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Old 12-12-11, 04:26 AM   #1
idc
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Just had my first folding bike rides. Performance folder suggestions?

I had the chance to ride a single speed Strida with disc brakes and belt drive for a few days (only very short distance), and a ten year-old knockoff Dahon/Brompton today as well (my dad's bike - he is carfree). Twitchiness aside, I was very impressed.

Now I'm considering a performance folder primarily for use when I'm away from home (on vacation, road trips, etc), and secondarily as a spare bike for well, anything really... weekend rides, commuting, errands, whatever. I'm 5'9 and ~140lbs. I think I prefer drop bars but it seems like most people with folders end up going back to the flatbar/barend combo? Wide gearing and climbing ability is a must. Ideally the frame would be able to handle wider tires too. Don't really want anything larger than 20" wheels as that seems to defeat the purpose.

I've looked at Bike Friday's website a fair bit, and I've also looked a bit at the Reach and Birdy bike models. Essentially I would like something that rides as close to my full size bike as possible. It doesn't need to fold/unfold really fast. Budget is reasonably generous (my dad wants to buy/contribute to getting me a folding bike) but I wouldn't want to go much above $2k.

One thing I'm confused by is the suspension on some of these bikes such as the Reach. Does it a) really help the ride quality? and b) does it reduce your pedaling efficiency a lot? I have a hardtail MTB (no lockout on fork) and even on that I don't like the "bounce" when climbing hills, etc.
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Old 12-12-11, 05:57 AM   #2
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I'll just add one other bike to your list: Xootr Swift. If you ordered just the framset, you could build it into a very impressive bike for your budget... No reason not use drops if you want. The biggest issue tends to be v-brake compatibility, but there are plenty of ways around that.

I'm assuming this is mostly for on-road riding?
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Old 12-12-11, 10:32 AM   #3
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For that price range, Bike Friday would appear to be the best fit and it has pretty good support in the US; at least two dealers in the area. Especially if this is primarily a roadie. I recommend you check out some other people in the area with Bike Fridays to see the bike.
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Old 12-12-11, 12:45 PM   #4
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+1 on bike friday...
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Old 12-12-11, 01:03 PM   #5
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The ones with the 451 wheel are quite like a race bike, skinny high pressure tires.
though 405 wheel will offer more abundant spares, and a wider variety of types .

FWIW , New World Tourist was given a revue in Bicycle Times #014.
drop bars, road bike double crank drivetrain..

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Old 12-12-11, 01:05 PM   #6
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A dahon dash 18 or a hammer head (if you can find them) are pretty performance oriented. I just picked up a hammerhead and have been pleased with it. The Bike Friday pocket rocket is a winner also, I would have kept mine but it did not fold up well for the train and I am generally a multimodal commuter, the fold was more important than the ride. But it was close to a good steel roadbike.
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Old 12-12-11, 02:42 PM   #7
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+1 on the Swift too. I'm loving mine. I bought mine used and converted it to drop bars with parts I already had. Even at this price point it's pretty high performance for a folder -- with 1.5"-ish tires it's pretty comparable with the cyclocross bike it's replacing -- and untouchable by any other folder in performance for the buck. It could definitely be made lighter and faster, and with your budget you could seriously trick one out.

I've ridden Bike Fridays and was also considering one, but they're quite a lot more money for what you get. If you want a handmade-in-USA steel frame, you can still get a steel Swift from HPM, but the price starts to approach that of some of the Bike Fridays. My impression is that the BFs' fold isn't as slick as the Swifts, but custom fit is an obvious advantage of the BFs. Either one is a great bike if they're within your budget.
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Old 12-12-11, 02:53 PM   #8
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Essentially I would like something that rides as close to my full size bike as possible..
What is your full size bike?
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Old 12-12-11, 04:03 PM   #9
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+1 for the Swift. I have had one for about 4 years now and I'm not tiring of it - on the contrary, every time I take it down it brings a smile to my face. I got a frame only and built mine up as a weight weenie light go-fast road bike. Currently it sports a carbon fork and bullhorns. Sorry I don't have a pic this moment, may have one later.

This is what it looked like when I first built it:
http://www.dekter.net/bikes/swift.html
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Old 12-13-11, 04:03 AM   #10
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Thanks for the replies. That built up Swift sounds like a great option. I'll also check out Bike Friday sometime when I'm home, one of their dealers is close to where I live. I'm on vacation in Taiwan right now and just had a chance to see a Reach and a Birdy in person in a fancy outdoors store, as well as a larger Dahon. I love the variety of bikes they have here.

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What is your full size bike?
A 54 compact frame, roughly a 54cm effective top tube. I also have a 56 hybrid flat bar road bike and a "medium" MTB/commuter.
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Old 12-13-11, 07:47 AM   #11
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Can you get a deal on a bike in Taiwan?
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Old 12-13-11, 12:02 PM   #12
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Hee. I meant, what kind of bike

FWIW, you won't have any sizing issues on any mainstream (whatever that means) folder.
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Old 12-15-11, 10:16 AM   #13
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Regarding your question on suspension - I've used 20" wheeled bikes as my training bike for some time. If you're looking for performance riding, and you're already used to riding on skinny saddles and 120 psi tires, and assuming you're riding on the road and not dirt, you won't need suspension. You're pedaling hard and that takes the weight off your bum already. And you are already instinctively using your legs to counter bumps in the road. I think suspension is more for cruising and people who sit fully on the saddle. For performance riders, it's not worth the weight.

Another tip on gearing - you will find that with 20" wheels, it's hard to get high enough gears unless you run big rings in the front (56" or more). Of course, if you do that, you lose the low end if you have lots of hills, unless you run a triple. I ended up with Shimano's Capreo rear hub on my last two go fast folders. The 9-26 Capreo cassette goes well with a standard 53/39 crankset. Covered all situations for me.

Good suggestions for fast folders in the answers above. Swift, Bike Friday (expensive), Dahon Hammerhead all good.

And just to contradict myself a little - my favorite all around folder for almost all kinds of riding is the Moulton TSR (which happens to be suspended). This conclusion is arrived at after many years and about 30 folding bikes later. If I had to pick a 20" wheeled bike to do a fast century ride, it would be my Moulton TSR. No contest. It's a tad above your price range, but just thought I'd throw it out there to complicate your decision....

Here's a picture of mine when I first got her and before I converted to Capreo:

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Old 12-15-11, 08:45 PM   #14
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Hee. I meant, what kind of bike

FWIW, you won't have any sizing issues on any mainstream (whatever that means) folder.
My main bike is a GT road bike. 700x23c, a nice bike but not the most versatile.

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Regarding your question on suspension - I've used 20" wheeled bikes as my training bike for some time. If you're looking for performance riding, and you're already used to riding on skinny saddles and 120 psi tires, and assuming you're riding on the road and not dirt, you won't need suspension. You're pedaling hard and that takes the weight off your bum already. And you are already instinctively using your legs to counter bumps in the road. I think suspension is more for cruising and people who sit fully on the saddle. For performance riders, it's not worth the weight.

Another tip on gearing - you will find that with 20" wheels, it's hard to get high enough gears unless you run big rings in the front (56" or more). Of course, if you do that, you lose the low end if you have lots of hills, unless you run a triple. I ended up with Shimano's Capreo rear hub on my last two go fast folders. The 9-26 Capreo cassette goes well with a standard 53/39 crankset. Covered all situations for me.

Good suggestions for fast folders in the answers above. Swift, Bike Friday (expensive), Dahon Hammerhead all good.

And just to contradict myself a little - my favorite all around folder for almost all kinds of riding is the Moulton TSR (which happens to be suspended). This conclusion is arrived at after many years and about 30 folding bikes later. If I had to pick a 20" wheeled bike to do a fast century ride, it would be my Moulton TSR. No contest. It's a tad above your price range, but just thought I'd throw it out there to complicate your decision....
Thanks for all that info! I think I will forgo the suspension then, I commute over potholes etc often on my narrow tires (although I usually do 90psi front 100psi rear). I had Moulton on my list of bikes to "check out" as well. I've always wanted a "do everything" bike and for me that means being able to fold the bike, go fast, climb, and go on gravel/light offroad paths too... don't know if that is all possible though!

Here in Taiwan there are tons of very cheap no-name folders, but the nicer brands are just as expensive as in the US. There's a variety of bike shops just as at home, some catering for racers, and some for urban/utility riders. I think I may just get one of the cheapo ones while I am here and then after some more riding experience on it, I'll be able to assess the ride differences better when comparing with a Bike Friday etc. back home.
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Old 12-15-11, 09:55 PM   #15
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. I've always wanted a "do everything" bike and for me that means being able to fold the bike, go fast, climb, and go on gravel/light offroad paths too... don't know if that is all possible though!
One could spend a lot of money trying to find that do-it-all bike. Don't ask me how I know. I must say that the Bike Friday Tikit came to mind when I read your criteria. The only drawback is the size of fold is pretty big, but it sure folds fast. And the ride is very very good.



Have you seen this video?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQscBxx7wLE

Late edit: Just remembered that one big limitation of the Tikit is gearing. It doesn't come with a front derailleur, so limits gear range. I ended up installing a Shclumpf Speed Drive to give me enough gearing. But, that comes with added weight (which was offset by the lightening of my wallet.)
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Old 12-20-11, 12:02 AM   #16
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Its not til you've ridden on a softer suspension and bouncing down the street at a slower speed, you realize how stiff suspension is vital for performance. After you've got a stiff suspension, which as many have said a soft suspension isn't needed for comfort reasons if you're riding hard, the next most important choice is the tyre, slicks thin-walled such as Schwalbe Kojaks. A Brompton can be configured in "performance mode" via Kojaks, the stiffened suspension block, tightened up til its got little give, replaced stiffened crankset (TA Vega ?), the S-bar, the older 6-speed hub, narrow-jumps for hunting the best cadence on the flats, and if you wanted to make it a little more efficient a Schlumpf Mountain Drive with a 56T chainring so all the hubs are in direct-drive most efficient mode around 70" (56/13*16) which is a common gear size for the flats and still be able to get up the steep hills via all the hubs in downshift (56/2.5/15*16=18"). Such a bike costs about $2500 depending on what bits you have already.

However, there is a contradiction between "errands" role and "weekend rides" in that the errands is a nip out for 10mins type thing where getting a flat tire will be disproportionately delaying but a flat for 10mins on a century ride isn't relatively that much of an issue. That tends to direct tires for century rides to a very light slick type but a local errands to thicker tires such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus. For a commuting bike I'd tune into compromise mode which would be a S-bar, Schwalbe Marathon Plus, the newer 6speed BWR, 44T chainring, Titanium frame if you're interested in carrying it. You can also go for the equivalent of a "fixie" concept which would be a S2L with Kojaks, gear-increased 54T chainring, with just one 70" gear all direct-direct and a lower one for starting off.

I went on a 100-ish ride with SesameCrunch in April, he on the Moulton TSR (I think right?) and he got a flat but repaired fairly fast, I was on a regular roadbike and I think we were fairly evenly paced if I recall correctly.

How many bikes do you intend to own, because I'm on 4 currently with a hope to get down to 3, each centered on a different primary purpose but with sufficient flexibility to do other roles.
You CANNOT get 1 bike to do everything, many have tried! I've tried doing it with 2 bikes and it wasn't working out so moved to 3 and am currently mid-shuffle, digesting a 4th bike, moving parts around and excrete a bike out to get back to down to 3 (1 road bike, 2 folders).

My one sacrifice to the luxury Gods is a Brooks saddle and Ergon grips, because all of that performance can be harsh on the body (wrists, shoulders), but for my high-mileage bike a Brooks Swift which is quite rigid, but for my local errands one a Brooks B17.

I'm waiting for postie to deliver a few more parts such as new chains then I'll have my performance folder configured for a Christmas ride, it will be a Brompton S6R, Schlumpf MD 56T on SRAM 6speed, I had such a bike configured 3 years ago but with Titanium which I think was flexing too much so its all-steel next, the Ti is moving down to a 6-speed "errands" folder and in theory a Ti 2speed is then spare, my hope to then be happy on just 3 bikes (1 road bike, 1 high-distance folder, 1 low-distance folder) noting how if the road bike ever broke the middle one can fill the role almost as good and if the 3rd one ever broke I can get by carrying the heavier middle one.

There is a saying that one needs N+1 bikes, N= current number of bikes. I do know at about 4 or 5 bikes I always end up with one barely being used for more than a couple of days a year.

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Old 12-20-11, 06:06 PM   #17
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The Tikit has tickled my fancy! I wonder if it's available in the UK?
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Old 12-25-11, 03:21 AM   #18
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I think there have been some great suggestions listed already. Another one that would be worth taking a look at would be the Tern Verge series of folders. No drop bars, but some of the more compact folds and some are quite light.
I think it would also be worth test riding a Birdy too, if you have the chance. I wouldn't let the suspension scare you off. From my understanding, the way that it is designed is not energy sapping like a suspension mountain bike. Take advantage of the availability while you can, because you will be hard pressed to find one available for a test ride in the states.
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Old 12-25-11, 10:49 AM   #19
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The Tikit has tickled my fancy! I wonder if it's available in the UK?
Click on the "Find a Dealer" link in the upper right hand corner of the Bike Friday website. They currently list three dealers in the UK.

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Old 12-25-11, 11:07 PM   #20
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Thanks for all that info! I think I will forgo the suspension then, I commute over potholes etc often on my narrow tires (although I usually do 90psi front 100psi rear). I had Moulton on my list of bikes to "check out" as well. I've always wanted a "do everything" bike and for me that means being able to fold the bike, go fast, climb, and go on gravel/light offroad paths too... don't know if that is all possible though!
It's not. Your main tradeoff will be folding quality versus bike efficiency. You have to pick something along that gamut.

I think you're looking at a Bike Friday. There are a number of bikes to pick from: at the efficiency end is the Pocket Sport and (higher end) Pocket Rocket. At the quality-folding end is the Tikit. With lots of stuff in-between.

As to bike stores in the DC area. The two of consequence are Bikes@Vienna (in, strangely, Vienna VA) and Mt. Airy Bicycles (in Mt. Airy, near Frederick MD). Mt. Airy has a sister store in College Park, but the Mt. Airy store is much muh bigger and is the right one to go to.

I love Bike@Vienna, but their business has moved much more strongly in the direction of Brompton and Dahon lately, so they may not have the specific Bike Friday models you need to look at. So I suggest calling up Mt. Airy.

If neither store has the bikes you need to test, you can contact Bike Friday and they'll find a local customer who can show you his bike. Or you can hook up with the DC Bike Friday club, which has helpful people with a lot of different bikes.

Other possible picks for you might be a Xootr Swift and a Mezzo D10. Bikes@Vienna has Mezzos to try.

I've got a Tikit if you want to try it. I'm in Old Town Alexandria.
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Old 12-28-11, 09:50 AM   #21
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I think it would also be worth test riding a Birdy too, if you have the chance. I wouldn't let the suspension scare you off. From my understanding, the way that it is designed is not energy sapping like a suspension mountain bike. Take advantage of the availability while you can, because you will be hard pressed to find one available for a test ride in the states.
True, I was hoping someone here had some experience riding one though. The complication of the Birdy bikes that I saw in person sort of scared me off. That, and I'm not fluent enough in Mandarin to ask for a test ride on that expensive a bike... I'm back in DC now anyway. Next time I'm in Taiwan I may make a purchase if I'm more familiar with the variety that folding bikes have to offer.

I spent most of my time there riding my dad's Neobike
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neobike
Pretty dodgy story with the company, but it rode quite nicely.

I saw a lot of parked folders on the city streets with this brand (TMC / JVS), and one store I looked at had them at between 100-350 USD.
http://tmc-bicycles.com.tw/front/bin...ategory=101347
http://www.taiwantrade.com.tw/jvs/pr...BB%E5%88%97%29

If I get more time next trip I might try one since they're so cheap.

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It's not. Your main tradeoff will be folding quality versus bike efficiency. You have to pick something along that gamut.

I think you're looking at a Bike Friday. There are a number of bikes to pick from: at the efficiency end is the Pocket Sport and (higher end) Pocket Rocket. At the quality-folding end is the Tikit. With lots of stuff in-between.

As to bike stores in the DC area. The two of consequence are Bikes@Vienna (in, strangely, Vienna VA) and Mt. Airy Bicycles (in Mt. Airy, near Frederick MD). Mt. Airy has a sister store in College Park, but the Mt. Airy store is much muh bigger and is the right one to go to.

I love Bike@Vienna, but their business has moved much more strongly in the direction of Brompton and Dahon lately, so they may not have the specific Bike Friday models you need to look at. So I suggest calling up Mt. Airy.

If neither store has the bikes you need to test, you can contact Bike Friday and they'll find a local customer who can show you his bike. Or you can hook up with the DC Bike Friday club, which has helpful people with a lot of different bikes.

Other possible picks for you might be a Xootr Swift and a Mezzo D10. Bikes@Vienna has Mezzos to try.

I've got a Tikit if you want to try it. I'm in Old Town Alexandria.
Thanks! I also think I'm looking at a Bike Friday or Xootr Swift from what I've researched (I'll check out the Mezzo too). I'm planning to head up to Bikes@Vienna when I get a chance. I've gone past it, but never gone in. It's an easy enough ride to get there from my place.

One question though - what do you mean by "folding quality"? How easy + quick it folds?

Last edited by idc; 12-28-11 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 12-28-11, 10:17 PM   #22
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One question though - what do you mean by "folding quality"? How easy + quick it folds?
Ease of fold, speed of fold, compactness of fold, ease of manipulating the folded bike, all go into folding quality. For example, some Bike Fridays can't be locked in folded position -- pick it up the wrong way and it all unfolds on you. Other Bike Fridays drop their chains when unfolding quickly. Still other Bike Fridays break into parts as part of the fold -- hardly convenient for getting on that bus. (The Tikit is none of these). But those design decisions also make the bikes stiffer, more efficient, and stabler.
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Old 12-29-11, 05:00 AM   #23
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The Xootr Swift is probably the best value for money "performance" folder. I've had mine for 5 years and it is always my first choice for a ride.
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Old 12-29-11, 08:11 AM   #24
idc
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Originally Posted by Paul Braithwait View Post
The Xootr Swift is probably the best value for money "performance" folder. I've had mine for 5 years and it is always my first choice for a ride.
Thanks. I've now done quite a bit of reading on both the Xootr Swift and the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket/Pro. The Swift does seem the best value for money at least $1k less than the Bike Friday.

The main thing with the Swift is that I'd feel there would be immediate upgrades I'd want, such as a drop bar / brifters and possibly a FD to give wider gearing and more speeds. But that would probably be well less than $1k.

According to the xootr website, Bikes@Vienna also carries Swifts but the LBS site mentions only BF, Dahon, Brompton and Mezzo. Regardless, I need to make a trip!



(I did also look up the Mezzo D10 - looks ok but is also expensive, smaller wheeled and doesn't come with drop bars. Seems like more of a folding bike for going around town, smaller folded size, etc. I don't want folding pedals either.)
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