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  1. #1
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    Swift vs Downtube Nova... Or are they even comparable?

    I was somewhat kind of all set to buy a Swift from Xootr, but then I found out about the Downtube brand and soon after that the Nova was announced. Both bikes feature similar speeds, are suspension-less, and can use non proprietary parts (for the most part). Yet, the only striking difference is in price... A four hundred dollar difference! Does the Swift just use premium parts through and through that catapult it beyond the competition, or is it its ultra stable/rigid frame? I like the ease of folding from the Swift, but the compactness of the Nova is also preferred.

    I doubt many have experience with the Nova seeing as how it was just announced, but I'm hopeful someone can provide insight into what sets the two apart. I know the first thing I'd do with either bike is slap on some big apples to help ease the ride, but that's all I really plan on doing in terms of modifying the original configuration. I will say that I was much more pleased with Xootr's customer service than that of Downtube's - with regard to my emailed questions and comments to them.

    Any and all feedback on the matter would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    Downtube vs Swift

    Hi Norfair: I bought a Downtube 8 speed front suspension folder in 2006. Ive been riding for many years and had many of the common misconceptions about folders (they are slow, the frames are like spaghetti etc; neither of which turned out to be true) that riders of conventional bikes have. I bought the bike because I had seen one while out riding one day and was impressed by the quality of the frame relative to its price. The components are low end but no worse then anyones elses in that price range and the truth is most of those components work OK. The worst piece on my bike was the fork (I would have ordered it without suspension but in 2006 Downtube didnt offer an unsuspended bike) which I replaced with a conventional one. I mentioned this because I ended up with essentially the bike you are thinking about buying as the frame on the Nova looks very similar to mine. The frame is the heart of any bike and Im impressed with Downtubes; its very stout with well thought out folding hardware beautiful welds and my bike has a very solid and stable feel to it. I dont know how tall you are but the stem may be a problem in that it has a very short reach (a common problem on many folders). Im 5'10" and I replaced mine with a stem with 5" of reach (the original stem hit me right in the sternum which forced me to ride bolt upright which makes it impossible to generate much power or to climb out of the saddle when climbing or riding into the wind). I actually had very good response from Yan who runs Downtube; I sent him a number of e-mails and he usually got back to me the same day. Im not familiar with Swift bikes but for much less then the $400 difference in these two bikes you could put first class components on it if you felt the need. For $269 the Downtube is a real bargain. The problem with buying many folding bikes is finding a bike shop that carrys them. Many are only available by mail order including Bike Friday which means you cant test it until you buy it. Good riding with whichever bike you decide to buy. bertiejo

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    another difference is the fold...the swift doesn't fold as small compare to the downtube.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bertiejo View Post
    Hi Norfair: I bought a Downtube 8 speed front suspension folder in 2006. Ive been riding for many years and had many of the common misconceptions about folders (they are slow, the frames are like spaghetti etc; neither of which turned out to be true) that riders of conventional bikes have. I bought the bike because I had seen one while out riding one day and was impressed by the quality of the frame relative to its price. The components are low end but no worse then anyones elses in that price range and the truth is most of those components work OK. The worst piece on my bike was the fork (I would have ordered it without suspension but in 2006 Downtube didnt offer an unsuspended bike) which I replaced with a conventional one. I mentioned this because I ended up with essentially the bike you are thinking about buying as the frame on the Nova looks very similar to mine. The frame is the heart of any bike and Im impressed with Downtubes; its very stout with well thought out folding hardware beautiful welds and my bike has a very solid and stable feel to it. I dont know how tall you are but the stem may be a problem in that it has a very short reach (a common problem on many folders). Im 5'10" and I replaced mine with a stem with 5" of reach (the original stem hit me right in the sternum which forced me to ride bolt upright which makes it impossible to generate much power or to climb out of the saddle when climbing or riding into the wind). I actually had very good response from Yan who runs Downtube; I sent him a number of e-mails and he usually got back to me the same day. Im not familiar with Swift bikes but for much less then the $400 difference in these two bikes you could put first class components on it if you felt the need. For $269 the Downtube is a real bargain. The problem with buying many folding bikes is finding a bike shop that carrys them. Many are only available by mail order including Bike Friday which means you cant test it until you buy it. Good riding with whichever bike you decide to buy. bertiejo
    bertiejo... Thanks so much for the detailed response based upon your personal experience. I do appreciate it. There are no dealers anywhere in my area that have any brand of folder on hand - save for one that can order a Bike Friday for me (which are more than I'm willing to pay). I can purchase the Nova directly from Downtube and it comes with a thirty day warranty, so I'd only be out shipping both ways if it ended up being a bust. I'm still not sure what to do, but your words have given me great hope for the Nova working out in my favor. I do thank you too for your note about the stem not working out given your height. I'm right at 6', so I'm guessing it'll be a bit off for me as well. Oh, and as for communications with Yan, he did indeed respond to my inquiry promptly, but just not as detailed or as friendly the Xootr people. I don't know. I want the Swift, but the price difference is too great given what little differences I can make note of. I'm not keen enough to know which component or brand part works better than another, so I have to base my decision on comparable specs and the like. (@vincentnyc, thanks for the mention of the folding difference. I actually love the way the Swift folds, but worry that it might not fold enough for my car.) Anyway, thanks again bertiejo for your words of wisdom.

  5. #5
    Senior Member GeorgePaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bertiejo View Post
    Many are only available by mail order including Bike Friday which means you cant test it until you buy it.
    There is a bike shop near me (Electric Cyclery in Laguna Beach, CA) that stocks Bike Friday.

  6. #6
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    I don't think you can compare the Downtube with the Xootr.

    The Downtube is akin the Dahon in that it has a long handlebar post and a hinge. You will not be able to rough it up: no bunny hops or off road with the Nova. The benefit is that it will get fairly small fairly quickly (a minute?).

    I regularly take one of my Swifts onto some mildly technical offroad action. I bunny hop over roots and generally abuse it. Because it has no hinges, and the two pivot points are essentially mountain bike suspension pivots, the bike is holding up really good. The stiffness helps quite a bit too. The Swift will fold up really small (suitcase), but not very fast. It takes me about 35 minutes to fold my touring Swift into a bag when I take a greyhound: this includes taking off panniers, breaking it all apart, etc.

    So depends on what you want out of the bike. For touring and offroading I use the Swift. To pick up my wife's car from the dealership (i.e. when I need a rather quick fold for the trunk) or to go out with buddies in their car but take my ride along, I use my Dahon Vitesse (which is kind of like the Nova).

    Don't buy a Swift for a multi-modal commute. It just doesn't make sense. It's a real good bike (better than Dahon/Downtube in my opinion) if you just have time to break it apart when packing.

    - Jakub

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    jakub.ner... Thanks so much for the reply. I appreciate your insight greatly. I wonder if you wouldn't mind offering a bit more - if I may be so brazen in asking (and if you read this follow-up). I never plan to go off-roading on a bike of any kind. I'm just not that adventurous! However, I may from time to time want to take a detour down a grassy pathy, maybe a little uneaven in terrain, but flat overall with no roots/major bumps, etc. I would mainly (only really) be taking my bike through the park on semi-paved roads. The roads are gritty, but not with gravel or anything - just black top that hasn't aged all that well. The terrain varies greatly with one hill up and one steep hill down, and flat ground to balance things out. If I can move closer to work, I may use the bike as a means to bike to work (not on main roads, however). With all of this in mind, do you think the Swift is something I would benefit from to an enhanced degree, or do you think I would be able to get by with a Downtube Nova without affecting my ride experience too much? I want a smooth ride first and foremost, but don't think I need suspension given my mostly on-road intentions. I'm thinking Big Apple tires might be enough, or even a spring loaded seat. As for folding sizes, I love the ease of folding from the Swift (without removing anything), but it is a little big. I should be able to fit it as is in my hatchback, but it would be tight. I would never take a bike on a bus or in confined places. So while the Downtube is nice that it folds smaller, it isn't a defining feature I'm after. Just so long as it folds up enough to fit in my car, I'll be happy - and it must be a clean, easy fold at that. Anyway, thanks again for your comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by jakub.ner View Post
    I don't think you can compare the Downtube with the Xootr.

    The Downtube is akin the Dahon in that it has a long handlebar post and a hinge. You will not be able to rough it up: no bunny hops or off road with the Nova. The benefit is that it will get fairly small fairly quickly (a minute?).

    I regularly take one of my Swifts onto some mildly technical offroad action. I bunny hop over roots and generally abuse it. Because it has no hinges, and the two pivot points are essentially mountain bike suspension pivots, the bike is holding up really good. The stiffness helps quite a bit too. The Swift will fold up really small (suitcase), but not very fast. It takes me about 35 minutes to fold my touring Swift into a bag when I take a greyhound: this includes taking off panniers, breaking it all apart, etc.

    So depends on what you want out of the bike. For touring and offroading I use the Swift. To pick up my wife's car from the dealership (i.e. when I need a rather quick fold for the trunk) or to go out with buddies in their car but take my ride along, I use my Dahon Vitesse (which is kind of like the Nova).

    Don't buy a Swift for a multi-modal commute. It just doesn't make sense. It's a real good bike (better than Dahon/Downtube in my opinion) if you just have time to break it apart when packing.

    - Jakub
    Last edited by norfair; 08-24-09 at 05:10 PM. Reason: misspelling

  8. #8
    Senior Member JosephLMonti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by norfair View Post
    I do thank you too for your note about the stem not working out given your height. I'm right at 6', so I'm guessing it'll be a bit off for me as well.
    Have you considered the derailleur-driven Downtube with front suspension? This model comes with a regular stem so you can change it for a longer one if you need more extension. With shipping, this model will cost about $400 so you can spend money on upgrades and still come in at a lower price than the Swift.

  9. #9
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    norfair,

    My commute includes a good length of gravel and dirt, and I regularly ride my Dahon to work. Keeping in mind that I believe my Dahon is akin to the Downtube Nova, I cannot imagine the Downtube's more pavement bound pedigree to be much hindrance here. It will do just fine on gravel and dirt.

    Even if you will be carrying the bike in your trunk, I think the Xootr's "quick" fold will leave something to be desired in terms of compactness .

    Keeping your requirements in mind, I'd go for the Downtube. I'd also buy a slip cover or a soft carry bag, to keep the grime out of the trunk.

    One thing is for sure, when I know a friend will be giving me a ride somewhere after work, I take my Dahon (a la Downtube Nova) and my soft bag. It folds quick and the bag keeps the car clean.

    A word of caution about the Big Apples: make sure they will fit the Nova. They fit the Xootr Swift (I run them on my touring bike), but you cannot have the rear wheel all the way forward in the drop outs.

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    @ JosephLMonti... Thanks for the consideration. I have looked at the front suspension models offered by Downtube, but I'm drawn to the color choices of the Nova. Is that silly? I haven't written off the other models, but the green Nova is my top pick at the moment.

    Quote Originally Posted by JosephLMonti View Post
    Have you considered the derailleur-driven Downtube with front suspension? This model comes with a regular stem so you can change it for a longer one if you need more extension. With shipping, this model will cost about $400 so you can spend money on upgrades and still come in at a lower price than the Swift.


    @ jakub.ner... Thanks for your additional comments. Again, I appreciate it. And also for your warning of the fold-ability of the Swift (or lack thereof). I have seen pictures of someone putting a Swift in their Yaris, and YIKES! It barely fit in the trunk/hatch area. My car's a bit bigger, but not by much. Excellent note too about getting a slip cover for the Nova should I get it. I kind of thought it would fit in my cargo tote/bin, but I'm not so sure. And as for the Big Apple tires fitting the Nova, I'm not sure either. I emailed Yan generically asking about this, and he mentioned they would help the ride, but never said whether or not they'd fit. Perhaps I'll send him another note. I emailed Xootr about Big Apples on the Swift, and was told that they would fit and could be installed by Xootr for me. My limited experience with their customer service staff is really one of the big draws to ordering from them. However odd that may sound. I'm still leaning toward the Nova, but the Swift still calls my name! Anyway, super dooper thanks again for your thoughtful notes. Best wishes.

    Quote Originally Posted by jakub.ner View Post
    norfair,

    My commute includes a good length of gravel and dirt, and I regularly ride my Dahon to work. Keeping in mind that I believe my Dahon is akin to the Downtube Nova, I cannot imagine the Downtube's more pavement bound pedigree to be much hindrance here. It will do just fine on gravel and dirt.

    Even if you will be carrying the bike in your trunk, I think the Xootr's "quick" fold will leave something to be desired in terms of compactness .

    Keeping your requirements in mind, I'd go for the Downtube. I'd also buy a slip cover or a soft carry bag, to keep the grime out of the trunk.

    One thing is for sure, when I know a friend will be giving me a ride somewhere after work, I take my Dahon (a la Downtube Nova) and my soft bag. It folds quick and the bag keeps the car clean.

    A word of caution about the Big Apples: make sure they will fit the Nova. They fit the Xootr Swift (I run them on my touring bike), but you cannot have the rear wheel all the way forward in the drop outs.

  11. #11
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    Just about the only thing the Xootr and the nova have in common is that they are both bicycles, I've not ridden either, but i think you should if you are considering buying one or the other. You will for sure find they are chalk and cheese, a 12 guage shotgun against a remmington hunting *****. If you cant actually get to ride them, then get the nova, the cheaper of the two, and use it till you know what it is you really want from a bike, then make the decision, over the short term the nova should keep its price well & you wont loose out in the deal.
    Last edited by Diode100; 08-25-09 at 02:54 AM.

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    @Diode100... Thanks for the sound advice. I can tell you're quite the biking enthusiast to have such strong opinions and I appreciate your insight and directness. Getting the cheaper of the two given my ameteur status is probably the best thing for me, though it is hard to look beyond the Swift. Anyway, thanks again for your post, and for the new expresssion! I love the chalk and cheese idiom. I'm going to to have to start using that. I love it! (I know, I'm a dork.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Diode100 View Post
    Just about the only thing the Xootr and the nova have in common is that they are both bicycles, I've not ridden either, but i think you should if you are considering buying one or the other. You will for sure find they are chalk and cheese, a 12 guage shotgun against a remmington hunting *****. If you cant actually get to ride them, then get the nova, the cheaper of the two, and use it till you know what it is you really want from a bike, then make the decision, over the short term the nova should keep its price well & you wont loose out in the deal.

  13. #13
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    Yes, I like Diode's sugestion as well. A $300 CAD Dahon was my first folder.

  14. #14
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakub.ner View Post
    I don't think you can compare the Downtube with the Xootr.

    The Downtube is akin the Dahon in that it has a long handlebar post and a hinge. You will not be able to rough it up: no bunny hops or off road with the Nova. The benefit is that it will get fairly small fairly quickly (a minute?).

    I regularly take one of my Swifts onto some mildly technical offroad action. I bunny hop over roots and generally abuse it. Because it has no hinges, and the two pivot points are essentially mountain bike suspension pivots, the bike is holding up really good. The stiffness helps quite a bit too. The Swift will fold up really small (suitcase), but not very fast. It takes me about 35 minutes to fold my touring Swift into a bag when I take a greyhound: this includes taking off panniers, breaking it all apart, etc.

    So depends on what you want out of the bike. For touring and offroading I use the Swift. To pick up my wife's car from the dealership (i.e. when I need a rather quick fold for the trunk) or to go out with buddies in their car but take my ride along, I use my Dahon Vitesse (which is kind of like the Nova).

    Don't buy a Swift for a multi-modal commute. It just doesn't make sense. It's a real good bike (better than Dahon/Downtube in my opinion) if you just have time to break it apart when packing.

    - Jakub
    Just to dispell a little misconception here: I don't think the Downtube is in any way less suitable or tough for offroad riding, bunny hops, or general abuse. Their hinges are the biggest and beefiest I have seen on a folder and failures at the hinges are completely unheard of for this brand, especially at the frame hinge which is probably stronger than the unhinged part of the frame.

    IMO, the advantages of the Swift are that it is stiffer (and, therefore, more efficient for gasping-for-air-thrashing-around-and-pedaling-as-hard-as-you-possibly-can kind of riding), lighter (don't believe Downtube's reported weights), and has a better quality componentry (like the derailleur). But if there is any difference in durability it would be with the Swift's shorter seatpost, not the lack of a hinged frame.

  15. #15
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    chucky,

    Good to know. Sounds like my comparison of Downtube Nova to my Dahon was improper.

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    How about geometry? Can shortening the handlebar post on the Downtube (for example) allow for a more aggressive riding position? I gather the Swift is designed to be a more aggressive bike.

  17. #17
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by savethekudzu View Post
    How about geometry? Can shortening the handlebar post on the Downtube (for example) allow for a more aggressive riding position? I gather the Swift is designed to be a more aggressive bike.
    It's difficult to shorten the handlebar post on a Downtube because there is a telescoping post on top of the hinged post (which has become particularly annoying for me now that my front suspension is stuck in the "up" position). The Swift is presumably easier because it's simpler more traditional post just doesn't have all that stuff in the way.

    Since the OP's riding intentions are nothing like mine the only suggestion I'll make is that lowering the handlebars this much might not be necessary for a 6' rider to get an aggressive position.
    Last edited by chucky; 08-25-09 at 09:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    It's difficult to shorten the handlebar post on a Downtube because there is a telescoping post on top of the hinged post (which has become particularly annoying for me now that my front suspension is stuck in the "up" position). The Swift is presumably easier because it's simpler more traditional post just doesn't have all that stuff in the way.
    Couldn't the short telescoping post be replaced with a shorter (cut) one?
    Certainly you're limited in adjustability with the factory handlebar post.

  19. #19
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    I think a lot of the opinions on Downtube being expressed here relate to the original Downtube lineup, not the Nova. The Nova is indeed VERY similar to Dahon bikes; critically, the centre hinge is Dahon licensed. Do not expect the standard and almost indestructible Downtube hinge, the Nova is, as many have suggested, a Dahon-alike.

  20. #20
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    Sammyboy- I was going on the assumption that the Dahon-licensed folding hinge design was SUPERIOR to the standard Downtube hinge. (Otherwise, why pay the licensing fee, especially for DT's low cost entry?) Is this assumption wrong?

    FWIW I never had a problem with the Downtube hinge on my Mini, it does require tightening up almost every time you fold/unfold but that's no problem.

  21. #21
    The Legitimiser Sammyboy's Avatar
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    Dahon hinges are definitely not superior to the almost indestructible Downtube ones.

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