Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Folding bikes for the beginner Part 1

Riding my Dahon Jetstream EX
Questions, questions, questions... 
I've met many interesting people who wanted to know if they can get a suitable folding bike at their preferred budget.
"Eh Samo, you know where I can find a folding bike that is cheap and good? I can only spend RM600 ah!"
First thing first: Good quality folding bikes are never cheap.
There are plenty of choices out there ranging from a poorly-made foldie from the Hypermart with a retail price of RM250 a pop.
Would that suffice? 
Do you want to cycle something that is twitchy and unstable and with that constant fear that it would fail on you? 

Choices, choices, choices...
I know this for a fact: Nobody likes to get ripped off.
Sometimes, when you pay for the wrong thing, you would regret it.
Word is, I am trying to 'Dahonize' newbies and experienced foldies and my impression of bikes like Bromptons are a piece of overpriced crap.
The Brommies will kill me. So, let it be.
There are many bikes out there with pricetags ranging from RM250 to RM25K. 
That is a fact.
If you expect performance from a cheap bike, then you are looking for things are the wrong places.
I've seen cyclists using a cheap frame with expensive components. That's what they could afford and if they are happy with it, I think its their prerogative.
There are bikes that are built for daily use and usually, these are entry-level bikes with basic components. 
These tend to wear out easily and are not built to last.
A good basic folding bike would be the Dahon ECO C7.
This one had gone through several improvements and is as tough as nails. It retails slightly over RM1K and is the bike you would want to cycle around your neighbourhood.

Better bikes..
I've been cycling my Dahon Speed P8 since 2009 and never had any serious issues with the bike.
As a matter of fact, it was 'getting it right the first time' that kept me going. Its a simple bike with an 8-speed transmission.
Premium-grade components were used on this bike and its one of the very few Chromoly frames around that can take some serious beating.
One guy asked: "Eh Samo, I am concerned about my image la... I look like a Circus bear cycling the Speed P8..."
My take on this: Folding bikes is for a different breed of cyclists. Image is never an issue.
The crust of the matter here is convenience.
You can fold it for carry on trains, stash it in your car and carry it wherever you want.
I use the term: 'Bike-packing' as the best example..
If you want the bang out of your buck, Dahon's Speed series are the ones that are worth considering.
Many folks prefer the Mu-series for its curveous frame. I think this is a bit too girle for my taste.
Although I feel that the Mu-XL is one of the best bikes Dahon has ever come up with, cost is a factor.
Some guys choked when they saw the price..
Another bike worth some serious consideration is the Dahon Curve SL.
Sadly, its no longer in production, so, if you can grab any 2011 edition, go for it.
Inspired by Bikepacking guru TT Siang and his wife Angela, this is one of the best 16" folding bike money can buy...

I've gone from 16" to 20" and had no plans to get any bigger bikes, although I have the urge to get the 2011 Dahon Flo. But that'll have to wait....
Way I see it, there is no ONE bike that does it all.
The Curves are used mainly for short distance commutes and rides. It can be comfortable for rides below 50km
I use my Dahon Speed P8 mainly for long-distance rides. To be exact: Touring.
Its been rigged with Ortlieb front and backrollers for some distance rides. So far, its the only folding bike in my keeps that has clocked more than 2,000km.
To get a better perspective on touring, I also purchased a Dahon Speed TR.
This was for my wife Michelle and has been used for some long-distance rides. 
To get the best out of it, we retro-fitted the saddles with gel inserts.
I am willing to pay for comfort and so far, the Speed series had never failed..
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