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Old 08-15-08, 03:26 PM   #1
rubber2405
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Bicycles4u.com - Advice on their bikes plse?

Hello all.
I am looking at a folder for my wife, but she wants something of decent quality but not too expensive in case she falls out with it after a few rides.
I have looked at importing a Downtube Mini, which she likes, but i estimate it will cost me 300 at least to import one from the US to the UK, as they are not yet stocked in the UK.
So, I have been looking at the Halfords own branded Apollo Transition (172 if you buy on line) and a couple of 6 spd 16" bikes by a UK company, www.bicycles4u.com.
I have read their customer testimonies on their own website, but i have yet to find some independent reviews on the quality of their bikes.
The bike I am looking at for her from this company is listed at 90 brand new, 100 with a carry bag and around 18 p and p. The pictures of the bikes look good, but I haven't seen them "in the flesh".
Has anyone at all bought one of these bikes that can give me an honest review on them before i buy please?
On paper they seem to tick all the right boxes.
Cheers.
Rubber.
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Old 08-15-08, 04:50 PM   #2
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You get exactly what you pay for in bikes.

That price (90) gets you a BSO* rather than a bicycle. Cheap bearings, cheap tyres, low quality metal frame and minimal predelivery service. Work it out yourself - freight, predelivery, and VAT - doesn't leave much for a quality bike, does it? There's no miracle bargain I'm afraid.

You would be better served by buying a more expensive model secondhand. A decent bike can last forever if it is well maintained.

*BSO = bike shaped object
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Old 08-15-08, 05:54 PM   #3
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+1

Look up Sammyboy from the forums; he is the UK agent for Downtube. His website is dubbed velochocolate.
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Old 08-16-08, 03:22 AM   #4
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Cheap folding bikes...

Datako.
Cheers for your reply.
As a bit of a gadgeteer, I have always believed what you said about " You get what you pay for", and I have always subsequently paid out as much as i could afford for branded names in both gadets, clothes etc.
However, I have what I believe to be an exception to the norm, in that I recently bought a Downtube VIII FS for 200 inc. P&P & VAT.
It was a bit if a leap of faith and I was also looking at a Dahon Speed D7, which I could have new for 260.
I have to say, the Downtube is very impressive.
I also have a Specialised Rockhopper and a GT Avalanche 1.0 MTB's for playtime (mid -range bikes).
I compare the DT against these for comfort, speed and comparable build quality.
I know that the DT cost twice that of the Bicycles4u bikes, and the 2008/9 DT costs around 260, but I just wondered, just in case there was a UK company who was breaking free from the rip-off Britain retail culture that we suffer in the UK.
Cheers all the same. If you know anyone who has personal experience of these bikes I would be glad to hear. Regards.
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Old 08-16-08, 03:26 AM   #5
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Jur,
Nice one. Cheers, I will check him out.
Regards.
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Old 08-16-08, 04:11 AM   #6
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http://www.velochocolate.co.uk/

The bike isn't listed there but I know he can import them. Although it is more expensive then the Halfords bike it is far superior and a good investment. The mini uses very good 8 speed Sturmey Archer gears and folds into a small package. It equates in price to the Dahon Curve D3 but I'd say it's also a better bike than that. The only competition at that point is the very good Brompton clone, the Merc available from a very nice lady on ebay called 123maddy (Anita in person). See:
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Folding-Pedal-Right-fits-Merc-Brompton-folding-bike_W0QQitemZ360068542335QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item360068542335&_trkparms=72%3A985|39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3 A12|240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

The Merc or Brompton isn't so good on off road trails like canal towpaths though whilst the Mini handles it with aplomb. If you aren't overly fussy about fold size the 199 Downtube FS is a good buy from Velochocolate. Again both the Mini and FS will need mudguards but Sam can advise.

Whatever the case don't touch Halfords! Also the Bicycles4u (works on .biz though) site was down when I tried and I read on the folding society pages that one of their bikes is out of stock until the winter of 2008! Finally, the bikes listed at 99.99 are single speed and don't appear that good in my opinion. They also call one of their 20" wheel folders weighing 14 kg 'light'! Their 20" or folding mountain bikes seem better value. They do have an ebay.co.uk feedback of 98.1% and the bikes go cheaper on there. See:
http://shop.ebay.co.uk/merchant/kait...Q_fromZQQ_mdoZ
I suppose at some of these prices you can't go too far wrong using one as a starter bike but the bikes mentioned above are better long-term.

Last edited by mulleady; 08-17-08 at 03:28 AM.
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Old 08-16-08, 03:35 PM   #7
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Morrisons (the supermarket over here 'int UK) are currently offering a basic 6 speed folder for 60.
It comes with 16" rims, v brakes, rack & mudguards.
I'm sure it falls far short of brilliant but for 60 it must be worth a dabble.
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Old 08-16-08, 03:43 PM   #8
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It's this one from Morrisons. Cheaper than ebay if available:
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/FOLDING-BIKE-P...em290252214640
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Old 08-16-08, 03:58 PM   #9
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Thats the one.
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Old 08-17-08, 03:01 AM   #10
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Folding bikes

Mulleady,
Thanks for your reply. It was constructive and helpful.
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Old 08-17-08, 03:19 AM   #11
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Folding bikes

Guys,
Cheers to you all. The Proteam bike you suggested is very similar in design to the Bicycles4u bike i looked at.
I have a Morrisons supermarket near to where i live, so i will check it out.
If my wife takes to using a "cheapy" regularly, I intend to get her either the DT Mini or the Dahon Curve (both cost 300). I like the look of the Curve better than the Mini, but the mini gets better write-ups for it's ability and it's everyday usability.

The only place i have found so far that sells the Mini in the UK is Velochocolate.

I have a DT VIII FS myself and it's a good bike and convenient to use either from the back of my car or on the train. However. I think the Mini would be better in size and transportability longer term.

I bought it direct from Downtube who sold it through E-Bay, but I can't find any of the Mini's on E-Bay.

I have been and looked closely at the Apollo Transition at Halfords and it appears to be a well put together bike made from what appear to be decent quality materials. It felt lighter than my DT too when i picked it up.

My wife would be able to carry the Apollo also, but may struggle a bit more with the DT VIII FS due to it's size when folded.
I didn't ride it however and the folding system looks as if it may take longer than my DT to fold, as it uses twisting fasteners on the handlebar stem instead of a quick release bolt.

Looking at the Apollo, i would guess that it may be made by another manufacturer for re-branding by Halfords as an Apollo. Does anyone know whether or not this is so?
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Old 08-17-08, 03:41 AM   #12
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Quote:
bought it direct from Downtube who sold it through E-Bay, but I can't find any of the Mini's on E-Bay.
Sadly this is down to EU bureaucracy and short-sightedness at its worst. They added a 50% anti-dumping tax for goods originating from Chinese manufacturers. While I can see the logic on deterring unfair cost competition from China (E.g. Cheap slave labour in some cases and an indirect subsidy through a purposefully undervalued Yuan), it is ludicrous to target products like bikes which are more green. It's also hyocritical given the EU's record in dumping cheap surplus agricultural products on developing countries in the past. This makes it uneconomical for Downtube to import bikes into the EU. Allied to extortionate warehousing costs, this exacerbates the problem further. As a result, Minis are only available from the US as well as Downtube' latest models. I believe a workround is possible in the long-term if the parts can be assembled in the US but that requires labour, and a viable UK/EU market. I'm sure Sammyboy is looking into this.

I'd hazard a guess the Apollo is also a Chinese or Taiwanese made product. They are probably OK, I've seen one before but I have little faith in Halford's service and technical knowledge on bikes. It's a real hit and miss affair, depending on the store. The Proteam one seems a bargain as a starter bike for now if you are still uncertain how much your wife will use it!

Last edited by mulleady; 08-17-08 at 03:46 AM.
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Old 08-17-08, 03:51 AM   #13
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Seems this might be a real bargain if it isn't bid too high:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Raleigh-parkway-folding-bike-New_W0QQitemZ270264822008QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item270264822008&_trkparms=72%3A985|39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A 12|240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

As new and made by Dahon if I'm correct? Sounds the perfect bike for her!
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Old 08-17-08, 04:17 AM   #14
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Another possible Sunday bargain:
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Good-Quality-7-Speed-Lightweight-Folding-Bike_W0QQitemZ130246022641QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item130246022641&_trkparms=72%3A985|39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3 A12|240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14
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Old 08-17-08, 05:03 AM   #15
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Folding bikes

Mulleady.
I agree with your comments on the whole issue. The fact of the matter to me seems to be that if we as an economy are trying to deter Asian imports to here, our Govt. should take a long look at the soaring costs of all consumer goods (don't get me started on that one...). I have relatives and mates in far flung corners of the globe who have lived in the UK and laugh at the way we as a nation are ripped off with most of our purchases and allow it to happen to us. Regarding the green issues of bike supply, i couldn't agree with you more. Have you thought about running for Mayor of London?

I agree with you about Halfords staff technical knowledge and I wouldn' rely on them for that. The stores I have in Leeds are all run by kids.

Fortunately, we have a couple of specialist bike shops in Leeds and I have Chevin Cycles in Otley where I work, so if i need any tech knowledge for stuff I can't do myself, I would go to them last, after this forum and the wealth of knowledge on the net that is.

I am gonna check out the bike at Morrisons. I will post my obs on it to this thread to anyone interested.

You've been a great help, with your constructive and well thought out comments, so cheers for that.

While you're on, I am looking to upgrade the wheelset on my DT FS. I have searched the web and 20" quality wheels seem to be in short supply. I am looking at the double spoked, sports type of wheels with disc ready hubs ( for a later disc brake upgrade).

I have looked at the Dahon MuSL and the wheels on that bike look ideal.

I am also very interested in upgrading the supplied 8 spd Sunrace derallieur and supplied cassette to the new Shimano 9spd Capreo cassette, derailleur and all. The stuff i have read so far though says that the sprockets and cassette are specific for the system and that means buying the capreo hub (which doesn't seem to be disc ready).

I am after a bit of extra speed whilst retaining the climbing ability of the bike.

If it's gonna cost an arm and a leg, I will save my pennies a bit longer and buy a MuSL (650 - Cheapest found so far).

Can you advise Mulleady or anyone?

Regards.
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Old 08-17-08, 05:35 AM   #16
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Folding bikes

Mulleady.
The "Good quality folder" looks like a "Titan" branded bike.

Don't know whether or not they are any good, but I'll watch it on E-Bay.


Cheers.
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Old 08-17-08, 05:50 AM   #17
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Hi rubber2405, its a pleasure. I am not an out and out techie like some people on here who do mods and upgrades themselves. Don't get me wrong I understand some of the principles and ahve been on a steep learning curve the last year because of this forum!

I can however speak from experience in that I own and upgraded a Downtube FS. See:
Upgraded (modded) Downtube FS 2007

The Mu SL is a very different animal as is its wheelset. Whilst the Downtube FS is designed partly as a road bike and partly a trail bike, the Mu SL is a lightweight folding road bike. I wouldn't advise adding such wheels to the FS. In fact, I think the Downtube wheels are fine. Changing the drivetrain and gear set made a huge difference though. Whereas the stock components were OK, this bike really flies now. Rather than add Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres like I did, you could compromise with Schwalbe Marathon racers which are faster but still offer good puncture resistance. I find Schwalbe tyres are worth every penny and use 100psi racers on my Brompton. Changing the crank set on the FS is also worth it long-term. The main frame itself is great to work with. Also some nice MKS pedals will improve your efficiency and cadence and contribute to improved speed too.

Do you really need the added expense of disc brakes? The Downtube brakes are quite good and don't really compromise performance in my experience.

Last edited by mulleady; 08-17-08 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 08-17-08, 05:59 AM   #18
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Would love to hear about the Proteam bike. It doesn't seem bad at all at 60. Absolutely nothing to lose and and probably ideal introduction to the world of folding and leisure cycling. If your wife really gets into it then you can up the stakes with a surprise present sometime!
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Old 08-18-08, 06:22 AM   #19
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Upgrades to DT

Mulleady.
Sounds like you've put more time into the DT than I have at this time. Your upgrades sound good and look good too. I think i will follow your advice on leaving the wheel set, but I will change the derailleur and cassette to upgrade to a 9 spd.

Would you happen to know where I could get a 52T chainset for it though?

I am after more top end speed without sacrificing the hill climbing abilities too much as i have a commute home of 2.5 miles up hill (all of it too, not one flat bit), then a train journey, then another 5 mile hill climb, then onto the flat for the last mile or so.

Going to work is a bit of a breeze really. It's almost all down hill.

I have been taking my little lad out on his bike with me and we go to a large park in Leeds, where we can ride round a large lake on what i would describe as canal tow path type terrain, with a bit or tarmac in places.

The tyres I will change too. I have some Schwalbe City Jet tyres on one of my MTBs that I was using for commuting to work until recently. They are pretty good, and (Touch wood) they haven't punctured and I haven't had to re-inflate them for a few months now (although the bike is stored off the ground).

I have to say i like the black on the DT of yours. Better than the orange i think.

Last question for today, does the freehub that is standard on the DT take the SRAM and Shimano cassettes, or did you have to change the freehub on yours too? That is one of the more expensive upgrades from my research.

Cheers.

Rubber.
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Old 08-18-08, 06:36 AM   #20
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Proteam folder

I have bought one of those 16" folding bikes from Morrisons today, so i will put it up today and let you know how i get on....
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Old 08-18-08, 08:03 AM   #21
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I think you can get the MUSL wheels separately from the bike for 250 - I asked at my local "Bike Hut" and they certainly thought you could.

Bear in mind that the front hub width is the Dahon/Brompton standard and not universal.

Which leads me onto a Halfords related point - Bike Hut is their "bike" venture and the guys that I've talked to in their London St Paul's branch seem pretty switched on. I haven't had any work done by any of them, but they seemed to know what they were talking about.
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Old 08-18-08, 08:14 AM   #22
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Proteam 16" folding bike

Right then.
I have built up the Proteam folding bike. It took me about 90 mins. The bike came with all the bits, (cos I was expecting stuff to be missing) and it even came with a carry bag.
It is fitted with a rear pannier carrier, front and rear metal painted mudguards and came with a bell also.
I had to go over everything to check for safety, fitted the pedals and seat to the seat stem and adjusted the brakes and gears. That's it.
My 1st impressions are as follows:-
+ves

- It folds very small. It's really easy to fold, it's compact and appears even more convenient than my Downtube FS to carry, fold and unfold. It took me 30 secs to unfold the 1st time, but more like 20 secs the 2nd time.
It fits perfectly in it's bag and is about the size of a mid sized suitcase when folded and put in it's bag. Cool...

- The brakes are V-Brake type brakes, but i snapped off the adjuster bolt and now the front brake doesn't work. Should be pennies to fix though, just inconvenient.

- The gears are entry level Shimano, but they appear fairly robustly made and they seem to shift fairly cleanly.

- The frame seems fairly solid and when i rode it (with my 84kg 5'11" tall frame) it felt comfy and didn't make any creaking noises. The wheels are 16" and turn sharply, but allow quick acceleration. I didn't want to go flat out though as i only had the back brake working.

-ves

- Cheaply made brakes (but what do you expect for the money).
- Supplied pedals don't fold.
- That's it so far...It's early days, so if anything else crops up I'll post it on here.

To summarise, I think I've got a bit of a bargain really at 60. The lass in the Morrisons store told me they have been selling like hot cakes and when we bought ours there was only one left afterwards.

All the parts appear upgradeable, and the frame seems solid enough to be a good base to upgrade on if we wanted to later.

Recommended to anyone wanting a cheap commuting folder, with lots of convenience and not that heavy (13kg it says on the box). It certainly doesn't feel heavy to carry for me and the wife didn't complain about it when she picked it up.

Regards,

Rubber
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Old 08-18-08, 08:17 AM   #23
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Proteam 16" folding bike

Right then.
I have built up the Proteam folding bike. It took me about 90 mins. The bike came with all the bits, (cos I was expecting stuff to be missing) and it even came with a carry bag.
It is fitted with a rear pannier carrier, front and rear metal painted mudguards and came with a bell also.
I had to go over everything to check for safety, fitted the pedals and seat to the seat stem and adjusted the brakes and gears. That's it.
My 1st impressions are as follows:-
+ves

- It folds very small. It's really easy to fold, it's compact and appears even more convenient than my Downtube FS to carry, fold and unfold. It took me 30 secs to unfold the 1st time, but more like 20 secs the 2nd time.
It fits perfectly in it's bag and is about the size of a mid sized suitcase when folded and put in it's bag. Cool...

- The brakes are V-Brake type brakes, but i snapped off the adjuster bolt and now the front brake doesn't work. Should be pennies to fix though, just inconvenient.

- The gears are entry level Shimano, but they appear fairly robustly made and they seem to shift fairly cleanly.

- The frame seems fairly solid and when i rode it (with my 84kg 5'11" tall frame) it felt comfy and didn't make any creaking noises. The wheels are 16" and turn sharply, but allow quick acceleration. I didn't want to go flat out though as i only had the back brake working.

-ves

- Cheaply made brakes (but what do you expect for the money).
- Supplied pedals don't fold.
- Many of the parts are steel, except the rims (alloy), handlebars (alloy) and pedals (which are plastic).
- That's it so far...It's early days, so if anything else crops up I'll post it on here.

To summarise, I think I've got a bit of a bargain really at 60. The lass in the Morrisons store told me they have been selling like hot cakes and when we bought ours there was only one left afterwards.

All the parts appear upgradeable, and the frame seems solid enough to be a good base to upgrade on if we wanted to later.

Recommended to anyone wanting a cheap commuting folder, with lots of convenience and not that heavy (13kg it says on the box). It certainly doesn't feel heavy to carry for me and the wife didn't complain about it when she picked it up.

Regards,

Rubber
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Old 08-18-08, 04:02 PM   #24
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Looks like you got a result then Rubber

If your 60quids worth works well enough, and is upgradable when bits break off then i'd say you got a bargain. It'll be nice to read of your updates after a few miles down the road.

>>>The lass in the Morrisons store told me they have been selling like hot cakes and when we bought ours there was only one left afterwards.
It was a handful of lasses crowded around the boxes of bikes that alerted me to the folders in our local Morrisons

They have plenty of 'executive' office chairs left if anyones interested, but not many bikes
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Old 08-19-08, 12:36 AM   #25
Sammyboy
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Dudes, just for reference, the Mini is on www.velochocolate.co.uk, it's the second bike on the home page. It'll be coming in from the States, and therefore would be followed by a VAT bill (36 in my case). Sales of the remaining UK bikes have been much stronger recently, and I'm hopeful that we might find a way to offer more Downtube models direct in the UK in the near future.
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