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.


Vik said...

The link to Alex's blog isn't working.

Love the guys need to start a "small wheels big smiles" bicycle club....=-)

Pondero said...

Perfect timing (for me) on the folding bike content.

I'm trying to optimize for packing for air travel. I've been looking at the SwiftFolder, but maybe that little Dahon would be a good choice also. Would it pack well in suitcase format?

Anonymous said...

Dear Kent,

Long time reader. I'm primarily a commuter from Arizona. Thanks for your great blog - I love it.

I'm going to purchase a folding bike and I would appreciate your input on the Dahon Boardwalk S1. It's for sale online at Performance for about 180 dollars. ???

Thanks, Larry from AZ

Kent Peterson said...

I haven't ridden an S1, but the current crop of Dahons seem to be a good value. As for fitting them in a suitcase, folded they are a bit fatter than most suitcases. Dahon makes a soft case and a little nylon slipcover but I'm thinking if I'm to fly with the bike as checked luggage, I'll make a custom case out of coroplast.

Anonymous said...

I used to work for a company that sold the crap out of some Dahons. We used to test ride them alot and I was always surprised by the sturdiness if assembled properly.

Tim said...

Well, as head mechanic in a shop that sells both Dahons and Fridays, as well as Birdys, I found this post really interesting. I've worked with and ridden most of the models Dahon sells in the US, as well as the Tikit, Pocket Tourist, New World Tourist, and Pocket Rocket from Bike Friday. Except for the Tikit, the Fridays serve a different purpose than the Dahons. As I explain to customers, if you want a bike to fold day in and day out as part of your commute, taking the bike on transit, the Dahon is the better choice. If you want a bike that fits and rides as much like your "normal" bike as possible, that you can carry on an airplane, unpack, and ride around at your destination, then get a Friday.

The Tikit changes that, as it is a brilliant "everyday folder" design. However, I still steer more folks to the Dahons than to the Tikit, largely due to price and simplicity. While the Tikit is a faster fold, the Dahon is a simpler fold, and most models fall far below the cost of a Tikit. Honestly though, you can't go wrong with either.

I own two Dahons, by the way... a Hon Solo and a Speed P8. Both are great bikes... fun to ride, and a snap to fold. The Solo wins on style, but it sure is nice to have the multiple gears on the Speed sometimes.

Finally, someone asked about packing Dahons in suitcases. In standard fold, the typical 20" wheeled Dahon won't fit in a bag small enough to avoid an oversize charge on airlines. Even Dahon admits their Airporter suitcase is larger than allowed. However, the folks at Gaerlan Cycles have a great page on how to get SOME of the Dahons in a "legal" sized suitcase. Check it out here:

I just picked up a Samsonite Oyster for my Speed P8... we'll see how it works out.

bradford said...

I recently bought a Dahon Matrix. It's too big to fit in the trunk of my car with the 26 inch tires but I still love it. It does great on trails and on the road. Definitely sturdy. It my first bike since I was a kid, its got me out riding and meeting new people.

Web said...

At just $169 including shipping, the Kent Superlite is an even better value than the Boardwalk. The 22 lb Superlite folding bike is equipped with rear carry rack, fenders, kickstand and folding pedals. Resembling the Dahon Curve in appearance, the Superlite's die cast, magnesium aluminum alloy frame is light, strong and absorbs road shock too.

By the way, the Superlite Mango is available with the Shimano Nexus 3 speed internal hub.

Anonymous said...

Kent, what can you say about the citizen folding bikes?

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BIke said...

Awesome post, i am always looking for comments on folding bikes, and this blog has definitely given me some very interesting content to take into consideration.

Charlie Stillman said...

Hi Kent- It has been a long time since I met you in my early recumbent days. I like the posts on folders. I recently sold my Bike SatRday folder (not their best effort) and bought a Dahon MuP24. I agree with other comments. The engineering on the Dahons makes for a much stiffer feel, especially for the handlebar/steering assembly, compared with the Bike Fridays I tried.

I'm tall and that lets me attach a fullsize backpack to the back of my seat, supported by the rack. See:

This web gallery includes the methods I used for attaching the pack. As you can see, I have adapted it to every recent bike including several recumbents. Even the tandem we rode across the USA from Seattle.

I wonder if the Ikea bags will work for my 20" wheeled Dahon.

Web Design Kent said...

Wow awesome dicsussion.
I love to talk for bikes.As it is folding bikes which i can take any where really wonderfull.Stay connected for more thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Check out these folders with full size wheels. They're great if you're looking for the performance of a real road or mountain bike that can still fold for easy transport:
Montague Bikes