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  1. #1
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    High-class horses?

    Hi all, I've been wondering what with all the Moulton threads popping up like daisies if some of you would chime in and produce a "guide for the perplexed" about expensive high-end folding bikes. Low-end and mid-range bikes (such as Citizens, Downtubes, Dahons, Swifts, and Bromptons) have been covered here extensively, and with good reason, but I am completely in the dark about the premium end. I understand there are "horses for courses," and I want to know want the courses are for these particular horses.

    For example:
    • Why would I choose a Bike Friday vs. an Airnimal vs. a Moulton vs. a Birdy vs. a Pacific Reach? I get the impression these are performance-oriented folders--what sets them apart?
    • Moulton designs certainly look gorgeous but how comfortable is a Moulton to ride? How zippy is it? How would its performance compare to, say, a Dahon Speed Pro TT or a Xootr Swift? How easy and fast is it to separate and reattach and how compact does it get?
    • IF Mode also looks gorgeous but seems oriented towards the Dutch City Bicycle/Copenhagen Cycle Chic fashionista crowd in hip-hugging jeans, flowered sundresses (or both) who never travel more than 3 miles at a stretch (e.g., two-speed drive).


    Your experiences, opinions, comparison charts, etc. please! Let the rest of us live a little vicariously and give us something to fantasize about for the advanced stages of folder-itis.
    Last edited by Urbanis; 08-17-10 at 02:29 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Urbanis View Post
    For example:
    • Why would I choose a Bike Friday vs. an Airnimal vs. a Moulton vs. a Birdy vs. a Pacific Reach? I get the impression these are performance-oriented folders--what sets them apart?
    • Moulton designs certainly look gorgeous but how comfortable is a Moulton to ride? How zippy is it? How would its performance compare to, say, a Dahon Speed Pro TT or a Xootr Swift? How easy and fast is it to separate and reattach and how compact does it get?


    Your experiences, opinions, comparison charts, etc. please! Let the rest of us live a little vicariously and give us something to fantasize about for the advanced stages of folder-itis.
    Other than the Bike Friday, I have an example or two of the bikes mentioned. Reading through your posts, I'm guessing you want a comparison with your Xootr with an emphasis on road manners.


    The separable TSR Moulton separates after removing one kingpin and disconnecting the cable splitters .. a couple of minutes + or - .. with wheel removal, you can fit the frame in the trunk of an Alfa convertible .. here's one in mine..



    These bikes are very comfortable, stiff ( gets the power to the rear wheel), and stable at high speeds with its long wheelbase .. they are not lightweights, with steel tubing construction, but they are not overweight compared with anything close to their comfort/performance level..

    4 out of the 5 bikes you are comparing have suspension.. other than the Airnimal, suspension on both ends.. if comfort/fatigue on high pressure, sporty small wheels is an issue, then the suspended bikes will be an improvement .. especially descending on roads that aren't perfect.

    Bike Friday's can go full custom to properly fit most any rider and you can spec most drivetrains .. so if you can't get a proper fit on the other brands, you should be faster on a custom Friday ..

    The Pacific Reach Road/Racer is a very comfortable combination of light weight/stability and confidence at speed.. These are really terrific sporting bikes.

    The Birdy is the smallest fold in the comparison.. on the right tires (I use Kojaks) it is light, fast, and comfortable .. in my experience, it does not inspire the same confidence at high speeds (over 20mph) as the Moulton, Airnimal, and Reach..

    The Airnimal Chameleon rides like any good road bike.. there isn't much of a compromise compared with a 700c bike .

    The Xootr set up properly will be as fast any of the above with the right engine but won't have the same comfort level..

    If I had to choose one, I'd have a really hard decision, though my prized Xootr went to a happy new owner..

  3. #3
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    As always, your mileage may vary ;-)

    Bike Fridays
    Ability to have custom build for a perfect fit, paint and components of your choice. They are transportable and if you read crazyguyonabike.com the majority of folding bike tours appear to be done on various Fridays. They are steel (in my mind, the material of choice) and are still handmade in the USA - which can be an important feature for some people. A great quality bike with terrific and I mean TERRIFIC customer support.

    Airnimal
    Based in the UK. Used for touring and fast road cycling. Unified rear triangle. Expensive. Excellent for people who are much taller than average. The most prominent example I've read on selecting an Airnimal is here: http://www.minty-ai.net/bike/

    Birdy
    I've ridden Birdys and never got the bug. I ended up with a pretty meh? reaction to the bike. So you can pretty much discount my opinion here. Its a suspended bike which is not aesthetically pleasing to my eye and doesn't fold particularly small. Quality construction.

    Moulton
    This is the bike with a great cool factor, real history, invention & innovation, still has striking looks across its model range and carries an unmistakable design presence much like the Coca Cola bottle (don't drink it, its poison) or the Porsche 911. This was THE BRAND that first proved conclusively small wheels were viable and not slow in an upright bike. For a long time Moultons (both faired and unfaired) held many bicycle speed records. Moulton's pioneered small wheel which accelerated faster and had a lower aerodynamic profile than larger wheels. To compensate for the harsher ride that accompanied small wheels, Sir Alex Moulton incorporated front and rear suspension using relatively simple bumper stops. The design is often acclaimed for being simple, functional, elegant and beautiful. When a person buys a Moulton, they are buying into the design heritage of the brand and no longer merely pricing the bike as a commodity of usable transportation.

    Xootr
    If a small fold is not required, I really think the Xootr Swift is one of the best and most flexible deals out there. No flex from a hinge on the main tube or flex from the handlebar stem. Strong, stiff and highly customizable with standard bike parts including singlespeed and fixed gear options. For about $1000, one can have a custom bike for any application (touring, speed, commuting, cruising).


    Being in Canada, Airnimals are not an option for me. Birdys are possible but I don't like them. I've ridden Stridas and "get them" but I generally like a faster ride and hammering at a high cadence. Living in the city means I have to deal with lots of traffic lights so maintaining a high speed for hours on end is not possible for the riding I do. I basically only need three gears. A hill climbing gear, a normal gear of around 66 inches and a top end gear of say 76-80. I prefer to spin than mash. I don't pedal like a speed demon on downhills for safety. I need something that folds well enough to stash in the corner of an office, yet fast enough to maintain an average of say 23-25 km/h on my 20 km commute each way. I need something affordable since I haven't won the lottery yet. For me this is a Dahon Helios which I have converted into a singlespeed although I will be adding a fairing and adding back gears to take advantage of a higher top end on the flats.

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    A friend had a Moulton space frame with the big front rack made to mount a Zzipper fairing on .
    It was an nice combination.

    Fairing does make winter riding more comfortable..

  5. #5
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Some wonderful and thoughtful responses here! That's why I love this Forum!

    Buying the high end of any product - be it cars, clothes, houses, tennis shoes or whatever often is an emotional decision and not only a rational one. It's often hard to justify the purchase to oneself, much less to others. (Luckily I have an understanding spouse.). All of the bikes you mentioned are very fine products. Yes, there are differences, but they will be well made, provide a very good riding experience, and look great to the purchaser. No charts or numbers will objectively set them apart from one another, although we will spend endless cycles on hobby forums like this one arguing back and forth about it .

    The criteria I use to select my high end purchases include engineering, construction quality, ride quality, looks, uniqueness, cost and "happiness" factor...

  6. #6
    These go to eleven kegoguinness's Avatar
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    I'll weigh in on some Bike Friday specifics, as I own two of them:

    Pocket Crusoe (Substitute any of the Pocket bikes here):
    --stiff, light and fast. Getting a custom fit, as I have, it's as comfortable as any full-size (I'm 5'8").
    --Strong and trusty steel frame. I don't fear high speeds (not because of the bike anyway )
    --No hinge on the main tube. Again, cockpit and overall bike feel solid, not flexy, don't creak.
    --lots of gear combo options
    --not intended for a quick and neat fold. You can fold it pretty quick (1 minute) but it's hard not to get grease on your hands. Could just be me.
    --other than the fold, I have NO complaints about this bike. It is a fantastic bike.
    --Toured on it, works great!
    --Use it as a grocery getter, works great!
    --Use it as a "road bike", works great!
    --Use it as a technical, single track, boulder hopper...um, no.


    Tikit (not custom):
    --marvel of engineering. I cannot overemphasize the convenience of the fold itself, and how EASY it is to wheel when folded.
    --Solidly built but a little flexy/creaky.
    --chain can jump off the chainring due to a small protector
    --For store-hopping, this is the choice.
    --Use it as a commuter, works fantastic (multi-modal)
    --Use it for Andean road climbing...hmmm, best not.

    If I did it all over again, as I am inclined to go with the "one bike to rule them all" I might think about a custom Tikit with lots of gears and an improved front chainring protector.
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  7. #7
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    This a great thread. It's nice to hear varying descriptions of ride quality.

    I have a Birdy and a Brompton. While the Brompton is just the coolest folder I, my girlfriend and an friend who is an avid recumbent fan would all rather ride the Birdy. I don't have the technical knowledge to tell you why but it is just more fun to ride. It feels faster and more stable.

    I also would love to try an Airnimal or a Pacific Reach and want to buy (after I try) a Moulton.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by puppypilgrim View Post
    For a long time Moultons (both faired and unfaired) held many bicycle speed records.
    Every time the Moulton is listed at HPVA it is ahead of all other uprights. It's only beaten by recumbents. The Moulton presently holds: Men's 24-hour Single, Standing Start (Upright); Men's Single 200 Meter (Upright); and Women's Distance San Francisco to Los Angeles Single Rider speed records.
    Last edited by feijai; 08-17-10 at 09:18 PM.

  9. #9
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    What great responses so far! Keep 'em coming! And thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses... that's why I, too, love this forum.

    Bruce, your comments are most astute: I am very interested in knowing how these bikes perform on the road against my Swift! And when I hear our beloved SesameCrunch kvelling about his latest Moulton (for which he is willing to unload thousands of dollars and travel to the ends of the earth--or send his mother), naturally I am curious to know what I'm missing out on (besides a great-looking designer bicycle).

    Looking forward to reading more...
    Last edited by Urbanis; 08-17-10 at 08:45 PM.

  10. #10
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    and then there is the ultimate folding bike http://www.ufbusa.com/Homepage.html
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  11. #11
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    If we're going high-end, we ought to discuss folding recumbents. Here are some I know about currently on the market:

    Last edited by feijai; 08-17-10 at 09:37 PM.

  12. #12
    jur
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    According to my own experience:

    Moulton: Stable, very comfortable, a bit heavy (my APB with mudguards, Brooks B17 and quite light wheelset is 13kg). Superb for touring and flying down mountains with. I am using mine heavily and am experiencing maintenance issues with the suspension. The front got a custom bush and seems much better than original. The rear bushes seem to be moving in the frame, instead of the axle in the bushes.

    Birdy: Very comfortable (I am trying to recall my initial impression from a test ride), soaks bumps very nicely, reasonably stiff, but steering geometry is unstable (not twitchy though), meaning if you are careless it will shimmy on you and hands-off riding is impossible. Top quality construction, so that after much more than a year of heavy usage, all I have had to do is tighten spokes and clean gear cables. Fully loaded touring wasn't so great but I managed.

    Swift (I am lumping this one with the high-endians due to mine's config): Very stable, carves through corners while screaming downhill, races uphill so I have to hang on for dear life or be left behind, very fast on the flats with very little effort. Despite others' claim of harshness, I experience the opposite - I do not know why. It is very stiff but perhaps due to the Spyder saddle and carbon seatpost, I find it very comfortable, so much so that occasionally I think the tyres are soft. I think the lightness also contributes to comfort. I am much faster on my commute (which is mostly level with 2 hilly bits on either end) with very little effort. I haven't had any real issues with it but it hasn't seen the same heavy usage either.
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  13. #13
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmaher View Post

    I also would love to try an Airnimal or a Pacific Reach and want to buy (after I try) a Moulton.

    Jim
    Sounds like you need to make a trip to San Francisco to see Bruce Metras. He has all of the above.

  14. #14
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    I suspect that Bruce is the only one the US that has all three. I really like the idea of a stable high end bike with road suspension. Something that has all the good things a Birdy does, but even better (more stable, etc), although in a less foldable way. However it's a long trip from Tampa to San Francisco and I haven't found a good (other than this) reason to make the trip yet.

    Jim

  15. #15
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmaher View Post
    I haven't found a good (other than this) reason to make the trip yet.

    Jim
    What, and that's not enough reason!!???!!!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmaher View Post
    However it's a long trip from Tampa to San Francisco and I haven't found a good (other than this) reason to make the trip yet.

    Jim
    Having pie at the SesameCrunch Moulton museum should be high on your list... Half Moon bay overlooks the mighty Pacific Ocean.. breathtaking views... pie .. wonderful roads to ride .. pie .. and of course a very friendly, knowledgeable, though eccentric, curator ...

  17. #17
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    Wait!! You mean there is pie?

  18. #18
    Senior Member Foldable Two's Avatar
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    Bruce,

    Guess I'll have to photograph one of our Bike Friday Pocket 8's in the trunk of my Alfa convertible. Can't do so until we return to the NW in mid-Sept.

    Lou

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by feijai View Post
    If we're going high-end, we ought to discuss folding recumbents. Here are some I know about currently on the market:


    The Grasshopper looks yummy. I've been curious to try a recumbent since I've heard how comfortable and efficient they can be but have resisted mainly due to compactness/storage issues. The price is also a consideration, but of course we're talking high end here.

  20. #20
    The Metropolis, UK
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    Low-end and mid-range bikes (such as Citizens, Downtubes, Dahons, Swifts, and Bromptons
    I'd called the Xootr a high-end folding bike for performance and ride, it just happens to be very good value. The Brompton is not a high-end performance bike but is most certainly a high-end folding bike. Had to defend its honour there.

    The Dahon Speed Pro TT is also a beautiful ride and has a fantastic gear range with really good handlebars for different positions. I found it a very fast bike. The Mu EX special edition uses the Shimano red gear set is a light capable bike with improves stiffness. This was something the superbly lightweight Helios XX special edition forerunner lacked.

    I've ridden SF's Moulton Lava. It had less vibration than some road bikes and was a really excellent ride. I can see why it has broken some sprint and other speed records. It is not to be scoffed at by roadies.
    Last edited by mulleady; 08-20-10 at 11:45 AM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    Hey Mulleady,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I was initially thinking high-end specifically from a price perspective--think "luxury"--and since a Brompton and Swift can been had for less than $1200, I was thinking of them more as "mid-range." But yes, in terms of design and manufacturing quality, they do probably count as "high-end."

    What's in your stable besides the Brompton? I looked on your profile but didn't see a list.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foldable Two View Post
    Bruce,

    Guess I'll have to photograph one of our Bike Friday Pocket 8's in the trunk of my Alfa convertible. Can't do so until we return to the NW in mid-Sept.

    Lou
    That'd be cool Lou! ... my same Alfa trunk can also house my Birdy and Dahon MU Duo without removing anything.. one at a time of course

  23. #23
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by puppypilgrim View Post
    ...Sir Alex Moulton...
    While Alex Moulton, Commander of the British Empire, Royal Designer of Industry, Honorary Doctor of Arts (Royal College of Arts), Honorary Doctor of Science (Bath University), and member and past president of the Fellowship of Engineering, is occasionally referred to as Sir Alex Moulton, this is incorrect. However, American cycle journalist John Allen said it best: "If Moulton was never knighted, he should have been."

    tcs
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  24. #24
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by mulleady View Post
    ...Moulton... It had less vibration than some road bikes and was a really excellent ride. I can see why it has broken some sprint and other speed records. It is not to be scoffed at by roadies.
    Moulton bikes have been used in winning time trials, road races, criteriums, triathlons, and track events. They've been ridden to official finishes in the RAAM, tackled the Paris-Roubaix route, used for setting an as yet unbroken HPV record, been along for point to point time records and used for PBs in the P-B-P. (Use of Moulton bikes is no longer allowed in competitions controlled by the UCI.) Moulton-mounted tours began in Iceland in 1962, and since then, tourists have ridden laden Moultons over the Himalayan mountains, down to the Dead Sea, along the great wall of China, across the Nulibor Plain and Gobi desert, into equatorial Africa, the length of America's Great Divide off-road trail, end-to-end, transcontinental and around the world; Moulton riders have been everywhere from Patagonia to north of the Arctic Circle.

    Just so you know.

    tcs

    Fun fact: Dr. Moulton was organizing a professional racing team to campaign his little bikes on the continent during the 1968 season when his company was bought out by Raleigh.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  25. #25
    The Metropolis, UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Urbanis View Post
    Hey Mulleady,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I was initially thinking high-end specifically from a price perspective--think "luxury"--and since a Brompton and Swift can been had for less than $1200, I was thinking of them more as "mid-range." But yes, in terms of design and manufacturing quality, they do probably count as "high-end."

    What's in your stable besides the Brompton? I looked on your profile but didn't see a list.
    Sorry forgot to answer. Well the Brommie was customised a lot and ended up high spec. I have just ordered a high-end 20" folder and will announce when I get it soon with pics!

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