Mini-Review: PUBLIC D3

Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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Public D3
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[We only had the D3 on loan for a little over a week, hence this "mini-reivew" instead of our usual "mega-reviews"... ;-) —ed.]

PUBLIC bikes are designed in San Francisco, CA and manufactured in Taiwan (not China). Their D3 is a diamond frame 3-speed that, among the bikes in their line-up, most resembles a classic 3-speed roadster. Unlike European roadsters—most of which are made from hi-ten steel—the PUBLIC’s frame is chromoly. Along with other differences in design and construction, this brings it in at approximately 10-15 lbs. under many of its European counterparts (28 lbs. compared to over 40 lbs.). This not insignificant difference in weight makes it more practical for carrying up flights of stairs or loading onto bus and train racks.

Even though it looks like a roadster, the D3 rides more like an American sport touring bike or hybrid. The steering is light and quick and the overall ride quality is lively. The frame is nicely compliant without being overly flexible. I was expecting more of a solid, cruiser-like ride similar to my old Pashley, but I found the D3 to be surprisingly nimble and responsive.

The D3′s cockpit is more stretched out than usual for this type of bike. Some will like it, others won’t. For how I’d use it, I’d want the D3′s cockpit to be more upright. This could easily be remedied by swapping the stock handlebar for an Albatross or North Road bar (I’d replace the stock saddle with a Brooks B67 while I was at it).

The Shimano Nexus 3-speed internal gear hub supplied on the D3 is snappy and quick. The gear range is appropriate for flat to rolling terrain; beyond that I’d suggest the 8-speed model. The supplied twist shifter works fine, but it would sure be nice if Shimano offered a thumbshifter for this hub (this would also allow the use of cork grips).

The long reach caliper brakes perform well, though their surface finish is a bit rough. The 36-spoke wheels, oversized platform pedals, stout kickstand, metal chainguard and fenders, and rear dropout adjusters are nice touches. The remainder of the components are on par for a bike in this price range.

The D3 would benefit from mid-fork braze-ons for mounting a rack and wire basket low over the front wheel. It is also (conspicuously) missing braze-ons for water bottles. A wire basket is a natural for this bike and it’s too bad the proper mounts aren’t in place. The lack of bottle braze-ons is simply baffling; I know this is a city bike, but it’s important to carry fluids while running errands around town in the summer. Roadsters don’t traditionally have braze-ons for water bottles or front racks, but they’d certainly not be out of place on this modern bike.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the PUBLIC D3. It’s much lighter (28 lbs. on my scale) and more nimble than expected. The bars are a bit of a mystery, and the missing braze-ons are a bit of a disappointment, but those certainly aren’t deal killers. For the most part, the details are well thought out and the overall package is clean and well-executed. Most importantly, the D3 is a fun ride at a good price ($690) that fills an important niche: a modern, good-looking, reasonably-priced 3-speed roadster designed specifically for an American audience.

The PUBLIC D3 featured in this review was supplied by the Hot Italian PUBLIC Pop-Up Shop, in Sacramento, CA. For more information, contact publicbikes@hotitalian.net. The shop’s official Launch Party is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 6:00pm – 9:00pm, at Hot Italian in Sacramento. Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach and creator of PUBLIC Bikes, will be on-hand for the event.

Teaser: Public D3

Public D3
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Public Bikes

Road Test: Raleigh Detour Deluxe

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Background

With roots dating back to 1887, Raleigh is one of the oldest bicycle companies in the world. They have a long history of producing bikes in England, but nearly all of the models currently available in the U.S. are produced in Asia.

In recent years, Raleigh has really gone after the steel-framed transpo segment of the market. Within their “road” and “hybrid” categories, I count approximately 15 bikes with steel frames, at least 8 of which could be be successfully used for commuting or utility purposes. Among these, the Detour Deluxe jumped out at me as a fully-outfitted commuter at a great price, so I approached Raleigh USA about getting one for review. It arrived in December and I’ve been riding it regularly for the past couple of months.

First Impression

The Detour Deluxe elicits comments wherever it goes, with people describing it as “sharp”, “clean” and “good looking”. The minimalist graphics, internal gears and brakes, integrated pannier rack, internal wiring, and metal fenders and chainguard painted to match the frame, all work together to create a strikingly clean, businesslike look.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Frame Construction

The Detour Deluxe frame is constructed of TIG-welded Reynolds 520 chromoly steel. The welds are reasonably clean and the powder coat is smooth and consistent—both are on par for a bike in this price range. The drive-side vertical dropout is bolted on, allowing for a belt-drive upgrade if so desired. The chain is tensioned via an eccentric bottom bracket. The main frame includes 2 water bottle mounts, openings for internal wiring, a kickstand plate, a wheel lock mount, an integrated metal chainguard, and an integrated pannier rack (more on that later). The straight blade fork includes a roller brake mount, cable stop, and mid-fork rack mounts. Overall, this is a well thought out transpo frameset that leaves little to be desired as a commuter.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Components

The Detour Deluxe comes outfitted with a mixture of mostly Shimano and Tektro components with a few generic parts in the mix (crank, seat post, stem, handlebars).

The drivetrain consists of a Nexus 8 internal gear hub matched to an Alfine 8 trigger shifter, a chain drive, and an alloy single crank with a 42T chainring and alloy guard. This is the basic Nexus hub, not the premium “Red Band” or Alfine model. For all intents and purposes, this smooth shifting hub performs as well as the Alfine, though the Alfine and Red Band are purported to be more efficient and better weather-sealed. Once the cable adjustment settled in, I had zero mis-shifts, and like its upper-end cousins, I was able to shift this hub smoothly while stopped, coasting, pedaling, and even under a fair amount of power while climbing (not necessarily recommended). As always, Shimano internal gear drivetrains are novice-friendly and a joy to use in the city.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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The Detour Deluxe’s front and rear brakes are both Shimano Roller Brakes. “Roller Brake” is Shimano’s proprietary name for their internal hub drum brakes. Prior to actually using them, I was fairly skeptical about these brakes. The Sturmey Archer drum brakes on our Pashleys were so lack-luster that I was not expecting much from these Shimanos. I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised. These brakes don’t have the power or modulation of a good cantilever or dual-pivot caliper, but they’re certainly safe and sufficient for city riding. No, I wouldn’t recommend bombing down a mountain pass with a touring load on these brakes, but they’re perfectly fine for bopping around town with a commuting load. The primary advantages of Roller Brakes are that they’re nearly impervious to wet weather, they require very little maintenance, and they don’t cause rim wear.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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The Detour Deluxe’s Shimano front hub has a built in generator that’s hard-wired to the Basta headlight and tail light. The mostly-hidden internal wiring is a nice touch. The lights are what I’d consider “first-generation” LEDs. In other words, there are more efficient dynamo-powered lights available, though at a fairly steep premium (the Schmidt Edelux, for example, is nearly $200; 25% the price of this entire bicycle). Like most modern dynamo-driven tail lights, the Basta has a steady-on beam and includes a stand light that shines for a few minutes after stopping.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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The non-branded seat post, stem, handlebars, and crank are perfectly functional, if not that visually exciting. The bars have a 27 degree sweep and zero rise. The ergonomic grips are comfortable and just about the perfect width for my hands. The Tektro brake levers work fine and the left-side lever includes a built in bell.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Stock saddles are often terrible, but I was surprised that I didn’t at all mind the supplied Avenir saddle. It’s a little soft and a little wide for my tastes, but those who are accustomed to wider saddles like the Brooks B67 may like this saddle.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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The AXA Defender wheel lock is a nice touch. It’s only good to slow down grab-and-dash opportunistic thieves, but it’s handy for quick trips into the coffee shop or library where you can keep the bike within sight. A cable that attaches to the lock is available as an optional accessory. I like the fact that the frame has braze-on mounts specifically for the lock.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Even though I always prefer double-legged center-stands, the supplied kickstand is plenty strong for up to, and including, commuting loads. Unlike many factory-supplied kickstands, the leg on the Detour Deluxe’s kickstand is long enough to hold the bike nearly upright (this is a good thing—it baffles me how many bikes come supplied with kickstands that are too short).

The Rack

Oh, the rack. I’ll say it up front; I don’t mind the rack. It has its limitations, but overall, I give it a tentative thumbs up. The issues are: it has no platform so rack trunks and cargo nets are out; it has no lower attachment points so it requires panniers with locking hardware such as those from Arkel and Ortlieb; and, if you don’t like it, it can’t be removed. The pluses are: it rides low, so the weight almost disappears behind you; it’s long, so it provides a ton of heel clearance, even with over-sized panniers; it’s stronger than it looks because it’s integrated into the frame; and, it’s included in the price of the bike.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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I asked Raleigh, and the official weight limit of the rack is 55 lbs. This is the standard weight limit many manufacturers list for their factory-supplied rear racks. I was able to carry loads up to the weight limit with no issue. The Detour Deluxe isn’t being sold as a cargo bike, so I didn’t run any over-limit tests.

Offering the Detour Deluxe with this integrated rear rack was a gutsy move by Raleigh. On the one hand, it makes the bike stand out from the crowd, and it certainly seems to have attracted some attention. On the other hand, there are going to be those who don’t like the rack because of its limitations; for them it could be a deal killer.

Ride Quality

The Detour Deluxe is a pleasure to ride. The handling is stable and predictable. The combination of a straight blade fork and a sloping top tube make for a modern, stiff ride. I personally prefer a more compliant frame, but most people will appreciate the rigidity of this frame, particularly those who cut their teeth on modern aluminum or carbon racing-influenced bikes. The geometry is optimized for rear loading which makes sense for a commuter with an integrated rear rack. With its high-trail front end, this bike is not particularly well-suited to a front cargo rack (that said, I’ve been riding a high-trail Surly with a porteur rack for a couple of years with no issue). Overall, the handling is dialed-in and easy, with or without a load.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Specifications

  • Frame: Reynold 520 Butted Chromoly w/CNC Dropouts
  • Fork: 4130 Chromoly
  • Shifter: Shimano Alfine 8-speed Trigger
  • Rear Hub: Shimano SG-8R31 Nexus 8-speed Internal Gear
  • Front Hub: Shimano DH-3R30-N Dynamo
  • Brakes: Shimano BR-IM50 Roller Brake
  • Rims: Weinmann XC260 Double Wall
  • Tires: Kenda K1053 700x35c
  • Cranks: Forged Aluminum 42t w/Alloy Guard
  • Bottom Bracket: Sealed Cartridge
  • Headset: Ahead 1-1/8″
  • Stem: 2D Forged 17 degree
  • Handlebar Alloy Flat 27 degree Sweep
  • Brake Levers: Tektro Comfort Alloy
  • Grips: Avenir Comfort
  • Seatpost: Alloy Micro Adjust 27.2x400mm
  • Saddle: Avenir City 100 Series
  • Price: $799-$820
Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Conclusion

At $800, the Detour Deluxe is one of the best values on the market for a mid-priced, fully-outfitted commuter. It’s a well though out package that leaves very little to be desired. With its internal gear hub, internal brakes, dynamo lighting system, fenders, chainguard, kickstand, bell, and integrated rear rack, the Detour Deluxe is ready to roll right off of the dealer floor. The one question mark is the rear rack. It may be a deal stopper for some, but for those who can work within the limitations of the rack, this bike is hard to beat at this price point.

Disclosure: The Raleigh Detour Deluxe discussed in this article was supplied by Raleigh USA specifically for this review. For more information about our reviews, read our review policy.

Raleigh USA

A Tale of Two Folders: A Photo Essay

Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Brompton-Tikit Comparison Photo Essay
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Sneak Peek: 2011 Raleigh Detour Deluxe

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Here’s a quick look at the 2011 Detour Deluxe I just received from Raleigh. It’s only been out of the box one day, but so far I’m quite impressed with the ride quality, construction, and component mix, particularly for a bike that retails for under $900. I’ll have a full review for you after the first of the year. Raleigh

Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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Raleigh Detour Deluxe
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The Brompton Folding Bicycle

Brompton M3L
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[Having owned three now, this article should be read with the presumption that I'm a big fan of Brompton folding bicycles. In other words, consider it more of a general overview of Bromptons written by a devotee, rather than an unbiased, technical road test of a specific model. —ed.]

The Benefits of Folding Bicycles

Folding bicycles offer many advantages to commuters, tourists, and anyone who needs a bike for transportation, but has limited space for storage.

In many cases, bike racks on buses and trains are available only on a first-come, first-served basis. This leaves owners of full-sized bikes vulnerable to being bumped off of transit in the event a rack is full. Folding bikes solve this issue by being allowed inside many buses and trains. When hidden by a slip cover, a tiny folded bike like the Brompton is no bigger than a small suitcase, and even if regulations state otherwise, they can often be brought on-board and stored in a luggage area.

Brompton M3L
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Small folding bikes are often exempt from building regulations that bar regular bikes from entering. In addition, they open up a variety of storage possibilities at the workplace, while also eliminating the security issues associated with storing bikes outside. A folded Brompton is small enough to fit under a desk in even a tiny cubicle.

Brompton M3L
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Multi-modal touring is an appealing option for those who either have physical limitations or time constraints. With a small folding bike, a person can cover a portion of their tour by train, plane, or bus, then use their folding bike for exploration at various destinations along the way. We’re very interested in the idea of taking a train across the country with our pair of Bromptons, stopping along the way to explore the sights in various locations.

Brompton M3L
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If limited storage space at home is an issue, folding bikes are a great way to make the best use of the space that is available. Compact folding bikes like the Brompton are small enough to be stored under a desk or even inside a cupboard. And for those who are sensitive about the visual effect of having a bicycle stored in their living space, a small folder with a slip cover makes an unobtrusive package that disappears into a corner or cubbyhole.

Brompton Company Background

The story of Brompton is the quintessential tale of the inventor/entrepreneur who had a vision, brought it to reality through a long process of experimentation and prototyping, and eventually brought a mature product to market in a very successful way.

Brompton’s owner, designer, and current Technical Director, Andrew Ritchie, first had the idea of developing a better folding bike in 1975 after seeing a Bickerton. From that initial spark, it took 13 years of prototyping and fund raising to reach the point of full production in 1988. The Brompton as we know it has been in continuous production since then. Throughout, the company has remained under private ownership, and production has remained in-house in West London, UK.

Today, Brompton has a cult following unlike practically any other bike brand — folding or otherwise. Brompton clubs exist all over the world, and numerous online communities have sprouted up around the brand. The so-called “Brompton World Championship” — a somewhat tongue-in-cheek annual race with entrants dressing in business attire and riding Bromptons — has become wildly popular, with 750 participants this year.

The Brompton Fold

Any discussion about a Brompton starts and stops with the fold, which is arguably the best among all folding bikes. The parallel, three-part fold places the wheels side-by-side, with all of the vulnerable parts protected between the wheels. The overall folded dimensions are 22.2” x 21.5” x 10.6”. That’s a small package for any folder, particularly for one that rides so well. But, even more important is the clean outline of the folded package. The size and shape are not unlike a small suitcase, with the nose of the saddle cleverly serving as a carry handle. With a slip cover over the top, the folded Brompton is so compact and smooth that it can be carried into almost any venue without raising an eyebrow — most people won’t even realize it’s a bike.

The Brompton fold is a three-step process, as follows:

  1. Start by flipping the quick release located under the seat clamp and lifting the back of the bike to swing the rear wheel forward under the frame. Cleverly, in this position the bike is designed to stand on its own. Brompton owners often use this partially folded position to “park” their bikes.
  2. Next, release the hinge on the main frame and swing the frame back on itself, locking it into position.
  3. Finally, release the hinge at the base of the stem/riser, fold the bars, and lower the saddle. The bars snap into place, and the seatpost locks the entire package for carrying.

The entire process takes 10-20 seconds and becomes second nature in a very short time.

Brompton M3L
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Cleverly, the Brompton has a pair of tiny wheels strategically placed at the top of the rear triangle for turning the bike into a rolling cart. When the rear triangle is folded underneath, the small wheels swing around to face the ground. With the handlebars unfolded, the bike can be rolled along on these wheels, much like an airline luggage cart.

The Ride

Bromptons are unusually quick and compact, though not at all unstable or uncomfortable. The 16” (349mm) wheels and compact frame make for a light and nimble feel. The steering is razor sharp, with small inputs at the handlebars being immediately transmitted to the road. It takes a brief time to adapt to the quick handling, but once the rider is acclimated, the Brompton becomes a formidable tool for zipping and weaving through dense, urban traffic.

Brompton M3L
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Small wheels tend to provide a harsh ride. Brompton mitigates for this with a suspension block located where the main frame and rear triangle meet. The travel at the rear wheel is short and, unlike the long travel suspension on mountain bikes, is only intended to take the edge off of small obstacles. This small amount of rear wheel travel does a remarkable job of smoothing out imperfections in the road while helping the bike track straight over rough surfaces. The use of relatively high flotation tires run at reasonable pressures (I run Schwalbe Marathons on my M3L at 60psi) also does much to smooth out what might otherwise be a fairly harsh ride.

Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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Bromptons are only available in one size and three handlebar styles, none of which can be adjusted for height. This results in a bike that will feel and fit differently depending upon a person’s physical stature. A Brompton will feel much like a “full-sized” bike to a small person who is accustomed to riding small frames. On the other hand, a Brompton may feel on the small side to a larger person (say, over 6’0”) who is accustomed to riding large frames. This is not necessarily an issue, and many people of all statures, including those well over 6’ tall, adapt to riding Bromptons successfully.

Folding bikes in general have a reputation for being only good for short rides in the city, but Bromptons have been widely used for long-distance touring. In fact, there are a number of people who have taken transcontinental trips on Bromptons, and I know of at least one couple who made a ‘round-the-world trip combining boat and train travel with their Bromptons. Just recently, Todd Fahrner, owner of Clever Cycles in Portland, took an unsupported tour down the California coast (from Portland to San Francisco) on his Brompton.

The Build

Bromptons are built like tanks. That doesn’t mean they’re unusually heavy; they’re not. But where it matters — namely the frame and hinges — they’re clearly designed to withstand many years of hard use. The main frame is built from brazed (not welded), high tensile steel. The over-sized main tube is stiff, and there’s no sign of flex that comes from either the frame or the hinges. The handlebar stem/riser — a weak area among many folders — is surprisingly stiff. The frame is on the verge of being overbuilt, but folders other than Bromptons are notorious for coming apart after a few years, so I feel the robust design is a fair trade for a small amount of added weight.

Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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My M3L’s Sturmey Archer 3-speed internal gear hub performs quite well and compares favorably to modern hubs from Shimano and SRAM. Shifts are crisp and can be initiated while pedaling, coasting, or standing still. I really like the Brompton proprietary thumb shifter too; it’s easy to use and it stays in adjustment. The 3-speed is arguably the best among S-A’s offerings. The 5-speed S-A on my Pashley was clunky in comparison; it needed frequent adjustment and missed shifts were not uncommon. I’ve had zero issues with the 3-speed.

Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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The Brompton M- and S-Type cockpits are not particularly ergonomically-friendly. As necessitated by the compact fold, the brake levers are on the short side, and the grips are thin and narrow. Ergons are a big improvement over the stock grips; if you go this route, be sure to check that they don’t interfere with the fold.

I find the new Brompton saddle to be more comfortable than previous incarnations. It also has a hand grip on the underside of the horn for carrying the bike when folded; clever!

I’ve owned three Bromptons and I’ve yet to have any issues with components or wheel builds. The Brompton-branded dual-pivot brakes are snappy and and plenty powerful. The Brompton-branded crank is attractive and plenty stiff. The chain tensioner keeps the chain taut when the bike is folded. The wheels are tough and require only occasional touch-up. The overall component mix is excellent, and the detailing, fit, and finish leave very little room for improvement (other than perhaps the hand grips mentioned above).

Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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Options

You may have noticed that each Brompton model number consists of two letters and a number. The first letter indicates handlebar style (S, M, P), the number indicates the number of gears (1,2,3,6), and the second letter indicates fender and rack packages (E, L, R). So in the case of our M3L test bike, we have a mid-rise handlebar (M), 3-speed drivetrain (3), and fenders (L).

Brompton M3L
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Each Brompton is essentially “made-to-order”, with a wide variety of options available. There are three base models, the S-Type, M-Type, and P-Type. The S-Type is the sporty model with a lower flat bar; the M-Type (as shown here) is the classic Brompton with a mid-rise bar; and, the P-Type is the touring model with a trekking bar that provides multiple hand positions. Any of these models can be upgraded to the “super-light” package (indicated by an “X” after the model number) with a titanium fork, rear triangle, fender stays and pedal bolt; and, an alloy headset and seat post.

All three models are available with either 1, 2, 3, or 6 speed drivetrains. The 1-speed is a standard single speed freewheel; the 2-speed is a proprietary Brompton-made 2-speed derailleur; the 3-speed is a variation on the classic Sturmey Archer 3-speed internal gear hub; and, the 6-speed is the 2-speed derailleur in combination with a wider range 3-speed Sturmey Archer IGH.

Brompton M3L
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Fender and rack options include the Version E, Version L, and Version R. The Version E is the basic model sans fenders and rack; the Version L includes front and rear fenders; and the Version R includes the fenders plus a rear rack.

Various other options include: extended and telescoping seatposts for individuals with >33” inseams; choice of tires; choice of saddle (stock or Brooks B-17); battery or dynamo lighting systems; and, a variety of luggage options, which I’ll cover below.

Luggage

The Brompton Front Carrier Block is a universal mount that accepts any bag in the Brompton line-up. The block is attached to the headtube, which places the weight on the frame, leaving the steering essentially unaffected.

Brompton M3L
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Brompton M3L
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NYCeWheels sent us a full range of Brompton bags to try out, from the simple Folding Basket, all the way up to the A Bag leather briefcase:

  • The Folding Basket is a grocery-style pannier adapted to fit the FCB.
  • The S-Bag is a small messenger-style bag with a 20-liter capacity designed to fit the lower handlebars and shorter stem on the S-Type bike (it also fits the other models). It’s constructed from water-resistant nylon and comes supplied with a waterproof rain cover and shoulder strap. This is a nice bag if you only carry a lunch and a few small items to work.
  • The C-Bag is a full-sized messenger bag with a 25-liter capacity. It’s constructed from water-resistant nylon and comes supplied with a waterproof rain cover and shoulder strap. The C-Bag is a nice size for commuting, with enough room for a change of clothes, lunch, and even a small laptop. With the addition of a little padding, it also serves as a nice camera bag for a small DSLR outfit. This is my favorite bag from Brompton.
  • The T-Bag is Brompton’s touring model. It’s their largest bag with a 31-liter capacity. It has a roll top and numerous pockets and pouches inside and out. It comes supplied with a rain cover. This is a big bag that’s perfect for touring or grocery hauling, but perhaps a little large for commuting.
  • The A-Bag is Brompton’s leather executive briefcase. It’s a beautiful piece of work, but it’s a bit ostentatious (and pricey) for this humble commuter.
  • The B-Bag is a carrying bag for the bike itself. It’s a heavy duty bag with casters, a carry handle, a shoulder strap, and 5mm padding all around. With the use of a pair of B-Bags, we’re able to drop both of our Bromptons in the cargo area of our tiny car without fear of damaging the bikes. A must-have if you plan to transport your Brompton in an automobile or airplane.
  • The Slip Cover is a small cover that slips over the bike from the top. It makes it much easier to sneak the Bromptom into buildings and onto buses and trains without notice. It stores on the seat post when not in use.
Brompton M3L
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Conclusion

When I think of a Brompton bicycle, I think “clever and refined”. From its unique fold, to its suspended rear triangle and “rolling cart” capabilities, this is a bike that’s oozing with intelligent details. The underlying design of the Brompton has changed very little over the years; the bugs and quirks have been almost completely worked out of this bike through a long process of testing and refinement. While there are other interesting folding bikes on the market that offer viable alternatives to the Brompton, in my view there’s yet to be another folder that brings together a clean, compact fold and excellent ride quality in such a compelling way.

Brommie
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M3L Specifications
  • Frame & Fork: Steel
  • Handlebars: M-Type
  • Saddle: Brompton with moulded grip and hollow rails
  • Seatpost: Brompton steel telescopic
  • Pedals: Brompton folding/platform
  • Brakes: Brompton dual-pivot caliper
  • Shifter: Brompton
  • Front Hub: Brompton standard
  • Rear Hub: Sturmey Archer BSR 3-speed internal gear hub
  • Rims: Alloy
  • Tires: Schwalbe Marathon
  • Folded dimensions: 22.2” x 21.5” x 10.6”
  • Weight as shown: 25 lbs.
  • Approximate price as shown: $1,424
Disclosure

The M3L discussed in this article was supplied by our sponsor, NYCeWheels. For more information about our reviews, read our review policy.

NYCeWheels
Brompton

Yuba Mundo V3

Background
Yuba is a small company based in Sausalito, California specializing in building long wheelbase cargo bikes for hauling heavy loads. The company was founded in 2006 by Ben Sarrazin who, after helping start Xtracycle and spending several years working there, saw the need for a more robust, fully integrated longtail design capable of carrying extreme loads. The result is the Mundo, a heavy-duty longtail with one of the highest load capacities of any bicycle on the market.

First Impression

The Mundo is a big, heavy-duty bike (it’s nearly 7 ft. long) that is obviously built to handle large, heavy loads. When you first get on the bike, you immediately feel the stiffness and mass in the frame; it’s clear from the first pedal stroke that this is a purpose-built cargo bike that makes no allusions to being anything other than a workhorse for hauling anything-and-everything from a pair of children to 400 lbs. of bananas.

Construction

The Mundo frame is manufactured in China. Hi-ten steel is used throughout to reduce costs and simplify repairs in the event of a damaged frame. The downside is that building with hi-ten results in a heavier bike than when building with stronger, but more expensive chromoly (the Mundo weighs in at approximately 58 lbs.). The frame is generously triangulated, and the main frame tubes are ovalized to optimize stiffness. Overall, the frame gives the impression of being well-built and utilitarian in the best sense of the word.

The overall fit-and-finish are what you’d expect for a cargo bike in this price range, and the powder coat and decal set look fine, if not refined. The numerous braze-ons in the cargo area are a nice detail that add significantly to the versatility of the bike by allowing the end-user to experiment and add their own cargo securing methods. The welds are reasonably clean and about what you’d expect on a Chinese-made frame in this price range.

The Mundo is designed as a one-size-fits-all frame with a sloping top tube, long seat post, and adjustable stem. While I’m usually not a fan of this type of sizing, it can work fairly well for specialized tools like cargo bikes and folders where time in the saddle and distances are typically shorter. We were able to adjust the saddle and bars to comfortably fit everyone in our family. If you’re on the extreme edge of the sizing bell curve, be sure to take a test ride before making a commitment.

Components

The Mundo’s component group is a budget mix from Shimano and Promax. The indexed twist shifters are sufficient, if not inspiring, and didn’t require any adjustment over the test period. The Promax V-brakes are sufficiently stiff, though I’d suggest swapping out the brake pads for KoolStop salmon pads. Yuba offers a disc brake upgrade option ($85) that I’d highly recommend for anyone who will regularly be carrying loads over 100 lbs. or for those who live in hilly terrain. You certainly don’t want to load 200 lbs. on any bike and head down a steep hill with only V-brakes to stop you.

The Mundo comes delivered with heavy-duty, high-spoke-count wheels (36 up front, 48 in the rear) with 14mm solid axles and sealed bearing hubs. Wheels are frequently the Achilles Heel of budget-priced tandems and cargo bikes, but the stout wheels on our test bike stayed true throughout the test period.

For the relatively flat terrain and fairly light loads we carry, the Mundo’s 7-speed triple drivetrain was perfect. At 20.4″, the low gear was fine for us, but those who will be carrying big loads in hilly terrain may want to consider a slightly lower bottom gear.

Our test bike came delivered with a heavy-duty single-leg kickstand. While it’s the strongest single-leg kickstand we’ve seen, it wasn’t ideal when the bike was heavily loaded. Fortunately, Yuba recently developed a stout, double-leg centerstand that will be supplied on all bikes going forward. This should be a big improvement over the single-leg stand. If you already own a Mundo, the double-leg stand can be purchased separately for $77.

Uses

Think pedal-powered minivan or pickup truck and you have the correct mental picture of this bike. With a pair of “Go-Getter” bags mounted, the Mundo easily carries 6 bags of groceries. With the addition of a pair of “Peanut Shell” child seats, the Mundo can safely carry two young children. Add the “Soft Spot” padded seat and “Hold On” stoker kit and the Mundo effectively becomes a tandem (without the second set of pedals, of course).

With the creative use of straps, all manner of large and heavy objects can be carried on the Mundo. We don’t actually move around large, heavy objects very often, but we did take the time to test some heavy loads and found the Yuba totally up to the task. Even with loads over 100 lbs. on the bike, the frame felt solid and secure. Even though the Mundo is rated for up to 440 lbs. of cargo (plus rider!), at some point, the challenge becomes less about the bike and more about balancing the weight and dealing with the bulk. For us, anything past about 150-200 lbs. is pretty much unmanageable. It’s no fault of the bike, it’s just the difficulty of handling that kind of weight.

Accessories

Yuba offers a long list of accessories for the Mundo. The “Go-Getter” bag is a nicely constructed, oversized nylon pannier that easily swallows 3 large grocery bags. The “Soft Spot” seat pad straps on the cargo deck and provides a reasonably comfortable spot for a passenger. Up to two “Peanut Shell” child seats can be attached to the Mundo’s rear platform for carrying children from 20 lbs. up to 50 lbs. each. In case you need to increase the Mundo’s already huge carrying capacity, the “Bread Platform” platform rack mounts on the headtube above the front wheel. Visit the Yuba website to see the full list of accessories.

Conclusion

At $1099, the Yuba Mundo is one of the least expensive full-featured cargo bikes on the market. It also happens to have one of the highest load capacities of any cargo bike ever made. It’s a purpose-built bike that serves its intended use as a minivan replacement quite well. It’s a large, heavy bike that I wouldn’t personally consider using as an everyday ride for commuting, light errands, and just getting around town, but if I had the need for a bike to haul major loads on a regular basis, the Mundo would certainly be on my short list.

Specifications

  • Model: Mundo V3
  • Frame: 26″/50 Mundo MP Hi-Ten Steel 1 1/8″ w/disc brake mount
  • Fork: 26″ Steel w/disc brake mount
  • Size: One size fits all
  • Headset: 1 1/8″ Steel
  • Brakes: V-Brake TX-125 L – Promax
  • Brake Levers: BLG 82 – Promax
  • Freewheel: Shimano 7-speed 14-28T
  • Crankset: Triple 22/32/42 SL Gigga Blk
  • Bottom Bracket: VP-BC 73 boron steel 113mm
  • Shifters: Shimano Tourney
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Acera
  • Hubs: Modus Sealed Bearings – Alloy
  • Rims: Huafen 660g single wall – 36H/48H
  • Tires: Kenda 841A
  • Handlebar: Promax HB-T310 alloy
  • Stem: Promax Adjustable
  • Seatpost: 400mm Steel
  • Saddle: Velo VL-3205
  • Weight: 58 lbs. (on our scale)
  • MSRP: $1099

Yuba

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