Newbie Downtube FS Review
All right, I have to confess, until 2 months ago I probably had not riden a bike in the last 20 years! Where was I? Well I was pre-occupied with life in and about New York City. Finally, at age 42 I was going to give it another shot!
A little about me...Humm, I'm a typical attorney (one of the good guys, lol) who has worked the last 10 years in Manhattan. I own a small co-op in Hoboken which is right across the river from NYC and space is at a premium there as well! Accordingly, I had to find a bike that was useful and functional, but also one that did not require a lot of space. Hence...a "folder" was the answer!
Physically, I pride myself in being in "reasonable" shape. I still manage to play fast-pitch softball in the summer and ice hockey in the winter. I'm 5 feet 9 inches, and weigh 170 lbs and was looking for another activity to indulge myself in. Since the last bike I had, a Schwinn "World Traveler", had been sold by my parent's via a garage sale in 1991, I had to find another bike. My quest to find the "perfect" bike for my lifestyle was officially launched!
I spent a lot of time at the local Bike Shops in Manhattan trying to find that "perfect" bike. I researched online, as well as in person to find a bicycle that would satisfy me. I looked at them all...from the "Citizens" to the Wal-Mart, "Kent folder's", to the Dahon's, and the "Birdy's" and the "Brompton's". No stone was left unturned!
In truth, I was looking to spend no more than $500.00, so a couple of options were exhausted right off the bat. Since it had been so long, I was also wondering if I would "enjoy" bike riding again. Seriously, I was wondering if I could "re-live" those days in the mid 1970's, tooling around on my Schwinn listening to the likes of Peter Frampton, Boz Scaggs, and Squeeze on the eight-track player that was attached to my back rack!
As luck would have it, one day about 6 weeks ago, I was on a work assignment to go to court in Philadelphia. I figured I'd take a little detour on the way home to Bensalem, Pa. and visit the Downtube store there. I looked at a couple of bikes, and settled on the 2008 FS 9-speed model.
In retrospect, it was a nice choice! The bike folds well and fits well in the trunk of my Toyota Celica. I have to admit that it takes a little bit of practice to get use to the folding pattern, but after a week or so, it's no longer a problem. For my purpose's, it folds good enough. I have taken the bike on the NYC subways, and honestly, it is a tad clumsy. I solved the "keeping the folded bike together problem" by buying a "dollar store" bungee. I wrap the cord around the handle-bar stem, thru the main frame, and attach it to the rear spring (shocks). This makes the fold package "snug".
In the brief time period that I have had the FS, I have managed to take it to Central Park and the westside bike path (Hudson Street to the George Washington Bridge) in Manhattan, Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, and the bike-path in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I have also taken the bike to the Jersey Shore, and have riden the bike on the boardwalk's down there. In the skyland's of NJ, I have ridden the bike on the abandon railroad beds that are relatively flat and debris free (except for the occasional horse s#$T!).
This bike suits my tastes. I ride a little after work, but mostly on the weekends. I've probably been riding about 10-20 miles a week, depending on my schedule. Now granted I'm no Greg Lemond (dated 1980's reference, lol) but I still manage to average between 10-15 mph, and this bike handles those speeds effortlessly. The gear ratios seem perfect for me, and I haven't had to get off the bike on any hill! The only issue I have had with the performance of the bike was with the gears slipping a bit. I solved this by discovering what the problem was. When you fold the bike, you need to have some "slack" on the derailer cables. These cables run allong the main frame and in order to fold the bike, a degree of adjustment to this cable is needed. Now, after I unfold the bike, I attempt to "duplicate" the slack by gently pulling this cable out about 2 inches. Accordingly, at least on my bike, gear slippage is removed. On a final note regarding performance, my 42 year old a%# was taking a hell of a beating. I solved this by buying a $10 "Bell gell fusion seat cushion" that fit perfectly over the regular stock seat. This piece of equipment should be mandatory for any rider over the age of 40!
Lastly, I have to note a final experience with riding this bike. It sure gets a lot of attention, especially from the very pretty female NYC bike riders! This has been an unexpected, and welcomed addition! I can honestly say, that I must have been stopped and asked 30-40 times about the bike. All the questions have been positive, and folks seem genuinely interested. Who would have guessed that "Folder's" have become "so hot" and fashionable!!!
Anything more expensive than what you paid would be a risk since you were not even sure if you would enjoy bike riding, so your choice couldn't be more accurate. Congratulations on your new bike and welcome back. For your needs, the Downtube FS is a perfect bike just as it is out of the box.
Some of the more folder enthusiasts from this forum have transformed their Downtube into very performance-oriented, expensive machines. So later down the road, if you feel the need for improvement on performance, comfort, weight or whatever, the downtube will offer you a lot of flexibility for upgrades.
I personally believe that with or without the gell fusion your bottom muscles would end up conditioned to the new sport and you would get used to the saddle anyway, but one of the first things I would consider spending some money in the future is on a nice saddle.
Make sure you take some pictures of your new bike and share them with us (specially with those very pretty female NYC bike riders). I managed to have a Victoria's Secret Angel on my folding bike while in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Folding bikes ARE chick magnets!
Once again, congratulations on your new bike.