Sunday, September 30, 2007

Alex, Mark and Kent Compare Folding Bikes

Yesterday morning I met up with my friends Alex Wetmore and Mark Vande Kamp for a bit of riding and conversation. Alex and I are both tinkerers who like folding bikes and the day's excuse for a ride was to compare our respective machines. Alex's Bike Friday Tikit features a front rack that he'd just finished brazing up a few hours before our ride.

It only takes about ten seconds to fold the Tikit, which is even faster than the 30 seconds or so it takes me to fold my Dahon. Folded, the Tikit is a bigger package. If Alex used flat bars, the bike would fold into a smaller package but it would still be bigger than the Dahon D3. I was surprised at how flexy the front end of the Tikit felt something both Alex and Mark commented on as well. Pretty much every folding bike I've ever owned or ridden has had some degree of front end flex, but the Dahon feels much more solid than the Tikit.

The Tikit has an astoundingly clever folding mechanism -- folding the rear triangle untensions cables that release the stem locking mechanism. The bike has a little handle that lets it roll when folded.

Both Alex and Mark were impressed (as I continue to be) at the quality of the Dahon D3. It's a very nice bike, quite amazing considering it sells for just a bit under $400. A made-in-Oregon Tikit costs about 3 times what the made-in-China Dahon does. The Tikit has many more fitting options than the D3. At 5'6" and 140 lbs, I fit fine on the D3 but I don't think it's the right bike for larger folks, although Dahon makes a wide range of bigger bikes as well.

The rear tire on Alex's Tikit was low on air, so he got to use the Dahon's seatpost pump to top out his tire. The pump works surprisingly well although Alex did say that it was "the weirdest pump I've ever used."

After breakfast at Pert's Deli, we rode north along Lake Washington, through the Arboretum and into Freemont to visit Folding Bikes West, the place in Seattle where you can see Birdy. Brompton, Dahon, Giant Halfway and Tikits all side by side. They all have a certain appeal but the Bromptons still seem to be the most evolved. If you have way more money than Alex, Mark or I do, you can even get a Brompton with lots of clever and light bits of titanium.

Alex's take on the day is here.
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