet you could talk to Yan and get the DT fit to you. If you're not over 6' tall, it seems to be a non-issue.

    Jur makes some good points about what makes a good touring bike. Luggage capacity & reliability would probably be at the top of my list. I'd probably worry more about having some anti-puncture solution inside the tires than about high-end hardware. Low-end hardware is fine, as long as it is reliable. It just doesn't give as much of that tactile pleasure as the high-end stuff does. On the other hand, Jur seems to be quite the amateur cycle mechanic, so his modded bikes cannot really be compared to stock bikes.

    If it were me making this decision, I think I'd give Downtube a chance, with one caveat: Buy the bike a month early and ride the hell out of it for a couple weeks before you leave. If there are any kinks, you'll have time to get them worked out.

    On another note, I don't see Bike Friday company owners posting here...
    Last edited by JeremyZ; 07-23-07 at 07:29 AM.

  20. #20
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    That's because Bike Friday owners have nothing to complain about.
    Last edited by spambait11; 07-22-07 at 11:50 PM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
    On another note, I don't see Bike Friday owners posting here...
    I've had a Bike Friday NWT for 2 months and am extremely happy. It is by far the nicest bike I've owned (probably not saying much -- its also the most expensive). I have not yet taken on a long trip -- but will next month for 9 days in Germany.

    The only issue I had was I bought WTB Millennium pedals (I use mini-clips) and I put enough force on them (I'm a big guy!) that I stripped the threads of the screws holding the quills to the spindles. BF sent me another pair and the same thing happened. They refunded my money.

    I should mention at 300lbs I'm not sure I had any other choice than BF -- after finding this site I have been infected and find myself drooling when anybody posts a picture of their Raleigh 20

    I'm back in early Sept and I'll let you know how the trip went.
    '07 Bike Friday New World Tourist www.TheMadBrewer.com

  22. #22
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
    On another note, I don't see Bike Friday owners posting here...
    Another happy Bike Friday New World Tourist owner here.

    The Downtubes are low cost bikes. They seem to be good value for money. That being said you wouldn't necessarily choose one if you were going to tour with it.

    Recently we had a folder fiesta a work. We demo'ed two Downtubes (front suspension, and full suspension), a Brompton and my Bike Friday. The Brompton was hands down the best folder. The Downtubes won in the "I'd like to get into the folding bike world, but I don't want to invest a lot of cash." category. And my Friday won in the best ride category.

    In my opinion, you wouldn't want to buy a Friday just to dip your toe in the folder world. You wouldn't buy a Friday as a multimode commuter bike. But you would buy a Friday to use as a solid bike that you can travel with and use in all applications of a full sized bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by allanmac00 View Post
    I'm planning to go from Florence, Or and down the coast to SF, where I will then take the "Western Expres" route over through the Sierras and into Nevada, Utah and end Colorado.

    I'm considering a Friday mainly because I intend to do some international touring next summer and want a folding bike. I also live in Eugene, and have heard great things about their warranty, service, quality, etc. I would be most likely going with a 24 speed.
    Our original poster seems to want a travel bike. He is going to do some significant challenging riding. The Bike Fridays are more expensive than Downtubes, but he would have to do significant $$ worth of modifications to get a Downtube to the state of the off-the-shelf Bike Friday.

    Edit: And since the OP is in Eugene why doesn't he just get his butt down to Green Gear so he can try out a Bike Friday and see for himself. For cryin' out loud, how many of us bought our bikes on a wing and a prayer because we couldn't find a local dealer?

    Hey, allanmac00, while you're at it go to Co-Motion and check out their bikes fitted with S&S couplers. They make great travel bikes, but they aren't folders.

    Eugene, OR. Talk about an embarrassment of biking riches. :End rant and Edit
    Last edited by Speedo; 07-23-07 at 07:31 AM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member JeremyZ's Avatar
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    TheMadBrewer, Speedo: I phrased that poorly. I meant owners of the company. (I fixed it)

    Even so, it's good to see your input.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
    TheMadBrewer, Speedo: I phrased that poorly. I meant owners of the company. (I fixed it)

    Even so, it's good to see your input.
    That Yan posts here is something of a treat. The exception rather than the rule for bike companies. I appreciate that he does, but I wouldn't expect it of other companies.

    Speedo

  25. #25
    Senior Member downtube's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post

    1) Just because something is a closeout item, I don't think it should have a shorter warranty. Yan, I don't think you want to even start comparing your bikes to the typical folders on ebay, so I don't think I'd go there.
    I was comparing my bikes to Montague's. They were closedout on ebay about a year ago with very short warranties.

    Thanks,
    Yan

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