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Old 11-25-17, 03:08 PM   #1
factotum
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Advice on folder for semi-serious riding

I'm looking into travel bikes for me and my husband. We both commute on cross bikes year-round here in Seattle and like to do longish weekend rides when the weather is nice. We usually rent bikes when we travel but rentals are such a crapshoot. I'd love to be able to arrive at a destination with bikes that already have the fit dialed and are set up so we can hop on for a day of sightseeing or a longer recreational ride.

We thought about travel cases for our daily riders but these seem like a lot of hassle. So now I'm leaning in the direction of getting folders. My priorities are the ability to customize the cockpit and drivetrain, sufficient eyelets to accommodate some sort of rack, and ride quality (we're both bigger riders- husband is 6'1" and about 210 lbs). The options I'm considering are:

low end: downtube nova. It looks like these could take a road double crankset, and the flat bars could be swapped for bullhorns or moustaches to get a little more top tube length. on the positive side the price is right, I love a good project, and there is a robust used bike part supply in my area so upgrades can be done cheaply and easily (including 7-speed drivetrain components). possibly a little small though?

medium end: swift folder (looks like they were discontinued - possibly an ebay purchase?). I've read good things about the ride quality of these bikes but it's not clear if they can be packed into a case that's less than 62 linear inches. The fact that they take a regular threadless stem is a big selling point for being able to customize the cockpit.

higher end: bike friday new world tourist. this one would be everything we want straight out of the box but $1500 is an expensive bike to only get occasional use.

Anyone have experience riding and/or upgrading any of these bikes? Thoughts on how they would suit bigger/stronger riders?
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Old 11-25-17, 03:15 PM   #2
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higher end: bike friday new world tourist. this one would be everything we want straight out of the box but $1500 is an expensive bike to only get occasional use.
I think you`ll only be happy with a NWT. Try to look for second hand bikes.
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Old 11-25-17, 03:24 PM   #3
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I've had a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket since '94. I actually ordered the New World Tourist model but it wasn't ready in time for my first trip so I took the dealer's demo Pocket Rocket instead. I bought it at a time when I was going on quite a few business trips and wanted a bike to take along so I could get in some rides before and after meetings including some weekend stays and it was used on dozens of such trips. I also ended up using it for quite a while as my primary bike for club rides and as my daily commute bike although the folding feature wasn't needed for either of these functions. It has also been used on some of my bike camping trips - from Eugene, OR to SF, CA and several trips from SF - Santa Barbara. Since I've retired I acquired a couple more regular road bikes and the Pocket Rocket is now just used for vacation travel. Note that to fit into its suitcase for air travel does require some disassembly in addition to the folding of the frame.

I've been happy with the purchase as the bike has performed very similarly to a regular 700c road bike while being much more convenient for air travel.
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Old 11-25-17, 04:37 PM   #4
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Any possibility you can take a trip south? Craigslist in Eugene typically has a bunch of used Bike Fridays at any given time. Find one used, customize to your preferences. Easier and cheaper if you or your husband can do the customization on your own, but if not, it shouldn't be too expensive to customize a cockpit to whatever you want.
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Old 11-25-17, 05:12 PM   #5
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Any possibility you can take a trip south? Craigslist in Eugene typically has a bunch of used Bike Fridays at any given time. Find one used, customize to your preferences. Easier and cheaper if you or your husband can do the customization on your own, but if not, it shouldn't be too expensive to customize a cockpit to whatever you want.
Thanks for the tip- would certainly take a trip to Eugene for the right bike(s). I actually prefer doing all the fussing around with setup myself.
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Old 11-25-17, 06:04 PM   #6
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Thanks for the tip- would certainly take a trip to Eugene for the right bike(s). I actually prefer doing all the fussing around with setup myself.
I see a Bike Friday on the Seattle Craigslist for $900 currently.
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Old 11-25-17, 06:30 PM   #7
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You can definitely find a used BF NWT at a decent price. They also have their "pre-loved" sale items. Also watch their facebook page for holiday discount coupons: https://www.facebook.com/bikefriday?fref=ts

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Bike-Friday...MAAOSwLdNZ3SXt
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Old 11-25-17, 07:14 PM   #8
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FWIW, here's the evolution of my own use of bikes for travel (hotel/B&B-based, sagged; i.e., not self-contained, no luggage to carry on the bike)…

I began with a custom steel Steve Rex road bike with S&S bicycle torque couplers and the S&S soft-sided travel case in 1995. The bike handled as well as a conventional (i.e., non-coupled) road bike with only a modest weight penalty of about 0.75 lb. The soft case was easy to stash and/or transport when not in use. However, at 26"x26"x10", it was an unwieldy package in use (no wheels).

In 2004, after test riding a Friday NWT and an Air Friday, I ordered an Air Friday (back then all Fridays were built to order) with 451 wheels. It served as my travel bike through 2016. It performed well. I rode centuries, Italian granfondi in the Alps and Dolomites, and French cyclosportives on it. I was always able to bring it on airlines as my one piece of absolutely ordinary checked luggage at no extra charge and no questions asked. Minor inconveniences were having to bring spare tires, inner tubes and spokes, as 20" (451) high-performance wheels and tires are not items you find in random bike shops. (The Rex became my rain bike back home.)

In 2016 I learned of a travel case for regular bikes called the Airport Ninja. It requires you to remove the wheels, saddle/seatpost and fork, but is a lot smaller than the typical bike travel case. The manufacturer claims that no Airport Ninja user has been charged oversized luggage fees by airlines, even though the case exceeds 62" L+W+H unless your bike is under 52 cm in size.

I got one for my (52/54 cm) road bike earlier this year. I can confirm that Lufthansa didn't charge me. The case worked well. While it also lacks wheels, it fits a collapsible luggage dolly, which I was able to flatten and strap to my carryon after handing the case over to the airline. I can see traveling with just this bike and the Ninja case and no longer needing the Friday or the Rex.
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Old 11-26-17, 12:17 PM   #9
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I own a Bike Friday Pocket Llama, got with 'heavy rider option' the single frame tube is instead, 2..
built like they did for the front of their tandem.. (saved big, BTO buyer backed out, because they did not like the color)

Disc brakes ..R'off hub i put trekking bars on it, got their front pannier rack ..

Fits in a suitcase, they offer a trailer kit to tow that suitcase..


[ Cargo bike specialist, Human Powered Machines, also in Eugene OR, makes a steel version of the Swift ]











....

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Old 11-26-17, 12:40 PM   #10
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FWIW, here's the evolution of my own use of bikes for travel (hotel/B&B-based, sagged; i.e., not self-contained, no luggage to carry on the bike)Ö


. .. The manufacturer claims that no Airport Ninja user has been charged oversized luggage fees by airlines, even though the case exceeds 62" L+W+H unless your bike is under 52 cm in size.
Interesting you mention the S&S couplers. My win-the-lottery high end folder would be the Rodriguez 6-pack, which darned near fits into a carryon size suitcase. I'm pretty floored that your bike did ok in the bike ninja - - frankly, it looks terrifying. It's intriguing that they offer rentals to try it out though, so I suppose they must be pretty confident in their product. I ride a 58cm frame and left my fork steerer at full length so it looks like I would definitely be stuck with the larger size and more likely to get dinged with oversize fees.
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Old 11-26-17, 03:58 PM   #11
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So you say no wheels... Does that mean you carry the wheels in a 2nd case?
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Old 11-26-17, 04:16 PM   #12
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Back on topic my Ti Swift is a totally serious riding bike if you're not racing. It has replaced all my other bikes with no regrets. I still have a Moulton (now electrified) for bad weather and a Brompton for general use.
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Old 11-26-17, 05:55 PM   #13
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$400 for an Airport Ninja travel case...lol. I'd consider instead the Downtube soft case and a bike that fits it.
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Old 11-26-17, 05:57 PM   #14
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Jur, I figured the no wheels thing was about the case itself having no wheels, but am not sure.
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Old 11-27-17, 12:11 AM   #15
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Quick update- went and rode a Bike Friday NWT disc for sale locally today. And . . . hrmph. The bike had oddball riser bars, but even holding them down near the stem the handling felt spongy and the flex in the stem assembly when braking was unnerving. Is this something you eventually get used to? Or might it be because the discs are over-powered for the frame/wheel size?
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Old 11-27-17, 02:01 AM   #16
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Could be the combination of stem length/type, riser bars and headset all contributing. If the handling is spongy with that combo, discs aren't going to help, they're going to make it seem worse. Sounds like the problem lies outside the discs but the discs don't help matters.

Personal bias: I'm not a fan of discs except in one circumstance. If you live or travel in really steep hilly or mountainous country, discs prevent overheating the rim during long downhill braking, preventing blowouts from overheated rims, which can be quite dangerous. While discs have superior modulation compared to rim brakes, one has to keep the pads & rotors meticulously clean to avoid excess wear, and most folks don't do that. I'm perfectly fine with rim brakes on my rides, folders and non-folders alike.

I'm thinking that NWT is not the bike for you. A test ride on a different BF is recommended, so you can get a baseline feel for what a properly set up BF rides like. It's not always 100% like your typical road bike - despite what BF says - but it gets a lot closer than the one you rode today.
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Old 11-27-17, 02:19 AM   #17
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Could be the combination of stem length/type, riser bars and headset all contributing. If the handling is spongy with that combo, discs aren't going to help, they're going to make it seem worse. Sounds like the problem lies outside the discs but the discs don't help matters.

Personal bias: I'm not a fan of discs except in one circumstance. If you live or travel in really steep hilly or mountainous country, discs prevent overheating the rim during long downhill braking, preventing blowouts from overheated rims, which can be quite dangerous. While discs have superior modulation compared to rim brakes, one has to keep the pads & rotors meticulously clean to avoid excess wear, and most folks don't do that. I'm perfectly fine with rim brakes on my rides, folders and non-folders alike.

I'm thinking that NWT is not the bike for you. A test ride on a different BF is recommended, so you can get a baseline feel for what a properly set up BF rides like. It's not always 100% like your typical road bike - despite what BF says - but it gets a lot closer than the one you rode today.
Thanks for the feedback, that was my gut and good to hear Iím not alone. I actually do appreciate discs in a hilly city that has awful traffic and rains 8 months a year, but they are almost certainly overkill on a travel bike where the whole purpose is to have fun.
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Old 11-27-17, 08:15 AM   #18
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I think most people will recommend a BF or mod a Swift, but I suggest checking the net on Moulton and Birdy Gen3 if you are considering buying into 4 figures. They are expensive as well. Both have suspension but a rigid mainframe. I would avoid any side folder like Dahon and Tern since you sound like power riders. The Moulton has set a few land speed records in its day so is no slouch. Many, perhaps the majority, of folding bikes flex when compared to a regular bike so minivelos with frame couplers might be an idea too.

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Old 11-27-17, 09:29 AM   #19
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Quick update- went and rode a Bike Friday NWT disc for sale locally today. And . . . hrmph. The bike had oddball riser bars, but even holding them down near the stem the handling felt spongy and the flex in the stem assembly when braking was unnerving. Is this something you eventually get used to? Or might it be because the discs are over-powered for the frame/wheel size?
It sounds like a weird setup. While the long stem and saddle mast without a diamond frame generally makes a Bike Friday somewhat more flexible, you shouldn't get wild amounts unless the headset is out of adjustment or you're riding way outside the specs.

Needless to say, the more different you are from the average buyer, the more you'll probably benefit from a custom build. Personally, I always recommend the best headset you can afford for a Bike Friday. The long stem mast puts a lot of stress on it.

For a travel bike, I'd generally recommend against disc brakes. The discs would seem to be susceptible to damage during transportation. Moreover, weight limits do matter when traveling: they're almost always checked by agents as opposed to size restrictions. I don't think you get any increase in general performance from mechanical disc brakes over rim brakes.

One thing that you should consider is that the small wheels of these folding bikes result in much lower trail than the typical road bike sold nowadays. You should expect some minor handling differences -- the bike is relatively more responsive to handlebar inputs -- that you'll indeed get used to pretty quickly. But in general, the bike will handle better with more weight over the front wheel.

Broadly, I'd stick to designs that can fit 40+ mm wide tires.

Anyway, years ago I wrote down some general thoughts on getting a Bike Friday which should still be relevant.

The part-time epistemologist: If you're interested in a Bike Friday ...
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Old 11-27-17, 10:39 AM   #20
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People tour on their Bromptons, their front Touring bag is generously sized..
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Old 11-27-17, 10:48 AM   #21
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My Travel Bike Stories

For what it is worth, my wife suggested I get an Airnimal when I was traveling a lot for business. They are made in Britain, and I am not sure if there are any US dealers left. But it was a fine travel bike. Rode like my light weight road bicycle. Took about 20 minutes to assemble or disassemble. I sold that because I have a custom Bob Brown stainless steel bike with S&S couplers. But I also purchased a Brompton because my wife and I have a travel trailer and the two Bromptons fit well in our Highlander. They are great folding bikes but weigh about 25 lbs with 16" wheels. So I am considerably slower on the Brompton. All that said, I am thinking of doing a 3-6 week tour in France and thinking of doing it on the Brompton just because it is easy to fold for multi-modal transportation, and I am not interested in speeding through France on this tour.
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Old 11-27-17, 11:41 AM   #22
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Some practical things to consider for a travel bike:
- Do your destinations lean toward urban areas? If so, are you concerned with theft and locking up outside?
- What are your typical accomdations? If multi-story hotel/AirBB, would you prefer to bring your bike up into your room?
- Traveling around an urban area - does multimodal commuter capability (train, bus, ferry, cab) appeal to you to cover more sightseeing opportunities.
- While touring around by bike, do you like to stop and visit indoor areas like shops, museums, and restaurants.

I constantly wrestle with the above with my travel bikes and my two schools of thought are: a) cheap Dahon Speed P8 (can be disassembled into 62" luggage) that doesn't have a good fold, carry, or wheeling while folded, but I don't mind leaving it locked outside or b) expensive Brompton which I really don't like locking outside, but it's great fold, carry, and wheeling while folded mean I can usually take it inside most places with me.

As far as 'semi-serious' riding is concerned, I'm no racer or triathlete that's for sure, but on asphalt, my folders aren't far (~5%) behind my cross/gravel bike in terms speed/efficiency/comfort (when tuned to my preferences) and only the Brompton has rekindled my interests in self-supported touring again (~50 mile days).

Yes small-wheeled folders have fat tires and long stems, seatposts, and single tube frames, not to mention some with suspension, that will all feel a bit flexy and power-robbing, but after measuring it with a GPS, for me, the difference was a lot smaller than it felt... (the folding advantages are massive in comparison).

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Old 11-27-17, 12:07 PM   #23
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If you think you still might want a bike friday, call them and let them arrange a test ride for you on a bike close to your size and with a standard bar setup. I currently have a NWT and test rode a pakiT - it had a very very high bar setup specifically requested by the rider - and it handled badly. I have since had the opportunity to ride a normal spec setup pakiT and it handled just like my NWT (good, since I ordered a pakiT, lol). One thing about small bikes is any deviation from the original setup is much more noticeable than on a full sized bike. When the bike is built there is a specific geometry that is intended and when people mess with that, it can have less than desireable results.
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Old 11-27-17, 02:42 PM   #24
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Yes small-wheeled folders have fat tires and long stems, seatposts, and single tube frames, not to mention some with suspension, that will all feel a bit flexy and power-robbing, but after measuring it with a GPS, for me, the difference was a lot smaller than it felt... (the folding advantages are massive in comparison).
My training ride times were pretty close across a Salsa La Raza and Bike Friday NWT. On the order of what one might expect for a 5 pound difference in weights.
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Old 11-27-17, 10:36 PM   #25
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My training ride times were pretty close across a Salsa La Raza and Bike Friday NWT. On the order of what one might expect for a 5 pound difference in weights.
Hehe... my Brompton is also ~5lbs heavier than my Tricross Comp...... except when used as travel bikes (the later needs 5lbs+ of locks and still isn't nearly as safe as the B brought inside with me )
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