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Old 08-19-07, 07:08 AM   #1
IWantToGoFaster
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What is small enough for the train & fun enough to be your only/everyday bike?

Hi

My first post! Iíve been reading the posts for a couple of weeks and see that some other guys in the UK have asked questions about what bike to get if they are going to commute.

Iíve got a similar question. I think the commute part has been answered but what Iím after is the one-bike-fits all. Like some of the others here I will occasionally want to put one on a train to go into London and then cycle around the city to meetings. Iím not after a tourer as I will only have one bag with me for a laptop, phone etc.

So for me, itís the ideal combination of something small enough to take on the train and also suitable and fun enough to be an everyday bike (roads and cyclepaths). What is important is that it will be a bike I will actually want to ride.

I want to get it at a UK shop, so I guess some makes will be out as theyíre not normally stocked here. So please bear that in mind with your suggestions.

Iím a Triathlete, so I donít hang about! The Domestic Goddess has sanctioned something up to £1000 or $2000 equivalent Ė thanks to whomever it was that mentioned the scheme through your employer!

Fast, fun, small Ė is there really a one-bike-does-it-all?

Really looking forward to your advice.

IWantToGoFaster
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Old 08-19-07, 07:34 AM   #2
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I'm looking for some firsthand experiences with the Dahon Glide P8. It has 24" wheels and a nice, wide gear range. With the rack, fenders and internal hub it would make a great all weather commuter/day tripper.

On paper it seems ideal. I can't wait to try one out!
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Old 08-19-07, 09:25 AM   #3
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Old 08-19-07, 11:14 AM   #4
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If you are a Triathlete then you should already know the answer to your question. There is indeed a bike which folds but rides like a road bike and I've just ordered one. This bike was ridden in the World Triathlon Championships and won a Bronze medal.

http://www.airnimalfoldingbikes.com/...manceSport.php
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Old 08-19-07, 11:55 AM   #5
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You could get a Dahon cadenza frame and build it up as a skinny tyre drop/bullhorn bar thingy.

Actually, i have only one bike, my 2005 Specialized Globe Mity, which is basically a Dahon (the current Globe models are 700C non-folding hybrids). I switched the bars for on-one midge bars and use it for commuting (via train - it fits in the end-of carriage luggage racks in a FGW intercity) general riding about, and also off-road. My top speed (downhill obviously) is 39.8mph. I also run BMX tyres because i like a bit of extra cushioning and they're cheap and tough.

If you want something more road-bikey, maybe a dahon speed pro? The brakes on the TT bar model are a bit limp, so i'd maybe go for the normal flar bar option to get the v-brakes and then switch out the bars...

I'd also recommend www.foldingbikes.co.uk as far as where to get it. They happily dealt with loads of stupid questions and the bike came fully set up and ready to ride. Good price too...
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Old 08-19-07, 01:31 PM   #6
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SesameCrunch - I'm 187cm

onbike 1939 - Airnimals seem a bit of a big fold for my requirments - see thread title.

doktoravalanche - Some FGW have the luggage racks, some don't. I'm going to play it safe and go for something that fits even when there are none. I realise this limits my choice but better that then not being able to get it on the train. Thanks for the suggestion for buying the bike.
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Old 08-19-07, 02:12 PM   #7
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For multimode communitng you need a bike that folds into a relatively small package.

The only performance multimode bikes are the Birdy and Dahon Mu/Speed lines. A to B feels that the Ti Brompton fits into this category, but it really doesn't ride like an everyday bike.

The Birdy is a high quality bike. I feel that it rides better than a full size unsuspended bike due to it's stiff suspension. It's also good on packed dirt trails. I can easily keep up with the roadies on a fast group ride and feel more comfortable doing it. So, it's my only bike. I also do a lot of touring, and it can handle a 40+ Kg load complete with front and back panniers. Everything down to the cable routing has been well thought out. The downsides are: 1) cost, 2) difficult to fold (not slow, just difficult to learn), and 3) longer stem than a road bike. Otherwise, I would recommend it over a full size bike.

The Dahons are generally a better value, with SRAM X9 components for less than $$ the Birdy's XT (IMHO inferior) components. However, the frame has a hinge and the build quality is low. I also find the ride to be a bit harsher than a road bike. On a smooth surface, the Mu (my former bike) was stiff and fast, but really not adequate for anything but smooth roads. Also, I didn't feel that I could abuse it.

If, for some reason, you find a Brompton comfy and fast as A to B magazine does, then it is another mulimode option. Some people tour on them. I couldn't imagine doing so.

Comfort: Birdy > Dahon = Brompton
Big bike like dimensions: Birdy = Dahon > Brompton
Folded size Brompton >> Birdy > Dahon (with greater than signs representing "better than" not smaller than)
Performance: Birdy > Dahon > Brompton
Value (not counting quality): Dahon > Brompton = Birdy
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Old 08-19-07, 02:15 PM   #8
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PS, I had only a few hundred miles on the Dahon, and have almost 4,000 on the Birdy now. I've only ridden a Brompton once. So take that advice with a grain of salt.
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Old 08-19-07, 02:22 PM   #9
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I have a Bike Friday New World Tourist with road tires and drop bars. You can fast fold it into the soft bag to take on the train. However it's a bit messy to fold - the handlebars flop around and the bagged shape is irregular and bulky - so I don't find it is so handy for commuting. It is better viewed as a bike to travel with, I think. However it has road bike geometry so riding will be enjoyable. the Brompton, and other cheaper folding bikes I tested at LBSs all had too upright a seat post.
Swift (either the original from the New York builder or the licensed knock off from Xootr) also advertises that it rides like a road bike.
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Old 08-19-07, 03:19 PM   #10
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My recommendation is for a Xootr Swift. Stiff frame, lots of standard parts, fun ride, $700. It feels a lot like a road bike, although it does have the oversteer typical of 20" wheeled bikes.

The hitches are, first it doesn't fold very small. It does fold small enough to take on most public transport though. Second, the stock bike has flat bars. That's easy to fix, since it uses a standard stem.

It's good for commuting, recreation, touring, long rides (60-70 miles), even some group rides. I'd draw the limits at MTB, fast group rides, maybe centuries.


On a slight side note....

Can you use a 20" wheeled bike in a typical duathlon / triathlon? I know you can use 650c and I assume the rules are relaxed compared to UCI events, not sure they are that relaxed though.
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Old 08-19-07, 04:27 PM   #11
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At least the Swift folds thin. The Airnimal does fold smaller though, and as thin.

As a triathlete you would do well to test-ride a bunch of bikes - you may feel frustrated by certain bikes' overall frame flexibility.
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Old 08-20-07, 03:24 AM   #12
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I might not have been clear. This would not be for Triathlons but a bike a ride to work, take on the train, ride round to meetings and get on and ride for fun. My road bike is for competition use only as it isn't really suitable for normal use. I only metioned Tri's as an indication of fitness level and general awareness of cycling.

I like the look of the Swift/Xootr, which I can get here in the UK, which is a big plus. But size might be the problem.

I'm beginning to get the feeling that the one-bike-fits-all might not exist, well at least not one that will fit on a busy FGW train.

Is there anywhere that has a photo of a lot of folding bikes lined up next to each other, open and folded?

Keep the comments coming folks, they're a great help.
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Old 08-20-07, 03:34 AM   #13
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Who was it who originated this thread ?
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Old 08-20-07, 05:25 AM   #14
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Why don't you get a brompton? They are the smallest / quickest folders and will fit in any small space, eg between seats or under tables on FGW even if there is no luggage space available.

I have a 2-speed brompton. I commute in a hilly city and take it on the train to cycle round other cities - intended use is work and city breaks. I find it very comfortable and very easy, to the extent it has replaced my regular bike apart from extended leisure rides / touring. I would be quite happy to ride it 15 miles non-stop - after that I would look at increasing the gears perhaps but would be more likely to select a normal bike for a planned trip of that length - while it's possible to tour, why would you when you can take something that's built for purpose? You said you're not after a tourer tho and if you are planning it for mainly commute and city fun then it is absolutely ideal. (I think this is smart, as folding bikes are quite specific in what they do best - if you had one that claims to do everything then you'd have to compromise on everything, it wouldn't be the best) Also comes with a very neat bag that just drops on the front, which looks smart and is roomy.

It is insane fun. Really light, fast (can still take out other commuters quite easily) and you can just throw it around. In fact we have just added a second one to our household because we love riding them so much. It is incredibly flexible because of its light weight - you don't have to lock it up for short stops as you can carry it round a shop easily in one hand or tuck it away inside a cafe or pub.

Take one for a test ride and try out the various different bar combinations to see what suits you best - they feel very different so be careful to get the one that works for you.

My disclaimer is that I've never tried other folders, so I'm not saying that it's def better than other models. Size and design were key factors, and have only been more and more impressed as I have used it.

My final advice if you choose a brompton is to get a colour - black is cheaper but sure you would regret it
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Old 08-20-07, 07:46 AM   #15
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At 187cm, no Brompton or other 16" wheel bike is going to be comfortable for you for longer rides. Your legs will not extend fully enough. I'm 183cm, and I can't get full extension.

There are many 20" options which would most certainly fit your criteria, some have already been mentioned - the Swift, Dahon Speed Pro, and many others. I have a Speed Pro and the ride is very comparable to my full size roadies. The components are excellent, great wheels. They're just a little heavier than my roadie. I'm not trying to sell the Speed Pro, my point is that your criteria is not that difficult to meet. Just go try some 20" folding bikes and you'll see. One thing to watch for is the wheelbase, some bikes are shorter than others. You'll want something in the 40-42" range, which is comparable to a full size bike. Anything shorter, and you'll notice the difference in steering twitchiness.

Good luck and have fun shopping!
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Old 08-20-07, 07:59 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by asashoryu View Post
Why don't you get a brompton? They are the smallest / quickest folders and will fit in any small space, eg between seats or under tables on FGW even if there is no luggage space available.

I have a 2-speed brompton. I commute in a hilly city and take it on the train to cycle round other cities - intended use is work and city breaks. I find it very comfortable and very easy, to the extent it has replaced my regular bike apart from extended leisure rides / touring. I would be quite happy to ride it 15 miles non-stop - after that I would look at increasing the gears perhaps but would be more likely to select a normal bike for a planned trip of that length - while it's possible to tour, why would you when you can take something that's built for purpose? You said you're not after a tourer tho and if you are planning it for mainly commute and city fun then it is absolutely ideal. (I think this is smart, as folding bikes are quite specific in what they do best - if you had one that claims to do everything then you'd have to compromise on everything, it wouldn't be the best) Also comes with a very neat bag that just drops on the front, which looks smart and is roomy.

It is insane fun. Really light, fast (can still take out other commuters quite easily) and you can just throw it around. In fact we have just added a second one to our household because we love riding them so much. It is incredibly flexible because of its light weight - you don't have to lock it up for short stops as you can carry it round a shop easily in one hand or tuck it away inside a cafe or pub.

Take one for a test ride and try out the various different bar combinations to see what suits you best - they feel very different so be careful to get the one that works for you.

My disclaimer is that I've never tried other folders, so I'm not saying that it's def better than other models. Size and design were key factors, and have only been more and more impressed as I have used it.

My final advice if you choose a brompton is to get a colour - black is cheaper but sure you would regret it
I'd concur with this advice exactly. As the questioner wants it for travelling on trains and city riding, the Brompton or a clone is the way to go. The design does lead to very agile performance and as you say it is 'insane fun'. My Merc clone is a blast thanks to the geometry and design of Andrew Ritchie (Mr 'Brompton'). Being a cheapskate, I bought the copy rather than the original product. I've never regretted it - not once, and I can't say that for many of my possessions. Do you know, if I was ever in the position of having to go into exile with one possession, I would have to chose my Merc.
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Old 08-20-07, 08:25 AM   #17
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I have a Bike Friday New World Tourist with road tires and drop bars. You can fast fold it into the soft bag to take on the train. However it's a bit messy to fold - the handlebars flop around and the bagged shape is irregular and bulky - so I don't find it is so handy for commuting. It is better viewed as a bike to travel with, I think. However it has road bike geometry so riding will be enjoyable. the Brompton, and other cheaper folding bikes I tested at LBSs all had too upright a seat post.
Swift (either the original from the New York builder or the licensed knock off from Xootr) also advertises that it rides like a road bike.
I have a NWT with drop bars and taking it on the subway is doable once in a long while; but a disaster for an everyday commute.

Given the amount of money you have to spend, maybe you should talk to Steve Parry for a modified Brompton/Merc? You could get the smallest fold with a better drivetrain than the stock Brompton/Merc.

If the Brompton/Merc doesn't work for you, I would give a serious look at the Birdy. With your budget, you could get a smoking bike that still folds quite small and is definitely a fun bike. The only problem is that you can't roll the bike while folded like the Brompton/Merc.

Your height will create a few issues with a Downtube Mini. You would definitely have to modify the seatpost--which will affect the size of the fold--and maybe the reach. This option would be less expensive--although I recall that Downtube bikes are considerably more expensive on the other side of the Atlantic--but require one to modify the bike if you want a higher level of performance.
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Old 08-20-07, 08:57 AM   #18
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Do you know, if I was ever in the position of having to go into exile with one possession, I would have to chose my Merc.
WOW that is a glowing testomonial EV! .... for exile wouldn't you be slightly tempted by a real brompton ? i know some say there is virtually no difference, and others say there is ... whatever - thats a fine quote for either !

As for other suggestions - you have to experience FGW trains at rush hour to appreciate just how crowded they really are. The 'Evil eyes' you get for bringing on even a brommy/merc or strida are bad enough .... Swifts, Airnimals and even 20" Dahons and Birdies just take up too much space.

I was once standing in a usual place, in a crowded train vestibule, by the bin, next to the doors. I was leaning back over my folded brommie against the wall to try and minimise the already small space i was taking. When a 'lady' on getting out at Ealing Broadway, walked past me to the door, and on passing me she stamped her high heal hard into my foot and said "thats for bringing a bike onto this train you selfish b*stard" Wow - did that hurt in both ways. I was bruised for a week. Ok she was obviously having a bad day and I got it in the foot - but just shows how personal space is such an issue.
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Old 08-20-07, 09:00 AM   #19
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At 187cm, no Brompton or other 16" wheel bike is going to be comfortable for you for longer rides. Your legs will not extend fully enough. I'm 183cm, and I can't get full extension.
Well, I'm 183cm too, and I do get full extension --by putting the seatpost up above the minimum insertion mark on my Downtube Mini; but this hardly matters since you are taller and anyhow the Mini is not an option for you in GB.

I don't think the wheel size is the reason for this, but very few one-size-fits-all bicycles are built to fit a person as tall as you. At the very least you will have to test ride any bike to be quite sure it fits. Leg extension is only the primary problem; if you get the saddle up high enough you will still have the problem that most folding bikes have an annoyingly short reach to the handlebar, and is not so easy to fix.

On the other hand, in my opinion, 16" wheels are a fundamental requirement for any bike that's to go on public transportation during rush hour. The Swift is a beautiful bicycle, and it's a great ride, but I wouldn't want to take it on the train with me every day.

At the end of the day, you will have to compromise between the ride and the fold.
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Old 08-20-07, 09:12 AM   #20
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WOW that is a glowing testomonial EV! .... for exile wouldn't you be slightly tempted by a real brompton ? i know some say there is virtually no difference, and others say there is ... whatever - thats a fine quote for either !
Oh - I'm sure there are differences Simon, but I don't own a B. The remark was about things I own. I'd be happy with a B for sure I think. It seems a spendid bicycle. I only balked at the price and the idea of having to wait two months, whereas what I bought was delivered to my door in two days at a total price of £342 including delivery, about three hundred pounds cheaper than a similarly equipped Brompton, considering that it came with luggage system and carrying bag as well as dynamo lights and luggage rack. I'd far rather have a steel frame than the alluminium one I have, but it has stood up very well to a lot of use and rough treatment.

Quote:
I was once standing in a usual place, in a crowded train vestibule, by the bin, next to the doors. I was leaning back over my folded brommie against the wall to try and minimise the already small space i was taking. When a 'lady' on getting out at Ealing Broadway, walked past me to the door, and on passing me she stamped her high heal hard into my foot and said "thats for bringing a bike onto this train you selfish b*stard" Wow - did that hurt in both ways. I was bruised for a week. Ok she was obviously having a bad day and I got it in the foot - but just shows how personal space is such an issue.
What an attrocious incident that was Simon. Just part of the decline in behavioural standards we see so much of these days, I think I'd have been tempted to quench the pain in my foot by booting her up the arse with it as she walked off. What a ***** she must have been to do a thing like that.
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Old 08-20-07, 10:35 AM   #21
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What an attrocious incident that was Simon. Just part of the decline in behavioural standards we see so much of these days, I think I'd have been tempted to quench the pain in my foot by booting her up the arse with it as she walked off. What a ***** she must have been to do a thing like that.
I seem to be agreeing with you a lot lately EvilV. Although I can't type or say "arse" without laughing.

And yes, my evil NYC ways would have been brought out in a hurry by that woman.

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Old 08-20-07, 12:58 PM   #22
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You will need to test ride a variety of bikes but it sure sounds to me that a Birdy may be the best fit for you and your needs.

It is fun to ride.

It is light , it folds quickly when you know how, and just as important, it folds to a compact package which has the chain to the inside, stays together and is relatively easy to carry.

It rides more like a good road bike than any folder I have tried that will also fold well enough that I would want to contemplate it for train commuting during peak hours.

It will accomodate tall riders as well as short riders. I am 188 cm tall with long legs for my height. I find the riding position great with full leg extension and there is still room for further adjustment.

It's a proven timeless design with a good reputation for durability and a high resale value.

It is very comfortable and rides very well on rough roads without compromising efficiency.

It's fun to ride it fast!

Other thoughts:

Drop bars on folders are not very compatible with a compact fold. You may want to get the 25 deg non-adjustable stem for the best position to ride fast with standard bars.

I think that Schwalbe Marathon Racer tyres may be a good upgrade if the model you choose does not come with them.

David
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Old 08-20-07, 02:58 PM   #23
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At 187cm, no Brompton or other 16" wheel bike is going to be comfortable for you for longer rides. Your legs will not extend fully enough. I'm 183cm, and I can't get full extension. Good luck and have fun shopping!
That's silly. I know Birdy riders who are 6'5" or 196cm and get good extension. You just need a sport stem or an ahead stem to improve the reach. Those Germans are tall folks.

I'm sure that there are Bromptons out there that have been fit to taller riders, too. But I'm not sure what the specs are.
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Old 08-20-07, 03:50 PM   #24
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Old 08-20-07, 03:58 PM   #25
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That's silly. I know Birdy riders who are 6'5" or 196cm and get good extension. You just need a sport stem or an ahead stem to improve the reach. Those Germans are tall folks.

I'm sure that there are Bromptons out there that have been fit to taller riders, too. But I'm not sure what the specs are.
I've been on a Brompton. Yes, I can ride it for short distances, and I am buying a Merc because I love the bikes. However, I think we're not talking about the same thing. I am referring to leg extension so that one can ride long distances or aggressively without hurting a knee (the OP describes himself as a triathlete). I believe you're talking about arm reach based on your suggestion of a longer, taller stem. Apples and Oranges, eh?
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