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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 02-24-08, 12:29 AM   #1
gunter
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Folding bikes Problems

Folding bikes seem so practical that I can't understand why any commuter would use a regular non-folding bike. Does anyone out there have any reasons why there aren't more folding bikes? Are there problems with them?
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Old 02-24-08, 12:46 AM   #2
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* They cost more for the same quality
* Replacement parts cost more
* Replacement parts (tires especially) don't last as long
* They often weigh more
* There are more things to break
* They are often slower
* They often don't fit as well
* Normal load/cargo carrying solutions often don't work with them

I didn't even really think much to get that small list. I love my folding bike, but it still is only used on about 20% of my rides, and probably <10% of my miles.

alex
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Old 02-24-08, 01:02 AM   #3
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I really love my folder (a 1973 Phillips Twenty) and part of that stems from the fact it's the only bike I can ride at the moment... a back injury won't let me swing a leg over my other bikes. It is a great bike to commute on as it can handle anything, is fun, and a very nice riding bicycle.

It is also very solid, reliable, and did not cost me much to buy or to upgrade and is probably more bombproof than most folding bikes as I would have no reservations about off roading it.

It is a little heavier than modern folders but when I am done upgrading it, I expect it to be reasonably light.

But when I can swing a leg over I'll be riding my other bikes more...

My fixed gear road bike is about as much fun as one can have on tow wheels and is my primary non winter commuter... whereas my folder tops out at 35, that is just a wee faster than my cruising speed on the road bike.

My fixed gear mtb commuter is also quite fast and also very comfortable on the commute.

And then there are 11 more bikes that demand their fair share of my attention.
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Old 02-24-08, 03:45 AM   #4
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Just last Saturday I got rid of my last big-wheeled bikes, and now own only folders (althought there still are a few big-wheeled bikes in my garage).

I think I agree with Alex's list. I am forever tinkering with my folding bikes, and frequently make parts on the lathe due to non-standard parts needed, such as a loooooooong seat post with laaaaaaaaaaarge diameter.

I have a 20" Big Apple on my R20 commuter which has done about 10,000km, and is not worn through yet.
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Old 02-24-08, 05:57 AM   #5
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Does anyone out there have any reasons why there aren't more folding bikes? Are there problems with them?
Gunter
Folders are an aquired taste. At first, they look 'funny' to lots of people.
The bicycle industry is 60% vanity and hype. Basically, folders dont look
cool or hip to most of todays carbon-lycra cycling public. Usually people
are sold after thier first ride, its just getting them to check them out.
Once they ride them they have a whole different outlook. I ride my
DownTube daily for an RT of 20 miles and love it Ive put 2500 on it in
6 months and no problems at all.
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Old 02-24-08, 06:24 AM   #6
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I would disagree with most of the list, if you consider FULL SIZE folding bikes, like the Dahon Jack (26 ") or the Cadenza. The latter even looks 100% normal (the Jack is 95%).

Most parts are standard size, the quality is excellent etc. You don't always get as many gears as traditional frames - but frankly who needs 24 gears anyway?

I'm fairly certain that I will only buy a (full-size) folding bike from now on, for my (non-extreme) use it does everything a "normal" bike does but it can be carried in the boot of a car which is immensely useful.

Small wheeled bikes are definitely an acquired taste though. I have one but I am not convinced.
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Old 02-24-08, 06:39 AM   #7
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Small wheeled bikes are definitely an acquired taste though. I have one but I am not convinced.
I have two and I AM convinced.

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Old 02-24-08, 08:11 AM   #8
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I have a 20" Big Apple on my R20 commuter which has done about 10,000km, and is not worn through yet.
If a Big Apple lasts 10,000km in 20" then it should last roughly ((27/20) * 10,000) or 13,500km in 700C. The larger diameter wheel has more rubber to wear down.

When you get into shorter lived performance tires the wear becomes more dramatic. I'll be surprised if I get much more than 3,000km out of my Greenspeed Scorchers.

What are you building on your lathe? (I recently acquired one, have been using it to build tooling and parts for my rack building hobby)

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Old 02-24-08, 08:16 AM   #9
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I would disagree with most of the list, if you consider FULL SIZE folding bikes, like the Dahon Jack (26 ") or the Cadenza. The latter even looks 100% normal (the Jack is 95%).
They don't really fold that well though. A 26" wheeled folding bike won't fold to get you onto public transportation, most won't get into an airline-legal carrier, and they don't fit as nicely into a closet or under a desk. There is a reason why most people who buy folding bikes are looking for 16" to 20" wheels.

Quote:
Most parts are standard size, the quality is excellent etc. You don't always get as many gears as traditional frames - but frankly who needs 24 gears anyway?
Anyone who wants the ~500+% gear range for mountain biking or loaded touring in the mountains. I require it, just not on my folder because I don't push it into that type of duty. 24 gears aren't useful, but a 24 speed derailleur drivetrain doesn't have 24 unique gears anyway. The range is what is important.

alex
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Old 02-24-08, 09:32 AM   #10
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Folding bikes seem so practical that I can't understand why any commuter would use a regular non-folding bike. Does anyone out there have any reasons why there aren't more folding bikes? Are there problems with them?
Gunter
Quote:
Originally Posted by -=Łem in Pa=- View Post
At first, they look 'funny' to lots of people.
The bicycle industry is 60% vanity and hype. Basically, folders dont look
cool or hip to most of todays carbon-lycra cycling public.
I would put the "looks funny" at the top of the list. I often get comments that indicate the commenter doesn't see my folder as a real bike.

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Old 02-24-08, 09:36 AM   #11
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For general tooling around, I only ride my folders. At this point, I don't see why I'd need a full size bike for going into town, or riding to the gym or doing errands. (I don't do multi-day touring.)

When I go on long or fast rides, I use my full size road bikes. I toy with the idea of doing a century with one of my folding bikes, and maybe I'll do it someday when I'm not concerned about time. But nothing beats the feel of zipping down the road on my 16.4 lb carbon roadie. It's just too sweet - makes me feel like Superman
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Old 02-24-08, 09:49 AM   #12
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Fit, Fit,and Fit...did I say fit? Folders are a compromise when it comes to fit, especially if you are over "average" size or height. I want/need a 16" wheeled folder for the compact fold. The only folder on the market that I can find that looks like it will fit me is a Brommie. Finding bikes to test ride is very difficult to nearly impossible. The closest dealer to me that stocks more than one brand is a 6-7 hour drive! and his stock is limited. To test ride more than one Brommie I have to travel around 600 miles.

Then you can add Alex's list to mine. Proprietary parts and parts that seem to wear faster. FWIW I do own one folder that is a bit of an oddity 1968 Raleigh Compact RSW, it doesn't fold particularly small, and is bloody heavy to boot. I have yet to get my hands on a Raleigh Twenty, but in part because I am saving money for a Brompton.

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Old 02-24-08, 09:56 AM   #13
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Fit, Fit,and Fit...did I say fit?
Bike Friday, Bike Friday, Bike Friday.

Otherwise, I agree with you. If you are 3 sigma in height it's hard to find a folder that fits.

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I want/need a 16" wheeled folder for the compact fold. The only folder on the market that I can find that looks like it will fit me is a Brommie.
Try a Tikit. 16 inch wheels and they come in three stock sizes. I'm 6'3" and the large is working for me.

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Old 02-24-08, 10:21 AM   #14
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There aren't more folding bikes out there because, in most cases, the advantages of folding bikes -- portable, easier to store, convenience -- are not worth the compromises in comfort, performance, handling, cost, limited fit.

Folding bikes are, and always will be, a niche product.
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Old 02-24-08, 12:09 PM   #15
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Folding bikes seem so practical that I can't understand why any commuter would use a regular non-folding bike. Does anyone out there have any reasons why there aren't more folding bikes? Are there problems with them?
Gunter
Folding bikes are unusual in most locations and many people are uncomfortable doing or owning things that do not fit ito the normal range for the time and the location.

Like most things in life, all bike designs are compromises. A great lightweight road bike will be fast on a good road but may not be good for carrying heavy loads and will be terrible off road. A great full suspension moutain bike will not be partiularly good for riding fast on good roads. A hybrid with an upright position will be great for sight seeing and for visibility in traffic but not too good for cycling into a headwind. None of the above will be compact to store or to take on transport.

Many people are interested in only one type of riding and buy a bike to fit that. Others do not put a priority on storage space or overall cost or just like to collect bikes so they buy a special purpose bike for each function they want.

For commuters who use public transport for part of the route or have storage problems at either end, a folding bike has clear advantages but for those who cycle all the way from home to work and have good storage available at each end, a folding bike is not a necessity.

In my case I wanted one bike that would not be much of a compromise for any of the things I want to do on a bike. These included riding around town, carrying groceries etc., trail riding, taking inside a car on driving holidays, possible commuting, possible road trips, possible trips using bus or train for part of the journey and possible trips by air.

I wanted it to last for many years, be light, be quick, be fun to ride, be well designed, be well built and above all be comfortable. I also wanted it to be easy to fit and conceal two of them inside a small car. It had to be comfortable for me at 200 lb, 6'2" with very long legs yet, if possible, be rideable by 5'0" visiting friends.

I ended up buying a Birdy and could not be happier.

David

Last edited by energyandair; 02-24-08 at 12:12 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 02-24-08, 12:10 PM   #16
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I've seen someone commuting on a UK train with a 26" Jack. The luggage racks are quite large on the Southern railway. Of course for commuting a Brompton/Mezzo makes sense although as I am 6' 3" they look like a circus stunt bike on me.

But there is also a large potential market for leisure folders, car transportable to somewhere interesting/different to ride. I've certainly ridden a lot more since getting a Jack for this reason and my 20" folder isn't really superior for this purpose and looks strange into the bargain.

The killer factor for me is that the 20" (Speed P8) is largely unuseable on rough surfaces due to being twitchy, whereas the Jack can handle bridleways and gravel paths with less of a problem.
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Old 02-24-08, 12:33 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedo View Post
Bike Friday, Bike Friday, Bike Friday.

Otherwise, I agree with you. If you are 3 sigma in height it's hard to find a folder that fits.



Try a Tikit. 16 inch wheels and they come in three stock sizes. I'm 6'3" and the large is working for me.

Speedo
Had a BF NWT several years ago that was stolen whilst in it's suitcase! I have not seen a Tikit anywhere, but that is not surprising considering where I live I think the one dealer in NYC that I plan to visit stocks them along with the Brommie. I stand 6-2" but have long legs and arms. My normal seat to pedal is in the 37" range.

Aaron
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Old 02-24-08, 01:20 PM   #18
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I stand 6-2" but have long legs and arms. My normal seat to pedal is in the 37" range.

Aaron
The top of my pedal to the top of my seat is 38 1/2" measured along the line passing the center of the bottom bracket and the front of the top of the seatpost.

That is about maximum extension on a Birdy. It works fine for me in conjunction with the standard non -extending 25 deg stem riser.

David
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Old 02-24-08, 01:21 PM   #19
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Folding bikes seem so practical that I can't understand why any commuter would use a regular non-folding bike. Does anyone out there have any reasons why there aren't more folding bikes? Are there problems with them?
Gunter
In my opinion, folding in itself usually doesn't provide much benefit. The majority of the space saving gained by folding bikes comes from just having a small bike (small wheels, short wheelbase, fewer tubes, etc).

Compared to their larger counterparts, small bikes are at a disadvantage with respect to comfort, handling, etc. Commuters prefer larger bikes for the same reasons they prefer wider tires (comfort, handling, etc, etc).
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Old 02-24-08, 02:22 PM   #20
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Had a BF NWT several years ago that was stolen whilst in it's suitcase!
Ouch!

Quote:
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I have not seen a Tikit anywhere, but that is not surprising considering where I live I think the one dealer in NYC that I plan to visit stocks them along with the Brommie. I stand 6-2" but have long legs and arms. My normal seat to pedal is in the 37" range.
Yeah, BFold and NYCE Wheels both carry Tikits.

I just measured... As adjusted for me, from the center of the pedal axle to the seat post clamp is 37 inches. It's another inch and a half up along that line to the top of the saddle. There is still some unused extension in the seatpost before max height.

Good luck!

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Old 02-24-08, 02:42 PM   #21
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In respect to comfort I believe that 20 inch folders have a significant advantage and a 24 inch folder would be even better if it was well designed.

I recently suffered a back injury and have to say that I do not give up anything in the way of comfort when I ride my Phillip's 20 and only lose when it comes to performance...but then again...I have set up the bike to serve as a utilitarian commuter that can handle pretty much any weather or terrain and the gearing is such that I can pull a trailer with it.

People who have ridden my 20 have been astounded to find that it really feels much like a full sized bike and is not much different from my full sized Raleigh Superbe 3 speed as far as fit and ride go.

It seems that many folks who ride folders have the same complaints as those who ride road bikes in that they want them to be as comfortable as they are fast and the things that make a bike comfortable are also things that slow them down.

If I build another P20 as a fixed gear then the focus would be on performance and not utility and I will not expect this bike to be nearly as plush as my utilitarian P20 folder.

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Old 02-24-08, 02:54 PM   #22
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I have a 8 speed hub geared Downtube VIIIH. I replaced a 26" Specialized Crossroads Elite which was lightweight and had Shimano Deore trigger-shift gears and wheels designed for both normal roads and trails. I've ridden the Downtube 20" on canal towpaths, it is allowed on trains peak hours, and it rides pretty close in comfort to the 26" bike I had. It is a very versatile bike and I don't miss the 26" one at all.
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Old 02-24-08, 04:28 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
There aren't more folding bikes out there because, in most cases, the advantages of folding bikes -- portable, easier to store, convenience -- are not worth the compromises in comfort, performance, handling, cost, limited fit.

Folding bikes are, and always will be, a niche product.
I wonder if those reasons are really the ones.

Comfort - I know this to be not true.
Performance - my Swift is essentially equal to roadie performance.
Handling - I have ridden big-wheeled bikes with crap handling and small-wheeled bikes with nice handling
Cost - you get folders from $100 or lower up to many k$. Same for big-wheeled bikes.
limited fit - OK, I will somewhat agree here. But it is not a major problem and not the reason for few folders. Most people don't know about fit anyway.

No, I think the reason is small wheels are seen as toys for children, so folders (if they are know to exist in the first place) are regarded as such by the uninformed (ie most people). Alternatively, since in years gone by, folders were of the calibre of Raleigh Twenty or Peugeot or a variety of lesser-known brands, were always regarded as curiosities, only suitable for taking on holiday in the van or suchlike. And as such only bikes of such quality were produced. There weren't any high performance ones.

This image still persists and as a result that marketplace is catered for so you get a lot of low quality. The higher quality stuff is regarded as expensive but to be fair they are not really much more expensive than comparable conventional bikes. A bit, perhaps.

Small wheels shall for a long time still (perhaps always) be regarded as inferior (a myth). And as such is not considered for serious riding.

I post equal times up the various climbs I do on my Swift compared to my now-gone roadie, but still my ignorant ridding buddy makes comments like what I would do with a real bike. Small wheels are simply not "real," ie proper. They're little more than toys, and even that is a concession.
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Old 02-24-08, 05:12 PM   #24
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Folding bikes are unusual in most locations and many people are uncomfortable doing or owning things that do not fit ito the normal range for the time and the location.

Like most things in life, all bike designs are compromises. A great lightweight road bike will be fast on a good road but may not be good for carrying heavy loads and will be terrible off road. A great full suspension moutain bike will not be partiularly good for riding fast on good roads. A hybrid with an upright position will be great for sight seeing and for visibility in traffic but not too good for cycling into a headwind. None of the above will be compact to store or to take on transport.

Many people are interested in only one type of riding and buy a bike to fit that. Others do not put a priority on storage space or overall cost or just like to collect bikes so they buy a special purpose bike for each function they want.

For commuters who use public transport for part of the route or have storage problems at either end, a folding bike has clear advantages but for those who cycle all the way from home to work and have good storage available at each end, a folding bike is not a necessity.

In my case I wanted one bike that would not be much of a compromise for any of the things I want to do on a bike. These included riding around town, carrying groceries etc., trail riding, taking inside a car on driving holidays, possible commuting, possible road trips, possible trips using bus or train for part of the journey and possible trips by air.

I wanted it to last for many years, be light, be quick, be fun to ride, be well designed, be well built and above all be comfortable. I also wanted it to be easy to fit and conceal two of them inside a small car. It had to be comfortable for me at 200 lb, 6'2" with very long legs yet, if possible, be rideable by 5'0" visiting friends.

I ended up buying a Birdy and could not be happier.

David
David - What's the support for the Birdy like up that way? Are accessories and parts readily available? It's a complete joke here in the states and I'm having trouble finding even the basics. An attempt to order a fender set from England has turned into a disaster.

But I still recommend the Birdy overall. The suspension works very well with no sign of pogo-ing thus far and there is little flex anywhere. The build quality, engineering, and components are excellent. The only improvements I felt compelled to make were my traditional carbon handlebar, which I've found to relieve harmonics buzzing, and the peddles I prefer.

Too bad the distribution and dealer network here doesn't seem too committed to promoting the marque. But then again, cycling in the states is more of a status thing than transportation and them funny little bikes just aint cool.
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Old 02-24-08, 05:47 PM   #25
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Comfort - I know this to be not true.
I have to disagree with this one. The public roads are generally well traveled by vehicles which weigh a couple tons and have wheels around 16"-20" in diameter. As a result imperfections 16"-20" in diameter are very common. I subsequently believe that there is a bit a cusp at around 16"-20" in the ability of wheels to smooth the usual pothole jolts (with wheels around 16"-20" in diameter being disproportionately more jarring than their larger counterparts).

I wholeheartedly agree that on glass-like tarmac this is not an issue. In fact, I'd even go so far as to argue that, in such cases, the smallest wheels possible are best. Ironically enough, folks that ride in such conditions seem to be the most vocal opponents of small wheels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jur View Post
limited fit - OK, I will somewhat agree here. But it is not a major problem and not the reason for few folders. Most people don't know about fit anyway.
I have to say I'm a bit confused about the fit complaints. My impression is that apart from the adage "it fits if you feel it does" no one can really agree about bike fitting anyway. Since diamond frames aren't very modular and whatever fit concerns you may have need to be settled when you buy the bike, but the adjustable/modular designs commonly used for folding frames are so easy to reconfigure that it's easier to fine tune the fit later. If anything I'd say that most folders are at an advantage when it comes to fit.
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