Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Consumer Reports Tests Folding Bikes

The August issue of Consumer Reports includes a brief test of five folding bicycles. Though there are many manufacturers of folders, they test one from each of the most popular brands. Their results and recommendations are incredibly the same as mine would be. And I didn't even get to ride any of the bikes.

They include folders from mainstream brands Trek and Giant in the test, but neither distinguishes itself. That is not surprising; the other manufacturers specialize in this type of bike, while Trek and Giant just added them to their product lines over the past few years. They probably sell a decent number to consumers who don't know about the better options on the market.

The Brompton C-Type C3E is recommended for people who plan to ride flat terrain and fold their bikes often. I concur, as long as you don't mind the $675 price tag for a bike of limited ability. Bromptons have a reputation for easy, compact folding, but their gearing and handling aren't the best. This is the only three-speed tested, but a model with more gears would be more expensive.

Bike Friday's claim to fame is that it rides like a regular bike. Consumer Reports tests the Stock Pocket Tourist (though more expensive than the others, it is Bike Friday's cheapest model) and agrees. Bike Friday's weakness as a folding bike is in the folding itself -- it's not the easiest or quickest to fold, and the result is not as compact as others. Though it is not the ideal commuter bike, it is a great travel bike. This is the only brand tested that could serve as an enthusiast's only bike. Bike Friday caters to that person, offering myriad customization options (at a price, of course).

Ultimately, Consumer Reports recommends the Dahon Speed D7. It is the least expensive bike tested, less than half the cost of a Bike Friday. It folds better than a Bike Friday but not as compactly as a Brompton. It performs a bit better than a Brompton but not as well as a Bike Friday. For a short-haul commuter bike that folds well, the Dahon is the best choice, and I say that despite being a biased Bike Friday owner. However, it is important to remember that just because the bikes all fold doesn't mean they are designed for the same purpose. If you want a bike that you can pack in a suitcase and fly to an out-of-town century ride (with no oversize charges), Bike Friday is one of the best you can buy, certainly the best one tested by Consumer Reports.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have tested the Dahon Speed D7 (and compared it to the more expensive P8, which I liked a lot). The D7 rides well, but the rims are of horrible quality which resulted in a pulsating front brake (a V brake from Promax). These cheap no-brand rims that Dahon puts on the D7 (to save a few bucks) are terrible, they are thinner at the weld, and the V brake first slips a little and then just grips the wheel each time this place comes around. On the rear wheel this isn't much of an issue, but the front wheel almost locks up. If it doesn't happen right out of the shop, it's almost bound to happen some time later. Dahon should be ashamed to make use of such crappy stuff. The P8 upgrades are well work the $170 or so (vastly superior rims, tires, seat, gearshift, brakes, and the cute pump in the seatpost). It seems Dahon puts out the D7 just to convince people to spend at least $500. A bit of a shame, since for $20 more they could probably put decent rims on the D7. Many cheap foldables from China suffer from the same problem with these substandard rims that are outright dangerous. A pity for the D7, since the overall ride is excellent.

from a toronto biker, who got lured into a cheap aluminum foldable, and who is looking for a 2nd one (and will most likely buy the Speed P8).