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My $.02 on Folding Bikes

“It’s a penny for your thoughts, but you have to put your two cents In.” -Steven Wright.

I know a guy who’s interested in a Brompton, and because I’ve had three folding bikes and feel like talking about them, this short article is for the big “D.”

My first folding bike was a 4 speed Dahon. It was a comfortable ride, but a bit heavy, and somewhat awkward when folding. I’m a pretty aggressive rider, and I tend to break pedals, and that was another downfall for me. However, this bike was about half the cost of the other two. I eventually sold this bike and upgraded to the Oyama.

Dahon bicycles are a good bike for the leisure rider who doesn’t have much space in their flat. It’s not a bike I would recommend for long distances or regular commuting where it needs to be folded and/or carried often. Given the higher end Dahon bikes are built for longer rides and some people do tour with them, I think the only spot where these bikes fall short is in their fold-ability. The Brompton has that down real good.

 

My Oyama bike 476311_10100322347360507_824540612_owas priced close to the Brompton, but just under by a couple hundred dollars. The comfort and control of a bike this this is superb for distance riding and commuting. The foldability is sturdy, however the narrow racing wheels limit the rider to smooth terrain.

The components on the bike were top of the line for 2013, and the front sprocket was 56mm, allowing for very fast speeds. I pulled a B.O.B. trailer with this bike from Canada through Vermont, and into New York. It’s not as compact as the Brompton when folded, but it’s a little lighter. Something like this wouldn’t work well for getting on and off buses or metros in busy city areas. The bull-horn bars are the biggest reason for this. One thing about the pedals on this bike, is that they’re quick release, and all metal. I simply can’t stand plastic pedals. They would suit someone best if the person had no feet.

As a Specialized and Trek sales-rep, I feel the need to state the “Order of Importance” with buying a bicycle, and that’s what’s most important to the least. The same goes for folding bikes. The frame is what needs to be considered first. Then the wheels, and then the seat. After these three things, everything can be swapped. The type of frame you want involves pliability, (Steel vs Titanium vs Aluminum) weight, and geometry (riding position and size). The wheels should always be double walled unless you’re diggin’ those carbon Zipp wheels hanging in the store front. Seats should be measured by your sit bones, unless you’re investing in a brooks saddle. I’ve only heard wonderful things about them.

My latest investment was a Brompton 3-speed bought second hand. I was lucky enough to find a couple who were moving to farmland, and needed to sell the bike they never used. The frame is solid, the wheels are well built with a heavier gauge spoke setup, and the seat is reasonably comfortable. I bought the bike because of their reputation and foldability. I can quickly fold it, and walk into an office, and (knock on wood) security has never had problems with it. (The NYS tax office can be less forgiving)

It weighs about 12kg, so that can be cumbersome after a few flights of stairs, however for grocery shopping, i can fold up the handle bars and roll the bike around the store. (No, you should never lock up your Brompton. Never let it leave your sight.)

Like the Dahon, it has an internal derailleur. Some people don’t like these because it can cause a little drag, however for longevity it’s probably a good idea, because they rarely fail. My only issue with the 3 speed, is that I can’t go as fast as I would like to unless I’m bombing it downhill. The Oyama on the other hand, would never let me top out. I’ve read that the 6 speed derailleurs give one extra top and low and two in the middle. I might swap this and add a 54mm crank to it to preserve the low end and expand the top. Going fast is not only fun, however safer when riding in heavy city traffic.

Due to my history with working on bikes under the supervision of very experienced mechanics, I felt, and still feel confident with buying this bike second hand. That, and I felt highly comfortable with the veracity of the party selling it. It fits my needs because I’m constantly going in and out of offices, through security at various firms, and on the metro here and there. A full size bike can be rejected on buses and metros depending on where you live. So I guess you could say I bought the Brompton to ride less? Well not quite, I bought to be safer and more versatile within my schedule.

I hope this adds some insight, D. If you can find a used one for a good price, snag it. Some people even put them in the overhead compartment in a plane. You can travel indefinitely with a personal item anyway. (No-need-to-hash-tag Compression Sack)

 

-B

2 thoughts on “My $.02 on Folding Bikes”

  1. Great comparison and first hand info. I’ve ridden the “6” speed Brompton, and really, you’d be better off swapping the front chain ring (if possible). The difference in speed vs cost is negligible, especially compared to the Oyama you referred to.

    Would you consider touring with a Brompton? I met an English lad in New Zealand that claimed to have toured most of India, the UK, continental Europe, and New Zealand on his Brompton 3 speed with classic bars (no trailer, but front and rear panniers as well as a rear wrack top mount bag). He touted the ease of access between bus, plane, and train without extra “sporting good” bike fees was enough for a touring cyclist to pay for a Brompton itself within a couple trips.

    Personally, I’m looking at a Brompton mostly for small space storage, transcontinental mobility, and on/off metro and bus travel. Thanks for the write up. Solid info.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dylan.

      As far as swapping the front chain ring, it’s really only practical if you have light loads and no hills. I ride up and down a lot of steep hills daily, so I need that low gear. And since I bought it with the intention of touring, that low gear is necessary for hauling stuff. I’m planning on doing a lot of personal modifications because buying parts outright are expensive. If you want a rear rack you need a new fender, and the kit costs about $180, and then you’re stuck with the old fender. The local bike shop here will sell the 6 speed hub for about $400. Shopping around and doing my own modifications are how I plan to save money. All the accessories for bromptons seem outrageously expensive, and I’m finding that by designing my own products from leather and canvas, that they are more elegant, probably more durable and a fraction of the cost.

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