Folding
September 12, 2005 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Does anybody have experience with folding bikes from Dahon or Montague (or other companies)?

Because I split my time between two suburban/urban areas, I'm attracted to the idea of a folding bike that I can toss into my car and take with me. I've been looking mostly at the full-size folding bikes, not the folding utility bikes with small wheels, which (through some Googling) I perceive as being tiring and unstable. Do you have any experience -- positive or negative -- with folding bikes?
posted by blue mustard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, I used to sell them, but a long time ago, so I'm not entirely up-to-date. Here's some thoughts, anyhow.

You're right, most of the true small folders are more trouble than they're really worth, especially compared to the less radical, separable or quasi (one joint in the middle) machines. They can be fussy, delicate and, as bicycles, compromised to the extent that they handle horribly and are uncomfortable very quickly. I'd put the Dahon in that category. I'm not familiar with the Montague, so won't comment on it.

Having said that, there are a couple of gems well worth consideration.

If you want something that folds small without taking bits apart, rides like a bike, is very well designed and engineered, and will last, the exception in small wheel folders and best choice by far is the Brompton. I used to have one, used to sell them, know plenty of folks with them and they're universally praised. Way ahead of any other small-wheel compact folder. Fast and easy to fold up, a very ingenious folding mechanism and has won various design and engineering awards. I'm a big fan. Very popular with London commuters now that taking regular bikes on commuter trains there is so restricted and burocratized. Used to be hard to get in the US, not sure if that's still so.

If you're looking for something sportier, more real-bike-like, that you could seriously tour, or even race, on Bike Friday make lovely machines. These are even popular with some pro-racers, for training on a schedule of air travelling. Long-distance cyclists have used them for loaded tours without trouble. Not so much a folder as a comes-apart-for-easy-packing. Very well made, but not a budget option.

Once you start looking, folding and collapsing bikes seem abundant. There's a few good ones and a lot of dross. A to B magazine is probably the authority. They have a good buyers guide to get you started.
posted by normy at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2005


Anecdotal, but check out this NYT story published yesterday.
posted by Vidiot at 10:45 AM on September 12, 2005


I live in a two folding-bike household, so I have um, four cents to add. I've had a Dahon Boardwalk 6 for about five years, and my domestic other has had a Birdy Red for about three years. I've almost completely worn my Dahon out, but remember that it was the lowest-end model available at the time. The frame's still in great shape, but almost all of the components have been replaced at some point. I've actually stripped the rear brake and the derailleur off, so it's locked to the highest gear. I find that for short trips in the city, it's easier to have a one-speed folding bike. In sum, the low-end Dahons are uncomfortable for long trips (small wheels equals lots of pedaling) but great for short, flat jaunts. The low-quality components will wear out over time.

The other's Birdy I have less experience with, but it's overall a much higher quality than my Dahon. It's also much more comfortable for longer rides, as it has a suspension and a better gear ratio. It's her only bike, so it's got to be more general-purpose than mine.

My Dahon, when folded, can stand on its own (the wheels and the long seat stem make a tripod of sorts). The Birdy, though it folds up smaller than my Dahon, tends to fall over when folded, and the rack ends up upside-down on the ground. Also, it is more awkward to carry when folded.

My advice, then, is to evaluate carefully what you're going to be using the bike for, and how important portability is. Are you going to be carrying it? Where will you be storing it? How will you be locking it up? How far will you be bicycling? Do you need a rack? Will you be taking it with you on mass transit?
posted by tew at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2005


I have a Brompton. The folding method is genius. It remains standing and stable as you fold it, rather than turning into a heap of clanging metal appendages and joints. After about month, I was able to jump off and fold it in 10 seconds, then jump on a train about to pull away.

It's also extremely sturdy and easy riding for a bike with such small wheels. I once rode it 40miles in a day and it wasn't as painful as you'd imagine.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:10 AM on September 12, 2005


Another very happy Brompton rider here. Nice article on the bike's creator from The Observer.
posted by scruss at 11:20 AM on September 12, 2005


You might check out BikeForums.net's Folding Bikes Forum.
posted by bwilms at 12:42 PM on September 12, 2005


I have a Brompton. Love it. A friend has a Bike Friday, he loves it too. I've chatted with a lot of people about their folding bikes over the years, and it seems that these two brands standout from all the others which are either poorly built, poorly designed, or both.

As for differentiating a Brompton from a Bike Friday:

The Brompton is the most practical folding bike for the city life. Its folding/unfolding action is very quick once you learn how - 30 seconds from fully stowed to riding configuration. Stowed, it is very compact (even the pedals fold) and stands upright. It even has a "half-folded" position that lets you get going in literally 2 seconds while saving space.

The Bike Friday, on the other hand, has the best ride quality and performance of any folder. The frame is stiff and stable, you can use normal Shimano or Campagnolo drivetrains, and the riding position can be customized to exactly that of any other road / mountain bike. A guy in my roadie club rides his Bike Friday with the rest of us on high-end road bikes. "Folding" is a bit of a misnomer, but yes it does stow away quite well after disassembly.

Finally, there's always the option of S&S Couplers. My Litespeed road bike has these. They can be installed on any steel or titanium bike so long as the tubes have a round cross-section.
posted by randomstriker at 1:05 PM on September 12, 2005


On second thought, it only takes me 15 seconds to take my Brompton from fully-stowed to riding configuration or vice versa.
posted by randomstriker at 1:07 PM on September 12, 2005


Thanks to everybody for your responses. Your insights are really appreciated. I hadn't even heard of the Brompton when I posted the question, but now that it appears to be the favorite, I'm going to look for one to test ride.
posted by blue mustard at 3:27 PM on September 12, 2005


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