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Commuter Bikes

Intro and Mid-term Review: Dahon Mariner

So a few weeks ago I accepted delivery of Dahon’s Mariner D7 folding bike for review! I’ve been considering adding a folder to the stable, so I was pretty stoked to get the chance to take this for a spin or 20. Because I’ve been all over the place and crazy busy, I’m wrapping the out-of-the-box and midterm reviews into one here, so get your coffee and settle back!

Smaller box than usual…

First off though, some specs. The Mariner weighs about 26 lbs, which for the functionality (including folding) and price point (MSRP $599) is pretty decent. It comes equipped with a rear rack, integrated bungee (snaps into rack), kickstand, and SKS fenders. Sounds like a good fit for Bikecommuters.com! Components are mostly not big brand names, but appear solid. V-brakes provide some good stopping power, and the 7-speed drivetrain provides a decent range.

Out of the box, the Mariner was easy to set up – it came folded and without instructions, but thanks to my insane skills reasonable mechanical aptitude I figured everything out pretty quickly. Unfolding time is somewhere around 20 -30 seconds, folding time a bit longer depending on how it’s been set up. Everything is adjustable – the seatpost, stem, handlebar angle, etc. – and depending on how the handlebars have been situated they may need to be adjusted before folding (they fit in between the two wheels when folded). The seatpost always needs to come down, because the bottom portion of it also functions as support for the bike when its folded. Pedals also fold in, and there is a clip that holds the two axles together when folded; it’s not tremendously strong, just enough so the whole thing doesn’t come open unexpectedly. Once folded, the front wheel still rolls so you can move it around a bit but it’s a little awkward. Carrying it by the seat isn’t that difficult though.

So how does it ride? Pretty well! It took me a few minutes to adjust to the small wheels – they’re definitely much more responsive to small steering adjustments than my usual 700c or 29er wheels. Otherwise, everything was pretty easy: the ride is comfortable, the brakes work well, the shifting works well, and there’s really not an awful lot to think about. The only caveat there is that because everything is so adjustable, it takes a bit to figure out where to set it all to be comfortable – and then to figure it out again the next time. I’d definitely recommend making some sort of marks on it for preferred setup.

All folded.

Because I hadn’t gotten much opportunity to ride it before heading out on a family vacation to Maine, I managed to squeeze the Mariner into the back of the car (hey, no bike rack!) and got a couple rides in while we were vacationing – including one to the grocery store, which was a (very hilly) 9 mile ride each way. I went with my brother-in-law, who was on his Surly Long Haul Trucker, and found out some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Mariner relative to a 700c commuting/touring bike. First, the gear range on the Mariner, while more than adequate for most cities (maybe an exception for San Francisco, but I assume all bikers in San Francisco have massive quads and can deal), was a little less than ideal for coastal Maine hills. I ran out of gears on both ends – so there was a little walking up some particularly steep hills, and then some coasting down the other side of those same hills when I got to spinning too fast in the top end. Standing and cranking really isn’t an option on the Mariner – the geometry makes it so it’s pretty much a seated-only bike. I also have to note that especially when loaded down with groceries in the back, the front end felt very light and twitchy and going downhill quickly was just a little hairy! So adding a top gear probably wouldn’t be very beneficial – but I thought having an 8-speed with a lower low end wouldn’t have been a bad thing. Finally, we both noticed that I was working a lot harder on some of the hills than he was on the LHT – mostly just a function of the wheel size and gear range, I think – but possibly also related to pedaling position (the Mariner is much more relaxed).

Loaded down with groceries.


In terms of carrying capacity, the Nuvo-brand rear rack has a 10kg (22 lbs) max load printed on it, which seems pretty silly to me. Probably a liability thing, but if there’s a rack, I’m going to want to put more than 22 lbs on it! I’m pretty sure what I carried was closer to 30 or 40, and I’d bet a decent amount of money it could take 50+ lbs without too much issue. The Ortlieb panniers I used were a little bit of a tight fit – I had to shove them pretty far back to get adequate heel clearance – but they did work. I’m sure there are other panniers that would work a bit better if you were buying specifically for this bike.

Other quibbles? I’d like to see some bottle cage bosses somewhere on the frame. I didn’t particularly like their choice of grips – I’ve been riding without gloves since I see this as being targeted for riders not all kitted out, and have found that when my hands get sweaty the grips get slippery – not good! Also, the drivetrain was a bit noisier than I prefer when in high or low gears (though functional).

Those nits aside, I’m very much liking the Mariner. It wouldn’t be my choice for a lengthy commute, but it seems quite reasonable for shorter rides and I’ve been pretty happy with how it packs down. I’ll be putting in a final report later, and Ghost Rider will hopefully be adding in his impressions after he’s had a chance to ride it.

All set to ride

Our FTC Review Disclaimer.

Sneak Peek: A bike made in Motor City, USA. Happy 4th of July!

Today is the perfect day for a sneak peek of an upcoming bike review.

Detroit-Bikes_rack-sm

Manufactured in Detroit, MI from American chromoly steel, this Motor City creation has two wheels instead of four, handlebars instead of a steering wheel, two pedals instead of . . . I think you know where I’m heading with this. Not only is the bike frame manufactured (from US steel) in Detroit, the bike’s wheels, rack, and chain guard are also built in the Motor City. Do you feel that? It’s American pride.

Detroit Bikes, LLC has created an American-made beauty. Stay tuned for the upcoming review.

And have a great 4th of July!

Companion Bike Seat Review

Earlier in the spring we got a chance to test out something called the Companion Bike Seat. Basically, this product gets installed on your bike much like any pannier rack would. The difference is you can actually carry a passenger (up to 200lbs). In addition, it has a lockable storage area to place anything you want that could fit in there.

The only bike in my collection that I was able to install the Companion on was my wife’s Nirve beach cruiser.

Installation was a breeze; no more than 15 minutes using basic tools such as a socket set and allen keys. What you see below allows the rack to be secured onto the seat post. You can fully adjust the pitch of the seat. If the bike was bigger or the post was further away, you can adjust this strut to ensure a proper fit.

Reflectors on the rear of the seat. You can see from this angle the lock for the trunk.

Heavy duty constructions allows for a 200lb passenger. Notice the pegs? That’s where the passenger places their feet and they are what the rack mounts onto. The rack itself has a wide stance, which means that it mounts somewhat wide onto the pegs. This makes the seat stable especially when you’re turning or if you’ve got a heavier passenger. One of the tests we did was to see if it would flex/sway when taking sharp turns. When riding through sharp turns with an adult male on the back, the rack didn’t sway/flex. If anything it’s the passenger who ends up getting nearly tossed off the seat. Just keep in your mind that this rack is pretty burly and VERY stable.

Lockable storage trunk. Perfect for food, electronic devices, cigars and donuts.

It is in our opinion that the Companion Bike Seat is a well made product. During our testing phases, nothing broke or had any type of issues. Our passengers all said that the cushion was very soft and that the rack felt stable. Our only complaint with this product…actually two complaints:

The first one would be that you can’t use it with a quick release wheel. It has to be installed on a bolted axle. This means it won’t work with a Nexus hub or any other type of internally geared hub that has a shifting mechanism on the other side of the dropout. Another complaint would be the inability to hang panniers. Sure you can place things in the storage trunk, but what if you’re picking up your kids from school and they have books to carry or if you’re doing a groceries run? It would be great to see their future models have some sort of mounting/hook system that gives that option.

Other than that, it’s a pretty great idea. There really hasn’t been any other products to my knowledge that works like this. Most rear racks have a load capacity of no more than 60lbs. But the Companion
Bike Seat is capable of carrying 200lbs. If you think about the alternatives in the bike world in regards of being able to carry 200lbs, you’d have to spend quite a bit of money for a cargo bike or something like the Xtracycle. I’ve owned cargo bikes and an Xtracycle before. They’re great and all, but they’re big and bulky. Yes I do realize that the Companion doesn’t have the same load capacity of an Xtracycle, but I used mine to carry my kids about 90% of the time that I owned it. So with that in mind, having a product that costs a fraction of the price of a cargo bike, but gives you the ability to carry a passenger would be a WIN WIN in my book. Just think about it, $149.95 isn’t much. With this simple product you can now carry your kids, go on a date with the wife/girlfriend or go bar hopping (you as the designated driver).

The Companion has an MSRP of $149.95.

For more information about the Companion Bike Seat, please visit their site.

Our FTC Review Disclaimer.

Want to get a real good workout during your commute?

As great as it is to be getting your work out on while riding your bike to and from work, I recently discovered a “bicycle” of sorts that allows you to get a more intense work out than just pedaling. I visited the 3G Bikes world headquarters in SoCal and got a chance to ride one of their 3G Stepper machines.
3gstepper

Here’s the description:

The 3G Stepper is a revolutionary concept developed to merge unconscious fitness with everyday cycling, which will give a healthier lifestyle to cyclists. The Stepper uses foot platforms to replace the pedals of the bike. The rider pumps the platforms up and down, rather than moving in the traditional circular motion of peddling, achieving a better toning of the whole body.

It helps shape the calves, thighs, abdomen, buttocks in a similar work out to that which you would achieve on a stationery Step machine in any gym, as well as increasing your heart rate to speed up your metabolism. The Stepper bike naturally enhances an upright posture because it has no seat unlike conventional cycles.

So the neat thing about the 3G Stepper is that it’s a tough work out and it has gears! Getting started was a bit awkward at first, but once I got going, the “stepping” motions were pretty natural. Cornering was a blast since it had a wide front tire. Of course when you’re riding something like this, you’re getting quite a bit of attention from drivers and pedestrians a like. Which is a good thing because you want to remain visible while you’re on the road.

I know what you’re thinking, this is more of a work out machine than a mode of transportation. Well check out these two guys who rode their 3G Steppers from Germany to Prague (Czech Republic)! 388.42 KM (241.35 miles) in almost 3 day. If these guys can ride hundreds of miles, I’m sure you’d be able to ride your 6-10 mile commute with a 3G Stepper.
3g stepper