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  1. #1
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    Petite wife wants a folder for traveling

    I bought a Ritchey Break-away. It's very good for a road bicycle, though "folds" in 20-30 minutes not 5.

    We have some ambitions for "world travel," at least currently Taiwan/Vietnam at the end of the year. In any case, my wife is under 5' tall and, though I would love to get her on a Ritchey, is considering for a few reasons a folding bicycle. The first is for commuting to work, so she had some way to get around town during lunch, though since we're a 10 minutes walk from the bus, and they have a rack, I would say leaving a bicycle at work would make more sense. The second reason is travel, as I said.

    Her inseam is such that a 44-45cm frame would be suitable.

    Given that larger wheels are probably better suited for the crappy roads in Seattle, and almost regardless of where you venture, there's plenty of hills to deal with, I'm looking for a folder with 20" wheels.

    I also feel, to get proper fit, you need to have proper "top tube" length. It seems not too many folders come in multiple sizes.

    Her existing bicycle is a bit too "fast" for her and would prefer more of a touring machine. Actually, for her it really comes down to not wanting to /look/ like a fast or be uncomfortable. I do think that having bullhorn or other styles of handlebars would be better. I'm thinking bar-end shifters would better fit her imagine.

    I haven't spent too much time on this yet, but I've sort of come up with the list of qualities. Personally, money isn't a big consideration, though paying more for no reason would be a waste. So, here's the list in priority order:

    1. Correct (best) fit
    2. Light weight, under 20 pounds ideally
    3. 20" wheels
    4. Designed not like a "racer" (her word to describe my road bike), elegance over aggressiveness
    5. Easily packed / transported
    6. Performance, she's does 15-18 mph on flats.

  2. #2
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    That's fairly easy. Bike Friday makes custom frames, including those for petite people. It won't be cheap, but it will be exactly what you are looking for!

    My better 1/3 is also small. We love the Birdy, but fitting was a major concern. The cockpit of most folders can be dialed in, but the bottom bracket needs to be lower to the ground and short cranks need to be fitted. We achieved this on a birdy by adjusting the rear elastomer and putting on 165 cranks, but she is over 5', so this worked ok. I would have gone Bike Friday it if she were 4'10".

  3. #3
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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  4. #4
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    yup, bike friday petite bikes sound like exactly what you want

  5. #5
    Raleigh20 PugFixie, Merc LittlePixel's Avatar
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    Bike Friday's are definitely the 'money no object' choice, though the fold on a day-to-day basis is not as quick as some other bikes, as they're designed more to be packed into a case than folded for commuting. They do have one quick folding bike, the Tikit which is new this year but I'm not sure as to how 'custom' that model is in terms of different sizes.

    More of a commuter - but definitely more elegant and I'm sure - as most folders are - would still fit well - might be the Dahon Ciao, which won a bunch of awards in 2005; It's probably not up to heavy touring, but might be worth a look...?

  6. #6
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Bike Fiday available in a big range of prices/sizes!

  7. #7
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    Note that there is petite and there is petite. The BF petite bikes have a lower weight limit (125 lbs for the Pocket Rocket) so take that into account. My wife is petite in that she's just a touch over 5 feet, but not ...um...light. And you really don't want to ask your wife what she weighs...

  8. #8
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    Thanks for your help. Yeah, I did ask for her weight, but diplomatically put, it was supplied in some range... We don't have a scale at home, for some reason she doesn't want one.

    The Ciao looks cute, and would be fun in the city, but Seattle has its hills.

    She's going to go try out a bunch of different ones at a local shop this weekend: http://www.electricvehiclesnw.com/fbw/index.htm ...

    To try out a Bike Friday would require a trip to Oregon, one state over. We might make that trip sometime next month. The Bike Fridays are a bit ugly compared to the other models. She also doesn't care too much for the logo. With the fat gearing, they do look a bit like Frankenstein bikes.

  9. #9
    Senior Member JeremyZ's Avatar
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    My wife and I just got Dahon folders. I got a Curve D3, she got a Speed D7. We like them both quite a bit.

    The Speed D7 sounds like what you're after, except that it weighs 27 lbs. 20" wheels and pretty fast for an inexpensive folder. My wife cruises easily in the 10-13 mph range, and she's not in super shape. Your wife is either in better shape, stronger than my wife, or has a faster bike. (or a combination) It weighs about 28 lbs.

    The killer is the 20 lbs. thing. Getting a 20" folder under 25 lbs is going to cost you.

    I got a Dahon Curve D3, which is said to weigh about 23 lbs. I could probably drop a pound by removing the fenders & rack, but I'm not that concerned about it. It's got Schwalbe Big Apple tires, so it rides as smoothly as the 20" Speed D7, but they aren't as fast as the 20 inchers. I cruise at about 10-13 I think, and I'm in a bit better shape than my wife. One really neat thing about the Dahon Curves is the internal hub shifting. Much cleaner and less maintenence intensive than an external derailleur found on many folders. But they're 16" wheels.

    Maybe a good middle choice would be the Dahon Curve SL? Have a look-see --> http://www.dahon.com/us/folding-bicycles-us-utility.htm

    A lot of folks here like the downtubes. (www.downtube.com) and the owner is a frequent contributor here, which is kind of impressive to me. I don't have any personal experience with the bikes though.

    The Bromptons get pretty high marks on account of their good build quality, compact fold, and long wheelbase, but they're a bit on the spendy side. It looks like your local shop has them.

  10. #10
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genman View Post
    She's going to go try out a bunch of different ones at a local shop this weekend: http://www.electricvehiclesnw.com/fbw/index.htm
    Well, looks like you are going to get a Birdy. After trying the others, there won't be much of a comparison. There are two 24 speed Birdies on eBay now, too. Don George at Black Dog is in Seattle and is one of the online sellers. Note that these older bikes do not have the same luggage capacity as the new ones. In fact, the new ones are outstanding in this regard and the old ones quite poor.

    One other thing to consider with respect to the Bike Friday is that the petit models can be made with stronger tubing. Of course, they will no longer be under 20 pounds. I believe you can try one for 30 days, but it will set you back $100 in shipping.

  11. #11
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    Packing a 20" folder will not be significantly faster than packing your road bike. I suggest a 16" bike: Lighter, faster to pack and (just between you and I) way more elegant. (:

  12. #12
    Senior Member JeremyZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 14R View Post
    Packing a 20" folder will not be significantly faster than packing your road bike. I suggest a 16" bike: Lighter, faster to pack and (just between you and I) way more elegant. (:
    This is not really true. My wife's 20" Dahon Speed D7 packs faster than my Curve D3 because the handlebar height doesn't have to be adjusted to break it down.

    Removing the front wheel on a regular bike with quick release takes about the same amount of time as breaking down the typical 20" folder, but the 20" folder will fit in a much smaller space in trunk of a car.

    With your Brompton, I suppose an argument could be made that it packs more quickly than a typical 20" Dahon, or 16" for that matter. Ditto with the elegance thing, but it didn't come for free.

    I guess it really depends on the bike.

  13. #13
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    JeremyZ: I am not familiar with the "packing procedures" of the Speed D7. How long does it take you to have it inside a luggage ready for travel?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
    This is not really true. My wife's 20" Dahon Speed D7 packs faster than my Curve D3 because the handlebar height doesn't have to be adjusted to break it down.
    I don't know if your wife rides upright or not. I ride upright, and I never adjust my handlebar height for folding my Curve D3. I find that step can be skipped without any consequences. However with people who ride at different handlebar heights, it may be necessary.

  15. #15
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    On a side note, how long does adjusting the handlebar height add to the overall timing of packing your Curve D3?

  16. #16
    Senior Member JeremyZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MequonJim View Post
    I don't know if your wife rides upright or not. I ride upright, and I never adjust my handlebar height for folding my Curve D3. I find that step can be skipped without any consequences. However with people who ride at different handlebar heights, it may be necessary.
    Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but if I insert the handlebar to the minimum insertion mark, it doesn't clear the axle and magnets when I go to fold it.

    I'd prefer to ride more upright than that minimum insertion mark would allow, but If I ignore that mark and keep the handlebar out further while riding, it's as you say; no problem. The brakes just have to be rotated out of the way. But the handlebar stem is very flexy that way and I don't feel all that safe.

    Quote Originally Posted by 14R
    On a side note, how long does adjusting the handlebar height add to the overall timing of packing your Curve D3?
    That depends on how many tries it takes me to get the depth right before folding. If I don't get it on the first try, it doubles the time needed to fold the bike. I could mark the right points on the stem with a Sharpie, but since there needs to be some anti-seize (copper grease) there for the aluminum-to-aluminum connection to slide properly, that isn't realistic either.

    Quote Originally Posted by 14R
    JeremyZ: I am not familiar with the "packing procedures" of the Speed D7. How long does it take you to have it inside a luggage ready for travel?
    I don't have a bag yet; was planning on order bags today or tomorrow. I'd guess 30 seconds. It could be 15-20 if I didn't have to fiddle with the height of the bar. Take that with a grain of salt though, as others are not hitting this obstacle.

  17. #17
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    A Dahon piccolo may work they arent that heavy.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by genman View Post
    She also doesn't care too much for the logo.
    Isn't that a line from a Dylan song ? Just like a woman, She Belongs to Me, or something ?????

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
    Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but if I insert the handlebar to the minimum insertion mark, it doesn't clear the axle and magnets when I go to fold it.

    I'd prefer to ride more upright than that minimum insertion mark would allow, but If I ignore that mark and keep the handlebar out further while riding, it's as you say; no problem. The brakes just have to be rotated out of the way. But the handlebar stem is very flexy that way and I don't feel all that safe.
    Somehow I don't have to rotate my brakes out of the way either. I guess I picked the right brake lever angle and stuck with it.

    I keep my handlebars about 1" above the mark. I have never noticed any flex. Although I don't pull or push on the bars when riding. At least not very hard.

    My folding and unfolding routine consists of pedal folding, seatpost height change (I have my preferred height marked with a sharpie marker), handlebar fold, and frame fold. I would say the process takes about a minute to fold or unfold.

    With my method, you have to make sure your handlebar is up against the front wheel and your brake cables are out of the way when you click the magnets together at the end of the fold.

  20. #20
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    By the way, David at bfold in NYC sells Bike Friday. Are you sure there isn't an equivalent dealer where you are?

  21. #21
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    Most Bike Friday dealers sell the Tikit model, which is sort of their lower-end model. To get a customized Friday takes ordering it direct from the factory. Or so, I've been led to believe talking to them. (I suppose outside of the U.S. is different, like the U.K. seems to have a full-service dealer.)

    I've discovered some other sites along the way.
    PBW: http://www.pbwbikes.com/index.php/manufacturers_id/10
    Alex Moulton, which are probably too pricey, but lightweight and nice.

    PBW builds custom frames and has a similar range of drive train options.

    Last weekend, my wife tried out several models, like the Brompton and Dahon, and though they do fit okay, they do have a bit of extra weight. The Brompton she actually likes for the better style and nicer folding. For somebody under 5', and her strength, getting something scaled appropriately seems smart.

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