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Old 10-20-07, 11:42 AM   #1
v6v6v6
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Need advice with bike/commute

Hi, new to the site and to bikes, in general...

I just started a new job in the LA area and I'm trying to figure out options for commuting. If I were to drive the whole way, it'd take around 45 min (during off-peak hours) to an hour-and-a-half (during rush hour). The problem with driving during off-peak hours is that I have to leave either very early (6am) or very late (10am).

Mass transit is an option because the stops are very convenient to where I live/work. The first leg (15 mi) is via the train which takes around 30 min. The problem is the second leg (10 mi) via bus which can take over an hour even without heavy traffic.

It's this 10 mile stretch where I'm considering riding a bike (but I'll obviously be traveling with it the whole way).

So I've looked at the Dahon line of folding bikes and I'd like to pair it with the BionX motor kit.

1) How long do you think this 10 mile stretch would take? I've noticed they have bike lanes on the major roads, but the fact that's it's through the heart of LA makes me wonder how easy it'll be.

2) What's an appropriate Dahon model? I've had my eye on the Dahon Mu SL which weighs in at just 20 lbs. but seems expensive at just under $1000. I don't mind spending the money if it's going to make my overall ride better, though.

Thanks very much--I look forward to your opinions!
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Old 10-20-07, 12:28 PM   #2
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Just curious, having grown up in LA and also having worked as an outside salesman all over So CA, just where are you considering commuting FROM and TO on a folder?

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Old 10-20-07, 12:34 PM   #3
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I'm somewhat inclined to suggest just riding the distance without the motor. I'm not saying that because I'm some hardcore cyclist (I'm not), I'm saying that because you're looking at about 16lbs added to your 20lbs of bike. At 36lbs, I wouldn't want to carry the thing. 10 miles isn't an unreasonable ride. As for your bike choice, I love the Mu SL, but the Mu XL really looks more like a decent commuter. It's a little cheaper, and adds a light powered by a dynahub, so you never have you charge your lights. Either will do a nice job for you.

It's the weekend; maybe you could make a nice day of renting a bicycle or using a bike you already own, and riding your proposed route. Do a quick search for bicycle fit advice to make sure you have your saddle and handlebars set properly so you can be comfortable and efficient.
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Old 10-20-07, 01:51 PM   #4
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Just curious, having grown up in LA and also having worked as an outside salesman all over So CA, just where are you considering commuting FROM and TO on a folder?
Basically Union Station to Culver City.
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Old 10-20-07, 01:53 PM   #5
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I'm somewhat inclined to suggest just riding the distance without the motor. I'm not saying that because I'm some hardcore cyclist (I'm not), I'm saying that because you're looking at about 16lbs added to your 20lbs of bike. At 36lbs, I wouldn't want to carry the thing. 10 miles isn't an unreasonable ride. As for your bike choice, I love the Mu SL, but the Mu XL really looks more like a decent commuter. It's a little cheaper, and adds a light powered by a dynahub, so you never have you charge your lights. Either will do a nice job for you.

It's the weekend; maybe you could make a nice day of renting a bicycle or using a bike you already own, and riding your proposed route. Do a quick search for bicycle fit advice to make sure you have your saddle and handlebars set properly so you can be comfortable and efficient.
How long of a commute do you think 10 miles in the city would turn out to be without a motor? Also, this may sound silly but what about sweating? I was hoping using a motor would lessen some of that.
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Old 10-20-07, 02:00 PM   #6
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How long of a commute do you think 10 miles in the city would turn out to be without a motor? Also, this may sound silly but what about sweating? I was hoping using a motor would lessen some of that.
The time to complete 10 miles without a motor will depend on a number of factors, so it's hard for me to give you a number. It will depend on traffic density, your fitness and skill, your proclivity for risk, terrain (hills, etc), and probably some factors I'm not considering. I'd really expect it to take less than an hour, and thus, less time than riding the bus. Sweating may or not be an issue, depending on your clothing, fitness, and biology. That's why I suggested riding it on an off day. Sure, traffic won't be the same, but if you're spending two hours and arriving breathless and foul-smelling, it might be a good chance to reexamine your plan.

I just know that I'd generally rather carry a 20lb bike and ride 10 miles than carry a 36lb bike and get an assisted ride for 10 miles.
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Old 10-20-07, 02:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
Hi, new to the site and to bikes, in general...

I just started a new job in the LA area and I'm trying to figure out options for commuting. If I were to drive the whole way, it'd take around 45 min (during off-peak hours) to an hour-and-a-half (during rush hour). The problem with driving during off-peak hours is that I have to leave either very early (6am) or very late (10am).

Mass transit is an option because the stops are very convenient to where I live/work. The first leg (15 mi) is via the train which takes around 30 min. The problem is the second leg (10 mi) via bus which can take over an hour even without heavy traffic.

It's this 10 mile stretch where I'm considering riding a bike (but I'll obviously be traveling with it the whole way).

So I've looked at the Dahon line of folding bikes and I'd like to pair it with the BionX motor kit.

1) How long do you think this 10 mile stretch would take? I've noticed they have bike lanes on the major roads, but the fact that's it's through the heart of LA makes me wonder how easy it'll be.

2) What's an appropriate Dahon model? I've had my eye on the Dahon Mu SL which weighs in at just 20 lbs. but seems expensive at just under $1000. I don't mind spending the money if it's going to make my overall ride better, though.

Thanks very much--I look forward to your opinions!
I would not put something heavy like that BionX motor. It would weigh you down alot and negate some of the possibilies of using a folding bike (light weight). Besides you will not be able to take the bike with you on buses or the lightrail train (motorized bikes are prohibited). I have 3 basic model folding bikes with a three speed internal hub gear, rear racks, options for front luggage carrying if needed, and compactness (a real plus on sometimes crowded trains and buses.) 2 of my bikes are Dahons (Boardwalk and Piccolo), and a Brompton. I do fine even with the rolling hills surrounding my residence in Southern California. My bikes weight mostly 25 and 1/2 pounds and I can carry them. The thing to worry about is the uneducated traffic here. Most people drive like they are the only ones on the road here. And it gets worse during the rains. So check out my web sites below and if you have any more questions, just ask me.
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Old 10-20-07, 03:32 PM   #8
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Your basically looking to ride right thru the heart of the monster on very busy, and in many cases, poorly maintained streets. My guess is that you need to get down to Washington Blvd via staying on the East side of downtown proper.

I would second the suggestion that you need to try the ride on a weekend just to see what possibly acceptable routes exist. Does LA have a Bicycle Route Map like Portland, OR and other cities. These will show bike friendly and unfriendly streets in different colors.

I don't see how you can keep from sweating, especially once it gets into summer.

After our recent driving trip going thru LA to San Diego - GAD!!! Traffic is faster than ever. And this is from a guy who commuted for a couple of yrs (23,000 miles) on a motorcycle right in the area your talking about.
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Old 10-21-07, 06:04 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your comments.

This might be a moot discussion because according to the Metro Rail bike rules, bikes aren't allowed on trains from 6:30am - 8:30am and 4:30pm - 6:30pm. I guess it's understandable given the heavy crowds. But this just puts me back where I started... leaving very early or very late. Although I really want to make use of mass transit (and go green), it looks like driving is the best option.

BTW, electric bikes are allowed on Metro.

Also, after checking out a map of LA's bike routes and from what I noticed while driving, Venice Blvd. has on-road bike lanes which basically run from LA to the beach.

Oh well...
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Old 10-22-07, 12:32 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone for your comments.

This might be a moot discussion because according to the Metro Rail bike rules, bikes aren't allowed on trains from 6:30am - 8:30am and 4:30pm - 6:30pm. I guess it's understandable given the heavy crowds. But this just puts me back where I started... leaving very early or very late. Although I really want to make use of mass transit (and go green), it looks like driving is the best option.

BTW, electric bikes are allowed on Metro.

Also, after checking out a map of LA's bike routes and from what I noticed while driving, Venice Blvd. has on-road bike lanes which basically run from LA to the beach.

Oh well...
If you are taking a compact folding bike, you can take it with you on buses or trains providing you cover it up with a soft bag of some sort. see: http://www.metro.net/

I have taken my smaller compact Dahons and the Brompton with me if they are folded up during rush hour period. I just treat it like luggage when in the passenger areas. Just as long as you do not block the aisles or run over someone's foot, I never had any problems with any of my bikes. I use all rail systems in Southern California.

Last edited by folder fanatic; 10-22-07 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 10-22-07, 01:19 PM   #11
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If you are taking a compact folding bike, you can take it with you on buses or trains providing you cover it up with a soft bag of some sort. see: http://www.metro.net/

I have taken my smaller compact Dahons and the Brompton with me if they are folded up during rush hour period. I just treat it like luggage when in the passenger areas. Just as long as you do not block the aisles or run over someone's foot, I never had any problems with any of my bikes. I use all rail systems in Southern California.
Ah, great to know folding bikes are an exception! I'm back on track...
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Old 10-22-07, 03:53 PM   #12
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Just for those unfamiliar with LA, here's a map.

The route shown is for an automobile and uses the Freeways. The distance by auto is approx 10.5 miles.

The 110 Fwy is on the West side of downtown, but a bicyclist would want to go south on the East side of downtown IMO.

Let us know how it works out.
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Old 10-29-07, 07:11 PM   #13
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Just wanted to give an update... I've got both the Dahon Mu SL and BionX PL350 in the mail. I know some folks may not agree with this pairing, but my rationale is that it still makes for a very light electric folding bike. Most of the electric bikes I have seen are between 40 - 70 lbs and they don't fold.

BTW, I've reduced my bike route down to around 7 miles. I realized I could take the red line to Wilshire/Western and then continue on bike from there.
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Old 10-29-07, 08:13 PM   #14
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That extra bus ride does get you out of the downtown mess.
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Old 10-30-07, 11:20 AM   #15
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Just wanted to give an update... I've got both the Dahon Mu SL and BionX PL350 in the mail. I know some folks may not agree with this pairing, but my rationale is that it still makes for a very light electric folding bike. Most of the electric bikes I have seen are between 40 - 70 lbs and they don't fold.

BTW, I've reduced my bike route down to around 7 miles. I realized I could take the red line to Wilshire/Western and then continue on bike from there.
I think you will be just fine with the arraigment just as long as you don't try to lug it up the rather narrow steep stairs of the older buses.
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Old 10-30-07, 03:09 PM   #16
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Just wanted to give an update... I've got both the Dahon Mu SL and BionX PL350 in the mail.

Can't wait to see how that set up works for you.
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Old 11-13-07, 03:06 PM   #17
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Can't wait to see how that set up works for you.
Finally got the bike and motor last week.

First, the Mu SL is light and silky smooth. I'm not quite used to the smaller 20" wheels, but I understand this allows for better maneuverability.

As for the motor, I had problems installing it--spent about half the day working on it before I gave up. Here are the issues I came across (I apologize in advance for any incorrect terminology):
  • The instructions seemed incomplete. In addition to unclear pictures and poor grammar/mispellings, the instructions also referenced items from the "BionX toolbox" which I didn't have access to. I assume it's something available only to dealers?
  • I was told 9-speed freewheels aren't made anymore and 8-speeds aren't readily available so I had to get a 7-speed freewheel. From what I understand, the problem with this is that the spacing doesn't quite fit the Mu's 9-speed derailer.
  • The Mu's frame spacing is slightly narrower than the wheel's hub. I was able to force the frame wider with what seemed like minimal pressure.
  • The BionX wheel's axle didn't quite fit the fork ends. There's a metallic part which connects the fork to the derailer which sticks out slightly. I had to sand this down a bit to allow it to fit and I definitely didn't feel good about it.
  • The battery won't fit on the frame because of the folding mechanism. I went ahead and ordered the Dahon rear rack to mount it on there.
This is discouraging and I've decided to work with a local bike shop to complete the installation. Another option is to get another standard bike to pair this with. I hate to say it, but you told me so. But I haven't given up hope yet--gonna see what the guys at the shop say.

BTW, I did a partial test run of my commute yesterday and rode 2.5 miles in about 15 minutes. That'd work out to about 45 minutes for the commute which seems like a good time to start with. Is 30 minutes a realistic goal? For any Angelenos, just wanted to add that I found Venice Blvd's bike route quite easy.
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Old 11-13-07, 04:27 PM   #18
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When I started commuting my average speed was about 11mph. Now it is about 15mph as I got fitter. If I really push very very hard all the way, I can do it in almost 19mph. So 45 min for 10mi if it is reasonably flat riding would seem quite normal. My commute has some slow bits in it which brings the average speed right down.

Re sweating: I have a very small (about 1' sq) sports towel made from microfibre with which I wipe my body down: I rinse the towel in hot, slightly soapy water in a basin in the bathroom and lightly wring it out, wipe, rinse etc. Takes about 5min and leaves me fresh as having had a full shower.
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Old 11-13-07, 06:43 PM   #19
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Finally got the bike and motor last week.

First, the Mu SL is light and silky smooth. I'm not quite used to the smaller 20" wheels, but I understand this allows for better maneuverability.

As for the motor, I had problems installing it--spent about half the day working on it before I gave up. Here are the issues I came across (I apologize in advance for any incorrect terminology):
  • The instructions seemed incomplete. In addition to unclear pictures and poor grammar/mispellings, the instructions also referenced items from the "BionX toolbox" which I didn't have access to. I assume it's something available only to dealers?
  • I was told 9-speed freewheels aren't made anymore and 8-speeds aren't readily available so I had to get a 7-speed freewheel. From what I understand, the problem with this is that the spacing doesn't quite fit the Mu's 9-speed derailer.
  • The Mu's frame spacing is slightly narrower than the wheel's hub. I was able to force the frame wider with what seemed like minimal pressure.
  • The BionX wheel's axle didn't quite fit the fork ends. There's a metallic part which connects the fork to the derailer which sticks out slightly. I had to sand this down a bit to allow it to fit and I definitely didn't feel good about it.
  • The battery won't fit on the frame because of the folding mechanism. I went ahead and ordered the Dahon rear rack to mount it on there.
This is discouraging and I've decided to work with a local bike shop to complete the installation. Another option is to get another standard bike to pair this with. I hate to say it, but you told me so. But I haven't given up hope yet--gonna see what the guys at the shop say.

BTW, I did a partial test run of my commute yesterday and rode 2.5 miles in about 15 minutes. That'd work out to about 45 minutes for the commute which seems like a good time to start with. Is 30 minutes a realistic goal? For any Angelenos, just wanted to add that I found Venice Blvd's bike route quite easy.
I think so especially out in the jammed Westside. I am glad you have access to one of the few decent bike paths in Los Angeles that is not hidden or trash lined. To avoid breaking out in persperation, just keep a rather slow unhurried pace. If you allow plenty of time for your trip(s), you should do fine around the coastal areas.
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