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Folding Bikes Discuss the unique features and issues of folding bikes. Also a great place to learn what folding bike will work best for your needs.

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Old 02-23-08, 06:44 AM   #1
jur
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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! (A boy with empty pockets, though! )

Last edited by jur; 02-23-08 at 07:04 AM.
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Old 02-23-08, 07:45 AM   #2
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Great report, Jur !
Thanks for posting !

Hmmmmmmm........should be getting the stimulus cheque here in the
US, soon
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Old 02-23-08, 08:05 AM   #3
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Interesting to read your impressions. I'm puzzled about what an 'SP Moulton' is Jur.

For sure this is the right way to buy a bike. Think what you expect of it and rigorously try out a whole lot against your expectations. Too often, I have found myself sold on some emotional crap that I soaked up from listening to an enthusiast.
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Old 02-23-08, 09:21 AM   #4
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It's raining here just now but I feel I got a ride in anyhow. Heading for the shower. Thanks!

I can also relate to the pink/daughter thing. I had to give up a much-loved Trek mountain bike to my then 10 yr old cuz it was her color purple.

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Old 02-23-08, 10:22 AM   #5
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@Jur - You might consider a Downtube NS as well. I know it doesn't have the gear range that you're looking for, but at $350 (vs $1500+ for the Reach?) you could add dual drive and still come out ahead. I don't know your timeline but the next gen of Downtubes should be out in June (if last year is any indication).

btw - great write up
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Old 02-23-08, 02:52 PM   #6
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Interesting to read your impressions. I'm puzzled about what an 'SP Moulton' is Jur.
Steve Parry?
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Old 02-23-08, 02:53 PM   #7
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@Jur - You might consider a Downtube NS as well. I know it doesn't have the gear range that you're looking for, but at $350 (vs $1500+ for the Reach?) you could add dual drive and still come out ahead. I don't know your timeline but the next gen of Downtubes should be out in June (if last year is any indication).
Alas, Downtubes are not available here in Oz, my Mini was carried through customs by my boss, a once-only chance.
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Old 02-23-08, 03:23 PM   #8
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Jur what do you think of the Downtube Mini compared to the Brompton? Both in terms of difference in fold size and ride quality?
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Old 02-23-08, 03:43 PM   #9
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Steve Parry?
Ah yes - I wondered about him, but didn't know he 'breathed on' Moultons as well as the 'B' bikes.

I wonder what he does to them. By the way, the front suspension on the modern Moultons is adjustable. I tightened mine up. You can adjust spring pressure and damping. Mine was VERY floppy when I picked it up. Now it is pretty firm. I can still make it bob though by pounding on the pedals while out of the seat. That is an experience best avoided by small alterations in riding style. The suspension does make really poor roads suddenly smooth and safe. It adds hugely to a sense of confidence on poor pavement.

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Old 02-23-08, 03:46 PM   #10
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Answer to your problem, Jur??
.....maybe a R20 with a Rohloff, would give an excellent gear range.
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Old 02-23-08, 06:23 PM   #11
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My wife (and I) had a similar problem with our previous Dahon Boardwalk D7's.

Gearing was not low enough and space between gears was too great (just couldn't find the right gear on the flats sometimes).

Got her to go for a couple of custom-made Bike Fridays, and I figured hers had to be really good for her to forget about the price of the bikes. I hit a home run! She thinks her Pocket Crusoe is the perfect bike - Chris King Headset, custom color, Thudbuster seat post and Dual Drive with 27-speeds.

Hers cost more than mine - a NWT.........lol

Moral to the story: Well worth the $ to have her so happy.
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Old 02-23-08, 06:31 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by jur View Post
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.
If MrsJ misses riding a big-wheeled bike, why not look at getting a 26' inch folder? I've tested larger Dahon's like the 26' inch Espresso and it wasn't a bad bike. I was thinking of buying one. The Cadenza looks like a solid preformer and with a Brooks Flyer would make it comfortable.

I have two folders and right now my favorite bike is a 1980'a Schwinn World Sport. I just like the feel of the larger wheel and it's a feeling that can't be duplicated in a 16 or 20 inch wheel. Montague also makes good looking 26' inch wheel folders.
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Old 02-23-08, 09:08 PM   #13
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Ah yes - I wondered about him, but didn't know he 'breathed on' Moultons as well as the 'B' bikes.

I wonder what he does to them. By the way, the front suspension on the modern Moultons is adjustable. I tightened mine up. You can adjust spring pressure and damping. Mine was VERY floppy when I picked it up. Now it is pretty firm. I can still make it bob though by pounding on the pedals while out of the seat. That is an experience best avoided by small alterations in riding style. The suspension does make really poor roads suddenly smooth and safe. It adds hugely to a sense of confidence on poor pavement.
Maybe it was a Pashley and I didn't look carefully. I certainly couldn't stay fixed on one bike for long with all that lovely lolly around!
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Old 02-23-08, 09:29 PM   #14
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Jur what do you think of the Downtube Mini compared to the Brompton? Both in terms of difference in fold size and ride quality?
Handling: A couple of circuits in a car park can't give an objective enough input. But what there was, told me the Brommie has a good enough ride to be as good if not better than the Mini. I didn't punish it to find the limits like I have been doing with the Mini, but I don't think that steel seatpost would bob much at all. The brakes were excellent; the handling, well due to the saddle forward issue that was lacking a bit. But I'm confident once the bike is fitted properly it would be at least as good as the Mini, but of course with very limited gears. I plan on doing a loaded tour with the Mini in 2 weeks depending on fitment of a rear rack; I would think very carefully before doing it on a 3-speed. The Brommie has a much longer wheel base so handles accordingly - slow turns are not as sharp, and the front wheel wouldn't lift so easily under heavy acceleration or climbing a steep slope.

The folded size: Folded, the Brommie beats everything you can throw at it. But when I saw a folded Brommie in the flesh yesterday for the 1st time, the first thing that came into my head was, "Oh, that's not as small as I thought." Edge-on, there is little to choose between the 2 for size. Viewing from above, the Mini does not have a system for keeping it all together, but if you used a Velcro strap or 2 the the Mini would also be a neat package but not as small or neat as the Brommie. Having said that, there is little difference between the two. If you're looking to put it in a suitcase, the Brommie is streets ahead again.
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Old 02-23-08, 09:35 PM   #15
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To supplement what Jur just wrote, here are some side-by-side pictures of a Brompton and a Mini for comparison:





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Old 02-23-08, 09:37 PM   #16
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I have to qualify my opinions a bit; I was only intent on really testing the Reach; the others I merely wanted to take for a spin, not remembering on some to look at torsional flexing (I forgot that on the Brompton) and if I'd really wanted a better feel I'd have asked to ride around the block with each instead. IF I'd thought ahead about questions that would inevitably asked, I would have paid better attention. Sorry.
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Old 02-24-08, 06:44 AM   #17
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Maybe it was a Pashley and I didn't look carefully. I certainly couldn't stay fixed on one bike for long with all that lovely lolly around!
That could be it then. The Pashley ones like mine are as close to volume production as the Moultons get. The 'Moulton' moultons cost a damned fortune. I think they are all over about 3000. Oh - there are Bridgestone Moultons too. I think they are made in Japan.

Anyway, I can picture you in that folder shop, eyes flitting from bike to bike like a fox in a chicken coop - slavering, and wondering what to 'bite' at next.
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Old 02-24-08, 11:36 AM   #18
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To supplement what Jur just wrote, here are some side-by-side pictures of a Brompton and a Mini for comparison:
Excellent! Thank you!
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Old 02-24-08, 11:57 AM   #19
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Many Birdy photos are also shown with a ridiculously far forward saddle, even wrong-way around set-back seatposts to further reduce folded dimensions.
The Birdy has a ridiculously laid-back seat angle (don't forget the BB is well in front of the seat tube). Putting the saddle far forward merely gets it back to something approaching a normal seat position. It isn't to reduce the folded dimensions.
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Old 02-24-08, 01:31 PM   #20
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The price for the Birdy seems totally out of whack. Similarly spec'd Birdy's and Reach's are roughly equivalent in the states and Japan. You can pick up an 18 speed monocoque Birdy in Japan for less than the 9 speed in Oz.

It may be a quibble, and not apply to your situation, but the Reach requires removal of the handlebars and seat to break down fully. This leaves you with loose bits to deal with and a larger "fold". It seems that a true folder would be one that folds into a single unit that can be easily carried in one hand.
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Old 02-24-08, 01:35 PM   #21
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The Birdy has a ridiculously laid-back seat angle (don't forget the BB is well in front of the seat tube). Putting the saddle far forward merely gets it back to something approaching a normal seat position. It isn't to reduce the folded dimensions.
The laid back seat tube angle and the 25 deg forward stem riser are probably why it works well for my long arms even with the handlebar straight on top of the stem riser

The 10 degree forward adjustable stem option would work better for people whose arm lentgh /trunk length ratio is less and I guess that seat position provides for finer adjustment.

David
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Old 02-24-08, 01:46 PM   #22
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An R20 with a Rohloff would be the shizzle... mind you having an R20 with a Nexus would also be bloody sweet.

I just can't see the sense of having derailer gears on a folder... my P20 still has it's original SA 3 speed that works mighty well for where I ride and I am seriously considering building another up as a fixed gear.

With that being said, I am most fond of Bromptons as I know a fellow with one and having ridden it can appreciate the ride, and know that this bike has seen some serious and regular use for more than 8 years and has performed very well with a minimum of problems.

I have yet to meet a Dahon that I like.
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Old 02-24-08, 04:33 PM   #23
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The Birdy has a ridiculously laid-back seat angle (don't forget the BB is well in front of the seat tube). Putting the saddle far forward merely gets it back to something approaching a normal seat position. It isn't to reduce the folded dimensions.
Ah, OK. Thanks for putting me right.
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Old 02-24-08, 04:38 PM   #24
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The price for the Birdy seems totally out of whack. Similarly spec'd Birdy's and Reach's are roughly equivalent in the states and Japan. You can pick up an 18 speed monocoque Birdy in Japan for less than the 9 speed in Oz.

It may be a quibble, and not apply to your situation, but the Reach requires removal of the handlebars and seat to break down fully. This leaves you with loose bits to deal with and a larger "fold". It seems that a true folder would be one that folds into a single unit that can be easily carried in one hand.
Unfortunately bike prices are horribly inflated here in Oz. We don't earn more, but I think the importers are raping us. I rarely buy stuff from bike shops. But with bikes you're usually stuck. My Mini was a special import, and with the Swift Peter Reich mailed me a frame and I built it up.

Regarding folding size on the Reach, I agree, but I am looking for something that can be transported in a car instead of on the back of a car on a rack. If I want to put it in a suitcase I would have to disassemble anyway. The handling is one of the most important issues, and the Reach is a light weight bike as well.
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Old 02-25-08, 09:50 AM   #25
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Thanks for your impressions jur.

Interesting to read you write that the Birdy was every bit as good as the Reach. I didn't know they made 406mm Birdys.
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