I Test-rode a whole bunch of folders today!
A couple days ago MrsJ complained a bit that she missed riding a big-wheeled bike, the handling of the Yeah (Dahon Helios-like) is not as nice as my daughter's old steel-frame clunker Giant Farrago hybrid. And she misses the bigger gear range. So I saw an opening for something I have been thinking about for a while, to buy her a proper folding bike, one which handles well and doesn't flex, and has a wide gear range etc etc. A little talking and some spec gazing and I had her sold on a Pacific Reach Offroad which I had been negotiating a Canberra dealer about.
Canberra is a bit far, so asking around brought me to a shop in Melbourne who apparently do sell the Reach. So I called them up and sure enough, they have one on the floor, not the Offroad but the Racer, in the original red&white livery. No problem, same frame so I took MrsJ and myself off the the shop to kick some tyres.
And yes they had the Reach Racer, but they also had a whole bunch of other folders! Quite a few of those made some circuits of the parking lot today, in this order:
1st: Reach Racer: What a smooth ride! Everything that is said is true. I paid particular attention to bump smoothing and torsional frame stiffness. Both were as good as it gets. That bike just begs to be floored. It rides as good as my Swift. I also checked the clearance between the stock 28mm tyres and the road brake calipers, that seems to be close to 10mm so it is likely that 38mm or fatter tyres will fit should it need to go off-road. Gear range - 18sp Capreo, perfect. I had MrsJ also ride the Racer and while she was completely unsure of the drop bars she also liked the feel of it. The tag said $1750 but they were looking for $1500. Not brand new either, many signs of use, even some signs of some idiot crashing it in the parking lot. So only a small discount on a scratched bike which wasn't selling. I would have tried to argue them down to $1200 if MrsJ didn't veto it altogether - she liked the Offroad in Canberra's black color better, plus it comes with a folding rack.
2nd: Birdy 20" Monocoque (SP?): This bike was as every bit as good as the Reach, but then with flat bars. Smooth-as riding, superb acting suspension and 406 wheels - very good. It had a bit more torsional flex, not surprising considering the long seatpost and handlepost. But the price tag (which was actually wrong at $2240, same as 2 other older frame lower spec'ed Birdys) is another $1500 or so on top of the Reach. That sorta puts it out of reach. Plus only 9sp, a problem we are trying to solve here. I keep wondering if I just walked into the shop and tried to buy it, if they would have sold it at the tag price. But a bit much for a bike which while good, is not better than my Swift, at towards 3x the price? I somehow couldn't justify the suspension being worth that much, and I have often marveled at the Swift's smooth ride, like it has suspension. The CF seat post has a lot to do with it, but still...
3rd: They had a SP Moulton! I only sat on it though. I didn't like the feel of the front suspension - it felt rough, like brrrrr when I flexed it. The price tag was none too inspiring either - $2400. I am trying to arrange a proper test ride with the local importer, so the Moulton will ride another day.
4th: Then my eye fell on a small yellow thing. Well shiver me timbers, I never expected that, a single speed Carryme! It is very light indeed. Riding it showed its limitations: very short cockpit so my knees were quite close to the bars, and too short seat post, but other than that, not bad. Very torsionally flexy though, but that was no surprise. For its purpose, short rides on level ground, not bad if you can stand the laughter of the crowd. Certainly not a performer, but it wasn't designed for that. No use looking for performance where you're not going to find it.
5th: Brompton 3sp, price $1300. Riding it confirmed exactly what I always thought about the saddle - piece of junk set way too far forward. It needs to go at least 2-3 inches back to be good for me. As a result, I felt at an unnatural angle wrt the pedals and had a lot of weight on my hands. But other than that, it felt good, nice well-damped bump smoothing. I might try a piece of natural rubber on my Mini, too. The too-far forward saddle I explained to MrsJ was likely responsible for the many Brommie owners who suffer numb hands, due to the unbalanced riding posture. But the forward saddle reduces the folded size so that's what the marketers put on their pics and that's how they get built, and that's how they get ridden by many, I suspect. With numb hands for their pains. Many Birdy photos are also shown with a ridiculously far forward saddle, even wrong-way around set-back seatposts to further reduce folded dimensions. I think I could commute nicely with a Brommie once I chucked that rubbish saddle and put a Brooks on it. They also had a 6sp M-type on the floor.
There were a whole swag of different Dahons, including a pink Curve which my daughter probably wants, as well as a Yeah identical to MrsJ's. So in all, a very large range of folders. Not such great price tags but those are very negotiable especially if you can produce a competitor's lower price.
I felt rather like a boy in a sweet shop! :D (A boy with empty pockets, though! :( )