I've just gotten back from a 6-day tour of the California coastline on my slightly upgraded Xootr Swift, and thought I might as well discuss the folding-bike aspect of the ride....
For those who are not familiar with Route 1, most of it is hilly and winding. The hills aren't particularly steep but they can be on the long side, especially a monstrous 1000'+ climb just south of Gorda. Plenty of campsites, but in some areas not too many services; there are several 15+ mile stretches with no buildings at all in sight.
I had basic camping gear and some energy food with me, but didn't bring cooking gear (I wussed out and ate at restaurants). In total I had about 40 lbs of gear, and averaged 60 miles a day.
The setup on my Xootr Swift was as follows:
- flat bars with Ergon grips, and bar-ends wrapped in cork bar tape
- Marathon Slick tires
- racing-style saddle
- 42T chainring + 12-32T cassette
- Ortlieb handlebar bag, and 2 Ortlieb Sport Packer Classic panniers (~1800 cu in)
- standard aluminum rack
- no fenders
So, on the plus side: I made it. The gearing was low enough to handle the hills, the frame had no problems handling the weight, wheels held up very well, and at the end of the trip, and it was a good conversation piece. I wasn't worried about the bike getting wet, as I might with a steel frame. At the end, I was able to fold the bike down, stash it in the back of a Mustang Convertible, and drive back up north.
On the con side, though:
- harsh ride
- not enough high gears for descents
- packing is less than stellar
- the bike squeaks a lot
- drop bars > flat bars
Handling is kind of an open issue. I was OK with the handling when loaded; it's a little sluggish, but the 5-10 lbs on the front helped out more than I expected. I suspect / assume Swift's geometry is as optimized for loaded touring as, say, a Bike Friday New World Tourist, a Surly LHT, Trek 520 and so forth. I don't have any experience yet with a true touring bike though, so I'm not sure if the difference is really that significant.
So, I'm a little on the fence about the aluminum Swift for touring. In my case, it's slightly complicated by needing yet more maintenance (I'll need a new BB and derailleur hanger) and wanting drop bars.
Any other Swift tourers care to chime in, especially if they have experience with other touring bikes?