newbie in SF
after all of the car-bashing sentiments these days and my terrible driving skills, I wanted to try bike commuting. I was wondering if anyone out there can give me some opinions for picking up a folder? Thanks a lot of advance!
Here are the specifics:
-distance: 6 miles & a train ride (BART)
-terrain: can be pretty hilly (SF), but mostly paved
-Also, I would prefer to have a bike that is good out-of-a-box and low maintenance :)
DownTube Mini will do ya good.
Second vote for Downtube Mini. I think it meets all your requirement, including low maintenance.
Here are some pictures of the Mini in action:
In the wilderness:
My niece is about 5'4", riding the Mini:
PS: I live in Half Moon Bay. If you ever come down to the Peninsula, I can let you try mine out!
Might pop by these folks and check out what they have in stock and available to test ride. As they are local, they'd be able to offer advice on features to consider that pertain to your riding and transport situations.
Many people have been put off folders due to a lousy first experience.
I've used three different folders on an almost identical daily commute (1 mile Oakland, BART, 5 miles SF).
In your price range I would go for a nice Dahon. I got a new last year's model (Speed P8) for under $450 and it's been my favorite. I also used a Dahon Boardwalk 7 on this commute for a couple years and it was very doable.
The Downtube is a great bike and a smooth ride, but it is not as compact and easy to carry as a Dahon. The handlebars fold over on the outside of the bike and you have to bungee it together, it's kind of awkward in a packed like sardines environment. The Dahon folds more compactly and is easier to carry.
If you get off at any of the busy Market St. stops, you'll find a Dahon much, much easier to carry up crowded stairs and through areas packed with commuters. If you go at odd hours and don't need to worry about the size or carry convenience, get a Downtube.
You'll see plenty of folders on BART. Most people will be receptive to questions if you let them know you are folder shopping. Go ahead and ask them about their bikes.
I live in the east bay (Walnut Creek) and use Amtrak/Bart every day with my Bicycle. I started like you with a low cost 16" Breezer till I learned if I would bike commute every day. Then changed to a Brompton.
Here is my thoughts:
Internal gear hubs seem to handle the wet and slop better then a derailer and require less maintance.
Folded bike size on Amtrak is no problem. Bart and Caltrans big problem during rush hour. This is a case were size does matter. The smaller the better.
The stairs at Bart stations can get very long and steep if your bike does not fold well and is heavy. Make sure you realy can carry it.
Think about were you are going to store it at work or home. Does it have to fit under a desk, in a closet, or turnk of a car.
Will you have to cover it to get the bike into your office or building? Is there a cover available for it.
I do not want to recomend any one brand or model. But here are some places in the SF bay area that you could start with.
Warm Planet 311 Townsend st @ 4th San Francisco
Velo Sport Bicycles 1615 University ave Berkeley
C.M. Wasson Co 423 Chaucer st Palo Alto
P.S. All my bikes are made for very low maintenance being internal hub gears. And 2 of them (the Dahons) were bought for well under 500 US dollars, even after upgrades included in the final prices.
what about DownTube FS?
thanks a lot for all of your help!
So far I've only got to try Brompton (which was too expensive) and Dahon Mariner (which I thought was too heavy). I will hit other stores suggested too.
Downtube Mini looks great. I'm gearing toward either that one or DownTube FS, b/c I have Specialized FS Mountain Bike and I totally love it (and it's cheaper too!). The thing about DownTube FS is that it's almost as heavy as Dahon Mariner which I tried today and I thought it was too heavy. But I found an article (http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/Mike/downtube.html) that says you can use one of its wheels to roll the bike around. Is that true? Other thoughts about DownTube FS? Thanks!!
I have never taken BART with a bike. But other comments in the thread suggest that it mimics my experience in other subways/commuter rail.
There were some good comments. I will add the following ...
I own a Mini and have owned a Brompton and a Merc.
The Mini is a better ride in my opinion. With the wider drivetrain and adjustable handlebars -- you can swap the stem and slide it vertically -- you can get a better ergonomic fit. Although this will not be an issue for a lot of people. Moreover, your riding distances are moderate for everyday cycling. The Mini can be rolled and you can fit wide tires on the bike for a comfortable and secure ride. I don't think that the Mini is good at carrying stuff in a compact fashion -- where the bags and racks remain on the bike while folded. For commuting, this can be a killer for a lot of people.
Relative to the Mini, the Brompton/Merc has a more compact and secure fold. The chain is also inside the fold which prevents grease stains from the chain. Although grease stains are a fairly rare occurrence as long as you exercise a little care. The Brompton/Merc is the best at carrying stuff. If you go with a rear rack and front bag, you will be surprised at the capacity you have. Unfortunately, the drivetrain is fairly narrow, bike fit is more limited, and the bike is more expensive than your budget. Brand new a Brompton with accessories will be $1000. The used market might help with the price tag and there are solutions for a wider drivetrain. One plus is that you have an excellent Brompton shop near you. Personally, going with the limitation of no tinkering, I would go with the front mount bag, fenders, and just a three speed hub and talk to the linked dealer about getting the appropriate gearing.
There are people here that have given the Dahon Curve positive reviews. I have never ridden one. But it also has a front bag mount and can be fitted with a rear rack. From other's comments, the rear rack and front bag could remain on the bike while the bike was folded. I recall mixed reviews regarding the bike's ability to be rolled. Some pluses are that it is considerably less expensive than the Brompton, there are lots of dealers -- although they vary in quality, ask around for a good one -- they come with excellent tires, and they have a lot of sensible accessories. If you spent a little more money, you could get a marginally wider drivetrain -- a five speed instead of a three speed -- but it probably would not be enough for a casual cyclist to go around the hills of San Francisco. Unless you are at the threshold of being able to climb the SF hills on the three speed, I would pass on the five speed.
Oh, just from the specs, the Curve is relatively light. You might want to consider that too.
Given the comments of travel on the BART and assuming you would travel during peak times, I would go with the 16" folders. But San Franciscans might be more tolerant than others of bikes. The 20" folders ride better and you have a bigger selection of tires. But many 20" bikes are less portable, do not carry stuff as well as the folders above, and the 16 wheels are even stronger than the 20" wheels. Moreover, really think about what you want to carry while cycling. Given that this is going to be a utility bike for you, it should be a primary consideration -- although not the only consideration -- while choosing a bike. It will be worthwhile to test ride the bikes.
2 places in SF to try folders out of the box
Go to Sportsbasement in the Presidio where they have a few very fairly priced--save 10% if you're a member of sfbc (or some other community or fitness club, maybe BikeForums--?). I was already into my project upgrading the 30-yr-old Raleigh Twenty folder, so didn't test ride 'em, but on inspection, they seemed sturdier than the Dahons I test rode a few months ago. Those can be tried at Avenue Cyclery on Stanyan. Good luck! -Bryan
Kate, you know you can always IM me. I think I know who this Kate is... ;)
Folders under $500 are tricky as you are going to have trouble getting good quality/value.
Yes, you want to probably be looking at the 16" wheeled folders as they will be easier to stow.
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