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  1. #1
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    thinking of buying a steel swift folder...

    hello all,

    after brief research, i am highly curious about the steel swift folder and i have a bunch of questions...

    first off i would like this to replace my road bike, so how does it add up to a 700c road bike in:

    speed? (are 20 inch wheels significantly slower than 700c)
    handling? (do the smaller wheels make the ride feel twitchy?)
    reach? (i ride a 56cm with a 7cm stem)
    wheelbase? (comparable?)
    weight? (i know the pre built ones are about 28 pounds but has anyone built one up with a light wheelset
    and components? if so, whats the lightest you can get it?)

    and does the frame have a derailleur hanger?

    and is there enough tire clearance for bigger tires? or even larger wheels (with smaller tires)?


    any and all help would be greatly appreciated......Thanks!

    p.s. i did look through the swift thread but the useful info is hard to pick out between all the chit chat...

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld
    handling? (do the smaller wheels make the ride feel twitchy?)
    Yes. The handling is definitely twitchier than on a road bike.

    You get used to it, although I found it unacceptably fatiguing around the 60 or 70 mile mark.


    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld View Post
    speed? (are 20 inch wheels significantly slower than 700c)
    *If* you set up the position correctly and use skinny tires, the speed on the flats and climbs will be about the same as 700c.

    One hitch is that normally Swifts have single front derailleurs, so that will restrict your gearing range somewhat and the gaps between shifting will be quite large. (Shifting is also simpler, which is nice.)

    Another hitch is that due to the aforementioned twitchiness, fast descents are much trickier. I don't descent at more than 30mph on my Swift, whereas 40-45 is my max on a road bike.


    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld
    reach? (i ride a 56cm with a 7cm stem)
    Swift is "one size fits all," so you'd have to alter the reach with a longer stem. Drops will also give you more reach than flat bars, obviously. You might have more options if going custom.


    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld
    wheelbase? (comparable?)
    The wheelbase on the Swift would be "long" by 700c standards (it's about 1000mm) but doesn't feel that way when riding. It's not that great when loaded.

    With skinny high-pressure tires, the aluminum Swift has a pretty rough ride. Again, generally not a big issue until the 60-70 mile mark.


    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld
    weight? and components? if so, whats the lightest you can get it?)
    I wouldn't worry about weight unless you have to carry it up and down stairs all the time. For the most part, it's a marketing myth. FWIW though, the aluminum Swift is 22-24 lbs.

    If you're going custom, you can get whatever components you want, right? Anyway, most folders use a mix of road & MTB parts. I'm sure you could get Tiagra or 105 on a custom-build Swift without too much trouble.


    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld
    and does the frame have a derailleur hanger?
    Aluminum, definitely. In fact mine got bent up a few times. It's a separate part, easily replaced if required. I assume steel is the same.


    Quote Originally Posted by fatigoworld
    and is there enough tire clearance for bigger tires? or even larger wheels (with smaller tires)?
    Wider 406 tires should be fine, something like a Big Apple should fit. The next largest wheel size is 451, and I think you'd be looking at some serious mods to fit that on. I'd go for a Bike Friday if you're looking for 451 wheels.

    The Swift does have a kind of "middle of the road" design, so the frame is fairly versatile. But it would take a LOT of work to, say, make one Swift a commuter/tourer/recreation bike and a fast road bike.


    On the whole, I'd say a Swift should only replace a 700c road bike if you:
    don't use it for fast group rides
    have a high tolerance for road buzz
    are OK with twitchy handling on descents
    have the budget to put drop bars on

  3. #3
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    so thorough, thanks so much! have a lot to think about now, im not so sure its the right thing for me...

    my main concern would be the twitchy ride, i guess i should try one out and see...
    Last edited by fatigoworld; 11-05-07 at 05:49 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    On the whole, I'd say a Swift should only replace a 700c road bike if you:
    don't use it for fast group rides
    have a high tolerance for road buzz
    are OK with twitchy handling on descents
    have the budget to put drop bars on
    I guess that depends on what "fast" means to you. I've taken my Swift on 40-50 mile group rides, averaging around 17 mph. Also, I think "twitchy" is very subjective - I don't have a road bike so can't compare it to that, but my riding buddies never dropped me on a downhill..

    I totally agree about the road buzz on the alu bike. It's pretty bad. The consensus seems to be that the steel frame bike has less buzz though.
    ICE B1, Brompton H6, Schwinn Mirada drop-bar vintage mtb

  5. #5
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    fatigoworld: yeah, give it a whirl. The big plus of the Swift is that for a folding bike, it's very solid and stiff. In that respect it's definitely in the same league as a road bike.


    Quote Originally Posted by yangmusa View Post
    I guess that depends on what "fast" means to you. I've taken my Swift on 40-50 mile group rides, averaging around 17 mph.
    H'm... Well, let me put it this way: I don't feel comfortable in a solid paceline with the Swift, mostly because I don't feel like I have enough control to do proper hand signals. Relaxed groups, no problem.


    Quote Originally Posted by yangmusa
    Also, I think "twitchy" is very subjective - I don't have a road bike so can't compare it to that, but my riding buddies never dropped me on a downhill.
    Well.... It is and it isn't.

    It "is," in that most people will get used to 20" wheeled handling after a few days. Some may prefer the extra snap, or will have a high degree of control over the steering, or will like the ability to dodge potholes quickly.

    But it "is not," in that the responsiveness of the Swift would generally be regarded as excessive or unacceptable on a 700c bike.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by yangmusa View Post
    I guess that depends on what "fast" means to you. I've taken my Swift on 40-50 mile group rides, averaging around 17 mph. Also, I think "twitchy" is very subjective - I don't have a road bike so can't compare it to that, but my riding buddies never dropped me on a downhill..

    I totally agree about the road buzz on the alu bike. It's pretty bad. The consensus seems to be that the steel frame bike has less buzz though.
    I think there is a member on this board who has both a steel and an aluminum Swift and reported that there wasn't much of a difference in ride quality.

    Personally, with skinny high pressure tires, mine would transmit a good deal of road buzz.. I fitted a Pantour hub up front and that made a big difference.. with some additional mods, Rolf wheels, carbon bars, carbon seatpost, mega-range 9spd and 58T chainring, the bike got down to just over 20lbs and my gearing was adequate for speedy group rides, I put over a 1000miles on the setup with day rides never exceeding 70 miles .. presently, I changed the drivetrain around to a Nexus Redband 8spd hub, taking advantage of the horizontal drops, left the 58t chainring and swapped in Schwalbe 20x2.0 Big Apples... huge difference in ride quality as well as overall stability over road irregularities, as I'm now taking advantage of Balloon Tire Technology... surprisingly, my speeds haven't suffered much with this recent change... I'm still collecting data..

    If you need a gear spread of over 300%, a custom FD mount would need to be fabricated, or, a Schlumpf Speed Drive installed (which I really like as fitted to another bike) or a SRAM Dual drive .. as another option for a replacement for a 700c road bike with smaller wheels, I like Pacific's Reach Road with 451mm wheels, 9/26 53/39 gearing, stability, and comfortable front and rear suspension....






  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    have a high tolerance for road buzz
    are OK with twitchy handling on descents
    have the budget to put drop bars on
    Using <b>good</b> wide tires will solve all of those problems without slowing you down.

  8. #8
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    I have both the steel and aluminum Swifts. The steel was made by HRH last spring. I can not tell any difference in the ride quality or handling. The bikes have different tires, bars and saddles so, it's difficult to compare but I think they feel the same. Yes, they are more twitchy than any of my 700c bikes but riding one handed is not a problem and at higher speeds no handed is possible. I had a Dahon Helios P8 and there's no way I could ride it hands off. I've done a 10 day tour on the aluminum one with 30 lbs of gear with no problem. It handled fine. I've also done 2 centuries on the aluminum and several 60 to 80 mile rides without any issuses. It's very solid out of the saddle, very little flex in the stem or bottom bracket. I do not think there's road buzz or a harsh ride. I only have about 200 miles on the steel and all the rides have been shorter.

    The steel and aluminum have a lot of differences and I keep finding new ones. The biggest difference is the steerer and I wrote about that in the "making a Swift lighter" thread. On the steel bike the seatpost does not push against the rear tire when folded, you'll need a strap to hold it together. The seat tube can accept a 31.8mm derailleur hanger but I haven't tried it yet. Steel is slightly heavier, uses 1" headset. It does have a rear derailleur hanger not detachable.

    The steel is a little crude, rough welds, slightly sloppy seat tube alignment, bottom bracket hits the cable stops on the main tube when folded and the seat post is a very tight fit. The aluminum seems to be more refined, the seat post drops in place because the seat tube alignment is perfect, nicer welds. I think the main advantage of the steel besides being steel is that it can take a front deraileur.

  9. #9
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceMetras View Post
    as another option for a replacement for a 700c road bike with smaller wheels, I like Pacific's Reach Road with 451mm wheels, 9/26 53/39 gearing, stability, and comfortable front and rear suspension....
    Egads, a Reach "in the wild"

    So how does the Reach compare to a 700c road bike, in terms of performance, stability and so forth?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    H'm... Well, let me put it this way: I don't feel comfortable in a solid paceline with the Swift, mostly because I don't feel like I have enough control to do proper hand signals. Relaxed groups, no problem.
    One of the benefits I find in pacelines, is that I can draft VERY close due to the small wheel size. (I'd not recommend trying this with someone unless they know you & trust you!!) It's a huge help on those fast sections where I'd otherwise not be quite fit enough to keep up
    ICE B1, Brompton H6, Schwinn Mirada drop-bar vintage mtb

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Egads, a Reach "in the wild"

    So how does the Reach compare to a 700c road bike, in terms of performance, stability and so forth?
    I wrote a little about it HERE.. within the text was another REVIEW, which I mostly agree with.. the Reach Road has replaced my 700c bike..

  12. #12
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    If you can test ride the bike, it would answer a lot of these questions and give you a better perspective on the issue.

    A lot of your questions have been addressed before, so I rather not re-hash old discussions. But there is a difference in opinion regarding the stability of 20" wheel folding bikes.

    Mind you, I don't recall anyone writing that it was more stable than their full size bike. My Bike Friday is fairly stable. Not as stable as my full sized bike but stable enough for me to ride without hands for extended periods when I hit 14 mph. I have hit 50+ mph on downhills without any worries. I too find that wider tires help in this area ... I use 40mm wide tires on the Bike Friday.

    Small wheel bikes can be plenty fast. In my opinion, the place where you take a hit is the gearing. Assuming you go with a derailer drivetrain, the cassettes are generally quite wide making it difficult to find the "optimal" gear for a particular pace. As Bac mentioned earlier, unless you plan on (1) installing a Schlumpf Drive, (2) innovating a front derailer on the bike, or (3) going with an SRAM Dual Drive, the Swift is limited in this dimension.

    The Pacific Reach looks like a good alternative to a regular road bike. You should also consider a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket--if you pick similar components as the Pacific Reach, it looks like it would be $100-200 more and you can get a 5% discount by being an Adventure Cyclist of League of American Bicyclists member. The Airnimal bikes would also be an excellent alternative ... they have 24" wheels.

  13. #13
    eight spokes somnatash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nihonric View Post
    ...the steel and aluminum have a lot of differences and I keep finding new ones. ...
    Any chance you make close up pics and list the differences? From what you wrote I understood the steel swift is not so properly/acute welded?

  14. #14
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    My steel Swift is in Colorado and I'm in Japan until December. I can't post any photos of the welds until then but would be happy to do so. Perhaps someone else with a steel Swift can post some photos of the welds on their frame?

  15. #15
    Bop
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    Steel Swift welds

    Welds are smooth enough for me. Pardon the dirty bike, I just rode in from the airport.
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