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Any experience w/ folding bikes? bike friday? others?(4 posts)

Any experience w/ folding bikes? bike friday? others?willis
Apr 12, 2002 8:14 PM
i am considering a folding bike for brief trips flying out of town that usually involve spare time where, you guessed it, one could be riding. boxing my bike is hardly worth the airlines economic brutality for short trips - and i have seen some folding bikes that slip into suitcases.

as many of these bikes are mail order and difficult to test ride, my question is - how do they ride? i wouldn't expect them to feel like a road bike, but can it be a decent ride? anyexperiences?

thanks in advance
re: Any experience w/ folding bikes? bike friday? others?spokes
Apr 12, 2002 9:43 PM
I have owned three folders: a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (sold this week on eBay -- the green one), a Dahon (I must have inhaled), and two Bromptons (just snagged a badly mispriced one on eBay). I have also traveled once with an S&S coupled bike that is not mine.

Bottom line: decide how much time you want to spend folding and packing. Cramming a bike into a suitcase takes 30-40 minutes and the same to assemble it at the other end. For a longer trip, that's no big deal (but if biking is the point of a longer trip, you are probably going to pack a real bike anyway). For a packable, the S&S couplers are great, but not cheap. You pack your real bike into a suitcase. The Friday would be my second choice: it folds well and rides nicely.

But I just sold my Friday because I did not use it enough. YMMV, but I needed a bike that was EASY and FAST to fold that I would actually bother to take along. For that, nothing touches a Brompton. This bike folds to 22" square in 15 seconds like something from James Bond. Absolutely the only bike people LIKE to fold -- it makes you giggle every time you do it. Take it on planes, trains, buses, taxis, subways, cars. Take it into restaurants, hotels, offices - whatever. You can't do these things with a packable bike unless it's packed -- and they don't pack quickly.

The Brits nailed the Brompton design (in the 80s?). Some Brits tour and ride centuries on Bromptons, which is both characteristic and masochistic. Get an L series. Gear range on the discontinued 5 speeds is ~35"-85" if you can find one and you need to upgrade the brakes on tires on the older ones. The three speeds aren't bad -- these are internally geared Sturmey Archer hubs. You'll pay $600 used to $900 new, less in the UK. They are practical as hell, great for a 25-35 mile ride, and seriously fun on business trips (a package that small checks easily into a restaurant cloakroom -- can't do that with a packable). Added benefit: it is so adjustable that your kids can ride it.

For more info see greengear.com; bromptonbike.com; bromptonbicycle.co.uk and related links.
Analysis is right on, but I came down the other way.Ray Sachs
Apr 13, 2002 2:37 AM
Agree that an S&S is too much work for short trips where riding is possible but not the main intent. The tradeoffs with Fridays and Bromptons are just as Spokes indicates. The Friday is a better bike that also folds and packs easily. The Brompton is a better folder (by a LOT) but it doesn't ride nearly as well as a Friday IMO. If your trips take you to cities and you just want a bike for short hops and to get around on, the Brompton is an easy call. If you're talking about the occasional long weekend or week long vacation where you could do some actual riding, though, I'd have to recommend a Friday. The Brompton just isn't much fun to ride for more than a few miles at a time. When I had one, I loved it for rides of 5 miles or less with a purpose, but after that, the upright position, flexy bars, lack of hand positions, etc really started to feel like a compromise. And it isn't a lot of fun on hills, both because of the limited gearing and the lack of a good climbing position. I had one for a while and almost kept it just because it was so much fun to fold (and yeah, you WILL giggle the first few times you fold it). But the ride is a real compromise.

The Friday takes a few more minutes to pack and unpack, but is still way easier than an S&S setup. You can use the same handlebars and shifters as on a full size bike and you can get the same position as on your full size bike. And it actually rides pretty close to a full size bike. The small wheels make the handling pretty quick and the bike does have a slightly different feel, but you can take it on hilly 40-50 milers and have a lot of fun. After a few miles, you get used to it and it really doesn't feel much different from a full size bike at all. I did a weeklong tour on mine last summer (only about 30-40 miles per day) and it was fine. I wouldn't have wanted to do that on the Brompton. Some people like them as much as their full size bikes and end up riding them exclusively - I'm not in that camp, but they ride well enough that I can understand how they feel that way.

So it really comes down to how you'll use it. For getting around a city on a business trip, the Brompton can't be beat. For longer rides on a business trip or a vacation where you have more time and can do more miles, I gotta recommend the Friday.

-Ray
Another one to check out ...bianchi boy
Apr 13, 2002 7:46 PM
Moulton bikes, made in England, but you can buy them in a few places in the USA. I haven't ridden one, but one of the local bike shops carries them and they look like high quality bikes.

http://www.alexmoulton.co.uk/