BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: folding bikes

Review: Jango Flik V9 Folding Bicycle

A couple of months ago, the folks from Jango Bikes loaned us one of their new folding bikes, the Flik V9, to test out. We previewed it here.

flik

I’ve had a chance to ride it quite a bit — never got to try the true multimodal approach (bus/bike or bike/train) with it, but did pack it into the trunk of my wife’s car on days too rainy in the morning to brave the first half of my commute.

Well, how did it perform? The bike itself is a blast to ride…I’ve always been enamored with folding bikes as they seem to bring a smile to my face whenever I get a chance to ride one. I found the gearing to be quite adequate for my commute — no real hills to tackle, but plenty of range with the 50T chainring and 11-34 9-speed cassette.

There seems to be plenty of adjustability in the bike itself. While the handlebars don’t move up and down, the seatpost has plenty of range and the bike fit me fine. I think about 6 footers or so are the top limit for riders of this bike, however, and smaller folks will appreciate the bike even more.

I’ve read a number of accounts from other folding bike users that it seems to take a lot of effort to spool up such small wheels as compared to a fullsize bike. I certainly didn’t notice that — the Flik gets up to speed effortlessly enough for urban riding. This is no race bike, to be sure, and isn’t designed to be blazing-fast. Overall the ride was smooth.

One oddity I did notice was that sometimes as I was clipping along, I’d hit a bump and the rear shock would reverberate in time with my pedaling. I believe this is referred to as “pedal bob” in the mountain biking world. While it didn’t throw me off my game or really interfere with my forward progress, I found myself chanting “boingyboingyboingy!” in my head as I bobbed along. The rear shock is adjustable for preload with a knurled dial on the upper body of the shock, but even at its tightest setting, the bobbing was noticeable.

shock

The front and rear shocks do smooth out the roughness of road surfaces…I’ve long believed that suspension components are overkill for just about any commuter-friendly bike and add unneeded complexity and weight to the bike, but in many cases they DO serve to make things a bit more comfortable. The spring-damped front shock (not adjustable) felt a bit clunky, as if the headset was loose. If I could, I’d specify the bike without these extras. The entire range of Flik models come equipped with the rear shock, but the front end of the 8-speed models (T8/V8/V8i) is rigid.

front shock

The shifting was flawless…Shimano 9-speed trigger shifter controlling the Sora rear derailleur over a SRAM 9-speed cassette. I had no issues whatsoever with that.

sora derailleur

Likewise the brakes — Tektro IO cable-actuated disc brakes, with the front brake equipped with the DiscBlock lock (a hardened steel pin that fits through one of the holes in the disc for casual theft-prevention). The discs performed quite adequately, even in the rain. Disc brakes make a lot of sense on commuter bikes — able to stop reliably in rain, snow and mud and they cut down on expensive rim wear.

One riding issue I did have with the Flik is heelstrike against the derailleur guard and driveside chainstay. With rather large feet and the short, widely-bowed chainstays of the Flik, I had a tendency to clip the bike with my heel as I pedaled. Careful foot placement as I got used to riding the bike definitely helped, and of course folks with smaller feet shouldn’t have as many troubles with this area as I did.

heelstrike

The V9 comes stock with a cantilevered rear rack that folds along with the rest of the bike. It’s not rated for too much cargo (5kgs), but is plenty strong enough for a sack of groceries or light commuting load. I was unable to test the rack with traditional panniers, but Jango’s parent company Topeak makes a great rack bag with folding panniers that clips to the Flik’s rack. Slung underneath the rack is a pouch for a reinforced nylon storage/transport bag for the folded bike:

rack

bag

The V9 also comes stock with front and rear lights. The rear light was missing from the loaner I tested, and the front light is…well…fairly ineffective. It isn’t bright enough to navigate by, and may be set too low to provide much “see me” effect for motorists.

On some other sites, folks have decried the lack of fenders on this bike — I’ve got to say that not having fenders on this bike is NOT the dealbreaker others make it out to be. After all, those small wheels are so far away from the rider that they couldn’t possibly splash you with muddy water (smirk)! This bike is probably not the first choice for a sloppy, rough-n-tumble rain-soaked commuter anyway — it’s more geared toward someone who needs a small, apartment-friendly machine to get around the city rather than braving the worst Mother Nature can throw at us.

How easily does this bike fold? Well, take a look at the following video:

It’s a 4 second process to fold the bike into “storage mode”…even less for “shuttling” mode. Amazing! A lot of great engineering went into the design of the folding mechanisms…it couldn’t be simpler (or faster). Having experienced other folding bikes, I can say that the Flik simply blows away the competition in terms of getting the bike ready for transport. But how does it compare in size to a more traditional folding bike? I asked my friend Ken if I could borrow his Dahon Curve folder to make a comparison shot:

folded

As you can see, the Dahon packs down into a smaller overall package. Other Flik users have expressed concern that the folded bike doesn’t fit as easily into small car trunks as other folders, but I was unable to find a small car to test. Nor was I able to bring the Flik onto a city bus or train…although I did wheel it into a few stores with no problems and no concerns about bulk. To be honest, I’ll happily sacrifice a little extra size if it means that folding this bike up is so effortless and fast! By the way, I weighed the bike as provided to me — it weighs right at 35 lbs. Not the easiest bike to schlep around…luckily it can easily be wheeled around in storage and shuttling modes.

So, is this the ultimate folder? The jury’s still out on that — there are so many great folders on the market these days, most of which I have never had the chance to ride. Perhaps my biggest issue with the Flik is price: with an MSRP of around $1500, the Flik is not an inexpensive machine. And, I’m not sure the parts spec on this bike justifies such a price. For about the same price, a base-model Brompton (considered the gold standard in folding bikes) could be had, as could any number of handsomely-appointed folders from Dahon and Bike Friday. I understand that engineering such a unique folder costs quite a bit more, and the technology used to facilitate that folding (cartridge-bearing pivots, camlocks and safety collars) adds to the cost. I’m afraid that some folks will take a look at the mostly-generic parts spec — with a couple of name-brand standouts like the Continental reflective tires, the Avid Speed Dial brake levers, SRAM cassette and Shimano Sora derailleur — and be turned off. It’s a toss-up — does a bike like this NEED high-end parts? I’ll be honest: the low-end and generic stuff sure performed without a hitch.

Hits:
– Effortless and fast folding mechanism
– fun, stable ride
– comfortable
– easy to store
– comes with basic accessories (lights, rack, storage bag, bell)

Misses:
– price
– low-end parts
– heavy
– not as compact as other folding bikes

We’d like to thank Jango for giving us the opportunity to try out the Flik — despite its shortcomings (mostly minor), it has definitely encouraged me to add a folder to my personal commuting fleet. Take a look at Jango’s other models by visiting their site.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Melon Bicycles-Slice Review

We received the Melon Slice a few months back to test. Melon Bicycles provided us a demo unit and we were not paid to provide this review. Here’s our disclaimer.

melon slice

What: Melon Bicycles, Slice 20″ folding bike

Price: $599

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 Touro 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 34×550mm
Handlebar 25.4mmx500mm, swept 6 degrees
Stem 300mm folding

Riding the Melon Slice is actually pretty fun. What I liked most about this bike is the fact it is super nimble. If you recall riding a BMX bike when you were a kid, just think of the same type of agility and handling, but in a grown up way. Since the Melon Slice has a shorter wheel base than the average bike, its handling is really quick and responsive. Popping wheelies and the occasional bunny hop is pretty easy on the Slice. So why would a bike commuter be doing those tricks? Well in my commute, there are tons of obstacles such as pot holes, trash, debris and even animals. The Melon Slice was awesome when it came to last minute directional changes.

The ride experience of this bike was very pleasant. It’s a smooth riding bike and if needed it could mash. When looking at this cute little folder, you’d think its going to be a bike that your grandmother would be riding. In fact I had some people call it an “RV Bike.” Not sure if you knew this, but folders are pretty popular with RV folks since they store pretty easily in tight spaces. Anyhow, the Melon Slice is quite a sleeper. I mean just look at it, it’s cute. Nothing about it says HI PERFORMANCE. However, that all changes when you start pedaling. The 52t chainring gets this bike moving like no one’s business. Combine that with the 8speed Shimano 12-25T and this bike will fly. There really isn’t much effort needed to start reaching speeds over 20mph.

Shifting with the SRAM MRX grip shift was pretty accurate. However, towards the last week of testing, I noticed that the rear derailleur needed to be slightly tuned. The Promax brakes are pretty powerful. They can stop me without a problem, and I’m a big guy, 208lbs (all muscle).

One gripe I have would be the width of the handlebar. It measured at 20″ wide. I prefer to ride with a minimum of 25″ bars. Besides, I like the extra leverage I can get with wider bars. It makes climbing out of the saddle easier. So there are two options: you can invest in an expensive set of wider bars Pricepoint.com has one for $10, or you can get a set of bar ends to help with the leverage when climbing.

The Melon Slice is very durable frame. It’s gusseted for extra strength and it’s pretty stiff for a folder. Even though this bike is pretty strong and durable, it does have a weight limit of 240lbs. So that means no big boys or girls. The folding ability of the bike makes this thing pretty easy to store. Folding the bike only takes 15 seconds and it’s pretty self explanatory.



I know what you’re already thinking, “what about fenders and racks?” Well, you’re in luck. Melon Bicycles have already addressed that issue. They sent me a fender and rack set that they have available on their site.



The rack has a 20lbs capacity. But I noticed this thing wasn’t really meant for the large seat post since it was giving me some play when I would load it up. I really dig this rack for its storage.


There was play on the clamp. The fittings that came with it were too small.

All in all, the Melon Slice is a pretty decent folding bike. I like how fast this thing goes and the gearing was just right for hills and flats. Its’ a very nimble bike, handling is exquisite, the wheels stayed true and the shifting stayed pretty tuned up until last week. But that’s nothing that a few turns of the adjuster barrel couldn’t fix. So for $599, this folder has all the benefits of a small commuter/folding bike, but it also has the capabilities to keep up or pass other riders with bigger bikes.

First Look: Jango Flik V9 Folding Bicycle

Remember that oddly-shaped bicycle box that came on “Brown Santa” last week?

box

Well, some of our guessers were right: it IS a folding bicycle. A Jango Flik V9, to be exact. Released in Asia and revealed to great interest at both Eurobike and Interbike 2009, the Jango Flik is a new player on the folding-bike scene. We’re lucky to have gotten a sample to test for a few weeks before it gets sent back to parent company Topeak, and I wanted to give you a look at some of the major features before we get down to testing it.

riding

First, a bit about the bike from Jango’s own website:

Frame: UniFit, single size
Folding Time: Shuttling, 2 seconds; Storage, 4 seconds
Weight: 12.9 kg/28.4 lb.
Maximum Rider Weight: 110 kg/ 242.5 lb.
Suspension: Front spring w/ 20mm travel, rear elastomer w/ 10mm travel
Shifters: Shimano 9-speed Rapidfire
Cassette: SRAM 9-speed (11-28)
Chainring: Single 50T ring with CNC chainguard
Brakes: Jango mechanical discs with integrated DiscBlock lock
Saddle: Allay Racing Sport
Grips: Ergon ergonomic
Wheels: Jango 16″ disc rims
Tires: Continental TourRide w/ reflective sidewalls

This bike is packed with urban-friendly features, such as
–a simple 1×9 drivetrain with disc brakes front and rear and tires with reflective sidewalls:

rear

–short-travel suspension both front and rear:

front susp.
(spring-damped with 20 mm of travel, non-adjustable)

rear susp.
(elastomer-damped with 10 mm of travel; preload-adjustable)

–an integrated rear rack that folds with the bike:

rack

integrated front wheel immobilizer (DiscBlock lock), and lightning-fast folding mechanisms. The folding mechanisms are easy to use and FAST. Jango claims a 2-second switch between fully-deployed and the intermediate “shuttle” mode, and this is quite accurate. Pull a lever and fold the bike and you arrive at this:

shuttle

You’ll notice that the integrated kickstand swivels to allow the bike to stand in “shuttle” mode. That’s a nice feature!

Two quick motions with the hand to undo the front-end folding mechanism and safety block, coupled with the above lever pull and you arrive at this, the fully-folded “storage” mode:

storage

As part of my review I will include a video or two of just how quick it is to fold this bike in both modes. It couldn’t be easier, and Jango has put a lot of thought and time into creating a system that makes folding effortless for the user. I will also compare this folder to a more “traditional” folding bike, both in terms of folding ease and final folded size.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with folding bikes — many of the people who know me and my cycling habits know that I’ve been clamoring to fill a gap in my bicycle fleet. Here’s why: although I’m not a multi-modal commuter, there are days when it’s time to go to work and it’s pouring down rain. With the vagaries of Florida’s weather, it is almost invariably sunny and dry within a few hours and after I’ve “chickened out” by having my wife drive me to work, I wish that I had a folding bike on hand to make the return leg rather than wait to be picked up. A folding bike would be awfully handy for such a scenario, as it would be for someone who does part of their morning commute via carpool, bus or train.

Besides, in the brief experiences I’ve had with folding bikes, I’ve learned that they are FUN to ride. Sure, they look weird, but once I get on something happens and I realize I’m wearing a huge grin.

I’ll be testing this bike in the urban conditions in and around Tampa — navigating the urban corridors and otherwise using the bike the way Jango intends it: as a handy, portable travel solution for city-dwellers. Stay tuned and in a few weeks we’ll have the full review.

Let the testing begin!

yeehaw!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

New Abio review…preview

What a great way to start the day — opening up a package!

It’s so compact, yet it’s 95% assembled right out of the box.

Within minutes, my new “ride” to work is ready to go.

I’ll let you know in the coming weeks how this new Abio Verdion stacks up against my full-sized commuters.

It already has one major advantage — folding down! I put that folding capacity to the test as I squeezed and wiggled my way (literally) through a public transit turnstile gate (with just enough room for me and this Abio).

Swiss Bike TX First Impression

So we got the Swiss Bike TX to test for MtnBikeRiders.com, but since we haven’t tested a “Full Size” folder, we figured I would ride it to work as well.

Here are the specs of the bike, the components are basically entry level:

ADVANTAGES

* Full-size bike for cruising city streets and mountain trails with 26″ standard wheels.
* Folds to 36″ x 28″ x 12″ in under thirty seconds without the use of tools.
* Compact size allows for convenient storage in a car trunk, boat, closet, or private plane.
* Limited lifetime warranty on frame.
* 21-Speed with front suspension fork and disc brake.
* Equipped with industry standard wheels and components serviceable at any bike shop.
* Patented technology not available from any other company.
* The portable nature of the bicycle allows it to be taken anywhere.

SPECIAL FEATURES

* Montague Folding Integrated Technology (F.I.T.™): Our patented seat tube folding system preserves the structural integrity and inherent strength of traditional bicycle geometry. Unlike all other folding bikes, there are no wobbly hinges and no structural tubes cut in half.
* Quick Releases: No tools are needed to fold and unfold the X-Series™ Bike. Just open one quick release lever on the top tube and remove the front wheel. Folds in under thirty seconds without tools.
* Safety Lock: Recessed drop out for quick release prevents frame from folding even with quick release not tightened.
* CLIX™ Wheel Release System: Patented pending wheel release system that allows for the easy wheel removal with only one hand.

I’ll be honest, when I saw the bike’s specs and how much it weighed, I frowned upon it. But as a testament that not all commuter bikes need fenders, chainguards, etc, etc, I decided to ‘convert’ this bike onto a Southern California commuter bike. So before I rode my 27.6 mile round trip commute, those super knobby tires had to go.

In their place, I installed Kenda’s City Slickers II from my old Kona Smoke 26er.

I also installed a seatpost rack, and a Cateye mirror, I don’t care for riding with backpacks during summer and I believe that a mirror is a must for bike commuting.

So how did it do on today’s commute? After a few adjustments, the bike was a real joy to ride. I’ve been asked if I’ve ever ridden a commuter bike that I hadn’t enjoyed…. Well, no, not really, I just like bikes that will get me to and from work safely, comfortably and with no mechanical issues.

So what about the weight? 32 lbs of bike may seem a lot, but I guess once you’ve ridden a loaded Xtracycle, 32 lbs is not that bad. Although I don’t have a use for its folding capability, I can see that the weight maybe the trade off.

What I really liked about the bike was its geometry, it really suited me and it felt really comfortable. The front fork absorbed all the bumps of the road and it didn’t bob as bad as I was expecting. My only gripe with this bike is its gearing, when I would shift gears, it seemed that there was a big difference between gear ratios.

I’ll write an update when I’ve put 200 miles on this bike, we’ll see how it holds up.