Confession: I've always wanted a folding bike. Perhaps that craving comes from my long history with folding boats -- I have a 1984 Super Folbot, a couple of Pakboats Puffin kayaks and others -- but somehow the cost of another bike put me off purchasing the wheeled equivalent.
Glancing through the Canadian airmiles.ca site one day, however, the moon and stars aligned: https://www.airmiles.ca/arrow/Reward...Id=prod1884615 . Here was an entry level, 6-speed alloy folder that carried the well-known Raleigh branding -- and best of all it was FREE with shipping and taxes included. I'd heard of the famous Dahon, Tern, Brompton and Bike Friday bikes -- as well as the local MEC variant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JeX43SJkz8 -- but didn't know that the venerable old firm of Raleigh was also cranking folders out.
After a little Googling, I discovered that Raleigh was leading the folding bike pack as far back as 1969 in Canada with the classic Raleigh Twenty. A listing of The 10 Best folding bikes by The Independent in the summer of 2013 http://www.independent.co.uk/life-st...s-8683766.html even featured a Raleigh in its pickings (not surprising considering it's a UK paper). The description of that Top 10 folder pretty much sums up all of the Raleigh folders in use around the world: "Highly affordable and ideal for commuting or taking on holiday, this has plenty of great features, including gears that are simple and effective to use and an easy-to-use folding mechanism, as well as a decent luggage rack." They forgot to mention the kickstand that is also usually thrown into the package.
The Avenir folding bikes appear to have surfaced in Canada about 2004/2005 in the form of a rebranded Dahon model available in either steel or alloy: http://www.bayviewcycle.com/NewFiles...nir_Alloy.html (click on the Avenir Alloy or Avenir Steel choices for specs at that time). The dealer in Toronto that handled them -- Bayview Cycles -- openly stated on their webpages "Made by Dahon for Avenir [i.e. Raleigh Canada]". That cozy relationship continues today as Raleigh UK now acts as the Dahon rep in that country: http://dahon.com/mainnav/dahon-bikes...ner-in-uk.html . The same style of Avenir bike -- with the skinny interlocking upper tubes -- was still being sold as of 2009 (click on pics twice for greatly enlarged versions): http://metronauts.ca/2008/10/17/adventures-on-a-folder/ . Note the mention of an 80km outing as well as several 30 and 40km rides during that first summer's use. That inexpensive folder was no slouch! By 2010, an updated Avenir model appeared on the scene with a heavier arched frame similar to the one in production today. The earlier rebranded model -- a Dahon Impulse D6 http://www.cyclemotion.co.uk/dahon/D.../impulsed6.htm -- had at least one offputting flaw: its fixed handlebar height http://www.pistescyclables.ca/velos_...nts.htm#avenir . The current 2013 6-speed model corrects that with a telescopic stem. Curiously enough, the one page instruction sheet that comes with the new Avenirs was written for the (presumably Raleigh) Campus folding bike that was sold through Walmart in Canada for under $200 (different frame, different folding frame mechanism, same Shimano 6-speed Revo shifter, same handlebar post folding mechanism etc): http://adventuresinbicycling.blogspo...o-folders.html . In early 2010, Walmart cleared those Campus folders out at $50 each! http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...hp?f=10&t=1439 .
Like so many folders, the Raleigh bikes are not made in English-speaking countries. Cheaper costs = offshore/overseas. Raleigh's worldwide folders now come in one speed, three speeds, six speeds, seven speeds and eight speeds under different names in modern times including the following models which are found as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh http://www.raleigh-group.com/WorldOfRaleigh/ :
Avenir (Canada), Stowaway 3 + 7 (UK and Europe http://www.raleigh.pl/rower/122), Activ Fold-A, Swift, Boardwalk, Boardwalk Lite, Folding i8 (USA http://archive.raleighusa.com/archiv...folding-i8-13/ and http://turbobobbicycleblog.wordpress...f-folding-fun/), Kompact, Shopper, Stash, Parkway, Parkway Lite, Eclipse (also branded by IKEA in 2006 when they handed 9,000 Made in Poland models out to UK employees at Xmas for free), Evo-7, Parkway 20, Broadway 20 + 30 (Singapore http://www.raleighsingapore.com/product/r2081fd/), UGO aka You Go! (Malaysia http://www.usjcycles.com/raleigh-ugo-folding-bike-2/) and a dual suspension Safari (Bangladesh https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...7292996&type=1 ).
That's quite a stable arising from the early folding Raleigh Twenty.
Highly affordable. Excellent value for money. I like those words. Free is even better, though.
So I counted up my airmiles points, saved a few more and then took the plunge. Funny enough, the Avenir folder is really only available in Canada through wholesale outlets like DirectBuy, airmiles and PI Incentives -- but there is one small retailer who carries and services them http://www.funwestsports.ca/Folding_Bike.html and he happened to be in my neck of the woods so if I ran into any problems I'd have some back-up for parts and/or servicing.
When the box arrived it had Made in China written all over it. After pulling the bike out, I noticed that the handlebar stem lock and the folding mechanisms were both out of whack. I had to get my tools out to adjust both to get them to work. After a ride, I noticed that the gears also needed adjusting because first just wouldn't pop in. All five other gears were good to go though. If you purchase a freebie Avenir, plan on taking the bike to a local mechanic's shop to get it fine tuned. If something major is wrong, contact Raleigh Canada for warranty repairs. Tip: If you have a Mountain Equipment Co-op in town, they do free inspections and will give the bike a once over. If you'd like to purchase retail, Funwest is your route. The owner is a first rate guy and will ship bikes cross country as well.
After getting the requisite bell and rear and front lights, I noticed that there was nowhere to stick a water bottle. Axiom came to the rescue with its neato Fondo H2O seatbag http://www.axiomgear.com/products/ge...ies/fondo-h20/ . Problem solved! And the bag could hold tools, a patch kit, a mini air pump and a few other knicknacks. To round out my carrying capacity, I added an Axiom market basket http://www.axiomgear.com/products/ge...ket-basket-lx/ (I paid about $50 for it not $80!). Since the bike came with fenders, a rear rack and a kickstand, that was about all I needed -- other than a lock and cable. Talk about a great urban trail bike and a little market shopper all rolled into one. Now when I get on my mountain bike, I feel like a stranger to it.
My first choice: my Avenir folder. I like it so much, I got a second one for my wife and plan on adding an Avenir Excursion Rack-Top Bag http://www.amazon.com/Avenir-Excursi.../dp/B0014UQ93W to her bike for storage above and beyond the H20 seatbag. I also picked up two Avenir folding bike storage bags on Ebay (UK vendor http://www.ebay.com/itm/RALEIGH-AVEN...item2a3349d7d3) in case we use the local public transit system. I find the bags to be a little on the small size but they hold 90% of the bike within and will pass muster on boarding -- and contain any offending mud, grease etc. The little zippered side pouch holds the folded storage bag when it's not in use and it's quite easy to stow on the rear bike rack or even off the seat.
I foresee plenty of Avenir bike use in the future, which only stands to reason: The French word "avenir" translates to "future" in English. :-)