Monday, October 16, 2006

Folding bikes

My mother writes:
What is a good folding bike for me? I am interested in a bike that is light-weight and can be easily folded. It does not need to be too compact. I want to put in in the car, drive somewhere and explore the neighborhood. A few gears would be nice, but I do not want a derailleur as I do not want to bother with the chain coming off. Don't need it custom-made. Would like to try it out first.

Are you familiar with Strida? How easy is it to get on and off?

Love, mama

Here's a list of folding bikes brades see:

I have tried a Strida.
I personally didn't like it. It doesn't have the feel of a real bike to me. The rubber belt (instead of chain) makes it feel (and sound) like something you should ride around an airport terminal. Call me old fashioned, but bikes are supposed to have chains. And if the Strida were to break, who could fix it? The Swift Folder is a normal, real bicycle.

All I can recommend is the Swift Folder, the one I have. $920.

No derailleur. You should ask for a chain guard though (for pants leg) as mine doesn't have one and I wish it did. I wouldn't be afraid of the "Custom" part. It's not like they're cutting the metal just for you. They simply assemble it from parts based on what you want: Coaster versus hand brake, number of gears. And they (really a he) were very nice to deal with.

Dahon is the biggest maker of folding bikes. Seems to run about $600. But I don't know anything about them. They have derailleurs and gears. Brompton looks very good. but I have no personal experience with one. You can easily get fenders and 3 speed. About $1,000.

The one thing I would demand if I were you is that your bike have a Shimano Nexus hub. They're not cheap (about $250--hence the price difference between many of the bikes). But they're internal shifting (no derailleur) and never break. They're like your old Raleigh three-speed, but better. The Shimano Nexus is really the only reliable internal shifting hub out there. And they keep getting better. They come is various different speeds. But their latest, an 8 speed (model number SG-8R25) is probably the best. The hand brake with the rear hub is a drum brake (not calipers squeezing the rim) and therefore very easy to pull. I think would be good for your arthritic hands. A coaster brake is also a possibility for some of them. But these issues are all the more reason to buy a Swift Folder because you can talk about them rather than take the least-worst option a bike store has to offer.

All folding bikes should be easy to get on and off because the cross bars are very low.

Sent: Monday, October 16, 2006 1:13 PM
Subject: RE: folding bikes

I don't think that the Swiftfolder is for me as I do not want a high bar. I rather want a low instep. I may go to the bike store near here that carries Dahon bikes and ride one and also see which one can be folded up easily.

More about this later.

I don't think you'll have a problem getting on any folding bike. The cross bars are always very low. And the rear wheel is always very small. But you can ride one and try it out.

Maybe Dahon this is perfect for you. About $600. Comes with all the needed accessories (rack, fenders, chain gard.
Super low cross bar. Front wheel dynamo for light if you ever need it.

You can get it with the same shiftig mechansism as your old Raleigh 3-speed. But it is 5 speed. With coaster break. Sturmey-Archer is the brand name. The other brand that comes with the bike is SRAM. Supposed to be good. But I've had a bad experience with one of their shifters.

Was voted "Bike of the Year" in Amsterdam for whatever that is worth.

Maybe things are better in LA. But I think you will have a tough time finding a store with a good selection of folding bikes. It is better to order what you want than settle for what they have.

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