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Old 03-18-08, 09:44 PM   #1
DanMan4142
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Replacing Downtube NS with BF NWT?

I purchased a downtube NS several months ago in anticipation of using it for short rides while I am spending 6-12 months in Belgium for my job. I have ridden the Downtube on a number of rides around town (Tulsa Ok), and while I like it, have really started to get the itch to upgrade parts. I also want to try some overnight tours here in the states and then plan for a couple of 1-2week tours while in europe. Before I splurge and spend $300-500 on upgrade parts for my downtube, I am considering trading up for a Bike Friday NWT. Would a bottom of the line NWT be a good candidate for a 2 week loaded camping tour(as well as many shorter rides) in europe without any upgrades, or might I be better off sinking several hundered dollars into the downtube to upgrade it. I really like the idea of the steel frame on the BF, but in practice I'm not sure how much stronger/more reliable it will be. Any thoughts?

So all that to say, I can save a few hundred bucks by sticking with the downtube, but ultimately would I be better off going with the bike friday since it is designed for touring? What do you guys think?
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Old 03-18-08, 11:09 PM   #2
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It's all a matter of budget, but the NWT will be much better suited to what you have planned. If you've got the ability to pay for it, it's the way to go.

BTW, I don't know if you are aware, but they are made of steel.
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Old 03-19-08, 06:31 AM   #3
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BTW, I don't know if you are aware, but they are made of steel.
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Old 03-19-08, 06:34 AM   #4
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In my opinion, the NWT is better suited to the application you are considering.

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Old 03-19-08, 07:24 AM   #5
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Before I splurge and spend $300-500 on upgrade parts for my downtube, I am considering trading up for a Bike Friday NWT.
If you stick with the Downtube, which parts were you considering for upgrade?
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Old 03-19-08, 08:38 AM   #6
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Sorry, I didn't have the time to give a complete answer before.

Before I bought my BF NWT I knew that I wanted to have a bike I could travel with, and that the bike needed to be tour worthy. I went through the exercise of thinking about buying a Downtube, Dahon, or Swift and upgrading. Knowing from the start that I wanted something tour worthy, with a wide range of gears, then the upgrade path either ended up to be as expensive as the BF, or with an unacceptable compromise on the bike configuration.

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Old 03-19-08, 09:24 AM   #7
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What can't you modify on the NS to make it a comfy touring bike? I confess that I have never bought into the Bike Friday mystique. They talk about customization, but with the Downtubes, everything's standard - you can customize with off the shelf parts to your heart's content. Want longer reach? Change the stem. Want drop bars? Install one or get Origin8 drop bar-ends. Want better drivetrain? You can get SRAM X.7 parts of eBay for cheap. Want different wheels? Well, you know what to do.

Again, I just don't buy into the Bike Friday cool-aid. Sorry.

Caveat: The only thing not alterable is the frame. On the NS, the wheelbase is 39 inches, probably a couple inches shorter than optimum for touring.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:41 AM   #8
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I wasn't sold on Bike Friday either until I got one and all I can say is they are awesome! I really believe that you get what you pay for. I probably won't be attending any BF meet-ups are traveling with a BF posse on a tour, but they really do make great bikes. I have a Tikit and not a NWT, but I imagine the quality is the same....just sorry you had to throw away money intially on the Downtube...they kind of look like ass in my opinion. Sorry.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:59 AM   #9
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Caveat: The only thing not alterable is the frame. On the NS, the wheelbase is 39 inches, probably a couple inches shorter than optimum for touring.
All in all, Sesame, I agree. For simple running around, the DT is tough to beat. Like you said, you can change it to your heart's content. Even after a lot of customizing, you're still going to be cheaper than a Bike Friday.

Your caveat is the real trick, though. 2 weeks of touring is a pretty big deal. If you tell the Friday people that you are looking to do this, they will set the frame geometry and tubing choices to be able to carry front and rear panniers without becoming hard to ride or worrying about overloading the bike.

Overall, the Friday's are nicer than DT's. For the money they cost, they should be. Budget is going to be the overall question mark.
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Old 03-19-08, 10:09 AM   #10
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Overall, the Friday's are nicer than DT's. For the money they cost, they should be. Budget is going to be the overall question mark.
How much does the Bike Friday NWT cost (with expanded gear range)?
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Old 03-19-08, 10:19 AM   #11
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I'd probably start here.

http://www.bikefriday.com/node/4964?styleId=0

$1200 then add the custom stuff for touring.
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Old 03-19-08, 11:11 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by DanMan4142 View Post
I purchased a downtube NS several months ago in anticipation of using it for short rides while I am spending 6-12 months in Belgium for my job. I have ridden the Downtube on a number of rides around town (Tulsa Ok), and while I like it, have really started to get the itch to upgrade parts. I also want to try some overnight tours here in the states and then plan for a couple of 1-2week tours while in europe. Before I splurge and spend $300-500 on upgrade parts for my downtube, I am considering trading up for a Bike Friday NWT. Would a bottom of the line NWT be a good candidate for a 2 week loaded camping tour(as well as many shorter rides) in europe without any upgrades, or might I be better off sinking several hundered dollars into the downtube to upgrade it. I really like the idea of the steel frame on the BF, but in practice I'm not sure how much stronger/more reliable it will be. Any thoughts?

So all that to say, I can save a few hundred bucks by sticking with the downtube, but ultimately would I be better off going with the bike friday since it is designed for touring? What do you guys think?
Let me start off by stating that there are decreasing returns in cycling overall. So with respect to folding bikes you can easily spend twice the amount on a Bike Friday relative to a Downtube; but you certainly will not get a bike that performs twice as well.

What you get from Bike Friday is (1) pretty good customer service/support, (2) product with a relatively high quality control, (3) custom fit, and (4) a bike designed (with available accessories) for touring. If you think that those qualities are worth the Bike Friday premium, then I recommend you take the plunge.

Note that the Bike Friday gives you more gearing options. Given that along with the qualities listed above, I would be surprised if there was no performance difference between the two bikes with identical components. Of course the engine is still the most important part of the machine.
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Old 03-25-08, 08:56 PM   #13
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Sorry to take so long to respond, I was out of town and then busy the last couple of days!

Thanks for all of the input. I still havent decided one way or the other, and probably wont for a few weeks.

Here is a list of things I can think of that I would like to potentially upgrade on my current downtube:

derailer
shifter
possibly brakes
saddle
bottom bracket(I'm concerned with reliability)
pedals

I may also need to modify the gearing slightly, havent decided that yet.

Its no doubt going to be cheaper to make these upgrades than to purchase a NWT, but I want to be certain that I can rely on my bike. If I replace the above mentioned parts, is there anything else I should be concerned with on the downtube? Can I really trust the aluminum frame for touring? (BTW I'm only 150lbs myself).
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Old 03-25-08, 09:11 PM   #14
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All the items on your list have to do with performance and not fit (except the saddle). That tells me you're happy with the fit on the NS. I have owned several Downtubes, including the NS. I have also changed many of the items you're considering. If you do change all those parts, you should have absolutely no concerns about reliability on a tour. I've found Downtube frames are actually quite sturdy. Here's a picture of me on a modified Downtube where I actually am sitting right on top of the frame hinge ( I weigh 190 lbs).


I swapped the drivetrain on my Downtube Front Suspension with SRAM X.7 rear derailleur and shifters, an 11x34 cassette and chain. It performed absolutely beautifully. The shifting with X.7 was wonderful. I found that bike to be a joy to ride. Here's a picture after I did the mods. I also changed the wheels on this particular one (not necessary, I just had them around).



Other comments on your desired changes:

- no need to change brakes, just the brake pads to KoolStops
- consider changing the cranks, the originals are pretty cheap


You'll have a pretty nice bike after these changes. Good luck and have fun tinkering.
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Old 03-25-08, 11:38 PM   #15
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That's a pretty cool Cruz Bike conversion. Do you think FWD offers advantages for touring? I'm thinking that a touring load might be about what your child weighs if not more. How does the aft weight distribution affect traction and steering control with FWD? How do you like it?
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Old 03-26-08, 02:23 AM   #16
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I wasn't sold on Bike Friday either until I got one and all I can say is they are awesome! I really believe that you get what you pay for. I probably won't be attending any BF meet-ups are traveling with a BF posse on a tour, but they really do make great bikes. I have a Tikit and not a NWT, but I imagine the quality is the same....just sorry you had to throw away money intially on the Downtube...they kind of look like ass in my opinion. Sorry.
Fair enough jss, you find the BF a great bike. But your comment is not well founded about 'throw away money' on the Downtube or calling its looks 'ass'. This is subjective and not very well argued. For your information I get stopped on my silver Downtube VIII H all the time in London and people comment on what a great looking bike it is. Even my students at university think it's a cool bike, so the younger fraternity buy into its looks. So that's just your opinion.

BTW Sesamecrunch I think your mods look great. How much did that cost you for the parts in total? I assumed you did the labour? I'm not that handy but have a Downtube FS and would love to add your gearing mods but would also need to cost the labour.

As for BF Vs NS mods, it's all down to cost like my dilemma above. The BF is a very good bike but I had spent around $200 on my Downtube VIIIH lowering the gearing, having it professionally tuned and adding Japanese made MK-S folding pedals and the bike is a fantastic ride now. Worth every penny. It is well capable of commuting or touring.

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Old 03-26-08, 07:54 AM   #17
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Can I really trust the aluminum frame for touring? (BTW I'm only 150lbs myself).
yes.
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Old 03-26-08, 08:27 AM   #18
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That's a pretty cool Cruz Bike conversion. Do you think FWD offers advantages for touring? I'm thinking that a touring load might be about what your child weighs if not more. How does the aft weight distribution affect traction and steering control with FWD? How do you like it?
My son is about 40 lbs currently and I'm 190. You can move the position of the seat to get the proper weight balance between the two wheels. It's important to do that to avoid losing traction on the front (drive) wheel, especially in uphill situations.

This Cruzbike conversion is my one and only recumbent bike, so I can't offer a substantive comparison between FWD and conventional 'bents. However, there are many such comments in the Yahoo Groups for Cruzbikes. You may want to look in there.

I like my Cruzbike a lot. The 'bent position offers more visibility and comfort. But, I have to add that because I'm mostly an upright bike rider, I haven't put in the time to develop really strong 'bent legs. So my Cruzbike is mostly for tooling around town and chauffering my son.
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Old 03-26-08, 08:33 AM   #19
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BTW Sesamecrunch I think your mods look great. How much did that cost you for the parts in total? I assumed you did the labour? I'm not that handy but have a Downtube FS and would love to add your gearing mods but would also need to cost the labour.
Costs (approximate). These were mostly eBay acquisitions:

SRAM RD: $50
SRAM Shifter: $20
cassette: $35
Cranks: ~$100 (Mine were lying around the parts bin)
Front disc brake: ~$120 (from my parts bin. Not a necessary mod)
Saddle: $50

Yes, I did all the work. It's pretty straightforward, but you need some tools. I had never done any work on bikes when I made the mods on this Downtube Front Suspension, so don't be afraid to try...
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Old 03-26-08, 08:56 AM   #20
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I did a short cycle tour in Belgium on a Dahon awhile back. When considering any folding bike, keep in mind that several of the larger / fun cities (Ghent and Bruges in particular) are chock full of cobblestones, which are punishing on 20" wheels. Antwerp was fine, I didn't spend any time in Brussels.

Anyway. My take on the Downtube is that it's cheap for a reason, specifically the components. The frame is solid, but almost everything else is no-name stuff. I haven't heard too many complaints about it though, so I am guessing that someone does a decent job at QC.

Also, you do not necessarily need to upgrade a part in advance, unless you have some observable indication that it is inferior (e.g. derailleur constantly requires adjustment, bb creaks etc). Even if you're on tour, the parts are fairly standard and shops are reasonably accessible in Europe.

However, let's face it: BF is one of the best. Custom fit, name brand components, outfitted exactly the way you want. NWT is built from the ground up to tour. If you're going to do loaded tours, you will definitely benefit from additional gear options.
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Old 03-26-08, 01:46 PM   #21
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I'd get the NWT if you have the funds because it's a great riding bike even with a heavy load. But I wouldn't get rid of the DT. The NWT is hard to lock up on the street, because it doesn't have a front or fixed rear triangle. It's too hard to figure out how to attach a U-lock, so I use a thick cable. The bike also costs twice as much, so I'd recommend you use the DT on those trips when you have to park it on the street in a mid to high theft risk area.
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Old 03-26-08, 02:25 PM   #22
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Very good advice Bokes, ditto!
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Old 03-26-08, 02:50 PM   #23
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BTW, if you really wanted a wide drivetrain on the Downtube, you could go with the SRAM Dual Drive or a dual chainring up front. Assuming that putting a front derailer on the bike is a pain in the butt, you could still swap the chain manually.
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