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Contemplating a Birch Folding Bike Purchase: Wise Investment or Regrettable Decision?

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Contemplating a Birch Folding Bike Purchase: Wise Investment or Regrettable Decision?

Old 02-03-24, 08:57 PM
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Contemplating a Birch Folding Bike Purchase: Wise Investment or Regrettable Decision?

I'm intrigued by the Birch Folding bike that keeps popping up in ads. It's described as a 26lb CrMo folder boasting 20" wheels, 7 speeds, and a unique frame design. It has an adjustable handlebar height claiming to accommodate riders ranging from 4'7" to 5'11" tall, and it also has the added convenience of a front rack.

However, my research hasn't turned up much in the way of reviews, save for one peculiar YouTube video comparing it to a Brompton (https://tinyurl.com/yw79et7k). My main concern? The handlebar welded directly to the stem and secured with a quick release. Is that a sturdy setup? And about the riding position – those handlebars seem rather close to the saddle for my 6' frame.

Despite these reservations, the current discount price of $215 on Amazon with free shipping or $299 on the Birch site is tempting, especially considering the possibility of an electric conversion down the line. I'd greatly appreciate any insights or opinions on the bike before making a decision.







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Old 02-03-24, 09:39 PM
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I'm not inspired by this design.

How is that a Tiagra derailleur when it's clearly marked Tourney?

Is the front caliper brake mounted behind the fork because the rack blocks the front?

The rear caliper brake is almost horizontal and faces down. I'll bet it soaks up a fair amount of road crud like that.

As for the welded stem & bar, looks like a major cost cutting move.

If it were me, I'd at least want the chance to upgrade to whatever stem & bar combo I wanted, and not be locked into proprietary parts.

So for me all this is a hard pass, but everyone has a different comfort zone here.
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Old 02-04-24, 03:42 AM
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Distance: seatpost to handlebar: 45-50cm !

This is very short, definitely too short for average US-EU male riders.

I wonder what is the wheelbase?
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Old 02-04-24, 04:27 AM
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Oh yes, I saw that popup too. Concerns:
- At first I thought it had rear suspension. Not. Thus I have concerns about the rear frame design with no seatstays. Many makers do "monostays", thick chainstays on each side, with even flex along those beams; I don't like this design, it seems to concentrate a lot of moment on the frame tubes just aft of the seat tube.
- Handlebar welded to stem? That prevents rotating the bar to have the brake levers inline with the stem for a neater fold.
- (As noted above) Short distance from handlebars to seat; That was a major issue on my first model Dahon (tiny wheels), my knees would hit the handlebar when climbing out of the saddle.
- Rear cassette is too tight, should have at least 11-30 range, 32 even better.
- Cable routing inside frame looks clever, but actually results in tighter cable bend when folded, not good.
- WHOA! Look how straight that fork is, and in-line with the head tube! VERY atypical.That's gonna have a TON of trail, might feel more stable but heavy steering, might have a lot of wheel flop. Might be negated by increased heat tube angle, looks steep. Speaking of which...
- Head tube must weigh a bunch; No external headset so it's internal, yet outside of head tube not profiled for that.
- I'm not buying the weight spec, and if accurate, with that rear triangle design, I'm concerned about breakage there, just behind the seat post.

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-04-24 at 10:25 PM.
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Old 02-04-24, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by bargainguy
I'm not inspired by this design.

How is that a Tiagra derailleur when it's clearly marked Tourney?

Is the front caliper brake mounted behind the fork because the rack blocks the front?

The rear caliper brake is almost horizontal and faces down. I'll bet it soaks up a fair amount of road crud like that.

As for the welded stem & bar, looks like a major cost cutting move.

If it were me, I'd at least want the chance to upgrade to whatever stem & bar combo I wanted, and not be locked into proprietary parts.

So for me all this is a hard pass, but everyone has a different comfort zone here.
Brakes behind fork: May be due to rack, but I think Bike Friday and many others do the same. I wish my Dahon had that; With pads in front of the fork, the retaining screw for my cartridge brake pads (aft on the pads) is blocked by the fork. I changed from tiny allen screws to hex head to loosen from side, but it's still a pain. With brakes behind fork, that screw is not blocked.

But then that is a problem with their rear brake mounting, it should have been on top of the chainstays, but then it interferes with the chain.

I also think a pass. Wait for a Zizzo to go on sale again for $300.

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-04-24 at 04:49 AM.
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Old 02-04-24, 04:46 AM
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If you look at the end of the video where the two ladies are riding on the two bikes, you see that the second lady, which isn't tall, riding on the Birch has already a quite upright position and you easily can imagine what the position will be with an average male rider.
So, if you are a man close to or bigger than average, this bike definitely won't fit, this is in my opinion a real show stopper.
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Old 02-04-24, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by bargainguy
I'm not inspired by this design.

How is that a Tiagra derailleur when it's clearly marked Tourney?

As for the welded stem & bar, looks like a major cost cutting move.

If it were me, I'd at least want the chance to upgrade to whatever stem & bar combo I wanted, and not be locked into proprietary parts.

So for me all this is a hard pass, but everyone has a different comfort zone here.
There does seem to be some odd discrepancies like the Tourney derailleur being marketed as Tiagra. And I agree the welded bar/stem combo is very limiting.

Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Oh yes, I saw that popup too. Concerns:
- At first I thought it had rear suspension. Not. Thus I have concerns about the rear frame design with no seatstays. Many makers do "monostays", thick chainstays on each side, with even flex along those beams; I don't like this design, it seems to concentrate a lot of moment on the frame tubes just aft of the seat tube.
- Handlbar welded to stem? That prevents rotating the bar to have the brake levers inline with the stem for a neater fold.
- (As noted above) Short distance from handlebars to seat; That was a major issue on my first model Dahon (tiny wheels), my knees would hit the handlebar when climbing out of the saddle.
- Rear cassette is too tight, should have at least 11-30 range, 32 even better.
- Cable routing inside frame looks clever, but actually results in tighter cable bend when folded, not good.
- WHOA! Look how straight that fork is, and in-line with the head tube! VERY atypical.That's gonna have a TON of trail, might feel more stable but heavy steering, might have a lot of wheel flop. Might be negated by increased heat tube angle, looks steep. Speaking of which...
- Head tube must weigh a bunch; No external headset so it's internal, yet outside of head tube not profiled for that.
- I'm not buying the weight spec, and if accurate, with that rear triangle design, I'm concerned about breakage there, just behind the seat post.
Thanks for all these thoughtful considerations. There's something I like visually about the rear triangle - it looks almost Moulton-esque with its inverted triangular geometry but I hadn't considered the integrity of the rear triangle design. I also hadn't consider the low trail or internal routing of the cables.

Originally Posted by Duragrouch
I also think a pass. Wait for a Zizzo to go on sale again for $300.
I think I will pass and look at other options. I don't find the looks of the Zizzo as appealing to my eye (though the green and white frames do have a certain something and I imagine they could be easily modified for a more personalized ride)

Originally Posted by Jipe
If you look at the end of the video where the two ladies are riding on the two bikes, you see that the second lady, which isn't tall, riding on the Birch has already a quite upright position and you easily can imagine what the position will be with an average male rider.
So, if you are a man close to or bigger than average, this bike definitely won't fit, this is in my opinion a real show stopper.
I'm wondering if something like the Ergon GP5 bare end style grips might mitigate the shortness?

Another thing confusing me is some of the photographs appear to show a gloss paint job while others reveal a matte finish and others have a small amount of sparkle. I think the matte finish is perhaps closer to the actual finish and I'm seeing either a lighting effect or photoshop.

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Old 02-04-24, 02:27 PM
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50cm is very short, for comparison, the Brompton M handlebar has 67cm and the S handlebar 70cm, Ergon won't add 17cm!

Now it depends of how tall you are?
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Old 02-04-24, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Jipe
50cm is very short, for comparison, the Brompton M handlebar has 67cm and the S handlebar 70cm, Ergon won't add 17cm!

Now it depends of how tall you are?
I agree. And it's not just hand position, which could be mitigated by bar ends; It's your knees hitting the main handlebar when climbing out of the saddle (standing on the pedals). This was a problem for me on the first model Dahon, and I'm not tall, only 5'8".
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Old 02-04-24, 10:42 PM
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I don't find the looks of the Zizzo as appealing to my eye
Not being argumentative, just trying to help... specifically, what don't you find visually appealing? There are many different folding frame styles. Main differences:
- Has "shallow rear triangle", ex, Dahon Mariner.
- No rear triangle but instead just thick rear seatstays that are cantilevered, ex, Dahon Mu. These have the advantage of being able to use a (cogged) belt drive instead of chain.
- Much taller rear triangle (than the Mariner, et al), this allows the seatpost to be shorter, and often of "conventional" diameter, so easier to find alternatives like shock-absorbing seatposts (hard to find for Dahons with very large diameter and very long seatposts). The disadvantage is that these do not fold as small.
- (shallow) Diamond frame instead of "monobeam" like the Mariner and Birch, ex, Bike Friday Diamond Llama and All-Packa, these are extra strong.
- (Tall) Diamond frame with high top tube, on small 20" tires, this is called a Mini-Velo, usually frame does not fold, but a rare few did, I think Dahon made one like this.
- Curved monobeam frame, ex, Brompton and Dahon Curl (and numerous clones), these help fit the rear tire when it folds under that tube (swinging rear triangle).

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-04-24 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 02-05-24, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by univega.duder
I'm intrigued by the Birch Folding bike that keeps popping up in ads. It's described as a 26lb CrMo folder boasting 20" wheels, 7 speeds, and a unique frame design. It has an adjustable handlebar height claiming to accommodate riders ranging from 4'7" to 5'11" tall, and it also has the added convenience of a front rack.

However, my research hasn't turned up much in the way of reviews, save for one peculiar YouTube video comparing it to a Brompton (https://tinyurl.com/yw79et7k). My main concern? The handlebar welded directly to the stem and secured with a quick release. Is that a sturdy setup? And about the riding position – those handlebars seem rather close to the saddle for my 6' frame.

Despite these reservations, the current discount price of $215 on Amazon with free shipping or $299 on the Birch site is tempting, especially considering the possibility of an electric conversion down the line. I'd greatly appreciate any insights or opinions on the bike before making a decision.
1. You're taller and this is compact, even for a folder.
2. inexpensive unknown brand
3. suspension on an inexpensive bike

That's 3 strikes for me.

If you were able to ride it before you bought it, I'd say maaaaybe.

Keep looking for a deal, even craigslist and local bike shops.
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Old 02-05-24, 12:49 AM
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Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse
1. You're taller and this is compact, even for a folder.
2. inexpensive unknown brand
3. suspension on an inexpensive bike

That's 3 strikes for me.

If you were able to ride it before you bought it, I'd say maaaaybe.

Keep looking for a deal, even craigslist and local bike shops.
Yeah those top links in the rear appear to have pivots on both ends of each, like it has suspension, a three or four bar linkage, but I see no spring. The chainstay configuration looks like it could have a pivot, or not. Relying on just vertical bending flex in the chainstays would require quality steel and very careful design. One would think if it has suspension, it would say that. Sketchy. I don't like buying something as simple as a bicycle without fully understanding everything.

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Old 02-05-24, 03:39 AM
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I also wondered if there is a suspension!

Same question about spring.

A solution for the spring could be a torsional spring in the bottom pivot like it exists in the fork of the Moulton New Series but such kind of thing for such a low price ???

In your list of folding bike frames, look at the diamond frame of the Tyrell Yve. Beautiful Japanese engineering!
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Old 02-05-24, 04:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Jipe
I also wondered if there is a suspension!

Same question about spring.

A solution for the spring could be a torsional spring in the bottom pivot like it exists in the fork of the Moulton New Series but such kind of thing for such a low price ???

In your list of folding bike frames, look at the diamond frame of the Tyrell Yve. Beautiful Japanese engineering!
Yeah that lateral cylindrical part in the chainstays has me wondering.

I recall from my college days, a torsional trailer suspension, using a trailing arm connected to a square tube, inside a larger square tube, with rubber pieces in between that would get compressed as the trailing arm moved through its motion. A very simple suspension with a bit of built-in damping. It's been 40 years, but I think I learned of it because a relative of a friend incorporated it in a prototype olympic bobsled design.

I looked up Tyrell bikes; Looks like it folds like a Bike Friday, the main difference I see is the X main frame bracing a tall head tube, yes that is another design, had not seen; The only advantage I could see to this is more lateral rigidity at the handlebars when pulling hard while climbing, and this can be an issue on some folders. On my own folder, I've kept the early design fixed-height long handlebar stem, as I like a high bar (it's the same height as the later aluminum adjustable stem), but it's one piece and tapered chrome-moly steel construction is more rigid laterally, so no issues there when climbing for me.
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Old 02-05-24, 05:17 AM
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In the Moulton, its rubber based (Sir Alex Moulton like rubber suspension, he designed the one of the Mini).

Maybe cheaper and more reliable, a torsional spring like in the Brompton chain tensionner.
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Old 02-05-24, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Jipe
In the Moulton, its rubber based (Sir Alex Moulton like rubber suspension, he designed the one of the Mini).

Maybe cheaper and more reliable, a torsional spring like in the Brompton chain tensionner.
The rubber spring in the Moulton and Brompton swinging rear triangle suspension, is at a point far away from the pivot point, so much lower loading. A rubber torsion spring at the pivot will experience much higher loads, unless the spring axial length is sufficient to spread those loads out. If that Birch has a torsional spring, I'm not seeing sufficient length to it. It could also be a steel torsional spring, but not nearly sufficient length for a "torsion bar", and if a coil spring that is twisted, also too short, and that is actually loading the coil in bending (ironic since a coil spring in typical compression or tension is actually loading the rod material in torsion, with some bending).
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Old 02-05-24, 05:39 AM
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What I am talking about for the Moulton is not the rear rubber ball suspension (with or without air in it) but the fork suspension of the Moulton New Series:

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Old 02-05-24, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Jipe
What I am talking about for the Moulton is not the rear rubber ball suspension (with or without air in it) but the fork suspension of the Moulton New Series:
OK, that's still a reasonable leverage ratio for the rubber spring. OH wait, I think that is just a jounce bumper, there must be some sort of torsion spring(s) in the pivots; With two links, there is the possibility of spreading the spring force over 4 pivots, more feasible. Also, notable, the relationship between the top and bottom links, provides some anti-dive effect, so it doesn't mash down under braking.

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-05-24 at 06:04 AM.
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Old 02-05-24, 07:00 AM
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There are explanations online about this fork. Its only torsional rubber in the 4 pivots.

Yes, there is no diving when braking (also no diving with the Birdy fork BTW).
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Old 02-05-24, 02:31 PM
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Why do you want to get this bike?

IMHO, I'd recommend finding a good used folding bike in your area.
These things depreciate. I figure that a depreciated asset of higher quality would be much better.

If you don't care about fold size, I can highly recommend a Xootr Swift (if you can find one for under $300).
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Old 02-05-24, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Not being argumentative, just trying to help... specifically, what don't you find visually appealing? There are many different folding frame styles. Main differences:
- Has "shallow rear triangle", ex, Dahon Mariner.
- No rear triangle but instead just thick rear seatstays that are cantilevered, ex, Dahon Mu. These have the advantage of being able to use a (cogged) belt drive instead of chain.
- Much taller rear triangle (than the Mariner, et al), this allows the seatpost to be shorter, and often of "conventional" diameter, so easier to find alternatives like shock-absorbing seatposts (hard to find for Dahons with very large diameter and very long seatposts). The disadvantage is that these do not fold as small.
- (shallow) Diamond frame instead of "monobeam" like the Mariner and Birch, ex, Bike Friday Diamond Llama and All-Packa, these are extra strong.
- (Tall) Diamond frame with high top tube, on small 20" tires, this is called a Mini-Velo, usually frame does not fold, but a rare few did, I think Dahon made one like this.
- Curved monobeam frame, ex, Brompton and Dahon Curl (and numerous clones), these help fit the rear tire when it folds under that tube (swinging rear triangle).
I'm finding it a bit challenging to pinpoint exactly what's not clicking for me visually with the Zizzo bike. I think it boils down to a few factors: the thick aluminum tubing, prominent welds, lower-quality components, and an abundance of graphics that collectively give it a somewhat clunky appearance. For example, the inclusion of the website address on the chainstay feels unnecessary and detracts from the overall aesthetic. While I understand that aluminum bikes often feature larger tubes and noticeable welds, upgrading some components or design elements could potentially elevate the bike's overall look. Despite these critiques, I do appreciate Zizzo's practicality and affordability, particularly with features like fenders, a rear rack, and a kickstand included.

In contrast, as I explore other folding bike options that appeal to me, I've noticed a common thread: they tend to incorporate curved elements in their frames, stems, or handlebars. Take, for instance, the Birch bike—it doesn't necessarily have traditional curves, but the distinctive triangular shape at the rear, mirrored in the front rack, adds an intriguing visual dimension. While it might seem like nitpicking, I value these subtle design touches or unique flourishes beyond mere utility, even if it's just a thoughtfully chosen paint color. That being said, my primary goal is to derive enjoyment from the riding experience, rather than solely focusing on aesthetics. Therefore, the fit of the bike, or any potential lack thereof, should take precedence. In the grand scheme of things, I'm seeking a durable folding bike or mini velo priced under $500, that's easy on they eyes and doesn't require me to be overly precious with it.
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Old 02-05-24, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Jipe
I also wondered if there is a suspension!

Same question about spring.

A solution for the spring could be a torsional spring in the bottom pivot like it exists in the fork of the Moulton New Series but such kind of thing for such a low price ???

In your list of folding bike frames, look at the diamond frame of the Tyrell Yve. Beautiful Japanese engineering!
Thanks for suggesting the Tyrell bike - that's an intriguing design.
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Old 02-05-24, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Jipe
What I am talking about for the Moulton is not the rear rubber ball suspension (with or without air in it) but the fork suspension of the Moulton New Series:
Wow - that is a wild design! I'd be curious what the ride quality is like.
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Old 02-05-24, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mlau
Why do you want to get this bike?

IMHO, I'd recommend finding a good used folding bike in your area.
These things depreciate. I figure that a depreciated asset of higher quality would be much better.

If you don't care about fold size, I can highly recommend a Xootr Swift (if you can find one for under $300).
The reason I'm interested in the Birch bike in part is the very low cost $215 and the quirky design which I haven't seen before. But after reading everyone's comments here I'm less sure that the design is a good one.

My hope is to have an affordable folder to use in the winter months in New England where there's often salt all over the roads. It would be nice if it's reasonably compact to be able to toss in the back of the car and to store more easily at home. I'm also thinking about the possibility of adding a front hub motor.

I think the Xootr is a great idea and you've reminded me to keep my eyes out for one.
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Old 02-05-24, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by univega.duder
I'm finding it a bit challenging to pinpoint exactly what's not clicking for me visually with the Zizzo bike. I think it boils down to a few factors: the thick aluminum tubing, prominent welds, lower-quality components, and an abundance of graphics that collectively give it a somewhat clunky appearance. For example, the inclusion of the website address on the chainstay feels unnecessary and detracts from the overall aesthetic. While I understand that aluminum bikes often feature larger tubes and noticeable welds, upgrading some components or design elements could potentially elevate the bike's overall look. Despite these critiques, I do appreciate Zizzo's practicality and affordability, particularly with features like fenders, a rear rack, and a kickstand included.

In contrast, as I explore other folding bike options that appeal to me, I've noticed a common thread: they tend to incorporate curved elements in their frames, stems, or handlebars. Take, for instance, the Birch bike—it doesn't necessarily have traditional curves, but the distinctive triangular shape at the rear, mirrored in the front rack, adds an intriguing visual dimension. While it might seem like nitpicking, I value these subtle design touches or unique flourishes beyond mere utility, even if it's just a thoughtfully chosen paint color. That being said, my primary goal is to derive enjoyment from the riding experience, rather than solely focusing on aesthetics. Therefore, the fit of the bike, or any potential lack thereof, should take precedence. In the grand scheme of things, I'm seeking a durable folding bike or mini velo priced under $500, that's easy on they eyes and doesn't require me to be overly precious with it.
The "thick" tubing is a function of it being a "monobeam" frame, that is necessary for only a single tube, for both bending and torsional strength (resistance to twisting while standing on the pedals) "Diamond" frames have two tubes there that are smaller, but it's harder to execute a frame fold with two tubes, it can be done, but it's more complex, those usually have instead a swinging rear triangle fold, such as a Bike Friday All-Packa.

"Large" welds are typical for an aluminum frame, they require a larger weld bead for strength of the joint. If you find a smaller weld more elegant, you'll find this on steel frame bikes. My relatively inexpensive (for 15 years ago) Dahon Speed has a chrome-moly steel frame with really lovely small but precise welds. (Chrome-moly is a step above "high-ten(sile)" steel.) Titanium frames, notably, I've typically noticed exceptional and minimalist welds.

The components I saw on the Zizzo Liberte, I was impressed with, for one thing, it had a "hollowtech II style" crankset with external bottom bracket bearings, that is a step above what Dahon has done. (Most Dahons had a crank with a steel chainring permanently swaged to an aluminum arm, heavy, not able to replace the chainring, and internal bottom bracket bearings which are less durable.) Also the wheel rims look better quality, double-wall instead of single wall. And yet, Dahon's prices skyrocketed during the pandemic, to where the Zizzo is 1/2 to 1/3 (if on sale), the price of an equivalent Dahon Mariner.

The decals can be peeled off, IF, they are not underneath a clear lacquer finish, I don't know. (I have a "Pelican style" case that I bought cheap at Harbor Freight, and those cases are very prominently brand-labeled "Apache", which I feel is politically incorrect, so I peeled the large labels off and reapplied them inside the lid, under the inner foam padding, in case I need warranty replacement at the store.)
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