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Folding Bikes Discuss the unique features and issues of folding bikes. Also a great place to learn what folding bike will work best for your needs.

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Old 09-18-13, 07:26 AM   #1
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Airplane travel with a folding bike

Hi all. New to the forum. As I sit in Maine on vacation, enjoying my coffee and view of Bass Harbor bay, beautiful of course. Well I have the same issue as always, I MISS MY BIKE! Every vacation and traveling for work I always end up trying to rent a bike, sometimes I do usually not, cause not able to find a rental place, or just plain expensive, last bike I rented was more then our rental car!!!! Anyway I have been thinking about a folding bike for years, but now getting serious. Lots of questions though. Small wheel or bigger? Potential for some off road, my main riding is off road but priorty is just a bike for travel and exploration on vacation and exercise of course. I know you get what you pay for but right now I would take anything to get around!!! Desperate, one just cannot live without a bike!! Ok back to my questions. Obviously my first concern is getting it on a plane. Would need it to come with a suitcase. Maybe that will make me decision on large or small wheels. Again I know cheap ones are probably junk but like I said junk can be better then nothing, maybe!! Used? I guess for first one I don't want to spend a ton, maybe 3-$400. I used to jog more to explore my area but now I run less and less, most of my exercise comes from my bike and cross training at gym. No gym on a lot of vacations!! Again a bike is required!! Thanks for any help.
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Old 09-18-13, 07:43 AM   #2
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Buy a Bike Friday. They are custom fit bikes if you need them or standard models if you are lucky enough to fit a standard bike. BF makes a whole range of models and prices. They are designed to fit into a suitcase and you only pay the cost of a second suitcase on some airlines. Some South West for example it is still free. The bikes are not quick fold but can be folded in under 30 minutes after you do it a couple of times. Since the custom builds are built aff you favorite bikes measurements they will ride very similar to what you ride now. Roger
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Old 09-18-13, 09:12 AM   #3
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I know you mentioned that you want to spend between 3 - $400, well I said much the same thing a few weeks back and I ended up leaving with a Brompton. Now I'm in debt for the first times in a number of years. Hey, I might as well be like most others -- right! Why did I go the extra mile for a Brompton? Many actually -- here's one reason that might suite your needs. There might be an occasion that you want to travel by air. No problem with a Brommie. They can fit in the over head compartment of a plane. Check with the airline companies first. Have a look at this website and scroll down the photos. You will come across some photos of Bromptons stashed in the over head compartments.

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Old 09-18-13, 10:14 AM   #4
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Hi Bob,

Based on the criteria in your post, I think your best bet would be a Tern or Dahon. These brands will keep you closer to your budget, and still provide you with a "quality" (i.e. not "cheap" as you mentioned) bike.

While the Brompton and Bike Friday offerings are simply awesome, they're very pricey (in the ballpark of $1,000 and up) and these bikes won't give you a lot of the flexibility you're looking for (with limited off-roading options). Also, the Brompton unfortunately has plenty of non-standard components that could pose a challenge for obtaining a quick repair while travelling (hub sizing, unique shifter mech, tubes, tires).

My (totally non-professional, humble) opinion is that you should investigate 20inch wheel bikes like Tern or Dahon.
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Old 09-18-13, 11:16 AM   #5
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If your budget is $400, you're pretty much talking entry level folders. Since folders have to be engineered to a different standard than rigid bikes - beefy hinges, easily folded/disassembled, liability issues - most of the money on an entry level folder goes into the frame, so you wind up with cheap components that themselves can dissuade a potentially happy buyer from keeping it.

In other words, cheap folders tend to leave the vast majority of buyers dissatisfied in one way or another, and turn them off from folders completely. Shame, because there are some very nice folders out there but not at that price point.

Now if you're in no hurry, the internet is your friend. Out of my dozen or so folders, only two were purchased new, and even those had trades of other folders involved so I wasn't paying full new prices.

Where have my folders come from? CL. Ebeast. Bike Friday's YAK! list. Word of mouth. Haunting thrift shops, flea markets, rummage sales, you name it. Patience pays off here rather than jumping in quickly.

Oh, and in the meantime - if you know anyone with a folder, ask to test ride. Same applies to visiting shops that sell folders, test ride as many as you can before you commit, because all folders are so different both in presentation and execution. What can be a wonderful feature for one buyer is a dealbreaker for another.
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Old 09-18-13, 11:56 AM   #6
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Would need it to come with a suitcase. Maybe that will make me decision on large or small wheels.
I don't pretend to know which folding bike best suits your requirements. Research, research, research !
We've flown twice this summer with our Bike Friday "Pocket Companions". We paid $750US each on sale in Denver.

I shopped around the internet and purchased two Bill Blass hardside spinners that meet the airline 62" LWH requirement. Price was about $70 per bag. We each fly with 2 bags, one for the bike and one with biking accessories plus clothing.

You will need to check on individual airline costs for baggage. I flew Frontier, once economy, and once classic. Overall, I prefer the classic setup. As I recall, a bicycle is allowed to exceed the 62" standard. You might want to look into that.

Here's a few pics from this months trip to Oregon.... We love the BF's by the way. Little bikes that ride like big ones !
I'm planning to buy additional wheels so I can easily switch from road slicks to knobbies.

The airline handlers beat them up pretty good, though no bike damage to date.

Lots of foam plus PVC cloth sleeves protect the various folder bits. I can set up each bike in under 10 minutes.
I've been assembling folding kayaks for years, and compared to them, settinging up a BF is a non event.
All up weight per bag is less than 40 lbs.

All dressed up and ready to ride.

Easily worth the effort !

Once assembled, we carry the bikes in back for the trips duration. I bring along a homebuilt rack to accomodate easy transport / storage. A small SUV works best.

Last edited by werks; 09-18-13 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 09-18-13, 01:24 PM   #7
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Werks, did BF sell or include crush protectors for your suitcases? I didn't see one in the pix. Sometimes it's the only thing that prevents major damage to the bike if the suitcase takes a hard side impact.
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Old 09-18-13, 09:15 PM   #8
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The Origami Crane is a quality bike that meets your price constraint and good into a standard suitcase.
Paul Pinigis
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Old 09-19-13, 05:31 AM   #9
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My BF is 15 years old, but it did come with crush protectors. I would echo the suggestions to look for a used Bike Friday, with the case.
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Old 09-21-13, 06:16 PM   #10
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Another option for a suitcase bike is a Swift, esp. with an internal gear hub. The Swift mega-thread is a goldmine.
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Old 09-23-13, 05:37 AM   #11
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I was in a similar situation to you a few years ago. After months of research I bought a Xootr Swift. I'm sure you could get a second hand one for under US$400.
I've taken mine on planes to Europe, Hawaii, Australia and around Japan. Parts can be sourced from ordinary bicycle shops. The fold is not as small as a Brompton but I usually take mine apart and then it fits in a big suitcase.
I often use it as a daily driver. The only mods I've made bar -ends (make a huge difference), fenders and rack.
Good luck.
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Old 09-23-13, 07:52 AM   #12
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Thanks for all the information!! Have a trip to Maui in 2 weeks, wanted bikes but will rent and do my research and searching over the winter. I was able to ride a bike Friday in Maine. I couldn't believe it when I took the garbage out into the garage at our rental house in Maine and behold there were 2 bike Fridays waiting to be ridden!! My wife had said earlier that this was the perfect rental, she said they had everything she would put in a house, I said I would agree if they just had bikes. Well I should have looked sooner!!! But we did get 2 days of riding in. Nice bikes. Thanks again too all.
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Old 09-23-13, 06:44 PM   #13
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My wife and I have Dahon MU P8s. Fit in Airline legal case with wheel removal. I wouldn't recommend them for off road use. Junk is not better. We use them a lot for travel semi locally as they fit in the corollas trunk as well as trips with planes. Ok above budget but less than BF.
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Old 09-30-13, 08:17 AM   #14
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This pouch fits ontop of the rear rack contains a carrying bag that can put a 20 inch folding bike like Dahon or Tern.

I got this from the local Dahon dealer. I could put the Dahon in the bike bag and use the smaller pouch for my lights, pedals, and smaller stuffs.

Last edited by TiBikeGuy; 09-30-13 at 08:21 AM.
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