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I'm beginning initial research on folding bikes for a commute. I take Metra's UPN from Ravenswood to Davis and onto Northwestern University (north campus). I'm looking forward to a reasonable quality, but I can be flexible in my requirements given my budget.

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Many different brands. Brompton & Dahon are top. But if you just need folder for the train & are not riding that far afterward. Look for a cheaper bike. Also might want to put up a thread on the main Chainlink forum or on Craigslist for a used one.

Yes. I ride a full bike up the North Channel from Ravenswood to Northwestern, but I'm thinking of colder conditions. Do any North Chicago / Evanston bike shops carry folders?

I found my used Dahon Boardwalk for $120 on Craigslist. The bike was barely used and stored in a basement for a few years. 

Not sure if any bike stores carry folders.They could order one for you or be able to tell which stores do carry folders

Richard said:

Yes. I ride a full bike up the North Channel from Ravenswood to Northwestern, but I'm thinking of colder conditions. Do any North Chicago / Evanston bike shops carry folders?

@Shawn - I've been watching craigs list. Thanks for that suggestion.

@Ace - Is it better to directly or go through a bike shop? I like the idea of supporting the local business and to get a tune up after it arrives.

In Chicago proper, I think the most likely shop to carry folders would be Rapid Transit, either in Wicker Park or Pilsen. 

In Evanston, Ten27 Bikes at 1027 Davis (which used to be called Turin before the owner-partners split up a few months ago) often has one or two Dahons on the floor, so I think they're a dealer and could order.

I bought my Dahon Mu XL Sport, which I like a lot, from a shop in Arlington Heights called Village Cyclesport, at 1313 N Rand Road.  As an Evanston resident, I had to use an I-Go car to get there, pick out the bike, have it assembled and bring it home, so I probably added $25 or so I-Go fees to my bike cost, for getting there and back.  This was in May 2009, but at least back then they had the biggest array of folders on the sales floor of anyplace I've ever seen (don't know if that's still true).  I was able to look at half a dozen Dahon models, as well as Brompton, Strida, Downtube, Mobiky, Bike Friday, etc. and see for myself (and sit on) many bikes I'd been researching online.

Do yourself a favor and spend a few days reading everything you can online about folding bikes, especially reviews.  In a couple of days of intense research, you'll become more expert than most bike shop salespeople in this little niche of bicycle-dom.  For instance, knowing exactly which years/models of Dahon were currently under recall helped me avoid a bad purchase.  There's a large range of price, strength, fold size, wheel size, weight, gearing (or single speed), derailleur versus internally geared hub, component quality, bikes built with many off-the-shelf parts versus proprietary parts (expensive/difficult to replace) and so on.  There is no one solution for everyone.  I sometimes wish my 20" wheel Dahon Mu XL Sport had smaller wheels and folded more compactly when I'm crammed on a crowded bus or train with it, but then I'm happy as hell not to be riding on 12" or 16" wheels when I'm 15 miles into a ride.  Tradeoffs.

 

Briefly, British Brompton has a reputation for smallest folds in really well crafted bikes.  And high prices.

American company Bike Friday has a rep for really good ride quality. They generally build bikes to order, so they fit you perfectly. And with similar high prices.

Dahon is the Everyman company with dozens of models to choose from, many at middling quality and reasonable prices.  But right now the company is being torn apart by an internal family feud, so I'm a little afraid of them right now. Founder/dad David Hon still owns Dahon, but estranged wife Florence, eldest son Josh and a good part of the design & marketing team from Dahon have jumped ship and formed a new folding bike company Tern.  Terns look really nice--but the still unsettled patent and ownership lawsuits flying between Dahon & Tern may do bad things to either or both companies.

Lots of smaller players in the folding market as well, like Strida, BirdyMontague (descendant of Swiss paratrooper military bikes), Moulton and on and on. 

 

Don't buy your bike online, get it at an area shop so it will be set up properly and can be serviced in the future.  Stay away from the cheapest off-brand Chinese bikes that will crumple on the first ride. Read, study and explore the topic and let us know what you've found.

 

@ Ace Mann: the last time I saw you, you'd just purchased a Strida folder.  Do you still like the bike or is it a dud to be avoided?  I really like the tight upright fold but am unsure of riding-handling qualities in such a radically shaped bike.

I keep hearing awesome things about Ten27. I'm planning a visit there next week during lunch. Yes, I want to actually sit on one, inspect the folding joints, and pick it up to experience the weight. I also like the idea of buying at a local shop. The advice and tune ups are priceless. My goal is to reduce my walk time to/from Metra.  Honestly, my budget will keep me towards the Dahons and have been looking at those.

How much faith would you put in the folding joints? Are they just 'over engineered'?

The central fold on my Dahon seems very stable, even after three years of riding the bike.  The weak point is the plastic safety clasp that prevents the joint from opening while riding.  I have to take it apart every few months, reset the spring in two little holes and retighten it.  No biggie, but annoying.  Tern, from what I can see, has vastly improved this with a side closing spring clamp, but I've never seen a Tern in person.  Don't expect to see a huge array of folders at Ten27: I've only seen one or two Dahons at a time in the shop, no other brands.  Ten27 is a racing/roadie shop at heart, not a commuter/folder center.  You'll likely have more to look at in Wicker Park at Rapid Transit or in Arlington Heights at Village Cyclesports (call them to see what they've got on hand before making that big trek).

When I bought my Dahon, my strategy was to spend weeks online, reading everything I could about the subject, on manufacturers web sites, on cycling sites, on folder enthusiast sites.  Google for reviews of particular models that interest you.  Know which years/models are being recalled, especially if you buy off Craig's List, so your bargain doesn't turn out to be a dangerous dud.  If buying new from a shop, I'd say figure $500-$1200 would be the range for a decent bike.  Much cheaper and you end up with possibly inferior components or structural weaknesses.  Folders are always more expensive than standard bikes, as they have many more parts and joints. They're carefully machined and fitted rather than spot welded together.

My bike was about $1100, but it's got a very nice Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub, fenders (a must for commuting in rainy snowy slop), quick release pedals (which I love, both to make the fold smaller but also as a security measure--I always remove the pedals first and toss them into my bag so that even if someone runs up and jumps on my bike they're not going anywhere fast!).  I bought a Dahon "el Bolso" bag, a huge canvas carrying bag that lets me slip into buildings without security guards telling me I can't bring my bike inside.  Metra insists you cover your folder on blackout days (Blues Fest, Taste of Chicago, 4th of July, etc.), but even at that, you and your folder are the only bike getting onboard that day so it's worth it.

Lots of good topics in that post. I can comment on the hinge reliability. It is quite good, but there are things that can go wrong if you over-tighten or under-tighten the clamp mechanism. I should point out that mine is a 2006 Mu XL, which has a clamp that is probably less reliable than the current ones. I've had to replace the main clamp lever and one or two of the small parts of the latch mechanism. The service is easy and the parts should be readily available. But the newer clamp design should be even more resistant to problems. BTW, my bike has over 10,000 miles on it.

As Thunder Snow says, there are more moving bits on a folder, and I would advise a potential owner to expect to do some home maintenance.

Fenders are great, but the *real* improvement in the winter is studded tires (see my picture riding on the frozen Diamond Lake in Mundelein). I've used Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires for several winters and have *zero* (as in "none") falls. Glare ice is no problem. These tires are not cheap, but I get 2 or 3 seasons out of them (the rear wears out faster) and anyway what's the co-pay on a broken hip?

METRA *requires* a cover at all times, not just the blackout days; if you've been getting on without one, you have been lucky. I have been using a "CarryOn Cover" that I got from Tern; its advantage is that on a crowded platform it does not have to be laid out to place the bike on... it drapes over the folded bike.

BTW, there is getting to be a good amount of information posted on the Tern site (www.ternbicycles.com) which applies to folders in general, and some Dahon models specifically. I've been somewhat active there despite not (yet!) being a Tern owner.

Cheers,

Steve

Thunder Snow said:

The central fold on my Dahon seems very stable, even after three years of riding the bike.  The weak point is the plastic safety clasp that prevents the joint from opening while riding.

Metra insists you cover your folder on blackout days (Blues Fest, Taste of Chicago, 4th of July, etc.), but even at that, you and your folder are the only bike getting onboard that day so it's worth it.

My first folder was a Strida 2. I put 1,000 miles on it, partly to recover my original cost, and partly to be able to say I did it(!). It required a lot of wheel bearing maintenance, partly because I am on the heavy side (though within the rated capacity). It's an easy bike to work on. It was a challenge to learn to ride, but I was able to ride it in traffic after a short learning curve. The folding was amazingly fast. Ultimately I replaced it with a Dahon Helios XL, which was much more well-suited to my needs (and weight). I still have the Strida as a "spare"... and it's a real head-turner!

Steve

Thunder Snow said:

@ Ace Mann: the last time I saw you, you'd just purchased a Strida folder.  Do you still like the bike or is it a dud to be avoided?  I really like the tight upright fold but am unsure of riding-handling qualities in such a radically shaped bike.

Hi Steve!

I've learned so much from your posts over the years on the old Dahon community forum, it's great to see you here at The Chainlink!  Only this evening, after seeing your name on Minh's dooring post, did I go back to the Dahon Global web site, found out new users were no longer accepted and ascertained my login still works on the site.  In the next few days, I'll go to Tern's web page and get myself signed up over there, even though I continue to ride my Dahon.

~Tom

Thanks, Tom!

I had forgotten I was a member here. Oops! Yes, it's too bad the Dahon site is closed to new forum members, and IIRC unregistered visitors can't see the images. There is a lot of information there. The Tern site is coming along, though.

If you haven't seen Hubstripping (HERE), you'll find a lot of interesting stuff there (plus some of drivel! :lol: ). Scroll down to about the 7th thread about Dahon dynamo hubs. :-)

Cheers,

Steve

Thunder Snow said:

Hi Steve!

I've learned so much from your posts over the years on the old Dahon community forum, it's great to see you here at The Chainlink!  Only this evening, after seeing your name on Minh's dooring post, did I go back to the Dahon Global web site, found out new users were no longer accepted and ascertained my login still works on the site.  In the next few days, I'll go to Tern's web page and get myself signed up over there, even though I continue to ride my Dahon.

~Tom

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