I recently purchased the new model downtube 9 (front suspension). It's a very smooth ride, and meeting my expectations very well. It's also my first "real" bike; I'm not a very serious or experienced cyclist.
I live in a small apartment, and I'm using it for commuting, so it spends lots of time folded up (at office and at home). This is where the problem comes in. I ride in a very upright position (I'm not a very sporting cyclist and lack the flexibility- especially in the neck). I've adjusted the brake levers, shifter, bar ends and handlebar angle to fit my riding posture. This has made the handlebars and controls very "long" front-to-back. Since the handlebars fold between the wheels, this makes the folded package significantly wider. I'm trying to reduce the width when folded.
I think that rotating the lower stem can put the handlebar hinge on the other side of the bike- making the handlebars lay "outside" of the fold. Noting the image below, the handlebar folding joint hinges towards the rider (well, 45* to the side), so that the handlebar rotates down beside the 'rear' edge of the front fork.
My first thought was to rotate the lower stem 90*. This would put the handlebar folding joint hinge 45* to the other side towards the rider. This would put the handlebars on the outside. If you look at the picture, though, you will see the problem with this plan: the lower stem joint tilts forward around 5* from the steering axis. The result is that you have a handlebar tilted 5* to the left. I took the bike to my LBS to try out this experiment and there was much snickering at the funny angle.
My second though is to rotate the lower stem 180*. This would also allow the handlebar to fold on the "outside" of the wheels when folding. It will also tilt the handlebar 10* towards the rider (relative to the original position).
What are your thoughts? I'm a bit concerned about rotating the lower stem from a safety standpoint. I haven't considered if it ruins the bicycle, structurally speaking, to essentially mount the stem backwards on a threadless headset. I also don't know how the handlebar stem's 5-10* tilt towards the rider will effect handling. And finally, I haven't seen any folders that swing the handlebars on a hinge *away* from the rider- it is always hinging towards the rider. Is there any concern that if the latch fails, the hinge away from the rider will facilitate flying the rider over the handlebars?
Side note: Yan was most helpful with my purchase. I live relatively close to the downtube brick&mortar store and Yan was very accommodating with my need to test-ride it before purchase. Gold star there!