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Archive for the ‘Folding bikes’ Category

After my recent acquisition of a Brompton, I started to think that perhaps I had too many folding bikes. Here are three of them, not counting the Dahon that I have stashed in Vancouver.

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So the obvious thing was to put the Tikit up for sale (and I will still do that), but in the meantime there was some chatter on FB about someone with their apartment eliminating indoor bike parking, and so needing a folding bike……and ideally one with disc brakes.  Suddenly I had an opportunity to give my PBW a good home.

Here it is, packed up and ready to be hauled downtown. A few extra parts, like the fenders, a wheel with a spare Alfine 8 spd hub, and a 24h 406 rim to match.

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Amusingly, on the way in, I catch the tail end of the Santa Claus parade. Santa actually saw me, and said “now THAT’s a bike!”.

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On a separate trip I also took in the suitcase that I used with it, bearing stickers from some of the adventures that I had with the PBW. The Illini sticker was from a trip where I was riding in past some corn fields in Hawkins IN Urbana IL, and four kids rode by on their BMX’s and said “cool bike!”.

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I’ve had some good rides with the PBW. It was custom made for me about sixteen years ago by Hugh in Chico California. He no longer builds, and is now a recumbent dealer. The long term plan was to rebuild it with the Alfine hub, but now both the bike and the rebuild project has been passed onto the new proud owner: Victor ex-Aerovelo, ex-HPVDT and all around good guy (and mad scientist).

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I’m glad I found a good home for the bike.

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Ever since I had the chance to compare my Bike Friday Tikit to a Brompton a couple of summers ago, I’ve been thinking about getting a Brompton. Last Thursday, I finally caved, and look what followed me home from Curbside Cycles.

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2017 model, nickel black edition, 6 speed. I have a very understanding wife.

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And here I am riding it into work for the first time this past Monday.

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My initial impressions reinforce what I experienced before:

  • the frame and stem are nice and stiff.
  • for me, the riding position is adequately stretched out horizontally.
  • I prefer the 2017 shifters to the earlier version. Ultimately, the shifting is not as nice as the Alfine 11 on my Tikit, but since my commute is flat, it seems that having the hub gear in 2nd and using the derailleur as a half step will be fine.
  • the braking is much better than the Tikit, and I don’t really see a need to convert to disc brakes in the future.
  • not in love with the left hand folding pedal, but I suppose I’ll get used to it.
  • going to have to swap out the saddle before longer rides
  • ditto for tweaking the handlebar position. Ideally I’d want a bullhorn set up like I have on my Tikit, but I don’t want it to interfere with the fold.

Oddly, since switching to riding the Brompton, most of my rides have been faster than average:

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Of course an important part of having a Brompton is to shop for accessories. Since I didn’t immediately want to invest in one of their fancy bags, I was riding to work with my trusty Tom Bihn bag.

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Fun fact: this bag, circa 2004, has a hidden message on the care tag inside, for which the company got into a bit of trouble.

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Just for completeness, I will point out that their current bags have the following tag:

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The bottom line says “Made in USA” in Chinese. The other side has the company motto.

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At any rate, back to Brompton luggage. Most of their bags are designed to be mounted on a carrier block in front of the head tube, and this has the benefit that the bag does not turn with the handlebars. This is like the front basket on my Haul a Day. The bags have a rigid integral frame that quick releases on and off the bike.

Ideally I wanted a bag sewn in North America. Curbside carries the YNOT bag which was ideal since it is made locally, so that seemed to be the top choice. However, a search of the internet also turned up a very sweet bag by Swift Industries. Regrettably, they informed me that it was no longer in production.

With a little more research, I realized that the Brompton bag frame had virtually the same dimensions as my Tom Bihn ID Bag, notably a width of 40 cm, the critical dimension. Thus I was off again to Curbside to check to see if one of the frames would fit by bag.

A quick aside to admire mechanic Eli’s Brompton.

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Back home with the frame laid out on the bag.

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Using a good old sliver Sharpie to mark the necessary cuts

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Now with the frame inserted.

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Of course a real Brompton bag inserts the frame from underneath and there are special straps to hold it in place. However, the fit of the frame to my bag is quite tight and I don’t anticipate any issues. The frame also as a but of a protruding shelf that holds the bag from underneath.

Here is the bag on the bike. The design of the bag is such that the shoulder strap can tuck under the front flap.

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There you go, a bag that hasn’t seen much recent use now repurposed for bike commuting. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Regrettably I see that this particular model, the ID bag, is no longer made. However, the Cadet has about the same nominal width, and the back flap construction is such that it might fit a Brompton frame as it is. If anyone is willing to try it out, let me know if it works.

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Just trying to get as many rides in before the salt descends and I have to put away the Brompton for the winter.

Update:

I found this video

Update #2:

The front bag makes the handling of the Brompton fractionally more stable. I am pleased. Also according to use Killeri on the Tom Bihn forums:

“A T-bag frame does not fit in the back pocket of Cadet. Otherwise the concept feels sound, so a smaller frame probably works fine.”

 

 

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Cycle Toronto organized a “Yonge Loves Bikes” ride on a gloriously sunny Saturday. The ride started at Heath and Yonge, just a little north of St. Clair so that we could all look forward to riding down the big hill. This is in contrast to last year, when we had to bike up the hill.

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It’s always interesting to see some of the fine machines that show up. This is TBN member Roy’s Air Friday, to which he has added e-assist.

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He also locked out the flexing of the Ti beam with this bracket.

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Sam with one of his bikes. He says he has been trimming down the size of his fleet.

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It turns out that this big orange Bullitt with a trailer belongs to Cycle Toronto.

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The combination of horizontal dropouts, disc brakes, hub gear and tight fender line is going to make repairing a flat on the rear a real pleasure. (I hope I didn’t jinx things by pointing this out). Note the Shimano e-assist and and electronic shifting.

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Sam et al tell us how the ride is going to be organized.

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We line up behind some police bikes.

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And off we go, turning south on Yonge.

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Regroup after the steepest part of the hill.

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Is that “V” for victory, or a peace sign?

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At Davenport.

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Approaching Bloor St.

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South of Bloor now.

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Here comes that Imperial Star Destroyer the Cycle Toronto portable mothership.

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Sorry this one is blurry.

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Yonge/Dundas. At this point, the police escort peeled off.

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At Shuter.

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Turning at the foot of Yonge St.

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Along the MG trail.

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Turning into the southernmost part of Sherbourne Commons.

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Group picture, without the lake in the background.

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Thanks to Cycle Toronto for organizing, and all the rides who rode with us.

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Once again this year, there will not be a Bells on Bloor ride as that volunteer group is focusing on the Bloor bike lane pilot campaign. There will be a Bells on Danforth ride on June 24, but regrettably, I’ll be out of town that day.

and of course today there were other rides going on, such as the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and the world naked bike ride, which just happened to go by my office while I was composing this blog entry.

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One of my holy grails is to have a light, high performance folding bike that is easily folded into a suitcase. The Brompton and Tikit each have their advantages and disadvantages, but they both weigh more than about 25 pounds. Last year during STP, I caught a brief glimpse of a 20″ Ti folder, and I was told that it was a prototype.

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Last night I got a note that it was now available for purchase. It is called the Burke 20 folding bike, and this image from their website is very promising

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The claimed weight can be as low as 18 lbs without saddle. Unfortunately, the lowest price on the bike is $5500 US.

It is interesting to compare this bike to the Helix, a Toronto based bike which is promised for production this year, but thus far has not seen the light of day, AFAIK. The Helix has 24″ wheels, a claimed 22 lb weight, and it was advertised at less than half this price point.

 

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tikitintorontoI’ve had a Bike Friday Tikit for a couple of years now and I’ve been fairly happy with it. However, I’ve also been thinking about alternative folding bikes for a while.  In the interim, Bike Friday ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch a new 16″ wheel folding bike called the PakiT, which was advertised as being both lighter and cheaper than the Tikit. When I saw this, I figured it was only a matter of time until they discontinued the Tikit.

(Note that I am a happy customer from the their first Kickstarter campaign that launched the Haul a Day)

That confirmation arrived today via an answer I got on the Bike Friday FB page.

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“the tikit is being phased out. You can still order a tikit, but only until the end of this year, and at the new price listed on our website.https://www.bikefriday.com/folding-bikes/bikes/tikit-3/” Note that they raised the price quite a bit.

I’m a little sad about this since the Tikit has some unique features for a Friday, like the quick fold. It also served me quite well this past summer on STP.

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Nevertheless, from the looks of things, it is much more expensive to build than the PaKiT. Also, given the fact that there is a limited market for folding bikes that cost upwards of $1000, it’s not a bad move to concede the quickfold focused commuter market to Brompton.

If I get a chance, I’ll try to test ride the PakiT so that I can do a direct comparison with the Tikit. Also still waiting on a chance to check out the Helix.  Or perhaps I’ll take a second look at putting a internally geared hub on the PBW.

So many choices in the folding bike world these days…….

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Today was a great day for a bike ride with several hundred of my closest friends AKA Bells on Bloor. This year, the ride started and ended at Christie Pits since we were celebrating the installation of a bike lane pilot on a short 2.5 km section of Bloor St. Before the ride officially started, a smaller group of us gathered at High Park to ride to the ride.

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Our local MP Arif Virani rode along with us for the first part of the ride to show his support.

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I liked this heavily modded Dahon Mu with belt drive, Alfine 11 gearing, and loopwheels.  Apparently it was a prototype built for the Eurobike show some years ago.

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Lucy says time to ride.

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Stopped at Keele. For some reason, when you are riding with these guys, you get more respect from motorists!

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MJ leads us up the hill.

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Doug was rocking his brand new Fat Bike. With a front basket for Honey of course.

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A group shot upon our arrival across from Christie Pits.

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This must be the place.

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Bells specially decorated for the event were given out and mounted by volunteers.

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Had to get one myself.

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MC and chief ride organizer Albert Koehl gets things started.

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The crowd is enthusiastic.

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and now it’s time to ride.

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Angela and colleague in the lead with the official Bells on Bloor Banner.

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For your reference, this is what it says on the back (although the website is defunct, and has been replaced with bellsonbloor.org.

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Albert ringing his bell.

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Riding past the ROM.

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and along Bloor to Sherbourne.

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Back along Wellesley, and then turning north on Queen’s Park Crescent, which was fun because we were occupying the full width of the roadway.

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Police bike corking a BMW.

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Back along Bloor St.

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Greeted by the banner again at the end of the ride.

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Cycle Toronto was providing bike valet.

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There were many craft and food vendors. The longest line was for Pizza Libretto.

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This vendor regretted not having more of these shirts to sell.

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Large and small wheels!

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Just making sure that I get a decent shot of the forks on Doug’s bike.

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Honey had a good time.

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Thanks to the organizers of the ride, and to everyone who rode today.

Note that a different version of this blog post appears on the bells on bloor website, with more covearage of the speakers, and less bike geekery.

Also, here is a video.

 

Update: Dandyhorse coverage here.

 

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Brompton vs Tikit

I’ve been a Tikit owner for several years now, and I’ve certainly been happy with the bike for its intended use: being able to suitcase the bike so that I can have my own bike on hand during trips. However, I’ve always wondered about the Brompton as an alternative, and for city use, I could see how the extremely compact fold would be an advantage. Last weekend, I participated in the Brompton Urban Challenge, and I was able to secure a loaner for that event. I was able to bring it home to practice folding and unfolding it. At the same time, this was a golden opportunity to compare the bikes side to side.

The loaner bike that I got was the six speed with straight bars and fenders. In Brompton parlance, this would make it an S6L, in red. Here it is, loaded up for the journey home from Curbside Cycle.

Since the primary use for my Tikit has been as a travel bike, the first thing to do was to see if the Brompton would fit my existing F’lite case, just like my Tikit.

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I’m thinking how wonderful it would be not to have to partially disassemble the bike for travel. However, you can see that the Brompton will not fit.

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I’m assuming that the Brompton hardcase is much more square in proportion than a typical suitcase.

Next up: a side by side comparison. Here I get another surprise: the Brompton actually has a longer wheelbase.

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You can also see that the type S bars put my hands lower than they are on the Tikit.

From the side, the folded sizes don’t look that different.

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However, looking from the front to back, you see that the Brompton is much more compact, even ignoring the fact that I’ve put custom handlebars on the Tikit that stick way out to the side.

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Here’s a top view of the two handlebar setups.  If I ever do get a Brompton, I’m going to have to figure out how to get a similar bullhorn type setup on it. This will necessitate using a quick release to clamp the handlebars on the Brompton. The total widths of the handlebars are similar.

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Back to back test rides confirm the impression that I got during my test ride at Kinetics: the Brompton stem (and perhaps frame) is significantly stiffer than the Tikit. This photo shows why: the diameter of both the frame member and the stem are larger on the Brompton. (for the record, my Tikit is a size M with the heavy rider upgrade)

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The other differences between the two bikes that I felt:

  • Braking was much better on the Brompton, especially the rear brake (which is very marginal on the Tikit). The braking was good enough that perhaps the disc brakes on a Kinetic Brompton would be overkill.
  • Shifting was much better on the Tikit. Granted, mine has a belt drive 11 speed Alfine. Nevertheless, the 3×2 gearing on the Brompton was awkward, and I was also very concerned about how flexy the Sturmey Archer shifters seemed.
  • The folding was more solid on the Brompton, and not only is the folded package a more compact shape, it was also significantly easier to carry.

Speaking of carrying, interestingly enough, the two bikes as specced weighed in at exactly 26.8 pounds (to the precision of my bathroom scale).  This included fairly heavy saddle and pedals on the Tikit, as well as the extra weight of the Alfine hub.

Interestingly enough, Bike Friday is launching another 16″ wheeled folding bike called the Pakit that breaks down to be more compact than a Tikit, and it also lighter. The question is whether the Pakit will replace the Tikit in the Bike Friday lineup in the long run.

Would I be tempted to buy a Brompton? Given my budget, I’d have to sell the Tikit to fund the purchase, so this would not be an easy decision. I’m going to hold off until I also see the Helix folding bike, which is due to materialize sometime in the fall. It has larger wheels and still supposedly fits into an airline legal suitcase.

The other issue of Brompton ownership is that it is a bit like joining a cult. Speaking of which, I did have a blast at the Brompton Urban Challenge. My report appears at the Dandyhorse Magazine blog.  However, I can show a few extra pictures from the weekend.

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Have you ever seen so many ETRO 349 wheels in one place?

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I really liked this number that belongs to one of the mechanics at Curbside. It has a custom paintjob from Velocolour that puts my Canadian flag themed Tikit to shame.

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It is the lightweight version with a Ti fork and rear triangle. However, the low spoke count front wheel is definitely not stock.

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Here is the rear triangle, showing also the Nokon cabling.

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Carbon bars and a higher quality rear shifter.

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The Brompton Urban Challenge was a great event, hanging with a very fun group of people. Thanks to Curbside for the generous loan of the bike. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad joining the cult. We shall see……

Here is a video of the event.

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