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Tag Archive: folding bike

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.

Take me to the Motherland… The Port-Motherland.

A-O River! To all the bike commuters that may or may not have followed the past year of sporadic, wtf, travel-inspired posts, the one and only Mir.I.Am is taking off for the cycle kingdom known as Portlandia. Awwww yeah, birches. I can’t wait to be part of the transportation majority! Clip my feet and grow me a beard, I’m getting a tattoo and retiring in my thirties… Bring it Portland.

That would be PORTLAND! The MOTHERLAND!!!

Boyfriend and I have be chillin’ like villains here in the Northwest, revisiting old Seattle haunts, eating blackberries off the side of the road, and cramming our heads full of piping hot brown caffeine juice in the good ole-fashioned PacNoWe way.

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Yes. I did it. This is an emo-romance moment post fancy coffee and sparkling water with the Boyfriend in Portland. P.S. America, when did you start offering bubbly water with your espressos? I thought it was a Buenos Aires thing.

And… You know you’re in the Northwest when the Goodwill has a sweet Schwinn “Suburban” with a front basket and chromed out fenders for $40. A-MAY-Sing.

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Okay, okay… that’s enough sepia-toned photos or photos of sepia-toned drinks. What about the beauty of the green trees, mountains, blue lakes, and tiny red folding bikes you borrow from your friends when you are in town for work!? These are the moments that keep me coming back for more:

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Check out that Tiger’s black leather saddle with SHOCKS. It goes “skreaky-skreaky” everywhere when you ride it. heeeheee.

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A 70’s Japanese-made Tiger folder, or the-best-guest-bike-ever-for-when-your-friends-are-in-town… Yes, I am 5 foot and peas, and my friend who’s 6 foot and carrots rides this sucker too.

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All locked up at this sweet Bike Lounge at the Bullitt Center in Seattle. Complete with Showers and a bike tune-up station.

I can’t wait til my sister ships me my old orange Schwinn Le Tour II from San Francisco… In the meantime, I’ll dream of three-speed red tigers rolling through the bougie coffee shops in the ultimate hang town of Portland, Oregon.  Any PDX bike commuters out there, hit me up with recommendations for bike-specific awesomeness!

 

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How could you not love this tiny bike?! Tiger-powered!

 

Friday Musings – Baggage Claim and Bicycles

Summer Bike Love

Summer Bike Love - courtesy of Oh Shoot

Cycle ladies and gents of the planet, let’s talk about summer travel and bikes, and how you get it done!  Friday means it’s time to muse, and I’m wondering how everyone’s summer has been so far… have you caught some extra rays, enjoyed commutes home sans blinky lights, and pedaled to destination  both near and far during balmy evenings?

I Miss My Bike

Vacation withdrawls... Bike Commuting Addiction?!

After spending quite a bit of time in the airports this summer (Dad’s wedding, teaching assistant programs, Eurail passes, and waaaaay too much MSG consumption with my family) I got to missing my bike quite often!  And don’t get me wrong, doing air cycling (like air guitar, but I do it lying on the couch instead) and borrowing ill-fitting bikes from friends has gotten me through my moments of withdrawls.  “Hi everyone, my name is Mir.I.Am, and I am a Bike Commuting addict.  I snort chain lube, always carry a backpack with a rain slick, wear zebra spandex, and get impatient while walking anywhere.”  Sometimes, when you’re away from home, you just want YOUR bike, because a commuter and her bike are bonded like an Avatar’s braid and one of those flying dragon things.

Flying Avatar

Commuter attachment issues: I braid my hair into my bike, just like this guy.

Elizabeth and I met up in Chicago last summer, and I rented a MTB from Bike n Roll – which allowed for scenic views along the Lake Front path.  Marion and I hit up the streets of Paris on the “best” fit we could claim out of the three working bikes in her garage.  And, while testing out the Xootr Swift, said Xootie and I hit the baggage claim and Pualani Platinum club so I could enjoy a week of car-free goodness between Venice Beach and Santa Monica over the winter hell-a-days.  And of course, there’s always the endless bike share options that I still have yet to straddle…

Paddle Bike

Oh yes, this will get me from Waikiki to Belize, easy!

But, there is a part of me that wonders if it’s worth it to make MY bike into a baggage-claim-friendly-beast with custom installed couplings from S and S!  Since I live in Hawaii, the challenge is to fly with my bike, since it’s the only way to get off the island (no trains, no road trips, and definitely no bike touring to other states).  Unless I get me a floating paddle bike and pack an enormous bag of shrimp chips.  What’s your best advice for bike commuting and jet setting? Anyone out there rocking a custom frame with renovated with S and S couplings, packable travel bikes, a folding MTB, or a chainless folder with teensy wheels?  Do you have a bike away from home that you rely on?  Would it be worth the $350-$700 extra and baggage claim hassle to make your bike more airplane-friendly?  Or are you down with renting bikes, borrowing two wheels, or resorting to transportation dogs?!  Bring on the comments, bike setters!

Commuter with Couplings

Holy Sexy Chocolate Espresso Moly - I'm pretty sure this commuter set up is outta my price range, but look at those S and S couplings, and what a rack!

Review: My Xootr and Me! Xootr Swift

Ooh, the Xootie is lookin muy caliente with this Glamour Shots photo filter!

Hola Bike Commuters!  The Xootr Swift and me, (or as I refer to him as the “Xootie” because it rhymes with “cootie”) and I go way back: to August of 2011!  Xootie arrived at my sister’s place in L.A. by ground shipping in a shorter than average cardboard companion.  Just in time to liberate me from the four-wheeled nonsense of my vehicluar-obsessed family in L.A.  Digression: Last year, they insisted that they drive me seven blocks from Grandma’s house in Santa Monica to Auntie’s house in Santa Monica. I took my jugular hostage with a plastic Taco Bell spork in order to escape a 3-minute trip in an oversized SUV driven by my crazy half blind aunt and took off on the Xootie.

Okay, back to the REVIEW: So what does Xootr have to say about the Swift?  For a company that usually makes scooters, I was impressed!  For $749, you get a good commuter bang for your buck.   Here is the obligatory spec list with bullet-points, because they do it better than I can on the website:

Xootr Swift Fold Bicycle Features

  • A folder that rides just like a regular bike
  • Nearly all parts are industry standard…no weird and incompatible stuff.
  • One of the lightest folders out there (25lbs.)
  • Ready to go out of the box. We’ve made the hard choices for you.
  • Super stable, rigid TrusFold frame system
  • Available as either an 8 speed or single speed (black only)Note:Single speed version is sold out.

Some things I’d like to +1 include extra-sturdy frame, solid as a rock!  As the seat post is the pin that locks the rigid frame, it’s a larger diameter than normal.  So, I often locked it with a cable knowing that if some lolo decided to steal it, I’d be SOL.  Another +1 for the fact that it has similar geometry to a “regular” bike with full-size wheels.  Even though it has 20″ wheels, it doesn’t feel crunchy or cramped up like you’d think.  In fact, here’s a craptastic photo of the Xootr next to my Bumblebee Scott road-monster at home:

Due to lack of photo-taking skills, I had to edit in pink. Handlebars and seat height real close to the road bike set up.

Also, in as well as, in addition to, the Xootr Swift folding bike proved a worthy travel companion, as I have stuffed him into everything except the overhead compartment for carry-ons: the back of a Toyota Corolla trunk, large rolly wheeled suitcases, under the tables at a booth in a craft fair, the back of an eight-passenger State vehicle, tiny apartment elevators, and a dingo.  The trick with this folder is that the seat post acts as the locking mechanism for the bike, making it as easy to collapse as fainting baby goats.  The handle bars also have a quick release pin making the bike even midgier for the back of my co-worker’s Subaru.

No need to fold down the seats with this spectacular Xootie nugget!

The Xootie Swift has been tons of fun around town!  I’ve used it for every commute day and even lent it to a visiting friend (who complainted of taintal discomfort, but I blame that more on a weak sack than the engineering of the bike).  With it’s BMX-sized “bulletproof” wheels, it is a whippy mo-fo.  I’ve casually bunny hopped some spam musubis and quickly detoured from road to sidewalk to bike path in order to avoid traffic congestion during rush hour.  With the 8-speeds it’s golden for cruising on errands or commutes up to 12 miles and taking Diamondhead uphill! Hook me up with an easy gear ratio any day: I’ve got nothing to prove!

Curbs or Spam musubis, nothing stands in the way of Xootie Swift's BMX wheels.

I have had all kinds of comments shouted to me in downtown while waiting at lights or turning corners, “Nice blue on your bike” or “Cute, your bike!” or “Fancy bike, where’d you get dat?”  Confessional Digression: I have grown fond of the Xootie, but due to it’s small size  I felt like a clown on the way to a kid’s brthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese the first couple of weeks. I have always wanted to commute on a folding bike but never had a small enough apartment that it didn’t make sense to get the big kid wheels for the same price.  I’d been eyeballing origami cheap $200 single speed or 3-speed suckers since the original purchase of the Kona Dew back in 2007.  Claiming no technical expertise on the subject of bikes but lightyears of experience in good old-fashioned bikey fun, I was won over by the Xootie as it’s a mini-wheels are nostalgic of childhood, and it’s a very practical commuter choice.  Oh, the SHAME.  It’s like hanging out with my dorky little brother who is actually a lot of fun and more like me than I’d like to admit.

Spark Notes: The Xootr Swift comes in S,M,L and XL sizes, and looks more like a scooter than a bike.  Surprisingly, it’s a quick commuter considering the size of the wheels.  Eight speeds makes tackling hills a no brainer! Three months of commuting through Chinatown, with it’s streets shimmering with crushed glass vials, and no flats is a good sign for the stock tires!  I give it five thumbs up for portability, easy to fold, assemble, and carry, flashy blue color, and whippy maneuverability like Willow Smith.  I give it one big toe down for initial dork factor of riding a bike that looks like a scooter, and grip-shifters (yucky to fix when they get stuck!).  If you like rooting for the underdog, go for the Xootr Swift!  For a more tech-savvy review, check out this one from Velo Bike Parts in October 2011.

Xootie in the sky with diamonds.

Melon Bicycles-Slice Foldng Bike

We received the Melon Bicycles, Slice to test out. Here are some of the first few pics of the Slice.

melon slice

melon slice

Folding mechanism

8 Speed SRAM

Kick Stand!

Folds at the stem.

Shimano 12-25T

Folding Pedals


Specs:

Frame 7005 aluminum-octagon shape
Fork 7005 aluminum
Folded Size 34″L x 27″H x 13″W
Folding Time 15 seconds
Weight 25.5 lbs
Suggested Rider Height 4’-8? to 6’-3?
Maximum Rider Weight 240 lbs
Crankset SRAM Truvativ Tuoro 52T
Chain KMC HG50 108L
Hubs Formula FB-31FQR, Formula FB-32 RQR
Spokes 14G Steel, 12mm brass CP nipples
Rims Weinmann ZAC20
Tire Kenda K909, 20?x1.75?
Shifter SRAM MRX Pro with display
Rear Derailleur Sora 8 speed
Cassette Shimano CS-HG50-8, 12-25T
Brakes Promax Alloy V brakes
Brake Levers Promax 2.5 Finger Alloy
Pedals VP folding pedal
Saddle Cionlli
Seat Post 34x550mm
Handlebar 25.4mmx500mm, swept 6 degrees
Stem 300mm folding

Price $599