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Folding Bikes Discuss the unique features and issues of folding bikes. Also a great place to learn what folding bike will work best for your needs.

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Old 11-12-10, 10:03 PM   #1
lighto
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Folding bike for longer rides (30+ miles)

Ok, so I've had my Downtube Novas for a little over a month now. I've put maybe ~150 miles on it so far, including two group rides of over 30 miles. The last ride I went on was almost 40 miles (my legs are still recovering from that one!)

Anyway, a couple of observations from these rides:

1. The bike accelerates pretty fast. 0-10mph in no time at all, but, 10-16 feels like a pretty big deal (not easy). Also maintaining any speed over ~13mph feels like a pretty big deal. I've noticed when starting from a stop, I'll often accelerate faster than the roadies, but once they get moving, riding at a higher speed seems easier for them.

2. Downhill - it seems like this bike also rolls downhill faster. The fastest I've gone downhill was around 28mph. It was scary. lol That being said, due to the gearing, you can't really peddle any more at that speed (not that I'd want to anyway).

3. Uphill - seems ok, but sometimes, I really wish I could stand up to peddle, esp when my legs are super-tired. (I've read that standing up and peddling on a folding bike is not good for the handlebar stem). Handlebars squeak when I'm tired and peddling with sloppy form and pulling on the handlebars.

Now, I do admit, I'm not in the best shape, so the speed and distance I can go without feeling like passing out may improve with time, but it just feels like when the ride passes 20 miles, I'm pretty spent. Also, a normal cruising speed of around 10-13mph on flat roads seems as fast as this bike will _comfortably_ go.

Countless people have told me that it will be easier to go longer distances / speeds on a full sized road bike. In group rides, it does seem like they have an easier time, but maybe they're just in better shape? I don't have a road bike to compare at this moment, so I can't really say.

Thoughts? Personal experiences?
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Old 11-12-10, 11:31 PM   #2
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alot of it also has to do with gearing. your nova probably tops out at 60 gear inches which is very low for flats. my strida only has like 55 gear inches and anyone with gears can easily pass me but I stick with the bike for simplicity and hiding it in my cubicle is nice. But if you gear it up you might have a better time. try a bigger chain ring in the front and maybe change out the rear cassette. It's not the small wheels that's holding you back because moultons have small wheels and they perform even better than full size bikes. Keep up the riding you'll just become better at it, my silly single speed bike is my daily commuter and I can take it to 50km+ charity rides no problems at all and even passing some.
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Old 11-13-10, 12:06 AM   #3
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I do 30miles no problem with my dahon.
although, admittedly, it's highly customized with drop bars and a double crankset.

One of the main problems with folding bikes is that the fit can't be fine tuned when compared to a full size bike. It's mostly in the engine, but gearing helps. It's not necessarily the range, as much as the steps the gearing allows. Smaller steps, or jumps, between the gears means there's less wasted energy when you're spinning too fast or too slow, because your bike doesn't have an 'in-between' gear.
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Old 11-13-10, 12:21 AM   #4
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It also looks (based on some quick googling) like the Nova is a pretty upright bike. This is probably a large part of why you're finding it difficult to accelerate to higher speeds. Upright bikes are good for comfort and visibility, but have lousy aerodynamics, which becomes very important as you get to higher speeds (most of your energy goes into overcoming wind resistance, which is proportional to the square of your speed). If you can lower the stem and find some handlebars that will let you stretch out more (maybe trekking bars?), that should help. You might also want to check out tire options. I'm guessing the stock tires are commuter oriented (designed for durability and comfort over efficiency), so you could probably pick up a bit of speed there. It's never going to be the equivalent of a high-end racing bike (that's just not what it was designed for), but with a bit of work, I'd expect it could keep up just fine on the sort of rides you're describing.

My Dawes is a bit on the slow side, but that's because of the current gearing. I'm fairly sure it should be able to keep up with the big wheels just fine, once it gets its new wheels and gears.
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Old 11-13-10, 12:53 AM   #5
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Almost all of my long distance riding has been on folding bikes/small-wheeled bikes (which are full-sized, just the wheels aren't over-sized ) There isn't something inherent in small-wheelers that prevents long distances.

That said, there are factors which need to be right:

* Fit: You need to be _*very*_ comfortable on the bike if you are going to be in the saddle for 10 hours. Fit is the bike's size wrt your body, in particular the contact points (handle bars, saddle, pedals). All these need to be right. If you are really comfortable on a Brompton/Strida/Dahon/Downtube/whatever, then you can do long distance (which boils down to long time).

* Position: This is close to fit but not necessarily the same. If you have a very upright riding position, that is not very conducive to riding long hours for several reasons - one, you will have more wind resistance, and even more importantly, you won't be able to pedal very hard for very long. If you exert strong enough force on the pedals, you upper body is a counter-weight for the legs - you can see this easily enough when trying to pedal really hard, requiring you to bring your body quite low. So a good long hours riding position is one where your body is 45 degrees forward tilted and your arms 45 degree slanted back from the bars (both approximate, you understand). Such a position takes some experience getting used to, and requires very comfortable handlebars.

* Forward handlebars: Completely closely integrated with the previous point, forward handlebars which allow you to assume a slightly stretched position while seated, also allow you to get out of the saddle when needed. You can only do this comfortably when the handlebars are well forwards; adding barends to flat bars will five you an even more forwards hands position indispensable for climbing, as well as a more natural hand angle when doing so.

* Well-tuned machine: A bike which has very low rolling resistance helps a huge lot. So the tyres must be high quality and inflated to the correct pressure, the wheel bearings must have low resistance when rolling under load, the drive train must be able to be turned with very little effort and the bike as a whole must not be too flexible laterally. In general, road bikes excel in the above points and will roll very easily from the get go and be easy to maintain speed. Folding bikes in general are designed for other characteristics and don't do as well, but you can at least optimise what you have and see how you go. I have optimised my Swift such that it is indistinguishable from a good road bike. Other folding bikes would not be possible to get to the same level. Bikes with long stems such as folding bikes can certainly be ridden out of the saddle, I do it on every ride on every bike, but I am conscious about the leverage issue.
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Old 11-13-10, 12:58 AM   #6
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I have to say the long handlebar stem on my Dahon Vitesse D7HG doesn't feel great for standing. But the tires and saddle have made 30-50km rides comfortable.
I also have a Dahon Hammerhead, which also has small wheels but has a diamond frame. Much easier to stand up on, to ride more aggressively, etc. So yeah, the small wheel is not the critical factor.
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Old 11-13-10, 02:28 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lighto View Post
Now, I do admit, I'm not in the best shape, so the speed and distance I can go without feeling like passing out may improve with time, but it just feels like when the ride passes 20 miles, I'm pretty spent. Also, a normal cruising speed of around 10-13mph on flat roads seems as fast as this bike will _comfortably_ go.

Countless people have told me that it will be easier to go longer distances / speeds on a full sized road bike. In group rides, it does seem like they have an easier time, but maybe they're just in better shape? I don't have a road bike to compare at this moment, so I can't really say.

Thoughts? Personal experiences?
Jur's points are on target.

I get the sense that you are a new rider. If so, it takes some time, miles, and experimentation to figure out the best fit -- how aggressive your position and the geometry that best fits your body given the aggressiveness of the position. Mind you, I vaguely recall that the Downtube Nova does not have an Ahead-type stem. Consequently, you will not be able to adjust it as much as other bikes.

Long story short, wheel size and all of the glop has a small impact on speed and endurance relative to the engine. And fit makes the engine efficient.

There are several articles on bike fit. I always suggest Peter White's article; but there are several others as well. After you plop down some more mileage and perhaps experiment a bit. It might pay to see an experienced fitting expert.
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Old 11-14-10, 01:08 PM   #8
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A common theme in the responses appears to be: handlebar height/position.

Currently, I have the handlebars as low (height) as they will go--a tad higher than my saddle height, which is as high as it will go. There is no adjustment to put the handlebars in a more 'forward' position (invisiblehand is correct, no Ahead-type stem).

My concern in changing out the handlebars for a drop or trekking style bar is that it will be awkward when folded.

The tires that come on this bike are kenda kampaign 20x1.2 65psi. The tires have a very light tread and I run them at or near the max psi. What type of improvement can I expect from swapping these out for, say kojaks? (night and day, or something so subtle, I'd need to really pay close attention to notice?)
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Old 11-14-10, 01:33 PM   #9
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I find drop bars are the answer for reach/aero/comfort problems.

Higher gearing will help you too.
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Old 11-15-10, 01:45 PM   #10
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I think that if you want to go much faster, assuming that you are not optimally fit for fast-long-distance rides, you'll have to get a different bike.

At the speed you travel, rolling resistance matters a lot. You will definitely notice a difference. But don't expect miracles.

BTW, you should read a few posts in the long-distance folder thread that is active at the moment. We talk tires there.
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Old 11-18-10, 08:51 PM   #11
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Look into an inexpensive 26" folder and run some slicks on it. Works for me on 20 mile rides, loaded. If I weren't 6'4", it'd be fine for even longer rides.
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Old 11-18-10, 10:28 PM   #12
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The tires that come on this bike are kenda kampaign 20x1.2 65psi. The tires have a very light tread and I run them at or near the max psi. What type of improvement can I expect from swapping these out for, say kojaks? (night and day, or something so subtle, I'd need to really pay close attention to notice?)
65psi is going to have pretty high rolling resistance...even with very high quality tires.

I think better tires run at higher pressure will make a big difference...well relatively speaking. There aren't going to be any miracles like invisible hand said.
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Old 11-19-10, 08:08 PM   #13
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Thanks for the responses guys. I'm going to keep riding on these tires a little longer because it seems like such a waste to just toss these so quickly. I've been riding regularly and do feel myself getting stronger, and being able to finish my regular path (10 miles) with progressively less effort.

I did experiment with the handlebars, and although there is no ahead stem, it has a riser bar that can be rotated, slightly modifying the reach (although at the expense of an awkward outward pointing handlebar angle). I do think it felt a little better with a further reach, but the handlebar in that angle really does a number on my wrists.

I think I'd like to try installing an ahead or something similar to extend the reach, although I'm not sure I can do that without having to cut something (which I'd prefer not to do). I'll spawn a different thread for that.
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