Folder Fans

We’re big fans of folding bikes. They’re light, quick, and fun. They remind us of the little bikes we zipped around on when we were kids. They’re also super practical: they’re compact for efficient storage; they interface well with practically any public transit facility; they can come inside with you while you’re shopping; and, if your place of employment doesn’t allow bikes in the building, it’s possible to sneak one in and hide it under your desk (sshh, don’t tell). Some say they’re not good for long distance riding, though we’ve read plenty of reports of people taking epic tours on folding bikes. (For example, Todd Fahrner, owner of Clever Cycles, just took a Brompton down the west coast, and then there’s John and Mary Griffin who took their folders all the way around the world.) We use ours mostly for commuting and getting around town, but a folding bike/train bi-modal cross-country trip is in our long-term plans. Not everyone needs a folder, but we bet you’d enjoy riding one if given the opportunity… :-)

We have a Brompton M3L review forthcoming, and we’ll soon be receiving a Bike Friday Tikit on loan as well. We won’t necessarily be doing a “shootout” type comparison, but it’ll be a lot of fun to have two of the premier folding bikes in the house at the same time. We’ll let you know how it goes.

27 Responses to “Folder Fans”

  • Mark Rainey says:

    I’m currently in process of refurbishing a 1975 Raleigh 20 Folder. Not exactly light but definitely sturdy! I’m eager to have it tucked in the corner of my office for roaming the neighborhoods over my lunch hour.

    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/album.php?aid=234246&id=185783299918&ref=mf

  • Pete says:

    I agree that the Brompton and BF are very cool, but I’d also be interested to see you add the Dahon Vitesse D7HG – a very nice 7 speed Nexus folder at a third the cost of the other 2 – to your “not-a-shootout” shootout!

  • Jason says:

    I’m a big folder fan too and I agree that it would make a great multi-modal touring bicycle. I have a REI Buzz Fly-by made by Dahon. It has the Nexus 8 speed hub. I’ve found the little bike to be more useful than I expected.

    I use it to commute to work and keep it right in our locker room. All that is necessary to safely tuck it away is to fold the handle bars down. This creates a nice narrow profile up against the wall.

    One thing I didn’t expect was how having the folder would make most of my errands easier. Because the bicycle can fit inside, behind my back door, I find that I use it more often. Just having it visible and in easy reach adds to the convenience.

    Another nice thing is that with a little dissemble the bike fits into a large suitcase and fly’s as regular luggage. Unfortunately, even regular luggage is getting expensive to fly with. On my last vacation I took the bike the NYC on Amtrak and it traveled folded in the over storage.

    Finally, the folders is almost a one-size-fit-all bike. I’m 6’4″ and I could easily adjust it without tools for a small person or child. It has become my favorite bike. And like Alan said about it being fun, the short wheel base and small wheels make it a kick to ride.

  • Spencer says:

    @ Pete:

    Dahon Vitesse D7HG = $650
    Brompton M3L or Bike Friday Tikit = $1200
    Dahon/Brompton or BF = 54%, not 33%

    ‘Twould prove be a good dartgun shootout at any rate!
    (I like Dahons, too)

  • Daniel M says:

    I bought a pair of Dahon Speed 7 folders for my girlfriend and me this summer, and I am very impressed. They are really sturdy (4130 CroMo) and are genuinely enjoyable to ride. I was a bit skeptical about the 1×7 drivetrain but it is a very well thought-out gear range. I have done everything from 40 mile days to downhill singletrack in the forest where I grew up (not recommended by the manufacturer but really fun). The stock seat and grips are not good, and I’m not a fan of gripshifts but the fact is I spent less on the PAIR of Dahons than I would on a single Brompton or Bike Friday and that includes the racks and fenders that come on the bike. When I was in Boston, I saw a Brompton at Harris Cyclery and the way it folds is truly artful. The folding of the Dahon is a bit more haphazard by comparison but becomes quick and easy with just a little bit of practice.

    I love how easy it is to transport these bikes by car; it saves a lot of wear and tear on the bikes that would otherwise have made the trip. And a tip: by taking out the seat (quick release), both wheels (nutted axles, unfortunately), and the racks and fenders (simple allen bolts), each bike can be manipulated into a Samsonite Oyster suitcase. I found two on Craigslist for $20 each; a lot less than the $300 Dahon charges for theirs. This enabled us to take our bikes with us to the East Coast last summer, which was such a treat. We rode on the coast of Maine, around downtown Boston, and took them on a passenger ferry for a two-night tour on Cape Cod, where we tent-camped at campgrounds. The bikes performed flawlessly and continue to do so. Not bad for $500 apiece.

    For every Sam Hillborne there is a Long Haul Trucker than can do all the same stuff for less than half the price. Ditto the Brompton and the Dahon, respectively.

  • Yangmusa says:

    I have a Birdy Capreo, with front and rear racks. It’s pretty close to the perfect compromise for me – it’s fantastically comfortable for both loaded touring and long fast day rides. I hardly ever fold it, but it works great for picking up Zipcars, and fits in a suitcase with minimal effort. I commute on it sometimes too, but it’s really too expensive to leave locked up outside if I’m going out after work.

  • Doug R. says:

    I think a time trial of folding speed should be a “shootout”! I vote Bike friday! @Daniel M. Sounds like you have Hillborne envy! A surly is ok, but the Riv is riding in a nicer car and chicks dig it! LOL!
    Moreover, both are VW’s compared to a handmade Steve Rex! You get what you pay for!

  • Bob Baxter says:

    Another vote here for Dahon. I have a Speed TR, with an SRam 24 speed hub, that has become my #2 bike with a change of seat and handlebars. #1 is a 58 cm Betty Foy, these old bones really appreciate step through frames.

  • kanishka new england says:

    my swift folder is my exclusive bike. sometimes i have envy of bigger wheel bikes, but i could never give up the portability of this thing. when amtrak and regional transit buses have hooks inside for full size bikes and policies amenable to them, i’ll give this bike up

    one aspect that folders haven’t mastered yet are quick usage with large volume luggage. the brompton comes closest, with a huge front pannier option, but there still is a laziness factor about removing the bag, folding the bike down, then assembling the bike back and attaching the bag. it gets annoying when you do it more than 2 times a day. with 2 bags on the brompton, it gets more annoying.

  • Daus says:

    Not all folding bikes are the same and price should not be the main factor in choosing one. When looking at a folding bike, there are some criteria I would highly recommend considering: Fenders stay on whether folded or not? , Can you “roll” the bike in the folded position? , how compact is the fold? , Can you put panniers on the bike? , Does it actually “fold” or do you have to take it apart?, Does it actually fit into a normal suitcase that will not give you extra airline fees? I have owned 3 different folding bikes and tested many, many more. Don’t waste your money because it just “folds” and costs less. A quick search on craigslist will show you what brands are not staying with their owners…… Out of all of the bikes out there,my favorites (and most versatile) are the Bike Friday (especially the tikit – I own one) and the Brompton.

  • Pete says:

    @ Spencer:
    It’s impossible to get identical specs, but a 6-speed (2×3) Brompton with standard saddle, fenders, etc is about $1400, and the 8-sp Nexus “Season Tikit” is $1650 without pedals or saddle – say $1800 complete. So I was only exaggerating a little! :)
    Now, I’m certainly not saying they are all “equal” but I think it’s helpful to show that you can enjoy the special charms of a folder without having to spend a lot.

  • Rick says:

    This current interest of mine with regard to folding bikes is surely the fault of having a good friend who both (a) writes a widely read blog about bicycling, and (b) owns a Brompton, and has not been shy about letting me try it out (I’m the blue-shirted fellow in the post, “http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/08/02/day-touring-on-the-bromptons/”)

    As a larger man (6’4″, 250), the BF appears to be a goddess sent from above: the Brompton just can’t be considered, since no amount of design cleverness will make it comfortable to me; since Alan can comfortably ride both, it’ll be terrific to see what he says about the two bikes while they both co-exist (amiably, one assumes) in his garage!

    Game On!

  • Sharper says:

    @Mark:

    What are your buildout plans? I picked up a ’70 Twenty myself a few months ago and I’ve been riding it around like mad trying to figure out what problem I’m going to make it solve…

  • Alan says:

    @Sharper

    “…I’ve been riding it around like mad trying to figure out what problem I’m going to make it solve…”

    I like that… :-)

  • Daus says:

    @Pete: It is not necessary to get a Seasons Tikit. I have tried both and preferred the standard hyperfold BF tikit as it is more efficient than the internal geared hub (faster) and lighter. In fact, the hyper fold isn’t even necessary, as the standard tikit folds fast too. The cost is $1098 – worth every penny.

    @ Rick: I am 6’3″ and the Brompton and Tikit will fit our heights. I highly recommend that you test drive both.

    BTW, the big thing you may not consdier is moving the bike around while folded. You are most likely not going to lock your bike outside. The tikit is a BREEZE to move around and you can roll it WITH a pannier on! Think about going through a subway, carrying stuff, walking through a mall, etc…

    If you want more information on my experience with differnet folding bikes, take a look at my blog, totravelisbetterthantoarrive.wordpress.com

  • Mark Rainey says:

    @Sharper: If you follow the link in my comment to the Facebook album you can see the progress to date. Decals have been ordered. I’m still working on a solution to proprietary 26tpi bottom bracket threading, Phil Woods seems to be the best option. Otherwise, I’ve maintained the original drivetrain components (for the time being).

    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/album.php?aid=234246&id=185783299918&ref=mf

  • Pete says:

    Daus- I was only trying to compare apples-to-apples price wise. I’m sure there are other configs of the BF, Brompton, and even the Dahon that are better for some people’s circumstances.

  • Daniel M says:

    @ Doug R.: I love my Hillborne, but I don’t get any feeling of superiority when I see all the nice LHT’s here in the East Bay. By the same token, Bromptons and Bike Fridays are really really nice but the Dahon can do anything those can do.

    I think part of what I find compelling about this site is the focus on practical, everyday transportation-oriented cycling, but also the enthusiasm for exquisite bikes that do more than just get from A to B, with the ever-growing gallery showing everything from resurrected garage sale finds to handbuilt custom frames. The overall vibe is inclusiveness. Alan shows his boutiquey favorites like the Rivendells and Pashleys, but also a perfectly good alternative, the LHT, that can do anything the Hillborne can at half the price.

    When it comes to folders, however, all I’ve seen to date are Bromptons, with a Bike Friday on the way. I’m glad there are a few people besides me also touting Dahons, because there may be some visitors to this site for whom $1000+ folders are unattainable but half that price brings them within reach. In my case it meant that I could get a pair of folders for my girlfriend and me.

    I must include the caveat that Dahon makes more models than I can count, and I have heard that certain models have had trouble, so what I have written applies to the Speed D7 model.

    Thanks, Alan, for continuing to spread the Word.

  • Alan says:

    @Daniel M

    “When it comes to folders, however, all I’ve seen to date are Bromptons, with a Bike Friday on the way.”

    Lookie here:

    http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/07/03/brief-impressions-thorusa-dahon-mu-xl-sport/

    http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/06/16/sneak-peek-one-off-belt-drive-dahon-mu-xl-sport/

    :-)

    Alan

  • Jason says:

    As I stateed earlier, I have a Dahon and I love it dearly. But as other poster have said, the Bromton and BikeFriday roll better when folded and have quicker folding times.

    I chose price over quality, but it is the Rivendales and BikeFridays that keep the quality bar high. I believe if it wasn’t for the people seeking and creating quality bikes like Gary Fisher or the people at Bromton, we all would still be all riding Sear department store bikes.

    Next time all support the craftmanship. Next time I’ll get the BikeFriday.

  • Daniel M says:

    @Alan:

    OK, you got me. But that is hardly a run-of-the mill Dahon!

    @Jason: I hear you about next time. I think if there is a next time for me it would be a Bike Friday ’cause it’s made on the West Coast. The final straw in favor of a Rivendell for me was the fact that their shop is close enough to my house that I rode the bike home when I first picked it up.

  • Doug R. says:

    @Daniel M: Good words ring true Daniel! However, I like Jason’s point of view personally. I own and ride a variety of machines and I am a seeker of craftsmanship and setting the higher bar too!
    I think that the folding style and true rolling of the BF Tikit wins for me. P.S. I do enjoy Surly products as well, The LHT is a fine machine! (Now if Santa Cruz will only build me a Carbon Fiber full suspension 29er that folds and rolls like the BF! I will have died and gone to gear heaven!) : )

  • Alan says:

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned much in this discussion is folded size. On our city buses, folding bikes are only allowed inside the bus if the front rack is full, the bike is covered, and it can be held in a position that doesn’t block the aisle or impinge on the other bus occupants. This last one is very subjective and is up to the discretion of the driver. Certainly, the smaller and more compact, the better in this circumstance, and the Brompton wins hands down in this regard.

    Bike designs are a series of compromises; where some folders may ride more like full-sized bikes, their folds aren’t so clean and compact, while others may feel a little cramped, but their folded package is smaller and smoother. As always, “horses for courses”, even among this specialized niche.

    Alan

  • Daus says:

    @Alan

    Good point on the folded size. Folding bikes, in general, do not seem to be welcomed that much in public transportation and stores in my area. Back when I had a Xootr swift folder (probably the best riding folding bike out there), even though it folded up I had been denied a number of times from bringing it in just becasue they could see it was a bike. When I got the Bike Friday tikit, it included a built in “transit cover” that allowed me to roll it in without it even resemb ling a bike. I have had yet to have been stopped by anyone.

    Even through the folded size is bigger than a Brompton (and smaller than a Dahon) you can “tilt” the folded bike vertically by holding the handle of the tikit in one hand and holding on the top rail in a crowded bus. You actually take up less floorspace than a Brompton and transit cover keeps the bike parts off of other people.

  • kanishka new england says:

    wsj article just out on folders, kind of poorly researched

  • Chris says:

    We love our Bromptons!

    Totally comfortable from Carlsbad down to Torrey Pines and back this weekend.

    The only thing that slows us down is stopping to show the bikes to all the folks who stop us!

    Cheers,

    Chris

  • Bob says:

    My Brompton has become my go to bike..
    added a Schlumpf Mountain Drive Crankset to the AW3 hub.
    resulting in 6 gear,ratios over a wide range.

    a tap of the heel and a flick of the trigger shifter,
    changes hub gears and crank’s range
    from direct to 250% reduction gear..

 
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