Regular bike commuter in Portland, OR ... except I have a multimodal commute to the suburbs. It's getting to the point that I'm frequently having to let a train pass me by because all the bike spots are full, and our transit agency has gotten pretty strict about not letting on "extra" bikes except folders. I've been considering a folder for about a year, but today was the breaking point for me, as I had missed TWO trains on the way home this evening. And as it happened, as I got off the train that I finally DID make it onto, there was a Brompton owner unfolding his bike. I talked to him for a few minutes, and he kindly demonstrated the folding mechanism on his particular bike (pretty amazing) and said that he has NEVER missed a train because there wasn't room for his bike. OK, I'm sold.
Just one catch.
This is Portland, Oregon. It drizzles for half the year. My regular commute involves as much as 1000' of descending. I ride in a busy urban environment where panic stops are occasionally necessary. To me, that means disc brakes. I've been commuting with discs since 2004 and there is no way in heck I'm going back. For me this requirement is absolute. If anyone wants to take issue with it, I'm begging you in advance to please start a new thread and don't derail this one.
So for me that means no Bromptons, no Bike Fridays, no Dahons. It would be easy enough if a 26" folder were an option (Montague or Matrix would both be good) but our transit agency explicitly limits folding bikes to 20" wheels or smaller. I'm a total tire geek and uninterested in 16" or any oddball sizes like 18", so 20" it is. What are my choices? Near as I can tell:
- Swift folder, though it's a pretty expensive upgrade and pushes the bike over $1000. This is more than I'd like to spend, but I won't rule it out. I do like the idea of more "traditional" geometry also the 71 degree seat tube angle -- I'm a big believer in more "relaxed" seat positioning for reasons I won't go into at risk of derailing this thread. Also, can I assume I'm looking only at the steel Oregon version (which is available with disc tabs) and not the more affordable aluminum Xootr edition (which appears not to be)?
- Downtube. Not a deal-maker/breaker, but I do like the more compact fold, vs. the Swift. I have no need for full suspension (and am in the process of divesting my FS mountain bike, as I've discovered hardtails work just fine for me), so the "9" model (front suspension) looks right: disc tabs AND disc hubs front and rear. All I have to do is install the brakes and rotors already sitting in my parts box. And the price sure is right, even after adding in the rigid fork I would certainly want. Also, does anyone know the ETT length and angles on the Downtubes? This information seems awfully hard to come by, but I DO often ride 20+ miles in a day and need a bike that will fit me well enough to be comfortable on longer rides. Or does the stem ("mast?") adjust in a way that makes TT length less important?
- Uhhh ... Strida? I know, I'm reaching here. Not many choices. Seems cool (and has discs!) but maybe more of a toy? Especially since you can't get one with more than two gears: sorry, with my hills that's out of the question. The gear range of a typical 3-speed hub is my absolute minimum. But if the dropouts are long enough, maybe it can be upgraded to a gear hub? Another downside is its 45" length when folded may still make it difficult to travel with.
- Airnimal Rhino. Well out of my price range, I think. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Another requirement I have is the ability to fit a standard rack: I often drop off or pick up my young child at school with our Burley Piccolo trailercycle (which requires a proprietary rack), and expect to do so for several years yet to come. I understand that this may increase the folded size, but should still pass muster with the Transit Police. It looks like this should be doable on at least the Downtube or Swift without too much jerry-rigging.
One more feature that's not an absolute requirement but sure would be nice in a travel-capable bike would be the ability to handle moderate off-roading. Having a bike that can easily drop into a car trunk or go into an airline-legal bag suddenly opens up new riding opportunities, many of which would be on dirt. From everything I've read on this forum the Downtube has one of the most solid frames in the folding world and should be capable of light mountain biking with the right tires mounted. Maybe true of the Swift too? And even if Dahon made a disc 20"er, it sounds like maybe they're iffy for rugged terrain (or even curb drops, which I do on pretty much a daily basis)?
Are there other options in disc-equipped 20" folders I don't know about, or am I pretty much deciding between the $450 Downtube and the $1100-ish Swift?