Monday, 24 June 2013

Folding Bikes and Stuff

In  the quest to minimize weight and security issues and to avoid banging holes through the bodywork of the newly re-sprayed van, I have spent a lot of time looking at folding bikes, both online and in shops. It's the cycle rack problem; Do you or don't you? I'd prefer not to. However with regards to folding bikes. Who knew how expensive they are? Who knew how many there are for commuters and how many variations on the basic design? And who knew what a pain in the arse it would be to find something at a reasonable price that can at least ride a “made dirt track”* without falling to bits or breaking your arse, for less than a grand.
However after much research I have found some candidates:
Everything else ... too expensive.
The two/three above stand out
A: because I measured the rear access garage against the folded measurements of the Tern Joes.
B: all three bikes have wheels of greater diameter than 17 inches, and this is significant.
C: Whilst still appearing to be incredibly expensive for what they are, they are still relatively affordable.
Our riding criteria are: Shopping, site seeing, access (all the usual). It would be lovely to be able to afford an A frame and a cheap car like a Smart to tow as well as bikes, but it’s extra insurance, and fuel and risk. We’d both have to do towing courses (though our current licences already allow it, our skill set would be sadly lacking).  

Back to bikes we don’t intend trying the King of the Mountains route for a laugh, or doing downhill dirt tracks  in the shit. However a made dirt path* through a wood or field is never out of the question. Just take the New Forest as a for instance, miles of walking routes, miles of cycle paths. Do you then want to limit the radius you can wander through the forest, to that enabled by shanksies pony**?
The answer is probably no. So we need bikes that are rugged enough for dirt paths, rolling over potholes, and bad road surfaces, with enough traction through the gears and wheels to climb a moderate hill, but also pack away small. I refer the reader to Youtube, for visible proof that small folders are a bit shit on a steep incline; gearing is critical unless you want to get off and push.
So like everything we are planning we have to compromise somewhere. With regards to bikes, the compromises are almost too numerous to count, and without exhaustive test drives in varied environments you just can’t make a decision.

Forums don’t help. Forums I find more and more are populated by friendly but unhelpful idiots who want to wish you luck in your search for an answer ... they just needed to get it off their chest ... thanks for sharing now fuck off (politely off course). And the other kind of know all obnoxious idiot, who disagrees with everything you’re asking about, your reason for existing, your reason for asking, and to tell you that they bought the most expensive best recommended piece of equipment ever ever ever ... it was shit, they could have done better themselves and they sold it to some other fool on E-bay and you’re doomed.

Ooh I forgot to mention the clique twats who decide to use your thread to banter with each other for page after page after page regailing each other with stories about how they’ve answered your question a million times in other threads which they relentlessly post links to in your thread and have cool user names  like  “Foldingbikedude” and IKNOWSOMUCHMORETHANYOUDOYOUSHOULDBOWDOWNANDLICKMYBOOTSFOLDINGBIKEDUDE ... with a signature quote like “mountains tremble at my passing I’m so fucking great” and a picture of a Pokemen shitting out a folding bike shaped turd as their Avatar.
Ahem ...
So anyway, forums, could be useful ... frequently not, rant over.
Ooh I did forget asking shops, they tend to tell you what you are looking at is a piece of shit ... even though they sell it, and that you should by this gold plated, diamond encrusted one over here that was actually excreted by the last living Pokemon in our dimension ... but still isn’t going to like a dirt track.
Rant really over.
If we look at some of the bikes, there are only three or four manufacturers worth mentioning. All the others from what I’ve seen are either steel framed or so cheap, that the maxim “you get what you pay for must be applied”.
·         Brompton; all commuter great quality, really expensive, not designed for our purpose.
·          Dahon; mostly commuter, well known, quite expensive, do a full size off road unit ... best part  of a  £1000 (still none with front suspension).
·         Tern (Bastard son of Dahon), make 26 inch folders, still a young company, their cheapest 26 inch the Joe 21 is £350 (only if you buy from Evans),  may a be a compromise too far as it is just a full size folding commuter the Joe 24 is a possibility, but £550 and then the Joe 26 £650 and more (still none with front suspension).
·         Montague make full on 26inch folding off road bikes ... need a mortgage to buy one. However if you have Montague money they look great and can weigh up to 27lbs less than the equivalent Tern or Dahon ... however their final folded size is about the same as the Terns (eer no suspension here either).  
So we return to the two/three above. Eclipse £600, 20 inch wheels, folds up small, good reviews but not a mountain bike, quite a lot of kit built on (pannier rack, dynamo powered front light, rear battery operated light), if I was a commuter I’d probably buy one of these ... if I didn’t buy a Joe.

The Joe’s £350 to £550 26 inch wheels, longest measurement when folded 92cm, (all three folded measurements are 92cm x 85cm x 35cm). Folding sizes are significant the van width at rear doors with panelling is 125cm, but you must take account of best folded storage orientation. The 92cm is the vertical, and we need to allow space for two.
Folding bikes may be an ask too far. And Paul asked the question: why not just carry normal bikes inside, and chain them up outside when they aren’t being used?
He has a point!
And in truth I really love my Trek 4300, it’s been my faithful friend for nearly ten years, and Amanda’s Rockhopper weighs less than a fag paper, all the folders weigh more, even the Alloy ones. For a £70 strip down service (plus parts). Mine could be spanking again in a day.
I may have made a decision as I wrote this :-)

*Made dirt path, one defined and often maintained for access, but not always drained or even, and usually not even coated with loosechippings
**Shanksies Pony ... your own two feet (catching Shanksies pony home ... you’re walking).

1 comment:

  1. hi, thanks for the thoughts and i agree most of it. this will be my first commuter bike that i would be using 8 miles x2 everyday (summer & winter). And like you I have narrowed it down to Joe 21/24 or eclipse p9. Now I am struggling to chose one.... here are my dilemma....

    I was going for C21 for £299, very much affordable for me
    Then I thought P24 for £500, thats my max budget, with disc brake.
    Then I thought if I can pay £500, I might as well be able to pay another £50 and get Eclipse P9. Comes with disc brake, folds a little smaller and compact than the other two...

    As you said forums were pain, I strongly agree... They made more confusion than helping me to make a decision. What I want to know is..... is it really worth paying extra £250 for P24 or Eclipse P9, or I would be better of with C21 for £299?
    Thanks for your blog..


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...