Hi, happy new year!
I'd like to seek your advice on purchasing a new folding bike. I had a look on a lot of websites, about a great variety of folder, but still feel I need some help.
Background: I had a full suspension mountain bike for 10 years or so. Living in Paris, fitting it on my balcony was a pain, it took too much place - and it's the only place to park a bike around there! (Acetylene Blowtorch... that's what they use...). Not to mention parking it elsewhere.
So I used public bikes. They weight 49 pounds, have a 3 speed only hub, are badly maintained (angled direction, brakes either loose or stuck, diving seatposts...). And it's always full when you need to park the bike / empty when you need to take one. But that said, they truly do the trick. When you pick a good one, they really flow.
To solve these problems I bought a folder. I tried Brompton, Dahon and Birdy. I felt quite comfortable on the Dahon and bought a used one from a bike sightseeing company. A Vitesse D7 with Dutch Perfect tires (these are incredible!). It was cheap and I thought it would be a good start - I could always evolve, but will know what I like and what I don't like.
I don't need multimodal, just to store it at home and at work. It should be foldable so that I can leave it in the corner of a store I'd get in, locked, too. But it's not the main use. I need a commuter to eat road. A little occasional touring would be nice too.
I should also mention that I have a Nuvinvi N360 hub waiting for a host (bought it used, too). So the new bike should accept it (I might accept a chain tensioner).
Now, the rant.
The less important: Folding is a pain. The stem is between the wheels when folded on the Vitesse. Putting it in the good position so it doesn't interfere with folding takes too long. When done, cables will get caught. And then, it's the folding peddles that get caught in this mess. Oh and the derailer gets beaten, the brake levers too, the bell is no more... And I have to reattach the rear fender nearly every time I unfold. Luckily, Dahon makes others with the stem folding outside! I also hate having to reset the stem lengths, handlebar position plus seatpost height. On the less important side, these creaks drive me mad. Tightening+grease yeah... temporary. But I could do with them if it was the only flaw. Also, quick releases don't mean quick attach. It needs retightening each time... Stem lock is a joke in that you have to think to reopen it before positioning the stem, otherwise it won't lock. Would go faster with knobs ala brompton (for unfolding, not for folding, of course). The folded package is awkward to carry.
Now more annoying is the bike geometry. If I want enough clearance from saddle to handlebars, I have to raise the handlebars a lot and the seatpost a lot too - I have to rise them a bit too much to my liking, putting feet on the ground and starting gets then a bit sporty. I then have a very upright position, which is cool, but if I bend to counter the wind, the position reveals awkward. Lowering the handlebars causes a major problem I'll talk about, while letting me in a "pump" position. My pectorals and shoulders hurt for 2 days... Also, you can't "emergency brake" without loosing momentum and being launched in front of your bike. Best bet: slow it the most, hope you won't impact, pray that if you do you'll have slowed down enough. On the momentum thing too, yeah the small wheels allow tigher curves. But you can't use your momentum to lean left/right on your bike to handle moderate turns at fast speed. Well, you can, but really not enough.
The most important: I can do with the stem having some flex. It serves as a handy suspension, it's fine. But the play it has reaaally annoys me. I have to periodically retighten it but it can get some play while riding longer after a folding/unfolding at work... The front wheel then oscillates left/right... Frightening!
The major problem I think is due to lack of balance. If I put the handlebars a bit low for a more agressive position, there probably is no more enough weight on the rear wheel and it's not made for by inertia due to the small wheel. As such, the rear wheel just slides left/right on road irregularities. Having a more upright position mostly solves the problem, unless I stand or ride on old, shiny but irregular cobblestone (and we have quite a lot...). And no matter the position and keeping seated: if it rains, the rear train really gets his own will. No, the tire is not dead, it's ok. I just don't know how I'm supposed to handle left/right movement with my arse without interfering with direction.
Sum up all these will give you what happened two days ago: powerful rain and wind, leaning to try to cut through the wind, on wet cobblestone, with the direction getting some play. Bad visibility due to the rain, emergency braking (on flat road this time), the bike is slim and manoeuvrable that's cool: I couldn't brake fast enough but could get between two cars, so I didn't crashed!
Same rides, but on public bikes, or on my older bike = "I didn't even noticed there was anything special". On this Dahon = "I don't want to ride that death trap anymore". Yep the bike would be more suited to a less agressive rider... But slowing down is out of question. I want to keep up with the traffic. And I need to do whether it's asphalt or cobblestone. Dry, or wet.
What would be your advice? Do I need bigger wheels?
I have an eye on Dahon IOS and Glide for 24 inch, Airnimal Joey too but it's damn expensive. Montague too, though it seems big.
But maybe the answer lies somewhere else... What is youre take on this question?
Thanks a lot,
P.S: Congratulations if you kept on reading!