Friday, September 21, 2007

Folding Bikes West

Seattle is a pretty darn nice town for cycling and it's got some pretty cool bike shops. This week, I stopped by Folding Bikes West in the Freemont neighborhood to take a look around and test ride a Dahon Curve. Folding Bikes West shares store space, staff and DNA with Electric Bikes Northwest but I didn't really spend any time looking at or taking pictures of the electric bikes. I probably should go back and take some pictures of those and also ask the question that's been bugging me: why does one company have the modifier "West" and the other "Northwest"?

Folding Bikes West has a lot of bikes in a pretty small space. I guess this makes sense, one of the neat things about folding bikes is that they don't take up much space. In one small storefront (half of which is occupied by electric bikes) I got to see Giant, Brompton, Dahon, Bike Friday and Birdy folding bikes.

The various bikes are available for test riding. I've ridden (and owned) various folding bikes over the years and I was short on time, so I only test rode the one bike I'd really come to see, the Dahon D3. The demo D3 pictured below has an optional front basket but the rest of the accessories (fenders, kickstand, rear rack and seatpost pump) are stock on the $395 Curve D3.

Since I have a pretty good background with folders, I was used to the zippy feel of the little wheels. The 2" wide Schwalbe Big Apple tires seem to really hit the sweet-spot in terms of speed and comfort, tough enough to soak up the rough pavement without feeling sluggish. A lot of folks might wish for more gears or a wider range than what is provided by the D3's Sturmey Archer hub, but since I come from the "do more with less" school of thought, I found the 3 gear ratios (42"/56"/77") totally adequate.

The D3 folds quickly into a pretty compact package. Even fumbling around the first time, I was able to fold it in about a minute and the folded package is compact and well-balanced. A little package that would fit easily onto the bus. I returned from my 20 minute test ride with the words "I'll take one."
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