A Folding Bike Dilemma

I need a folding bike.  But why-oh-why, so many of my friends ask, why would you ride a collapsible small wheel bike?  Well there are very good reasons for that, first it’s so I can cycle to the subway station and from there take the bike, folded, on to the train, and secondly I’ve been exploring more and more is actually touring on a bike I can fold up.

The thing is, which bike?  As I also want the bike to be able to handle long journeys…. and this is where making a decision becomes bloody difficult.

Brompton

First off, I love the look of the Brompton, I don’t know it just seems elegant in it’s own unique way. But athestic aside, the compact folding size is definitely a plus when commuting on a jammed packed MRT or BTS during peak hours. The Brompton folds down so well it would take up as much room as a large briefcase, so it won’t get in people’s way or dirty their clothes with grease or road muck if they should brush up to it. Definitely a winner for city commuting, and would make me look cool too 😉

Having owned a Dahon before, I found the fold on the Brompton easy to handle, and quite quick to fold.  At first, you might feel that the twiddly knobs to fold / unfold the frame and handlebar are silly, but it’s just plain simple.

The only thing I’m unsure about is taking the bike on a long distance touring ride, would it handle it well? Though there have been quite a few people around the world who”ve travelled with their Brommie and praise it’s abilities.

 

 

 

Birdy

This is an odd looking bike, in some ways sexy, and in others fugly. I don’t know what it is about the Reise Muller Birdy Gen 3 (Mk 3), but I just like the way it looks.

What I really like about the bike is the full suspension, this is absolutely fantastic, it’s not for off roading mind you, just absorbing the pot holes, drainage grills, of daily commute, and it handles it marvelously well. Riding position is similar to a mountain bike, with an effective top tube of roughly 600 mm, it tends to be quite a sporty geometry. for me anyhow

I reckon this would be a comfortable bike to take touring, the suspension will iron out the road buzz, so you won’t get tired so quickly, which is important since this is an aluminium frame.

Problem is there are so many negative comments in the forums about handling at high speeds (shimmer) on a downhill, apparently this was prominent with older versions Mk1 and Mk2, whether this has been corrected for Mk3 I really don’t know, so it makes me a little skeptic. Though I know they’ve made quite a few improvements with. larger headtube, new 3D forged stem, revised fork, etc. but reviews are still very much limited, almost non existent.

Also the fold is not as neat as the Brompton, which one can overlook I suppose because of the ride quality. Another thing is that both the Brompton and Birdy are in the same price range, but the Brompton comes with rear rack and mudguards, whilst these are considered accessories for the Birdy!  The rack is vitally important for both bikes, because without the rack, you can’t roll the bike when folded, but more importantly there is potential for crank damage on the Birdy if there’s no rear rack to protect it when folded.  But the rack is so so expensive it makes you wonder if it’s worth the extra cost.

Montague Paratrooper

This is the odd one out, a full size mountain bike with 26″ wheel size, it is also a “go anywhere & everywhere” machine.

Though unfortunately the quality of components are pretty basic, not surprised it gets some serious bashing in the bicycle forums about crappy hardwear. An option would be to buy the bike as a frameset and build it myself.

On my first test of the Montague Paratrooper, I really liked the bike, it felt fun to ride, the frame was sturdy and you knew you could bash it about without worrying if it will break in half.

Though I didn’t appreciate the very low front end, you are virtually in a crouching position all the time as if you were competing in a race, if you consider you will use it to cycle to work daily in that position, then I think it would be too much, even for a touring trip, you’ll end up with a back ache for sure after a certain period of time.

Another draw back is the cumbersome size and weight of the bike, just think about lugging a 14 kg bike about and you’ll get the picture how awkward this can be.

And bikes I’m not considering: Dahon, Tern, Bike Friday, 

I’ve owned a Dahon, and Tern is basically the same bike, only different so says the son David Hon.   Tern made a big thing about their bikes being of far superior quality, but after a couple of frame recalls in the beginning, they are simply just another folding bike now.   Though honestly, Tern make sexier looking bikes then Dahon does, so you can guess who the designed the earlier Dahons before the break up.

The fold on both the Dahon and Tern are real simple, you would have to be mentally challenged not to get it right the first time. Ride is sprightly and good fun for a short whizz around the town, weaving in & out of the traffic, or maneuvering through small alleys for which Bangkok has plenty.

I have owned both a Dahon Speed 8 and a Dahon Speed Pro, both are actually using the same Chromoly frames.  I quite liked the Dahon Speed Pro, apart from the fact that I could never get the bike to stop when I demanded it, something to do with long brake cables, bull bars, and caliber brakes not matching, and because of that I’ve rear ended cars a couple of times simply because the brakes are no good in emergency situations.

Bike Friday? I almost fell for one, especially like the look of both the Tikit and Pocket Rocket Pro, but honestly I think the bikes are a bit overrated, besides the fold is not what it’s made out to be, especially for travel.  Basically it would require dismantling the whole bike for travel, if that is the case I might as well buy an Alex Moulton TSR 30, a far superior machine with a real heritage.

Conclusion?

None so far.

But allow me to share an interesting fact, both the Brompton and Birdy have similar wheel sizes, which you wouldn’t know if you were simply looking at the specs, Brompton 16″ vs Birdy 18″ wheels. However the Brompton wheels are a unique size, not your standard 16″, looking at the ISO and circumference you’ll see what I mean.

Wheel Size Bike ISO
Diameter


Circumference

18″ Birdy 355 mm 1115 mm 43.9 inches
16″ Brompton 349 mm 1096 mm 43.2 inches

When you stand the two bikes side by side you could hardly tell the difference.

Sometimes we can’t just simply look at the spec sheet.

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