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Old 12-23-11, 11:36 AM   #1
chagzuki
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Stagnation in the folding bike industry

Seems like there's not been much evolution in the last couple of years other than the emergence of Tern. Dahon is largely back where it was in 2007 having given up most of the Biologic bits and pieces. Brompton seem more interested in accessories than improving the core bike design which still has certain flaws. Prices keep shooting up each year.

I wonder what sort of market share folders will have to have before the big bike companies take more interest, and what will happen should that happen.
A couple of Giant's recent bikes look well thought-out and er, 'serious' in design terms rather than just being rebadged Dahons, though Giant have had their unique models for years, so I don't suppose there's evidence there of a big player moving in.

Brompton seem peculiarly positioned as their folding design and brand are one, yet the fold isn't protected by patents. Should a large company choose to move into the market they'd be starting with a clean page, able to correct all the small deficiencies that Brompton appear to be stuck with in order to keep up spare part compatibility. I've seen it happen in the software world; small companies develop innovative new products only to see those innovations, erm, bought out (if they're lucky) or stolen by big companies. In the bigger picture it seems their role is often simply to agitate the market. I wonder if in 10 years time it'll be the same for smaller folding bike companies.
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Old 12-23-11, 12:15 PM   #2
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I think in some respects Bromptons are poor quality bikes and it's to do with either the short-sightedness of the company or the restrictions of a business of that size and the value placed in spare parts availability. The price of an M3L on the Brompton website is now 790. . . ouch.
the factory is in UK, people who do the work
need to buy housing food and an occasional pint out of what they are paid.


Chasing lower wages is why Asia got the investment,
and now has the bulk of the bicycle production .

now standard model is find a contract manufacturer there,
rather than build your own company manufacturing base.
even for new 'companies'..

Brompton, makes conservative changes ..
One big change, the hinges went from a hand fillet braze and a forged part,
to a torch array jig , and cast part, machined for braze fill gap, (someone does that).

which is more efficient to produce, to keep up with world wide sales demand.

Software world wants lower labor rates too. to add to the income at the top.

Last edited by fietsbob; 12-26-11 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 12-23-11, 01:42 PM   #3
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Folding bikes present too small a part of the whole bike market for big bike players to move into it. Trek tried it and now they're not doing it anymore. No C'dale or Spec folders -- of the bigger companies, looks like only Giant is doing one. KHS has a couple, so do Breezer, but that's all that come to mind.

I think most bigger companies see it as something different than their core market, both in manufacturing and marketing. Since the demand is just not there compared to their standard style bikes, they won't delve into a specialty thing involving a huge marketing push to be successful.
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Old 12-23-11, 01:53 PM   #4
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Bike Friday Tikit is pretty innovative, their hyper-fold only takes slapping the back of the saddle
folding down the seat mast, to release the cable that allows the steering mast to fold down.
Quick ..
Rear portion comes alongside the main frame , rather than underneath, like Brompton,
or having the front portion fold back on the center ,

so Tikit Rolls on front wheel when folded , a good feature , It seems
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Old 12-23-11, 01:57 PM   #5
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... No C'dale or Spec folders -- of the bigger companies, looks like only Giant is doing one. KHS has a couple, so do Breezer, but that's all that come to mind. ...
Raleigh USA currently has their Folding I8. It has a Nexus 8-speed IHG and a standard-width fork. See: http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/hybrid/folding-i8-12/
AFAIK, despite their appearances, neither the handlepost hinge nor the main hinge are DLT.

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Old 12-23-11, 05:40 PM   #6
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Seems like there's not been much evolution in the last couple of years other than the emergence of Tern.....I wonder if in 10 years time it'll be the same for smaller folding bike companies.
The folding bike in of itself is simply, a bicycle first and foremost. The only thing it does differently in a major sense is to fold and/or separate compared to any other bike type. The folding/separating bicycle market is a small one and will remain this way until the need for a compact go-anywhere machine that offers some sort of theft resistantancy built right into it gains more notice with potential buying customers. Bicycle usage is still a recreational type of "sport" in most places & has been for almost 100 years. Until the average joe and josie is most of the time forced from and weaned away from their car, it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

And this applies equally for any other sort of bicycle type and design.

Last edited by folder fanatic; 12-23-11 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 12-23-11, 06:40 PM   #7
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I guess to some degree there is a similarity between folders and recumbents in this aspect. they are such a niche market that the big players are reluctant to go in full. Seems like they will occasionally test the waters.

One big difference is that folding bikes are much more like regular bikes, the design is more focused and narrow, (there is a great diversity in recumbent designs). This would seem to make the potential folding bike buyer, more similar to the "regular" bicycle buyer and therefore a more attractive market segment for larger bicycle companies.
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Old 12-23-11, 07:20 PM   #8
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The Raleigh i8 is a Dahon, based upon the frame and latches.

Folder Fanatic has captured the U.S. status of bikes and folders pretty accurately, IMO. More than casual bicycle use (bicycle Commuting, or an actual "car-less" lifestyle) takes a certain type of attitude and good public transportation. Since the auto, petroleum and road building industries are major "influencers" here in the USA, we have homes in the suburbs on lower cost land with freeways on which to drive our cars to work, shopping and play.

The Dutch made bicycle use a priority long ago. London has made it uncomfortably expensive to drive into the inner city and folders have come into vogue for the 1st and last mile. Portland, OR has an incredible number of bike commuters - and car-less or car light families and individuals (as well as a growing number of folder riders) supported by continually expanding light rail service that welcomes bikes (folders or not).

This is not possible in the majority of U.S. cities due to their car-centric development patterns, which lengthened the commuting distances and dictated the routes available.

IMO, owning cars (more accurately for most folks, making payments on cars - and Ins and licensing) is a big waste of money, and if we were young today (and not in our late 60's) we'd do things a lot differently.

The one thing that might make bicycle transportation more attractive to Americans is lower wages and less employment opportunities - and that appears to be here. So we will see.

Lou
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Old 12-23-11, 08:46 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Bike Friday Tikit is pretty innovative, their hyper-fold only takes slapping the back of the saddle
folding down the seat mast, to release the cable that allows the steering mast to fold down.
Quick ..
Rear portion comes alongside the main frame , rather than underneath, like Brompton,
or having the front portion fold back on the center ,

so Tikit Rolls on front wheel when folded , a good feature , It seems
I have say you said it spot one. Bike Friday is the leader in folding bike technology in the U.S. In Europe, it would have to be the Birdy or Moulton.
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Old 12-23-11, 09:06 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by chagzuki View Post
Brompton seem peculiarly positioned as their folding design and brand are one, yet the fold isn't protected by patents. Should a large company choose to move into the market they'd be starting with a clean page, able to correct all the small deficiencies that Brompton appear to be stuck with in order to keep up spare part compatibility.
A large company did move into the 16' inch folding bike market and tried to compete with Brompton. It's called Dahon.

The Curve was a great bike but was selling for $900.00 dollars and tax took it close to 1K. However, it didn't sell well and today are hard to find. The bike had better components than the Brompton but it didn't matter because people at that price range are also looking for Bling. The Brompton has Bling where the Curve with it's gray color does not.
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Old 12-23-11, 09:08 PM   #11
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By the way, you know who's making a wave in the folding bike market? Citizen. Now that Dahon's are getting expensive, I've seen more Citizens on the streets of New York city than ever before.
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Old 12-23-11, 09:19 PM   #12
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The Curve was a great bike but was selling for $900.00 dollars and tax took it close to 1K. However, it didn't sell well and today are hard to find. The bike had better components than the Brompton but it didn't matter because people at that price range are also looking for Bling. The Brompton has Bling where the Curve with it's gray color does not.
I dunno. The Curve also had an ungainly fold with exposed chains and chainrings, smaller and bumpier tires, a significantly shorter wheelbase, and no ability to realistically wheel about while folded. Keep in mind the Brompton's primary market: mixed-mode commuting.
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Old 12-23-11, 09:22 PM   #13
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By the way, you know who's making a wave in the folding bike market? Citizen. Now that Dahon's are getting expensive, I've seen more Citizens on the streets of New York city than ever before.
This development is reinforcing my belief in what people generally view bikes-cheap, cheap, cheap recreational toys or a sporting equipment sort of activity. At least in North America's large urban centers.
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Old 12-23-11, 10:57 PM   #14
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This (using bicycles as transportation) is not possible in the majority of U.S. cities due to their car-centric development patterns, which lengthened the commuting distances and dictated the routes available.
Lou
I agree with your analysis 100% except for the "not possible" part. It applies even where "car-centric development patterns" aren't that well developed, and in fact are very bicycle friendly, where you can get everywhere in town on a bike in 20 minutes, and where even the motorists are respectful of cyclists. It just isn't politically correct to use a bicycle, or feet for that matter, as transportation. It's a mental thing and will take a national lobotomy to change.

My wife and I volunteer at a soup kitchen where we feel less out of place as we park our bikes along all the patrons' bikes.

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Old 12-23-11, 11:29 PM   #15
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Dahon is largely back where it was in 2007 having given up most of the Biologic bits and pieces.
Actually, Dahon was at Eurobike 2011 and Interbike 2011 showning two different new designs with two-fold frames.
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Old 12-23-11, 11:31 PM   #16
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Bike Friday is the leader in folding bike technology in the U.S. In Europe, it would have to be the Birdy or Moulton.
But - in sixty years, Moulton has never built a folding bike!
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Old 12-24-11, 01:19 AM   #17
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Seems like there's not been much evolution in the last couple of years other than the emergence of Tern. Dahon is largely back where it was in 2007 having given up most of the Biologic bits and pieces. Brompton seem more interested in accessories than improving the core bike design which still has certain flaws. Prices keep shooting up each year.

I wonder what sort of market share folders will have to have before the big bike companies take more interest, and what will happen should that happen.
A couple of Giant's recent bikes look well thought-out and er, 'serious' in design terms rather than just being rebadged Dahons, though Giant have had their unique models for years, so I don't suppose there's evidence there of a big player moving in.

Brompton seem peculiarly positioned as their folding design and brand are one, yet the fold isn't protected by patents. Should a large company choose to move into the market they'd be starting with a clean page, able to correct all the small deficiencies that Brompton appear to be stuck with in order to keep up spare part compatibility. I've seen it happen in the software world; small companies develop innovative new products only to see those innovations, erm, bought out (if they're lucky) or stolen by big companies. In the bigger picture it seems their role is often simply to agitate the market. I wonder if in 10 years time it'll be the same for smaller folding bike companies.
Dahon with the Jifo 16 and Tern bikes are innovative bikes I think. Innovation is driven by competition. However, the folding market is limited in its market share, albeit a very very small market share, separated by tight niche products. You need to expand market share by
1, Stealing existing riders and convincing them to get a folder (very tricky job)
2, Convincing new riders to have a go with folders (much trickier job)

While we are mired in a tough economy, we will be facing an ever tougher prospect come the future years to come as consumer retrench and start paying down their debts. Which means, the progress in innovation is dictated by the willingness for consumers to open up more to their wallets.
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Old 12-24-11, 04:03 AM   #18
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By the way, you know who's making a wave in the folding bike market? Citizen. Now that Dahon's are getting expensive, I've seen more Citizens on the streets of New York city than ever before.
When I was shopping for a folding bike about a month ago I looked into Citizen's Gotham 2 bike and tried contacting Citizen to inquire about ordering one, but they never contacted me after numerous attempts of trying to get ahold of them, so I ended up getting a Dahon from a local bike shop after testing out a few Dahon models, a Brompton, and a Bike Friday Tikit.
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Old 12-24-11, 06:00 AM   #19
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Ahem, I forgot the Jifo completely, and of course the Curl ought to be out soonish. Yes. Many years back it was hoped that the Curl would be either a Brompton-beater or genuine competition at least. It's not looking that way as far as I can see as it's single speed only.

Dahon appear to have abandoned the Curve XL and SL leaving the 3 speed plus the single speed Jifo as the only 16" wheelers in their range. I guess it's fortunate that Giant have brought out what looks to be a decent alternative in the Subway.
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Old 12-24-11, 09:23 AM   #20
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I dunno. The Curve also had an ungainly fold with exposed chains and chainrings, smaller and bumpier tires, a significantly shorter wheelbase, and no ability to realistically wheel about while folded. Keep in mind the Brompton's primary market: mixed-mode commuting.
Still need more time to get used to the new bikes but this summer two of us riding, one on Brompton one on a Curve decided to swap bikes just to try both bikes. I remember that I found the Curves 16x2.0 Schwalbe tyre to be a much more cushy ride than the Brompton with the Marathons. When I ride different bikes on different days I do not think much about it. If I was commuting on cobblestones or similar five days a week I guess it would be more important.

Wheeling the Curve on one wheel is doable, but more elegant and also with the luggage still on it on the B.
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Old 12-24-11, 10:00 AM   #21
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A bit OT but 16 x 2 Big Apples are great, I'm not sure why but they seem to perform better than the 20" version. The steering response is a little better than a Brompton too which makes sense as looking at pics the Curve appears to have a tiny amount more trail.
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Old 12-24-11, 11:38 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Foldable Two View Post
The Raleigh i8 is a Dahon, based upon the frame and latches. ...
I initially made this same assumption based on the first pictures I saw. However, after examining the actual bike, I don't think there are any DLT (Dahon Licensed Technology) parts on the Raleigh Folding I8. See the attached pictures.

The I8 with its Nexus hub is attractively priced. (Erik's lists the 2011 model for $639.) The fork will take a standard hub. My main criticism of the 2011 model is its bolted stem. The 2012 has upgraded this to a stem similar to the Dahon Revolve stem. And the Dahon Revolve stem does seem to fit the 2011 model without any problems.

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Attached Images
File Type: jpg I8 handlepost latch.jpg (99.6 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg I8 main hinge.jpg (91.6 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg I8 Stem.jpg (90.8 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg I8 main hinge latch.jpg (90.0 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg I8 handlepost latch handle.jpg (99.8 KB, 27 views)
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Old 12-24-11, 11:44 AM   #23
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It just isn't politically correct to use a bicycle, or feet for that matter, as transportation. It's a mental thing and will take a national lobotomy to change.

My wife and I volunteer at a soup kitchen where we feel less out of place as we park our bikes along all the patrons' bikes.
In most areas of the country this "I can afford to drive a car" attitude is likely correct. In Ventura, CA (where we lived from 12/08 to 7/11) there are three classes of cyclists: The poor, the beach cruisers and the roadies. The first two go shopping on their bikes while the latter zips up and down the coast. The only road they all share is the Ventura/Ojai 'rails to trails' bike path. Everybody is in their car/truck/SUV or on their motorcycle.

In Portland, OR it's a very different story. It's a lifestyle for the rich, the poor and all the betweens. It's going to take some real financial discomfort to get it to spread. However, that may be here for many.

Most folks start off on 'cheap' bikes, so if folders are to gain popularity, there would have to be a need (like transit or lack of storage space ) and plenty of cheap folders available (Citizen?).

[Understand your feeling uncomfortable driving to the soup kitchen in your car. We are a bit embarrassed with what we have. Chalk it up to only one marriage and good life management skills (We don't have any pensions.) Most folks have not been that lucky.]

Lou

Last edited by Foldable Two; 12-24-11 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 12-24-11, 03:51 PM   #24
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I remember that I found the Curves 16x2.0 Schwalbe tyre to be a much more cushy ride than the Brompton with the Marathons.
Ah, I forgot that some Curves have Big Apples on them. But I think we were talking about the SL, which does not.

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Wheeling the Curve on one wheel is doable, but more elegant and also with the luggage still on it on the B.
As an owner of several Dahons, here I must forcefully disagree. The Dahon fold can be "rolled", sort of, only in one direction, and only very carefully without popping open the magnetic latch. It's not remotely maneuverable enough for rolling about in, say, grocery stores or commuter situations. In this respect, the Brompton smacks the Curve every which way.
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Old 12-24-11, 05:25 PM   #25
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But - in sixty years, Moulton has never built a folding bike!
Good one!

Alright so the Moulton can't be folded. You got me. ;-)

I still believe you cannot make a folding bike with the same quality as the Brompton for lets say $500.00 dollars. In fact, if you find a folding bike that's under $300.00 dollars, you're basically buying a cheap bike but not a replacement for the Brommie. Bike Friday, Birdy and Dahon all have 16 inch wheel folders costing about as much if not more than the Brompton. To make a "Brompton Killer", you'll have to cut the price by half while retaining the same quality. All the Brompton clones that entered the market from China proved this could not be done which is why they are not selling in the U.S.

People do not want to buy a cheap China Brompton with no support for parts.
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