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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 03-21-08, 10:48 PM   #1
Funhog
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Folding bikes on European bike tours

Greetings,

perhaps you folding bike afficionados can help me out here. I own a bicycle tour company and focus on custom self-guided tours to Europe. My tours are a little different than most - my clients are a little more independent and like to bring their own bikes. And they rent a car once there, so they have total flexibility and freedom. I provide the routes, maps, accommodations, logistics, and tons of tips and advice, etc (you can read about it more on my blog or website below).

What I'm looking for is to perhaps contact folding bike companies who make quality bikes for traveling, but also ones that are good for climbing and descending. I'd like to see if they would be interested in a joint venture, or some sort of joint promotion. I want to be able to recommend them to my customers (it's getting to be more of a pain to take bikes on planes), but I don't know enough about them. I am revamping my product line to include less expensive tours to sell to a wider market, and am creating a marketing plan for this product, so perhaps you guys can help me out.

Here's my questions before I contact any companies. I want to learn from you guys, the people who ride these bikes:
1. what are the most solid folding bikes for bike tours (say 40-70 miles a day, maybe more)?
2. ARe they good for climbing and descending too (like, in the Alpes)?
3. Are they similar to standard road bikes in terms of maintenance, getting flats, etc?
4. Are there any limitations with taking them on planes?
5. Anything I should know about them in terms of travel and transport?

Thanks for your assistance!

Jennifer
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Old 03-21-08, 11:08 PM   #2
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Bike Friday, New World Tourist
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Old 03-21-08, 11:49 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Funhog View Post
Greetings,

perhaps you folding bike afficionados can help me out here. I own a bicycle tour company and focus on custom self-guided tours to Europe. My tours are a little different than most - my clients are a little more independent and like to bring their own bikes. And they rent a car once there, so they have total flexibility and freedom. I provide the routes, maps, accommodations, logistics, and tons of tips and advice, etc (you can read about it more on my blog or website below).

What I'm looking for is to perhaps contact folding bike companies who make quality bikes for traveling, but also ones that are good for climbing and descending. I'd like to see if they would be interested in a joint venture, or some sort of joint promotion. I want to be able to recommend them to my customers (it's getting to be more of a pain to take bikes on planes), but I don't know enough about them. I am revamping my product line to include less expensive tours to sell to a wider market, and am creating a marketing plan for this product, so perhaps you guys can help me out.

Here's my questions before I contact any companies. I want to learn from you guys, the people who ride these bikes:
1. what are the most solid folding bikes for bike tours (say 40-70 miles a day, maybe more)?
2. ARe they good for climbing and descending too (like, in the Alpes)?
3. Are they similar to standard road bikes in terms of maintenance, getting flats, etc?
4. Are there any limitations with taking them on planes?
5. Anything I should know about them in terms of travel and transport?

Thanks for your assistance!

Jennifer
Others with more direct experience will no doubt chime in but here are my thoughts.

1. Bike Friday and Birdy are the ones I immediately think of if you want to go a long way on a folding bike but people have also done it on a lot of others.

2. Good folders are fine for climbing. They are also fine for normal descents but on an alpine descent with a heavy load and high braking requirements, you may need to take a bit more care not to avoid overheating as a smaller diameter rim means less surface to dissipate heat.

3 Maintenance needs are similar to standard bikes

4 The Birdy will pack easily into a 29" nom. suitcase meeting airline regulations for normal luggage. With Bike Friday's a fractionally larger suitcase may be desirable but according to reports, the airlines rarely if ever a raise problem with it.

5 Bike Friday offer good support and a complete package tailored to the owners needs.
Birdy is generally a bit lighter, is more compact when folded, and is more comfortable on rough roads (full suspension tuned for road use). Birdy has much less support in North America and configuring it to carry heavy loads is a bit trickier. There is a lot more to know and a bit of web surfing will bring up a wealth of information.

David
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Old 03-22-08, 01:17 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by energyandair View Post
Others with more direct experience will no doubt chime in but here are my thoughts.

1. Bike Friday and Birdy are the ones I immediately think of if you want to go a long way on a folding bike but people have also done it on a lot of others.

2. Good folders are fine for climbing. They are also fine for normal descents but on an alpine descent with a heavy load and high braking requirements, you may need to take a bit more care not to avoid overheating as a smaller diameter rim means less surface to dissipate heat.

3 Maintenance needs are similar to standard bikes

4 The Birdy will pack easily into a 29" nom. suitcase meeting airline regulations for normal luggage. With Bike Friday's a fractionally larger suitcase may be desirable but according to reports, the airlines rarely if ever a raise problem with it.

5 Bike Friday offer good support and a complete package tailored to the owners needs.
Birdy is generally a bit lighter, is more compact when folded, and is more comfortable on rough roads (full suspension tuned for road use). Birdy has much less support in North America and configuring it to carry heavy loads is a bit trickier. There is a lot more to know and a bit of web surfing will bring up a wealth of information.

David
Don't forget Airnimal.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:36 AM   #5
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Thanks for the great info.

Is Airnimal a brand?

These bikes won't be fully loaded. They are Hub and Spoke tours, and clients have a vehicle, so you have access to great rides that might be a little outside of where you're staying. Just like in the States, you can put your bike in the car and drive there. But most routes are right outside your door.
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Old 03-22-08, 09:00 AM   #6
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I'd definitely start with Bike Friday. In addition to (IMO) making the best bikes for touring, they also do a lot more customer outreach along the lines of what you're talking about. Almost all the parts are standard.

I believe the best outcome in this respect is an arrangement similar to Pactour -- e.g. http://www.bikefriday.com/desertcamp Keep in mind, though, that the owners / operators of Pactour have both a reputation and a long-standing relationship with BF.

You might also want to talk to Xootr Swift about something like this. I don't view them as the optimal choice, but they are both big enough to consider doing something, and small enough that they are less likely to blow you off.

Aptitude for climbing depends almost exclusively on the gearing; you tell BF you want gearing appropriate for a tour, and you've got it. (Swift would need some customization, which would be done by the LBS or cyclist.) The handling is more responsive, though, so descending is a little trickier.

Maintenance is the same. I'd stock some 406 and 451 tires and tubes though, as they might be a little harder to find in some areas.

For planes, folding bikes are easier to pack than standard bikes and almost always avoid the fees. However, your clients will likely put their bikes into hard-shell cases, and will almost certainly ask you to store the case for them during their tour.

Re: other transport, folding bikes can usually avoid the extra fees. E.g. Belgium normally charges 6 to take a bike on a train, but no charge for a folded bike. Not sure about France, you probably still have to bag it.
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Old 03-22-08, 09:05 AM   #7
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Have a look at the bikes on www.downtube.com They would be affordable for your customers and great on climbs and for the kind of mileage you are talking about. The Birdy and Airnmal brands are very good but very expensive options unless money is no object or they will be using these folders all the time after their vacation. The company owner of Downtube Yan Lyansky also provides excellent support and advice. You can see one review of the full suspension folder on the UK site:
http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/Mike/downtube.html
I have the hub geared and full suspension bikes. Both are excellent in my opinion. The 8 or 9 speed gears offered have a sufficient range of gears for touring. Most people outside of professionals or very serious racing/offroad enthusiasts use every gear on 16/21/24 speed bikes etc. Maintenace is easy at they are 20" wheel folders and use standard components widely available at many specialist bike shops across Europe. These bikes can be easily packed in a suitcase, especially with front wheel taken off and are easy to fold into cars very quickly. They are a similar ride to the world's largest folding brand Dahon but half the price. I believe the Downtube VIII H 2008 would be the best if they need to use panniers as it has a rack but the FS is great for trail riding if they are happy to use a good rucksack/bacpack when combining a car and day cycling before returning to where they are staying.

Last edited by mulleady; 03-22-08 at 01:51 PM.
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Old 03-22-08, 11:14 AM   #8
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Bike Friday, New World Tourist
+1
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Old 03-22-08, 12:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funhog View Post
Is Airnimal a brand?
http://www.airnimal.com/UK_retailers.php

You could also look at:

http://foldsoc.co.uk/

where you'll find folk with every folder imaginable, & they're not too far from France :-)
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Old 03-22-08, 07:30 PM   #10
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Great advice. Keep 'em coming! I've expanded my folding bike bookmarks tenfold!
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Old 03-22-08, 08:13 PM   #11
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Pacific Reach Trail/Offroad

Absolutely great handling, climbing and awesome descending. Similar in concept to cross between Airnimal and Birdy, which isn't suprizing since Pacific makes frames for Airnimal and Birdy.

I've done tours in Bali and North California in the past and this bike would have done well in either place. Pricing and component selection are good. My Reach is 27-speed, mostly Shimano Deore LX drivetrain.

Not the best quick fold since you have to take off the front wheel for a small fold, but it gets pretty small and rides very well.

http://www.pacific-cycles.com/bike.a...&cat=1&model=3
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Old 03-22-08, 09:00 PM   #12
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I see that you are in Colorado and found this
http://www.bikefriday.com/node/5974
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Old 03-22-08, 10:06 PM   #13
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I see that you are in Colorado and found this
http://www.bikefriday.com/node/5974
Thanks! I'm a few hours from Denver (up near Vail), but get there occasionally to get some "culture". Also, I visit bike shops in Denver occasionally to drop off brochures, and know this one. I'll definitely hit them up on my next visit. I'd rather have a connection with a LBS I can refer people to (at least, my Colorado clients that is).
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Old 03-23-08, 01:40 PM   #14
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Here are my 2cents:
1. what are the most solid folding bikes for bike tours (say 40-70 miles a day, maybe more)?
Bike Friday, Swift, Birdy, Airnimal. The Birdy is the only true folding bike among that lot, but the others will be fine for car travel. The others are more difficult to fit in a suitcase as well.

2. ARe they good for climbing and descending too (like, in the Alpes)?
Here, Bike Friday is probably king.

3. Are they similar to standard road bikes in terms of maintenance, getting flats, etc?
Same for flats...depends on the tires. Different for maintenance as they all have a few more moving parts. Each will come with it's own problem. Bike Friday has fewer parts but worse cable routing (I'm told) while Birdy has more parts but better routing.

4. Are there any limitations with taking them on planes?
Here is a rough packablility rank: Birdy > BF > Airnimal > Swift. With the Swift, complete frame disassembly is required.

5. Anything I should know about them in terms of travel and transport?
Not sure about the Swift, but I believe all have fully loaded touring capabilities.

Of the bikes I've ridden, the Birdy is the most comfy at normal speeds, but I don't feel as safe at >40MPH as on a full size bike. It's the only one that can be folded quickly and taken in places along the way. The Bike Friday produces a ride close to a full size bike, but whether that is a good thing is debatable. The Birdy is more difficult to customize as the parameters around which it folds are very tight.

If I didn't need to fold the bike, I might think Bike Friday would be your best choice. If I needed to fold the bike, I would think that the Birdy would be your best choice, unless the only folding was in and out of car trunks.

All of these bikes can be made with a very wide gear range.
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