Bought Flamingo London NX7 in Singapore
I contacted a famous folding bike shop in Singapore. Over ten days (?) I learned that they had two models in stock that I was interested in, the one that I had pretty much set my heart on they had only one left in stock. The MIT V-8 I was marginally interested in (more gor comparison). I was pretty much convinced that external gears could be a problem in transport.
I got polite but terse replies from the store manager to my emails. The vendor clearly did want to get into a detailed discussion until I was in his shop. Perhaps he has had many lookie-Lous.
So, I flew in from Vietnam (no quality folding bikes on market) and headed straight for the shop.
Started off on the wrong foot. I wanted to test whether customers truly are offered test rides. So, instead of introducing myself as someone who had already corresponded with the manager I offered my passport and requested three bicycles models to test ride. No preliminaries. In less crude terms I was basically told to bugger off. After I protested the manager agreed, recognizing me as a serious potential customer.
It seemed fine - the seat needed adjustment (maximum backward position). I found the grips a bit toy sized compared to the Ori I had fallen in love with in Taipei. But the manager told me that as the glide-through gear shifter was on right side modification would be impossible.
The other concern I had was the same one I have with my Japanese made secondhand $70 small size bike that I use in Phnom Penh - that is, I find myself sitting slightly off the seat. Well, 1- 1 1/2 inches further back than where the seat seems to be designed to be sat on. I will see if on my new bike a twisted seat post can be used as an alternative. Years ago I bought one in Chiang Mai Thailand for the same purpose. And the Flamingo has this problem a lot less than cheaper foldies I tried in Taiwan. But it is not a perfect fit (The Ori was, but that gold was too big). I don't know if you're supposed to just get used to it or if there are solutions. I am only 5'8" and have normal length legs.
I pointed out my laundry list of requested modifications and he agreed to do almost all of them for the advertised retail price of the bike alone. Only one or two items he wasn't sure he could dig up. He asked me to call back the next day (I had yet no local mobile). I offered a deposit and he said it wasn't necessary.
It was the day before a public holiday and I had the sense that both the manager and technicians were too busy to deal with me. I was slightly disappointed but resigned to deal with a pleasant salesman. I will point out here that on several matters solutions to mechanical problems the patient person clearly hired more for his interpersonal skills, that he missed some obvious mechanical challenges, and I pointed them out (despite being a mechanical ignoramus and bicycle newbie, common sense and mature judgment won out over a warm and sincere personality for selling bikes). I do not mean that he pushed items I did not want. Not at all. However in future, for matters of judgment calls I will speak direct with the head technician or the manager (a hands-on kind of guy who did impress me with his knowledge).
And I just accepted that the manager did not greet me upon my arrival to discuss the final details. I am perhaps spoiled by India where (at least in the better shops) there is a certain genteel way of doing business that involves formality and many cups of tea. The impression I got was that at least this Singapore bike shop time is money, and that the salesman was assigned this high maintenance customer buying a rather low-end premium bicycle. Most customers were in and out rather quickly compared to this geezer whose manner must have appeared to be Samuel Clemens. I actually liked to have a conversation. On-topic, but perhaps a bit obsessive-compulsive about minute details as if they gad all the tine in the world.
two section clip: Manager had told me that it wasn't plastic as I described it, but rather it was coated metal. Never-the-less it looked and felt cheap to me. My concern was that a weak link in the chain could cause a problem. It needn't be a large or expensive part. A poorly designed ten cent part (instead of a one dollar part) can ruin a $1000 bike.
Clip to hold fold: Already modified by MBS - a strip of tire wrapped on. Could be thicker? Maybe that would interfere. I expect to have to do this myself periodically. I see this as a design fault.
Roller wheels, front: Yes, manager agreed that this was a weak point in design and could be improved. This was my major concern when I tested rolling the partially folded bike in Taipei. A very unacceptable wobbliness. In fact this Singapore shop offers a conversion service to minimize the weaknesses of Flamingo bikes and a DIYer online had recommended changing to larger better quality wheels. In fact when I went to pick up the bike supposedly ready I had to remind staff that this crucial feature hadn't been attended to. So, you gotta be on the ball!
The salesman couldn't get the rollerblade substitutes right, even after several attempts. I suggested washers or a different set. The senior technician solved it (yes, with washers). Moves much better now. Very smooth.
Section fold clip: sort of, Manager promised to tighten it up. If he did, it is not much of an improvement. One can forget to get it out of the way refolding. Will that damage it?
Fold clasp: When you pull over the wheel a black plastic piece attaches to the frame in a sort of clincher like you see mops stuck to the wall in a closet. During some mucking around the salesman pulled off an 'unnecessary' smaller wire clip that fits inside that. Hmm, if it is unnecessary, where is it there to start with? If it is necessary why did it fall off so easily? I requested that he secure it by adding tape and reinserting. It is nit confidence-inspiring eith doodads fall off a bike in the shop. All I ask is that my bike be built like tank.
Clasp twisters: Technical name I do not know. I mean the part you turn to unlock the hinges. They are made of hard plastic. Why not steel? Sure, they are comfortable and rather ergonomic to the hand but couldn't they crack? A blog writer suggested strong metal replacements. The shop would/could not do this.
Pedals: I didn't like the look of the folding plastic pedals. Looks like a kid's toy. Actually, I don't care if it looks like a clown's bicycle, as long as it is durable and comfortable. I was offered the option of two superior pedals - top end one was significantly wider but I have size 9 shoes and they were heavier so I chose a light airy set that pop off. I am not Mr. Dextrous, but I don't get why reaching from the other side is so much easier to release the safety clip and why only one us so stiff. Salesman assured me that it would wear in. I am skeptical. Shouldn't pop off pedals immediately come off smoothly without multiple valiant efforts? I promised I would come back if the one side continued to stick. I asked if it was the fault of the pedal, the part of the bike where they attach of me. Salesman was able to do it every time. Brand is Welgo.
Tires: In future?, Salesman told me original tires are good enough for non extreme roads. I don't expect mountain bike tires but perhaps he has not biked in Cambodian small towns. Singapore roads are pristine.
Brakes: In future?, I was so sure (in my manufactured memories perhaps) that the Flamingo London came with rear disc brakes. Whether I thought I saw that in Taiwan or where I do not recall. This one has standard V brakes. Perhaps that is hood enough for dry riding. I just park in tropical downpours. But but of *after* a rainfall in the rainy season in Borneo mud road? Hmmm
Brake handles: Sort of, Salesman asked me to test the position and I found them a bit too low. But I was concerned that repositioning them would interfere with the fold. After he adjusted them to my preferences the technician corrected the right side bringing up my very concern.
Carrying bag: Yes, UGH! My only serious disappointment. I expected a Flamingo bag, designed by Providence, Taiwan for this model. It appears to be a generic one. Good it zips from both directions, with holes in zipper tags so can add a small lock. It also opens wide. But geez, is it tight. Perhaps I am doing it wrong. But it is definitely going to tear with the pressure from the seat and steering wheel. Oops, betraying my bicycle cult ignorance - handlebars. And it is not designed to the actual shape which is irregular. I think I can do much better getting my custom luggage craftsmen in Hanoi to do something better.
Only thing that could work is using the Bickerton folding bike bag (SGD80). I tried that one at the shop, in fact putting it as a second/exterior sleeve. In that padded and sturdy looming material bag there is enough extra room without being sloppy, it has several kinds of handles (although even the Bickerton shoulder strap has a barely adequate shoulder pad - almost every single bag except Victronix (?) from Switzerland and some add on pads from specialized travel accessory manufacturers in Japan are thus handicapped. Obviously this is a whole project of designing or shopping in itself.
Removing the seat helps only on one end.
Cover: No, I was so sure that the ad copy models I had seen had a small bag on the seat post that held a very thin cover. The manager told me that this shop did not provide them, yet somehow in my fertile imagination I expected one.
Front bag: Yes, very satisfactory. I had seen them on Taiwanese website and expected the two external pockets plus zipper pocket would be excessive but I found them to be practical. I find the facf that the bag stays stationary while the wheel turns very good engineering. The bag clips on and off easily and stays snug. I am uncertain whether the reinforced bottom is a good thing (making the bag not collapsible) and I find the bag carrying handle a tad small.
Bag mount: Like the Brompton the Flamingo comes with two holes to attach a mount (for various bags?) The manager gave me an extra because he was not convinced that the original would last. Hmmm, in retrospect I would rather install the item he has confidence in and keep the original as a spare. I noted the bag was a bit wobbly and the salesman said it is supposed to be that way. I am not convinced.
Tool kit: I have no idea which one to buy so bought the Biologic mini-kit since it performs 22 functions and I am more or less happy with their folding helmet.
Light: I brought my Cat eye ('Made in Japan') 4-battery light from my Bintan, Indonesia tour, But it is just so-so. I much prefer the tiny MOON METEOR USB-chargeable 50-200 lumen 5-types of light tiny powerful light with a flexible rubbery on-off handlebar clasp (SGD75). But they come uncharged so can't test until tomorrow.
Flashers: Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver provided me with a low-cost red flasher for rear light, also USB- rechargeable.
pump: Clever design Flamingo pump fits under rear rack but was told it is a piece of garbage. At first I suggested something to attach my own Polygon mini pump from Indonesia to the frame. Salesman suggested to the steering post using a rather expensive Japanese clamp (designed probably. isn't everything actually *made* in China?) It looked to me like it would interfere with the fold and anyway the stem is too thick for it to easily attach. Technician agreed saying it's really made for water bottle. I'll figure out something later.
Salesman tested it and it worked to add air. I had an aspect of its use backwards. No wonder I thought it was broken.
Tubes: Yes, I requested some premium spare tubes and was told that Schwabe would fit the bill. Again as a bike newbie I was confused by the box - finally realizing that it wasn't that there were five varieties of tubes but the opposite, these tubes would fit five sizes of tires. I am surprised that tubes can fit 16" and 18" wheels equally well, but really - what do I know? Whether I could have purchased the same tires back 'home' in Malaysia, I do not know. Curiously (import tax?) the same bike is MORE at a bike shop outside of Kuala Lumpur.
Tires: Future, I was told that the original tires were adequate for even dirt city roads of Nepal and Sri Lanka where I would be travelling. I have my doubts.
Bearings & washers: Maybe I am being a jerk, but I asked for every little extra that could cost me days looking for in the capital city of a developing country. So I asked and got two spare bearings and washers. Why? I lose stuff during repairs or tinkering.
I credit the staff that at no time did anyone say 'Hey. old man, we really don't have time for your million questions' and no request was refused or deflected. I got straight answers although a few times I think they might not have been the right answers.
Anyway, asking to know the weight of the bike a hand-held scale was produced. 12.6 kilos. Hmm, felt like just under 15 to me. But I overestimate all my checked luggage for airlines. This low weight came as a delightful surprise since the whole point of my buying this bike is to have compact transport to explore Asia with THAT FITS IN AN AIRLINE SUITCASE and makes it under Air Asia's 15 kilo limit or if impossible 20 in an 'indestructible' suitcase.
SIZE: Seeing a compact foldie (as far as I have learned from my reading that consists of only two companies - Brompton and Flamingo) in photos by bloggers it looked like they fit into airplane overhead luggage compartments (foolish) and in between ferry seats. Yet when I see mine - no way. I'll have to get out a measuring tape and akso place it side by side a Brompton. and more kmportantly a common household object for scake. This bicycle is NOT tiny. It is not LIGHT-WEIGHT. It's just more so than a regular bicycle. I can't imagine myself doing much more than rolling it and sending it on flights in a very solid suitcase. The promotional videos I think are BS exagerrations. Nobody is going to actually *carry* their foldie - it's marketing spin. I can see sticking it in the corner of my hotel room though.
Youtube demonstrators folding Flamingos (and perhaps Bromptons too) are they showing off their dexterity or is it because I have had my bike only hours? Right in the shop taking note of the actually 9-step fold, I found out that if you pull the front wheel back too high and set it down too roughly you could break a spoke. And I find the salesman's advice that it is normal to have the folding hook so close (or was it on top of?) a cable is normal, questionable. I don't like the proximity.
FIRST REAL RIDE: *Very* nice. Easy to handle. Some forum participants (Brompton afficiandos) have complained of wonky steering. I noticed none of that. Turns 'on a dime' No problems with light load in front bag.
Only concern is the looks of interest when I passed from both pedestrians and bicyclists. Oh oh, this is going to be a high profile bike in Ghana. Women look the most. Perhaps it's the cute factor. It's certainly not my Hollywood good looks.
The only significant disappointment is I expected there to be more of a difference between gears - a broadly spaced high to low if you know what I mean. I am sure there is a technical science to this that I am ignorant of. I just noticed that the gears seemed too much like each other, as if in a hypothetical gear range of uphill to downhill something had been missed in the engineering heaven of possibilities. Going up slight inclines I found the lowest gear a little inadequate but going down slight OK. Haven't tried any hills yet. I was worried that 7-gears was going to be overkill. Now I think the opposite - unless I am in flatlands of the Mekong Delta.
Only regret is price. I prefer bargains, secondhand, distress sales etc. This was not. However, as the saying goes, "Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten." At least I avoided the temptation to go deluxe (buying a Brompton).
Just in case I could have bought a Flamingo online by some private seller
in Singapore I checked again. Out of three folding ads one was LOOKING for a Brompton and two were selling same. - SGD2300 for a six-speed and SGD2150 for a three -speed. Zero Flamingos. It would appear Providence bicycles exist in a niche market within a niche market.
So, SGD1250 seems like a good deal for a new compact foldie.
SECOND TEST RIDE (daytime) next