Economists say that 2015 would be a year of economic depression. The signs are obvious. Low oil prices, weakening currencies all over the world and the list goes on. Malaysia has never recovered from the economic slowdown since 1997. The clear indicator is our currency's value. Despite all that, we persevered and actually shown good spirits. But the days of free-spending may be over.
The top five
From a handful to thousands on the road, the growth of folding bikes in Peninsular Malaysia is phenomenal.
There are more multi-modal commuters now compared to five years ago and retailers have seen a spike in demand for folding bikes.
Thanks to aggressive marketing and true fan-boys spreading the good word about their bicycles to newcomers.
Basically, folding bikes appeal to people over the age of 35 and it's rather encouraging to see senior citizens splurging on mid-range and high-end products that are offered in bicycle shops. Well, these are the people with the cash in hand and the purchasing power compared to hipsters that are perpetually broke.
This four-year-old bike company from Taiwan is still making headway with their range of products for 2015.
Here in Malaysia, we will see the N-series bikes (built for Asian riders) hitting the market by the first-quarter.
Other than that, their Verge-series bikes are tremendously souped-up with makeovers to appeal for the younger group.
The principle remains that we get good bikes that are reliable, so, Tern is not so caught-up in developing different folding methods than what they've already have.
A couple of design awards have proven the company's commitment to producing the best products in the market.
I for one, am pretty stoked that the Verge S27h (this variant is designed for long commutes and touring) is heading to Malaysia.
|Tern's 20" touring bike: Verge S27h|
Despite some hits and misses over the last two years, this 30-year-old company continues to innovate.
They are making good with bikes that are packaged with better components to woo back customers.
Highly noticeable, are the new 'vertical folding' technology bikes such as the Dahon Eeze, Jifo and Qix.
We are expecting to see some of Dahon's 2015 bikes in November, but due to logistic issues, these bikes are still stuck in the port.
At least five new models are expected to hit our shelves by the first-quarter of 2015.
Picking up from where the old distributor had left off, the new player involved with the sales and distribution of Dahon would have a daunting task winning the hearts and minds of new buyers as competition is getting stiffer by the year.
|Hoping to recapture lost territories: Dahon's innovative Qix D8|
There's no doubt that Pacific Cycle's Birdy is one of their best-sellers in Malaysia. Sales of the Birdy was so impressive, the company's founder George Lin had quietly snucked into the country for an unofficial visit to their distributor in the Klang Valley.
Birdy also enjoyed aggressive marketing by having their own event supported by a local car distributor.
But, with a premium price of RM3.8 for a basic model with bikes shooting over RM12k after heavy modifications. it would be an uphill task to maintain sales and solicit new buyers in 2015 after the Goods and Sales Tax takes effect.
Despite that, there's really nothing new for Birdy as the basic design of the bike remained pretty much the same.
|The Birdy classic is a winner in its own arena|
Though they have been around, no brand rose as fast and high as the KHS bikes over the past 12 months.
With an official distributor and an aggressive price point, KHS started to kick some serious butt to make their way to the top-5 of "who's who in the folding bike brands" here in Malaysia.
Why? Because you can get a made in Taiwan frame for RM1,650 with some pretty basic components.
It's the KHS JJ 8-speed bike that shouted: "Game on!" with its value for money factor.
Although it doesn't fold as fast and well as other top bikes in the market, KHS demands a steady following by honoring their customers with decent components and an excellent built-quality. I think they will continue to do well way into 2015 if they can keep up the good and fair pricing factor.
|The KHS Westwood is a full-suspension folding bike an unbeatable value|
Mention "beginner" or "my first folding bike", Raleigh's Ugo will come to mind.
At RM800 a piece, it's the cheapest folding bike one can get in the market. It's even cheaper in the secondary market with prices dipping below RM500.
Though Raleigh is not known for producing folding bikes, they entered the fray a few years ago and are doing pretty well.
The Ugo is a 7-speed no-frills bike with entry-level components that you either love or hate.
It's basically aimed at people who are unsure of their choices or those who wanted to give things a try before they commit to better products.
|The Ugo, still going strong..|
China impacted our market for entry-level bikes in a drastic manner. They've changed the game by breaking the monopoly once held by European and North American manufacturers.
With this in mind, we get plenty of choices with bikes that are affordable. But, there is a catch. Not everything is at it seems if you examine the details.
We have Trinx bikes that goes as low as RM700, offering unbeatable value. No doubt that you pay nearly three times as low, but these bikes are not built to last.
There's the XDS brand of folding bicycles, some: asking as high as RM1,750 for a 20" folding bike.
They are packaged with disk brakes and entry-level Shimano components. If you are not observant and are vulnerable to salesman's charm, you might end up paying for stuff that you don't need.
Many beginners are suckered into believing that disk brakes signifies that their bikes are high-end performance machines. Don't be duped. What you get, are mechanical disk brake systems that can be quite a chore to maintain. Real bikes uses a hydraulic system which costs as much as the bikes.
Do a "Google Search" for "folding bikes" and "Malaysia" and you might get some answers..
The good, the bad and the ugly..
Personally-speaking, I don't think that the implementation of the GST would impact the prices of bikes here in Malaysia. It's an additional 5-7% to the retail price. But seeing as it is, we are fearless free-spending Malaysians who think outside the box. So, if you ask me, well, don't worry and be happy.
We may think that there's not enough choices in terms of select models, but the Malaysian market is slowly maturing.
With the new LRT line extension in the Klang Valley, sales of the folding bike is set to soar. That said, do be courteous when you board the train. Bag your bike. Don't be a hooligan and an ass to other train passengers.