Yet Another Newbie looking for Advice
Hello everyone -
My husband recently decided that folding bikes would be a good way for us to be able to ride together and actually be able to store our bikes in the very limited space we have. Right now we have one generic, cheapo, full sized quasi-mountain bike that we've been sharing for the last decade. Not ideal, but our small patio shed is barely large enough for it, let alone another full sized bike, so the idea of folders is quite appealing. With storage bags we'd be able to bring them inside, potentially pop them in the car trunk and take them on trips, etc.
We currently live in southeastern Florida so our regular riding conditions are not hilly at all (with the exception of bridges and such, and I tend to stick to the pavement, rather than venture off road. However the roads tend to be somewhat rough at times (our tax dollars at work!) and there are the occasional speedbumps and cobblestones and whatnot. Our current bike has front suspension that I really like a lot, but my husband really couldn't care less about.
Our budget seems to be hovering in the $500 and under range per bike.
We're really leaning towards 20" rather than 16" wheels, but it's still a tough call. Our local bike shop had a Dahon D7 in stock, but it was a bit twitchy in the handling, even with the 20" wheel. I like the the Downtube 2008 9 with its front suspension...but there's no way to take one out for a spin before purchase. The other Dahons we're thinking about are the Espresso or the Jack, but the local shop has neither in stock and I'm wondering about the 26" wheels vs ease of portability. Hrm. My head. It hurts.
Researching has resulted in Information Overload, but it also led me to this forum. In my searching, it seems that Dahon and Downtube are the prevailing winners in our price range...but the question them becomes: Which model(s)? Is there another company we should consider?
Any insight, advice and tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Smiling and Waving
For starters,the 26" wheels would be much better for the varied terrain you will be riding on.Will be a MUCH smoother riding bike.But,I don't know how small they would fold down to.Might be interesting to try and fit both in the trunk of your car though.
The twitchiness has more to do with frame angles than tire size.The easiest way to explain, the more vertical the forks are the twitchier it will be.So,the less vertical(canted out) the smoother the steering will be.
It's called a more relaxed angle.
I'm a Downtube owner and from what you say about your price range and how you'll be using the bikes, I think you'd do well to consider one of the Downtube models. Downtubes' strengths are their value for the money, the comfort of the suspended models and the fairly small fold. All of this seems to be in line with what you are looking for - from what you say, I wouldn't get a 20" wheel bike without suspension, and Downtube, in my opinion, offers the best value among sub-$500 folders with suspension forks. I have had a full suspension model for a couple years now, but if I was buying now I'd go with the 8h for $399. I haven't ridden one myself (you can find a number of reviews of it on this forum) but that price for a bike with that Sturmey Archer hub is remarkable - and as I've ridden small-wheeled bikes more, the logic of having an internal hub becomes apparent.
Good luck with whatever you choose!
edit: I should add that when I was first shopping for a folder, like you I test rode a lower-priced Dahon and found it less stable than I liked. After reading reviews of Downtube here, I gambled on the FS model without being able to try it before buying. I was very relieved to find that one of the best qualities of the bike is its stability. Especially when out of the saddle, it is much less twitchy than other 20"-ers I've tried. Of course, this is a highly subjective evaluation.
Last edited by Trocadile; 03-02-08 at 06:05 PM.
Downtube is a good choice - Dahon Speed 8 (around $500. ea) would also be good.
20" wheels are not that bad - you quickly get used to the faster response. The wife was 60 when we got our first Dahons (D7s) and only a casual rider. She is very comfortable on them, and yes, they store in a lot less space, too - folded of not.
You could always take a ride up to Okracoke Island and see Yan (Downtube founder). He has a bike shop there where undoubtedly you could test ride a couple of his bikes.
Have a fun search.
Originally Posted by Enkeli
Maybe you just need one of these and a bike rack for the car:
Those two things together might total $300 at most. There is somewhat of a premium built into the cost of a folding bike and a lot of compromises that may be unnecessary depending on your circumstances. You can buy a very nice conventional bike for a lot less typically that may offer more enjoyment. To me a folder only really makes sense to bridge the gap between bus/train/metro and for running around town or commuting to work where racks are not available and for the sheer novelty of it. Otherwise, a regular bike is still superior in most ways, most notably price. I own a Bike Friday tikit, which is arguably one of the better models out there. It's a lovely bike for what it is, but it offers some unwanted features atypical of a conventional bike. Mine goes out of whack (derailer, brakes, etc.) too frequently for my taste, I scrape pedals more than I'd like, and ad-ons to improve fit can be limited to parts that won't interfere with the fold. This is probably my own shortcoming, but I also am realizing I hold back when riding the folding bike because I'm afraid if I take a bump too aggressively or lean into the handlebars too hard it will yield because it flexes a bit under load (though it probably is in no danger). I wouldn't personally make a folder my only bike, but there are many who would disagree with me. I am becoming more an advocate of the quasi-folding bikes that fold, but not all that conveniently with traditional handlebar posts and a solid frame designed primarily to be taken when traveling, not folded quickly before jumping on a train. I would only recommend the tikit or any true folding bike to those that absolutely can not use a traditional bike for their purpose and if the convenience outweighs the shortcomings. If that's not the case, I think you're spending more money for a lesser bike than you could otherwise own. In that price range for leisurely riding about, I'd recommend an Electra Townie. There is certainly no shortage of conventional bikes in that range.
Last edited by Mr. Smith; 03-03-08 at 01:11 AM.
I have a Jack and love it although I would not recommend it to anyone with restricted space or wanting to put it in their car boot because the wheel and frame size mean it is still quite bulky to carry and store.
On the plus side, it is great to be able to fold the wheels together when locking it up and you will fine many more ends of cycle racks and places in towns where you can lock your folded bike. It also does not look attractive to thieves when folded and locked.
Downtube has a good return policy. If you are not satisfied, you can return the bikes within some period. I think that the period is 30 days. You would pay shipping; but it seems worth it rather than drive someplace far to test ride a bike.
For my taste, I would almost always avoid a suspension on a bike and just go with fat tires at a lower tire pressure. But others do think differently.
Given that you or your husband is a little handy, I think that the Downtubes are an excellent buy.
Wow, thanks everyone!
The insight and feedback you've given me will definitely help my husband and I make the right decision. I'm really glad I stumbled across this great forum in the course of my research into the fascinating world of folders.
Again, I really (really!) appreciate the help!
Originally Posted by Enkeli
Be sure to let us know what you end up doing.
Hello again, everyone!
After much deliberation and discussion, my husband and I decided to go with the 2008 Downtube 9. We ordered them tonight! I can't wait!
Again, thanks for all the help here. I'll post again when they arrive and we get things set up.
So we've had our 2008 Downtube 9s for about a week now. Time flies! The most annoying part of the last week has been trying to schedule some riding time around working time!
We wound up ordering three bikes. (one for our daughter as well, since she will need a bike to tool around the FSU campus when she starts college in the fall). All in all, we're very pleased with the bikes and the way they ride and handle. Getting the derailer juuuuust so was a bit fiddly, but it's been smooth shifting ever since. I'm still getting the hang of folding and unfolding and sometimes I feel like such a total ****, but I do love this bike. My husband and daughter love theirs too. We're quite happy so far.
The only real problem we had was with one of the storage bags. The first time my daughter folded her bike, put it in the bag, and went to lift it, the stitching around one end of the shoulder strap ripped. Since my husband placed the order, he needs to email Yan about that. When he comes up for air from working, he will do that.
I've had a Downtube IX for the better part of a year now. It is a fine bike as you have found. I think my dérailleur was bent in shipping and I could never really get it adjusted correctly. So I just replaced the entire drivetrain with SRAM parts. And not very expensive since I bought both new and used parts.
Over the last year I have upgraded most of the easily replaceable parts on the bike, but nothing made the bike more ridable and enjoyable like upgrading the chain, cassette and dérailleur. Something to keep in mind for the future.