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  1. #1
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    a small wheel bike, just because?

    hello foldies,
    while researching a bike with low step over for my wife I started getting interested in folding bikes for myself. i have read quite a few of the threads, and know that many commute etc, but it seems that people have them for utility reasons. does anyone simply ride them because they like the way they ride and feel and look? i don't actually need a bike with little wheels but kinda want one...maybe a smooth hound. are they really limiting in terms of performance etc? i currently ride a standard geared bike and a fg. and i'd want to ride about 30 miles a day on it for my commute. they just seem fun and kinda mellow.
    thanks!

  2. #2
    Bicycling Gnome
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    I know exactly what you mean about just liking them. I rarely need to fold mine, I have them because I just like the look and feel of them and the fact that whatever folder I am riding at the time, I can keep it in the house without any inconvenience. Full sized bikes are a lot less welcome indoors where I live.

    Also, once I had been riding a small wheeled bike for a few days, I just loved the feel of them - the way they steer fast and nimbly. I have some full sized bikes that I hardly ever use and they handle very sluggishly by comparison to the small ones.
    “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live." - Mark Twain

  3. #3
    Senior Member bhkyte's Avatar
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    30 miles a day is fine. But best go for a bike friday or the less compact designs if you dont want a preformance reduction compaired to a fixed. Else,yes 30 miles a day is perfectly possible on a 16" folder. Many folders are as quick as many non folding bikes, and some folder owners prefer the advantagers of smaller wheels. See Moulton threads. Many folding bikes can really preform if set up to. I have given up on fixed road bikes in favour of fast folders. There is a preformance difference but not enought to warrent a bike than is difficult to do multi mode transport on , or take in a shop, or staffroom.
    Last edited by bhkyte; 03-22-09 at 07:33 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member DLBroox's Avatar
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    I originally bought my Curve d3 on a lark because I thought it looked cool. I don't use any bike to commute, just ride for fun.

    Now my ss Bianchi San Jose stands waiting in a corner. I only ever ride the Curve now.

    I love the way it handles, and, well, it's just a lot of fun to be on.

  5. #5
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    I ride several sizes of bike 20",26" and 700c.

    My most recent addition is a 20" Pashley Moulton TS30 and it seems to combine the best features of all:
    It splits in two (not foldable but easily car/train transportable)
    It's the most comfortable bike I own - that dual suspension smoothes out the road bumps
    It's perfectly stable - unlike my 700c CycloCross bike which far too nervous downhill or above 25mph to feel safe.
    The racks and fittings seem to have been designed at the same time as the bike rather than an after though (compared to the problems of racks and disc brakes on MTBs).
    It would be my choice for all day touring so commuting would be easy (as long as you can lock it up securely).

    I've also picked up a spit frame Dahon Smooth-hound on ebay, which I planned to use around town, but have only ridden it once as I've been waiting 5 months for Dahon to supply a shorter NOV stem

    So I first bought 20" as it looked cool - and the Moulton because it looked cool and was a superior tourer.

  6. #6
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Add me to this list of people who ride small wheels just because they're fun and different. I ride my SmoothHound (converted with drop bars and Capreo drivetrain) and Moulton TSR30 as my regular training road bike. The other folders are used for general purpose riding (Mini, Strida, Merc). They're more fun, don't take as much room, are more interesting engineering-wise and aesthetically.

    The only time that I must ride my 17lb, 700C road bike is when I'm going out on a ride with my weekend riding group. I need the performance edge to keep up near the front of the pack. :-)

    I highly recommend the SmoothHound/HammerHead frame, by the way. Super bike. Here's pic of mine:


  7. #7
    Strong with the Fred Big_e's Avatar
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    I have added 2 folders to my stable of 5 full frame bikes. I don't take any trains or buses to get to work. I didn't really have a reason to buy a folding bike, bought them just because they look fun and haven't regretted it. They take up no office space at work. They're real nimble on sidewalks and are perfect for giving you a nice workout in crowded MUP's. Last week during the St. Patrick's festivites in downtown West End district, my Schwinn Hinge came into it's own. I was able to zip on sidewalks and between the cars that were jammed up waiting to get into the party zone. I whipped in, sat at a cafe's patio table and had a nice lemon cooler in no time.
    Ernest


    PS: Today I'm taking my Flying Pigeon out for a nice long ride to the Farmers Market. I could just drive to the store but it's alot more fun to bicycle.

    Last edited by Big_e; 03-22-09 at 09:05 AM.
    I love pho long time.

  8. #8
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Yes, many people like the look and/or handling. IMO a lot is that 20" wheeled bikes are highly responsive, and feel "more fun." I think some of it is also the novelty of the look and/or feel.

    In terms of performance, I do not believe there is any difference between 20" and 26" / 700c bikes. The only real difference is that, given the same design configurations, small-wheeled bikes will have a harsher ride.

    Fortunately, unless your local roads are really rough, the difference in comfort isn't all that noticeable for rides shorter than 30-50 miles. So almost any 20" bike (and most 16" suspended) will work very well for a 15-mile commute.

    Separately, I have to disagree with CameraMan about 20" vs 700c on stability and descents. I can't say specifically about the Moulton, but small-wheeled bikes have very responsive handling -- far, far more twitchy than even the most aggressive 700c frames out there. In comparison, my cross bike has a fairly long wheelbase and somewhat relaxed steering, which makes for a very stable ride and lots of control on fast descents.

  9. #9
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    I know the 700c should be more stable ... but my cross bike is my worst handling bike.
    I believe then I was mistakenly advised to get a size down from a normal road bike fit : it is anything but a relaxed ride.
    Last edited by CameraMan; 03-22-09 at 09:32 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member bhkyte's Avatar
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    The slight harness of 16" wheels can be addressed by mild suspension ie birdie,or by a sprung saddle, pantour suspension hub (like to try one, but expensive), or big apple tyres. Or by using bent elbows and not placing alot of wieght on the saddle over bumps, or "speed bumping" BMX style. Like experienced riders did before suspension become popular.

    Folding bikes are relatively under developed compaired to fixed and improvements/developments are coming thick and fast. Ie Trikit cable folding system, monoqoque frames (newer Birdie and Ori), initial look of Dahon Curl and so on. The more mainstream folder become the narrower the gap will become in many preformance respects.
    Last edited by bhkyte; 03-22-09 at 09:36 AM.

  11. #11
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CameraMan View Post
    I know the 700c should be more stable ... but my cross bike is my worst handling bike. I believe then I was mistakenly advised to get a size down from a normal road bike fit : it is anything but a relaxed ride.
    H'm, sounds like you just got a bad cross bike. It's possible that your cross is made more for racing than for all-around use; or that as you suspect, it doesn't fit you well.

    Just FYI, sizing for a cross bike should be smaller than a road bike. The bottom bracket is higher for extra ground and pedal clearance, and the size label is based on the seat tube length -- which is shortened when the BB is raised. So I normally use a 51 or 52 road bike, and my cross is a 50.

  12. #12
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    I had a GT Avalance 3.0 mountain bike that I've barely used. I thought I'd go riding a lot of off-road trails but I didn't. And without a roof rack on the car the bike was never with me when I wanted it.

    I've sold the GT and bought a second hand Dahon Speed D7. I might try my hand at commuting but its mostly for easy storage at home and to be able to dump it in the boot of the car. I do like the look and fun factor of folders as well

  13. #13
    smallwheelsonly
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    heres how i feel about small wheel bikes

    i have 6 of them and

    I have sold all my big wheel road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by EM42 View Post
    heres how i feel about small wheel bikes

    i have 6 of them and

    I have sold all my big wheel road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes
    you sure love the folders. any pics ? have you done any mods ? i just had my first one and it's a citizen tokyo. i am slowly starting to talk to my wife of getting another one. i told her that we should start biking together. but she said she's more into jogging than biking. but i am setting my eyes on one nice folder (a birdy, brompton or even a dahon). and i've seen the hammerhead dahon - it's a nice one.....

    thanks,
    vic

  15. #15
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Separately, I have to disagree with CameraMan about 20" vs 700c on stability and descents. I can't say specifically about the Moulton, but small-wheeled bikes have very responsive handling -- far, far more twitchy than even the most aggressive 700c frames out there. In comparison, my cross bike has a fairly long wheelbase and somewhat relaxed steering, which makes for a very stable ride and lots of control on fast descents.
    I understand the point. In the last year -- knee surgery led me to talk to more cyclists than ride with them ... -- I had an opportunity to ride a lot of older bikes -- the best ... a first year Schwinn Paramount with wooden rims and a chain with a considerably longer pitch -- designed with less trail than almost all modern bikes. Comparing it to my NWT and trusting my friends' numbers, the NWT handles like a bike with less trail. Now, I think that this is done on purpose since when you put a load on the front wheel -- I have the BF low riders -- the steering slows down considerably.

    Bac and I don't have the same bike. I recall that he rides -- actually rode ... he sold it I recall -- a Swiftfolder. So we might be comparing apples to oranges. But I am beginning to like bikes with less trail. This might sound strange, although I find the steering more responsive, I find it much easier to make subtle adjustments mid turn making the high speed descents more sure-footed. Now I have not ridden enough bikes to write a full discourse on the topic, but from a handful of readings it seems that there are several things that affect responsiveness and how the bike steers in general. So isolating what I observe as a function of trail is almost certainly a simplification. But when I figure it out with more experience, I'll blabber more.

    Is Alex Wetmore still around? I read a Bicycle Quarterly article which he participated in. So he might be able to discuss this better.

  16. #16
    jur
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    Quote Originally Posted by EM42 View Post
    heres how i feel about small wheel bikes

    i have 6 of them and

    I have sold all my big wheel road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes
    +1

    The handling ie responsiveness/twitchiness of small-wheeled bikes differ widely:

    I have a 20" Dahon/Yeah, (same as the Helios) and it is extremely light and responsive ie twitchy. But I can ride it hands-off.
    My 20" Swift is less twitchy, but cannot be ridden hands-off, it veers all over.
    My 16" Mini is less twitchy again, and I can ride it hands-off.
    My 20" R20 is less again and can ride it comfortably hands-off. It's less twitchy than a light roadie.
    My 20" Moulton is less twitchy again and I can ride it hands-off comfortably.
    My 18" Birdy is least twitchy, heavier steering than a typical road bike, and I can't ride it hands-off at all.

    I ride my folding bikes for all reasons: from short utility trips to commuting (50km round trip every day) to loaded touring to extra-long distance audax rides (brevets).

    I know from experience that the ride experience from any bike comes from the whole bike, but it is very typical to find comments about small wheel bikes' harshness and twitchiness and unsuitableness for longish rides. None of these are true. If you are comfortable enough on a bike *any bike* to be in the saddle for 8h, then you can ride it anywhere. If a 700c bike fits poorly and has typical road geometry then you won't be doing any long rides on it.

    Fit is paramount, wheel size almost irrelevant.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

  17. #17
    jur
    jur is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Separately, I have to disagree with CameraMan about 20" vs 700c on stability and descents. I can't say specifically about the Moulton, but small-wheeled bikes have very responsive handling -- far, far more twitchy than even the most aggressive 700c frames out there.
    According to my experience, I know this statement to be false.

    It depends entirely on the bike geometry and componentry and steering angular moments. I have bikes ranging from ultra-twitchy to positively heavy. All have small wheels. I have ridden roadies that were FAR more twitchy than my Swift for example. ANd have felt a helluva lot safer on the Swift which I have pushed to over 80km/h and not felt uncomfortable about the stability at all.

    I suspect your experience does not have enough data points in it.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

  18. #18
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I'm guessing that 2 years of exclusively riding folders, combined with many years of 700c bikes with various geometries, is a pretty good "data set."

    Every road bike I've ridden and tested has more stable handling than every 20" bike I've ridden. Now, it might be possible that there's some hyper-responsive 700c track bike that turns faster than a 20" bike with an absurdly long wheelbase, but, well... I have my doubts.

  19. #19
    hipster traffic dodger ChiapasFixed's Avatar
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    my 24" airnimal joey is very responsive, but stable. can be ridden no-hands reasonably well, although loaded panniers detract from this. It is very very stable on descents, however, even at top speeds and I would compare it's high-speed handing to that of my eddy merckx corsa extra.
    it is also very fast and usually I have no problem keeping up with the roadies
    IRO Mark V Pro, home made bamboo track bike, eddy merckx corsa extra, Airnimal Joey, UGADA Tikit

  20. #20
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    I bought my Bike Friday in 1996 because I thought it was about as cool as a Swiss Army Knife. It's only been in the past year that I've actually had a "need" for a foldie since a new job didn't welcome the full-sized bikes, but it's been my most comfortable upright bike for years. It's a pretty tall bike, and the long seat and handlebar masts absorb a lot of roughness.

  21. #21
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    thanks so much for the thoughtful replies! i really appreciate them.
    where i live i can get dahon and maybe airimal (sp?).
    from what i can tell the joey and the smooth hound seem best for vigorous riding.
    is that the case? any recommendations?
    also, when i was searching for my wife's bike the guy at the bike shop said that folders had no sizes, that it was a one size fits all deal. Is that right?

  22. #22
    Senior Member bhkyte's Avatar
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    bike rider as a whole

    Quote Originally Posted by jur View Post
    +1

    The handling ie responsiveness/twitchiness of small-wheeled bikes differ widely:

    I know from experience that the ride experience from any bike comes from the whole bike, but it is very typical to find comments about small wheel bikes' harshness and twitchiness and unsuitableness for longish rides. None of these are true. If you are comfortable enough on a bike *any bike* to be in the saddle for 8h, then you can ride it anywhere. If a 700c bike fits poorly and has typical road geometry then you won't be doing any long rides on it.

    Fit is paramount, wheel size almost irrelevant.
    Nicely put.

    The rider relationship with the bike is important. I love stiff frames and I am often dissapointed with "comfortable bikes". This preferences originated from which racing BMX bikes I got best results on. Therefore my preception of a good bike is that it should be (overly?) solid and my developed riding sytle is proberbly a lot more accomadating than most peoples. Harsh is good for me! When riding a time trail 653 bike I used to feel unsecure at speed. Not due to the bikes handling, but due to the fact that in an emergency I could't bunnyhop it round 90 decree to stop it dead like I could do on the smaller wheeled bike!
    There needs to be a balance between stablity and manoeuvrability. I feel that some large wheel cyclist are simply used to a different balance of these two factors.

  23. #23
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I'm guessing that 2 years of exclusively riding folders, combined with many years of 700c bikes with various geometries, is a pretty good "data set."

    Every road bike I've ridden and tested has more stable handling than every 20" bike I've ridden. Now, it might be possible that there's some hyper-responsive 700c track bike that turns faster than a 20" bike with an absurdly long wheelbase, but, well... I have my doubts.
    Depends on when the bicycles were made ... and I guess where too. That is, if you rode a 100 different bikes but their geometries are highly correlated then your effective sample size is much smaller than 100. Mind you, how much weight you put on the front wheel which is partially determined by your bike posture will also determine how much "wheel flop" you experience.

    I think "far, far more twitchy" is an overstatement. But I have met others who feel similarly. Much of this is subjective anyway ... so there are only poor substitutes for actually test riding a bunch of different bikes.
    Last edited by invisiblehand; 03-23-09 at 10:19 AM.

  24. #24
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astroman View Post
    from what i can tell the joey and the smooth hound seem best for vigorous riding.
    is that the case? any recommendations?
    also, when i was searching for my wife's bike the guy at the bike shop said that folders had no sizes, that it was a one size fits all deal. Is that right?
    As I said in my earlier post, I use my SmoothHound for vigorous riding. It's my training road bike. I love the second looks that I get when riding it fast down the road. But be aware that it comes standard with "moustache" bars, not drop bars. Also, if you are indeed going to ride vigorously, you may want need higher gearing. Finally, be aware that it comes with bar-end shifters, not brifters.

    Secondly, what the LBS guy said about folders is 95% true. Bike Friday is one mfg which sells different frame sizes for different riders. But, most folders are very adjustable and are used for casual riding, so they come in one frame size.

  25. #25
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiapasFixed View Post
    my 24" airnimal joey is very responsive, but stable. can be ridden no-hands reasonably well, although loaded panniers detract from this. It is very very stable on descents, however, even at top speeds and I would compare it's high-speed handing to that of my eddy merckx corsa extra.
    it is also very fast and usually I have no problem keeping up with the roadies
    What tires do you use now and in the past on the Joey?

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