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Old 08-17-11, 10:43 PM   #1
lighto
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Budget folder upgrades - Time to just buy another bike instead?

I've had my downtube nova for just about a year now. Got around 1600 miles on it, and have been slowly upgrading or changing out some of the parts in an effort to make it a "better bike". So far:

1. Saddle - not really an optional change. No seat issues after swap.

2. Changed from riser to flat handlebars with bar-ends.
I guess this marginally increased comfort. The bar-ends really help when climbing, even though the bike makes horrible creaking noises when riding out of the saddle.
3. Clipless pedals
Probably the most worthwhile performance upgrade, IMO. Saw my average speeds go up a small amount, and am able to do high cadence pedaling more easily. In terms of convenience, eh.. not so much.
4. Tires: Schwalbe Kojaks
This 'upgrade' is WAY OVERRATED. Honestly, I don't think I notice any performance difference besides a bumpier ride from the increased pressure. My riding speeds have pretty much stayed the same, and the riding doesn't feel any easier than the stock tires. Definitely not worth swapping out a perfectly good set of tires IMO.
So, anyhow, the next thing I was thinking about is upgrading the gearing to get an 11T cog (which means getting a new rear wheel that has a freehub body instead of dealing with questionable quality freewheels), and possibly changing the crankset to a compact double.

.. but then, I got to thinking. When's enough, enough? I mean, most of these changes so far haven't made HUGE differences to the bike. Even everything combined, I'd say, it's pretty much still the same ol' bike. Is upgraded gearing really going to make a big difference?

Is it time to just buy a different bike, and leave this poor bike alone for what it is: a portable, but slow-paced, cruising bike? Thoughts?
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Old 08-18-11, 03:51 AM   #2
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I guess it depends on how much you like the frame and any other aspects of the basic bike. If you like the frame, everything else is negotiable.
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Old 08-18-11, 07:58 AM   #3
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What are you looking for in a better bike and how much do you want to spend?
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Old 08-18-11, 09:13 AM   #4
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the next thing I was thinking about is upgrading the gearing to get an 11T cog
So you have a 'need for speed', and are not one to cruise along ,
and smell the flowers?
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Old 08-18-11, 01:30 PM   #5
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What are you looking for in a better bike and how much do you want to spend?
Something that rolls easier and faster, and possibly fits me better (I'm still a little doubtful about the reach on this bike). I'm thinking about getting a road bike (~$600-$800? from bd).

I'm not racing or anything, but I get curious at just "how much" of an advantage the road bikers have as they seem to almost effortlessly pass me on my folder (really, it's like they're not even trying).
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Old 08-18-11, 01:33 PM   #6
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So you have a 'need for speed', and are not one to cruise along ,
and smell the flowers?
I do sometimes. I guess the 'option' of being able to go faster is the allure.
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Old 08-18-11, 02:18 PM   #7
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The MKS pedals that have a Quick Release, will make the fold more compact,
.. there are a few different ones , clipless and platform pedals are just an snap to interchange then.

Nothing wrong with better tires.. but you could delay that until you wear down whats on there.

Replacing or rebuilding the rear wheel around a Shimano Caprio hub/cassette,
gets you a 9 t cog,
Assuming the bike has a derailleur.
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Old 08-18-11, 04:27 PM   #8
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I'm not racing or anything, but I get curious at just "how much" of an advantage the road bikers have as they seem to almost effortlessly pass me on my folder (really, it's like they're not even trying).
Weight and gearing otherwse being equal, the main differences seem to the the wheel RPM (nominally some resistance and wear-&-tear-n-the-hub issues), the wind resistance (at high speeds), and biker fitness. Not knowing anything else I vote for the latter -- I usually find that on my folder (even the old cheap one) I pass average cyclists when going uphill and they pass me downhill when we're both coasting. On the flats it's a minor difference.

(is there a sticky on this topic?)
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Old 08-18-11, 05:02 PM   #9
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I think that upgrades on a "real" budget folder can make quite a difference. I have a Citizen Tokyo which at $169 base price is about as budget as budget can get. I replaced the standard 40psi Kenda cruising tires with 100psi Kenda quests, the rather lousy vinyl saddle with a leather/copper plated rail Gyes (Nice Brooks Swallow clone), an 11 tooth 7spd freewheel, steel, non-folding MTB pedals and a 7 spd shifter. At 225lbs, the bike handles my "gentle" abuse and makes for a capable commuter - hey I get passed by the real "roadies" but they pass me on my 24 spd Gary Fisher as well! I think that unless you are going to go the big $$$ route and get a high end Dahon/Bike Friday/Etc. then reasonable upgrades are worth the $$ spent. I am in for about $450 (including the saddle) and do not think that I could purchase a comparable folder at that price...
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Old 08-18-11, 11:15 PM   #10
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Have you ever considered changing the bottom bracket on your bike? I changed out the stock one on my Curve and it made a perceptible improvement.
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Old 08-19-11, 06:01 AM   #11
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Is it time to just buy a different bike, and leave this poor bike alone for what it is: a portable, but slow-paced, cruising bike? Thoughts?
IMHO whether to buy new or upgrade is a very personal matter with no right or wrong answer but I think the frame is the most important part of the bike. If you like the frame then have at it and upgrade. I can't think of any folding bike out there that is perfect and wouldn't need some sort of modification to suit me, so to start off with an inexpensive but solid frame/bike and upgrading it is the way to go for me.

I've often heard people make remarks about how silly it is to put $600 worth of upgrades into a $200 bike. The fact is if it suits the rider better than any $1000 bike, then it was a smart move.
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Old 08-19-11, 06:09 AM   #12
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Have you ever considered changing the bottom bracket on your bike? I changed out the stock one on my Curve and it made a perceptible improvement.
In a way this is probably the first order of business. Not that a new or upgraded BB (cartridge) is necessary, but ensuring that the BB and hub bearings are adjusted correctly and adequately lubed are the most commonly overlooked things that slow a bike down. People have brought their bikes into the shop many times and have insisted on the upgrades. They were happy with the results but they could have saved money and gotten similar results if they had allowed me to just repack and adjust the existing bearings which were overtorqued.
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Old 08-22-11, 10:30 PM   #13
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All good points guys.

I was hoping to get a couple responses in the other direction for a more balanced view of the topic, but I guess the parts upgraders are the more vocal bunch.

I'm still on the fence, but I will probably give the gear upgrade a shot. I would love to just have one bike that'll meet all my expectations, but sometimes, it's just a matter of having the right tool for the job. We'll see.

As for the bottom bracket upgrade, I'm no expert, but the thing spins pretty well when the chain is off, so I have a feeling it's doing ok. I'll take a closer look next time I'm fiddling around that area though.
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Old 08-22-11, 11:47 PM   #14
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All good points guys.

I was hoping to get a couple responses in the other direction for a more balanced view of the topic, but I guess the parts upgraders are the more vocal bunch.

I'm still on the fence, but I will probably give the gear upgrade a shot. I would love to just have one bike that'll meet all my expectations, but sometimes, it's just a matter of having the right tool for the job. We'll see.

As for the bottom bracket upgrade, I'm no expert, but the thing spins pretty well when the chain is off, so I have a feeling it's doing ok. I'll take a closer look next time I'm fiddling around that area though.
There are folding bikes that are performance based, but others they are not. Seriously, a bicycle is simply a frame and fork and a set of wheels with components hanging off them. Components DO NOT make a bike fast. A Shimano Ultegra shifters on a Trek 520 does not make it bike faster than when it's on a Trek Madone 6 series. A high end bottom bracket on a Trek 520 isn't going to make it a Madone 6 either.

Before you start wasting all that money down the drain, I suggest that you seriously evaluate what you really want out of your folder. The Downtube Nova is an OK folder; slightly lower quality than the Dahon mid end folding bikes. And yes, I have ridden A LOT of folders and Downtube isn't even close to the performance category at all. For performance, the frame's stiffness dictates good power transfer and good acceleration on the get go. If it's creaking and squeaking like you said, perhaps the frame is flexing way too much for efficient power transfer. No matter how much money you spent on the bike, you can make a weak frame better just by replacing good components.

There are folding bikes out there made of excellent quality and stiffness. Which is why they cost a lot more than the Downtube!

On your next folder, think the frame first, then fork and then wheels. Components can be anything and when they wear out, you can upgrade to better ones.
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Old 08-23-11, 02:36 AM   #15
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As for the bottom bracket upgrade, I'm no expert, but the thing spins pretty well when the chain is off, so I have a feeling it's doing ok. I'll take a closer look next time I'm fiddling around that area though.
I find that to really get the feeling of the state of the BB you need to take the crank arms off and then with your fingers mowe the spindle.
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Old 08-23-11, 05:44 AM   #16
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I find that to really get the feeling of the state of the BB you need to take the crank arms off and then with your fingers move the spindle.
+1.
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Old 08-23-11, 06:35 AM   #17
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Before you start wasting all that money down the drain, I suggest that you seriously evaluate what you really want out of your folder. The Downtube Nova is an OK folder; slightly lower quality than the Dahon mid end folding bikes. And yes, I have ridden A LOT of folders and Downtube isn't even close to the performance category at all. For performance, the frame's stiffness dictates good power transfer and good acceleration on the get go. If it's creaking and squeaking like you said, perhaps the frame is flexing way too much for efficient power transfer. No matter how much money you spent on the bike, you can make a weak frame better just by replacing good components.

There are folding bikes out there made of excellent quality and stiffness. Which is why they cost a lot more than the Downtube!

On your next folder, think the frame first, then fork and then wheels. Components can be anything and when they wear out, you can upgrade to better ones.
I don't think there's any difference in terms of flex between low and high-end Dahons. If the clamps are manufactured poorly then there might be play which will translate as flex in terms of the riding experience. I've ridden ultra-low end folding bikes that are much stiffer than my Brompton due to the clamps and tubing being larger. Assuming the clamps are properly manufactured the main culprit of flex in folding bikes is the (long) stem/handlepost, which is a drawback of most folding designs. The longer the stem/handlepost the greater the flex, so if stiffness is the priority best avoid all long-stem type folders altogether.

I'm guessing the Nova frame is much the same as any Dahon of a similar folding design.
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Old 08-23-11, 10:03 AM   #18
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Everyone should have more than one bike! Ideally you need 3 minimum, One for riding distance, one for trips to the shops and one for rougher terrain/winter use. If you have a bike suitable for all your needs then just get another one anyway
If you're happy doing upgrades to bikes, consider buying a second hand bike with a good frame and build yourself the bike of your dreams. This can be very rewarding.

Incidentally I built a 1975 Dawes kingpin into a nice little touring bike. It has a long stem but very little flex as it doesn't have a folding stem, just a quick release to allow it to be lowered. If you are pulling back on the handlebars to much this may also be part of the problem, try leaning forward to put more weight on the front.
Another solution is to use butterfly or trekking bars mounted to give a more forward hand position to use when going up hills. There is a point where you are far enough forward that pulling the handlebars moves you forward rather than the handlebars back and moving your mass forward will keep the front wheel on the ground better when going up really steep hills.

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Old 08-23-11, 01:31 PM   #19
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I don't think there's any difference in terms of flex between low and high-end Dahons. If the clamps are manufactured poorly then there might be play which will translate as flex in terms of the riding experience. I've ridden ultra-low end folding bikes that are much stiffer than my Brompton due to the clamps and tubing being larger. Assuming the clamps are properly manufactured the main culprit of flex in folding bikes is the (long) stem/handlepost, which is a drawback of most folding designs. The longer the stem/handlepost the greater the flex, so if stiffness is the priority best avoid all long-stem type folders altogether.

I'm guessing the Nova frame is much the same as any Dahon of a similar folding design.
There is a difference between the Mu and the Speed frames, Mu being a bit stiffer both in terms on the hinge area and the handlepost. The same designers who made the Mu are now with Tern and their Verge and Link lines have even stiffer frames claimed compared to the latest Mu, which should ride even better.

The last time I rode a Nova frame, it's not as stiff as the Speed P8 or even a Mu P8, but suprisingly enough my Mu SL is stiffer and more responsive than my former more expensively custom made Bike Friday which was supposedly made stiff enough for good performance.

Having said that, Nova is an ok frame made for the purpose that it was designed for much the same as someone sinking so much money trying to make a Trek 520 touring bike into a Madone racing bike without understanding that a bike will best operate when it was soley designed for that specific purpose!
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Old 08-23-11, 02:19 PM   #20
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Everyone should have more than one bike! Ideally you need 3 minimum, One for riding distance, one for trips to the shops and one for rougher terrain/winter use. If you have a bike suitable for all your needs then just get another one anyway
If you're happy doing upgrades to bikes, consider buying a second hand bike with a good frame and build yourself the bike of your dreams. This can be very rewarding.

Incidentally I built a 1975 Dawes kingpin into a nice little touring bike. It has a long stem but very little flex as it doesn't have a folding stem, just a quick release to allow it to be lowered. If you are pulling back on the handlebars to much this may also be part of the problem, try leaning forward to put more weight on the front.
Another solution is to use butterfly or trekking bars mounted to give a more forward hand position to use when going up hills. There is a point where you are far enough forward that pulling the handlebars moves you forward rather than the handlebars back and moving your mass forward will keep the front wheel on the ground better when going up really steep hills.

Very nice! I really like the trekking bar. What front rack is that? And what Carradice model is that at the back (if it's a Carradice)?
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Old 08-23-11, 02:52 PM   #21
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Incidentally I built a 1975 Dawes kingpin into a nice little touring bike.
Interesting, are you able to confirm that the Kingpin has a standard bottom bracket thread and not the dreaded Raleigh TPI that causes so much heartache on R20's & Mk3 Moultons ?
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Old 08-23-11, 09:15 PM   #22
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Kingpin is all standard except the wheels which are 500A's (I had V brake bosses added and switched to 406's but the original brakes would work with 451's). I put in a new BB with relative ease and although I kept the original headset the threading there is standard as well. The tubing is more slender than the more common Raleigh twenty and even this folding version has internal cable routing. The hinge is a very sturdy V clamp and doesn't flex at all.
The front rack is a cheap Bor Yeoh rack for a full sized bike, I simply bent the bracket into an S curve to reach the fork crown. This incidentally gives it a bit of spring with the bonus side effect of acting as a shock damper when loaded. I used racks for full sized bikes in order to get more ground clearance for panniers.
Its a Carradice Nelson, the panniers are also carradice.
There is actually a couple of reasons for the arrangement of the butterfly bars, originally it was to give more room for my knees but I then found that it meant I could rest my forearms on the top of the bar giving a more comfortable position and greater control when going straight (the steering is very sensitive). Using the front of the bars makes hills a lot easier as with 14 gears the limit to my hill climbing is whether I can keep the front wheel on the ground (also the reason for front panniers). The backs of the bars is mainly for when theres potential hazards (traffic potholes etc) so you're more upright and have better field of view and easier access to the brakes.

Last edited by Russcoles11; 08-23-11 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 08-24-11, 07:30 PM   #23
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Everyone should have more than one bike! Ideally you need 3 minimum, One for riding distance, one for trips to the shops and one for rougher terrain/winter use. If you have a bike suitable for all your needs then just get another one anyway
If you're happy doing upgrades to bikes, consider buying a second hand bike with a good frame and build yourself the bike of your dreams. This can be very rewarding.

Incidentally I built a 1975 Dawes kingpin into a nice little touring bike. It has a long stem but very little flex as it doesn't have a folding stem, just a quick release to allow it to be lowered. If you are pulling back on the handlebars to much this may also be part of the problem, try leaning forward to put more weight on the front.
Another solution is to use butterfly or trekking bars mounted to give a more forward hand position to use when going up hills. There is a point where you are far enough forward that pulling the handlebars moves you forward rather than the handlebars back and moving your mass forward will keep the front wheel on the ground better when going up really steep hills.

Haha. 3 bike minimum, I like it. Unfortunately, space and resources are the limiting factor at the moment.

I don't really understand the importance of frame stiffness because I haven't ridden that many bikes to have felt it myself, however, doing an Internet search on the topic opens up a can of worms. I will say, however, that I've never felt any noticeable body flex on the nova frame, except at the handlebar/headset area. I've been noticing it more lately--creaking even when I'm not pedaling out of the saddle (I am pulling the handlebars towards me via the bar ends though).

I don't have any expectations of turning this thing into a road bike slayer, but just curious if getting it to the level of a dahon speed 8, or maybe a swift is realistic.

If I had to do over, I would've just bought a better bike, but now that I have these cards, I wanna see what I can do with it, and whether the price-to-improvement ratio is worth it.
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Old 08-24-11, 08:59 PM   #24
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I have a small flat, I have my kingpin in the hallway so I have to turn the hadlebars just to get to the front door, Sunlova folder (winter bike) in ulility/storage room so I have to climb past to get to the dryer and I have a Cresswell Fold-it in bits scattered around the living room awaiting time and parts for rebuild. I have my 3 bike Minimum, they're all folders due to space restrictions. The Sunlova is not at all stiff but it was less than 100 brand new. The Cresswell is probably the stiffest out of the three but the kingpin is a close 2nd. What this means in real terms is less of your power is lost in flexing the bike.
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Old 08-24-11, 10:18 PM   #25
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Haha. 3 bike minimum, I like it. Unfortunately, space and resources are the limiting factor at the moment.

I don't really understand the importance of frame stiffness because I haven't ridden that many bikes to have felt it myself, however, doing an Internet search on the topic opens up a can of worms. I will say, however, that I've never felt any noticeable body flex on the nova frame, except at the handlebar/headset area. I've been noticing it more lately--creaking even when I'm not pedaling out of the saddle (I am pulling the handlebars towards me via the bar ends though).

I don't have any expectations of turning this thing into a road bike slayer, but just curious if getting it to the level of a dahon speed 8, or maybe a swift is realistic.

If I had to do over, I would've just bought a better bike, but now that I have these cards, I wanna see what I can do with it, and whether the price-to-improvement ratio is worth it.
You are asking whether you can move all the components off a Trek Madone 6 onto a Trek 520 and expect the same level as a Madone 6. The answer is obvious, cause the frame is different. Nova frame is not a Speed 8, which is why Nova is way cheaper than a Speed 8. You can upgrade the components past beyond Speed 8 if you want to, but unless you upgrade the frame, you are stuck with the same frame.

Yes, you have invested a lot, but whether price to improvement ratio is worth it is up to you, because its value is only you can place and not us.
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