I already have very good road and mountain bikes (Trek Remedy 7 and Madone 5.2 respectively). However, the primary reason I want a folder is that it will allow me to ride a bike down the (rather steep, 1:6 to 1:7) road in the morning, keep it in the office without taking up too much room, go more than 500m away for lunch/dinner and also be able to get some exercise (especially if I'm eating dinner out but have to go back later), then after work either ride it home or throw it in a bus/cab on the way back if I'm too tired and/or it's too late.
A less important reason for getting a folder is that I may want to take one abroad for casual inter-city travelling, although realistically, I can see that I will only take my MTBs or the road bike overseas, and not a folder (since if I go to cities etc. that will usually be with wife and kid in the future which means we will have a lot of crap to carry).
I test-rode the Mu XL Sport (around US$950 after discount) up a relatively steep slope and down a similarly steep one. Actually felt OK on the slopes, and liked the Alfine 11-speed hub. Main problems were that:
1. Frame was relatively flexy (though I am spoilt by my other bikes).
2. The installed V-brakes were not inspiring, though I suppose they can be changed (no disc brakes possible though).
3. Not entirely convinced by the catches which are meant to support the important bits like, well, the handlebar, the body... etc. being all plastic!
4. Not entirely convinced by Dahon's proprietary parts.
Of course, it is a relative bargain, since for the price of my other options alone I can buy the Dahon AND spend US$1300-1500 on a Merida XT Edition Big Nine 29er that I can do XC rides/races on and that I have been intending to get for some time.
Next up, the Airnimal Joey. It looks good with 24" wheels and (it seems) a few more easily available parts. With front and rear disc brakes, Alfine 11, and a folding commuter assist set-up which will allow me to easily wheel it once folded, it will set me back around US$2000. I should be able to ride one again and properly (only managed to wheel it) but I definitely expect it to be a better ride than the Dahon, though obviously it should be, at that price.
Also looking at the Tern Verge (20") and Eclipse (24") S11i. Again, Alfine 11, and they look good, better than the Dahon but with similar but better fold (maybe the best of the lot). But for around US$1900 and US$2400 respectively they're very expensive for what are still mass-produced folding bikes, even if they come with integrated hubs and lighting and are likely to be better quality than the Dahon, but probably not as stiff as the Airnimal. They also seem to have quite a few proprietary parts, just like Dahon, though I have read about the supplies getting better. I haven't managed to ride them and knowing the shop I'd get them from, I probably never will, even though I have a good relationship with them. Also, the idea of spending that much money on this when I can get the Merida with XT kit for around 60-70% the price is rather galling (the Airnimal seems different/special enough to me). In fact, I got my Remedy 7 on sale for around that price!
The question is really:
a) Go for the Dahon and save the but take the risk that I'll have to junk the Dahon in in a few years, and/or that I may find it unsafe while going downhill? Seemed OK on the short test ride, but safety is of course important.
b) Go for broke with the more expensive Airnimal or Tern and suck it up to spend more money on the Merida?
I am leaning towards 1. as that will be better for just riding around casually from the office. What is stopping me (apart from not having properly ridden or folded the others) is:
- If I am going to take it abroad (for casual inter-city travelling) I may feel pretty silly lugging an extra 50lb worth of suitcase (bike inside) on holiday just to ride what is definitely a far inferior bike (Dahon) around. Obviously only I can assess the importance of this.
- Probably slightly more dangerous on my steep downhill morning commute than the other 2 - but probably not THAT much worse, especially if I upgrade the brakes?
I've looked at some of the reviews (inc. video) of the Terns and looked at almost every Joey or Mu review within the first 3 Google pages. But I would like some input from anyone who may be able to compare the Joey or one of the Terns (not necessarily the Alfine models) downhill/uphill, and maybe even to the Dahon Mu:
- Which is the most stable and least fleixble? How do they flex, if at all? Do the Terns flex less than the Dahons? Is the Joey the least flexy of them all (I assume it would be as no side frame joint)?
- Folding size is not as important as weight and ease of transport once folded. The Joey looks easiest to roll around at the moment, if slightly larger (going by some folded dimensions). is this correct?