Abio Verdion First Impressions
Hi all. Just thought I'd share a little feedback on the Abio Verdion that I recieved via Fedex today and promptly put through its paces on the streets of San Francisco. Note that I am just an independent customer who bought this bike at full price and have no affiliations with any company.
First off, a little context about me (skip this paragraph if you just want to hear about the Verdion). I've lived in SF for four years now and started being comfortable with biking here within the last 3. I hadn't biked for quite a while before moving here from the east coast and started with your typical big box store commuter, then upgraded to a "better" commuter (Fuji Absolute 2.0) before making the leap head first onto a folding bike: a Strida 5.0. The Strida has been my trusty companion virtually every day for the last 2 years. It is amazing at what it does (provide useful transportation in a super fast-folding and convenient package). That said, the Strida has distinct disadvantages as well: no gears, slower ride, can't stand on petals to accelerate. Also, mine is getting pretty beat up and the welded in frame doesn't allow for repair of the folding handlebar mechanism (the eyelet wells that house the pegs that stabilize the folding handlebars are worn away, so the only thing keeping them tight is the pressure clamp which constantly works itself loose while riding).
While clearly not as compact or fast folding as the Strida, the Abio Verdion appears to address all of these major disadvantages. Firstly let me mention the main reason I was drawn to this particular folding bike when so many use a similar type of fold: the belt drive. If you haven't tried one, its easy to hate on it, but once you do, you could easily be converted. This is the first consumer-priced bike I have seen (folding or "regular" alike) that offers gears AND a belt drive! I'm pretty confident it won't be the last. The fact that it has a great ride and can stow into your car trunk in less than a minute are icing on the cake. For the unacquainted the main disadvantage of a belt drive has traditionally been the difficulty in including proper gearing. And indeed, the Verdion has only four gears. That said for me, a city commuter, they seem very well spaced and I used all four of them on my test run. The advantages of a belt drive are as follows: very low maintenance, can't rust, virtually silent, doesn't snag pants nearly as easily, no need for lubrication and no grease to get on hands/clothes/whatever the bike touches, actually MORE durable than a chain.
Abio claims the bikes ship 95% assembled and ready to ride, and I believe this to be the case. All you have to do is remove a bunch of plastic, pop in the quick release for the frame fold, tighten a few things and pump up the tires. The belt drive seemed perfect in its pre-tightened factory state, so I left it alone. Coming from the Strida, I must say that the Abio handles much more like a "normal" bike. The fact that both the handlebars and the seat are very easily height adjusted make for a very easy to customize ride; I prefer a more upright position (a la Strida) but you could just as easily raise the seat more and lower the bars for a more hunched road-bike position.
The Nexus internal gear hub works quite well. Transitions were smooth and generally responsive- only a few times did I get a bit of lag before switching gears. The handlebar control works well enough, though it could be a bit more ergonomic- upshifting to a higher gear is easy with the thumb, but downshifting (like when you want to be in a lower gear before a stop to make it easy to start again) is a bit hard to reach while braking at the same time since its done with with a button on top. Not a deal breaker at all, just takes a little practice. That said, I was surprised how intuitively I was able to enjoy the ride, the sign of a keeper :).
Coming from the Strida, the fold is the one area where the Strida has the edge, but I pretty much knew that going into it. Suffice it to say, if we view these types of bikes as the compromise that they are, the Strida is clearly on the convenience/portability end of the spectrum and the Verdion is on the "more of a bike" end, though neither has an awful ride or is a beast to fold and transport respectively. The Verdion does have the clever "double lock" joints which keep the unit folded. It also has the ability to roll on the rear wheel when folded (you can push the seat). The only problems I've found with the limited time I've used it folded are that the front wheel and stem like to swing around alot, the folded package doesn't really have a good way to stay upright on the ground, and there isn't a really good handle to make it easy to carry. I'm sure in time I'll figure out what works for me. Suffice it to say, I won't be folding this one and taking it with me into places nearly as much as the Strida, but rather locking it outside unfolded. Thats ok though, because the folding isn't too bad when you need to use it.
So far, I'm really happy with this bike and I'll update when I've incorporated it into my daily life. I'm probably going to want to get fenders (the rainy season in SF isn't too far off) and I kind of wish there was a black option (I'm really trying to get used to the pastel "seafoam" green) but I'm comfortable enough not to let it bug me ;). The Strida will stay in my stable for those times when portability is the key factor, but the Verdion may very well replace it as my primary commuter :thumb: