Review Suitable Bike for Country Rides

poi

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I like to take the train out to rural areas for day rides.I have been using a Dahon Espresso (folding) but a technician at my local bike shop told me he was concerned about the frame strength due to some problems he had heard of with folding frames.He said that as a result, Dahon does not even sell the Espresso in Japan anymore.I took his concern seriously, in particular, because my Espresso is about 10 years old and I am about 105 kg.I am now looking into replacement options.Basically I would like a bike which is easy to bag for train travel and able to handle someone of my weight and height (187cm).Any advice would be welcome.
 

Kangaeroo

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If you want a foldup, you might want to look at a Brompton, getting an extended seat post for your height. It's pricey, though, and parts can be hard to come up. Field repairs are also a bit tough at times.
I rode a Dahon for a couple of years and it was great, but it was also troublesome because I'm fat and that put it under strain. I have just picked up a Birdy with an aluminum frame and I fear something similar may happen.
Having said that, why not get a road bike or gravel bike? You can just take off the front wheel and whack it in a rinko bag in barely more time than some of the foldups take to prepare for the train. They are better for traveling long distances, more durable and easier to repair in remoter areas.
 

poi

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Thanks for your comments.I am interested in your Birdy experience since that is an option I am considering.Have you ridden it for several hours at a time?If so how did it feel compared to a larger bike?Have you bagged it for train travel?If so, was it a notably easier package to carry than a bagged larger bike?I am also considering the road bike option but it may take some practice to get a regular size bike in a bag by just taking off the front wheel.(I was told at the bike shop that taking off both wheels is more common but that option makes me nervous.Getting reattachment of the rear wheel right may be difficult to get right every time)
 

luka

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it's not more common, at least not on this forum. don't know anyone that takes both wheels off. definitely get a front wheel off only option. nor is it common... sense really. very fiddly, and if you have hydraulic brakes but have to put that bike upside down - even worse. altogether, avoid
 
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Kangaeroo

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Thanks for your comments.I am interested in your Birdy experience since that is an option I am considering.Have you ridden it for several hours at a time?If so how did it feel compared to a larger bike?Have you bagged it for train travel?If so, was it a notably easier package to carry than a bagged larger bike?I am also considering the road bike option but it may take some practice to get a regular size bike in a bag by just taking off the front wheel.(I was told at the bike shop that taking off both wheels is more common but that option makes me nervous.Getting reattachment of the rear wheel right may be difficult to get right every time)
I've only had the Birdy for a few days. It's definitely harder to bag than a Brompton or Dahon, but not difficult even for me, as someone very clumsy. It is a smoother ride than the Brompton and probably climbs easier, but the Brompton is faster on flats and descents. All the foldups are easier to bag and ride because that's what they're made for.
Don't be scared by removing the front wheel at least. I was the same, but it's simple. Once you've done it a couple of times, it becomes like second nature. I fully understand your fears and shared them until I actually took off the wheel(s), put my bike in a bag and rode trains and planes. Believe me, it's much easier than you think and you definitely won't regret it.
I agree with @luka to avoid removing both wheels if you can for the reasons he gave.
 

GrantT

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Just thought I'd check what your technician friend said.
Seems like the Dahon Espresso is sold in Japan?
Might be worth getting a second opinion.
 
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poi

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Just thought I'd check what your technician friend said.
Seems like the Dahon Espresso is sold in Japan?
Might be worth getting a second opinion.
Many thanks.Clearly I have been too trusting.Thanks for setting me straight.
 

kiwisimon

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waiting for @joewein to give his valuable two cents worth but if you are going to bag the bike and intend riding for hours and hours I'd be getting a comfortable durable bike and just remove the front wheel for the train journey. These are folding and better sized for a bloke 6ft tall?
and available in japan if you really want a folding bike.
 
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GrantT

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Many thanks.Clearly I have been too trusting.Thanks for setting me straight.
I should add, there's always a chance something was lost in translation. There may have been problems with your particular 10-year-old model of Espresso that is not sold anymore. Just wanting to give the benefit of the doubt.
 
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poi

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I should add, there's always a chance something was lost in translation. There may have been problems with your particular 10-year-old model of Espresso that is not sold anymore. Just wanting to give the benefit of the doubt.
Actually that link also had a list of Japan "dealers"for the Espresso.I called the nearest and they told me that they could not order it themselves but if I ordered it direct online,I could pick it up at the shop.Things have changed a lot since I bought my old Espresso about 10 years ago.Then I simply asked the shop to order it and they did the rest.Is this a common thing now?I also called the next closest shop.They would not tell me whether they could order the Espresso unless I actually visited the shop.I rechecked the Dahon site hoping to call and ask if any shops in Tokyo carried the Espresso in the normal way.Unfortunately there was no phone number.Dahon seems less than interested in contact with customers.Is it so strange to want to physically examine a bike before buying it?Why not at least have a showroom for such purposes?Does anyone know of a full size folding bike maker who has such a showroom in Tokyo?
 
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sean-e

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I can't speak to the folding bikes, but if you want to go the full-size option, I was at Blue Lug Hatagaya recently in the middle of Tokyo, and they had a number of Surly bikes on display with some larger frames, you could ask them for a test ride. Surly is well known among cycletourists for making very sturdy (albeit heavier) steel frames that are designed for big riders and laden panniers. They have a model/size catalogue here https://bluelug.com/bike-catalog/model/surly/page/3 with some 58/60cm size frames in there.
 

GrantT

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@poi

With so many different brands, product ranges and models on offer, probably only really major stores can carry a large inventory, and then only from the brands with a marketing budget. It is strange there is no phone number on the web site, but that could be a sign of the times as well. You would probably be better served by contacting them through their Facebook page, which is linked on the top right of the web site.
You could be lucky to find a shop with inventory though. The News section on their web site seems to make a big thing of test ride events at specific shops. There was one at the Ueno Y's Road a few months ago, but nothing in Tokyo right now.
That said, on the Facebook page, it does show Kashiwa in Chiba as the location for Dahon International. Not too far from Tokyo, so it's possible they would take an appointment to try our a bike on site. Who knows.
 
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Half-Fast Mike

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Does anyone know of a full size folding bike maker who has such a showroom in Tokyo?
There's a dealer for Bike Friday - the folding bike that @joewein uses - and various other folding brands - notably not Dahon - in Takasaki. I visited many years ago and did some test rides. They're right on the river, so although it's a decent trek to get there, it's a 100 km flat ride back... if that interests you.

Warning - eyeball-scorching 90s-style Japanese website: CycleTech IKD
 

poi

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@poi

With so many different brands, product ranges and models on offer, probably only really major stores can carry a large inventory, and then only from the brands with a marketing budget. It is strange there is no phone number on the web site, but that could be a sign of the times as well. You would probably be better served by contacting them through their Facebook page, which is linked on the top right of the web site.
You could be lucky to find a shop with inventory though. The News section on their web site seems to make a big thing of test ride events at specific shops. There was one at the Ueno Y's Road a few months ago, but nothing in Tokyo right now.
That said, on the Facebook page, it does show Kashiwa in Chiba as the location for Dahon International. Not too far from Tokyo, so it's possible they would take an appointment to try our a bike on site. Who knows.
I think you are right.I was able to call Birdy and they told me of of a ride event this weekend.Perhaps the only other chance to actually try the bikes would be a big bike show.I think there is one coming up in November.Very interesting idea about contacting the Kashiwa office for a test ride.
 
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joewein

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I would say if your primary concern is to ride far and fast in the country side and want to take trains to and from the city using a rinko bag, your first choice probably should not be a folding bike but a regular bike, removing the front wheel or both wheels for packing. The overall size when bagged is not the most important factor when you rinko. The most important factor is how the bike fits you and how comfortable it is when you are covering significant distances.

I have two bikes, a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (PR) I bought in 2011 and an Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer (NFE) I've been using since 2016. I have successfully completed brevets of 200-400 km with either of those bikes, as well as a 360+ km coast-to-coast ride on the PR.

The Bike Friday PR is a drop handle road bike that folds. It uses ETRTO 451 size wheels, one of the two types commonly called 20" (the other is ETRTO 406, the size used by BMX bikes). Its claim to fame is that it can be packed into a regular 62 linear inch suitcase for air travel. Last year I took my PR to Germany, at no extra cost. 8 years ago I bought the PR because I had just moved to a house one third smaller than where I lived before, so we really didn't have much space.

There are folding bikes and then there are bikes that ride close to a full size bike but also fold. Brompton, Birdy and others are in the first category, while Bike Friday is in the second. A Bike Friday PR or NWT comes close to riding like a full size bike, but the fold is really not any quicker than taking off the front wheel of a regular bike and rinkoing it for a train trip.

Brompton folds quicker and is more compact, but you don't really want to ride 150 km on one. Same for a Birdy.

The differences are rim size, gearing, choice of handle bars and whether they use standard parts. Brompton, Birdy and many Dahon or Tern use 16" wheels (as does Bike Friday's PackIt, their Brompton competitor).

Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (PR) and New World Tourist (NWT) use 20" wheels, either the 451 mm or 406 mm rims (confusingly both sizes are referred as 20" by the industry). You can get a BF or NWT using drop handles. Both use standard group sets like you can buy for road bikes or MTBs, while classic folding bikes tend to use a lot of proprietary parts. Brompton mostly sells 3 or 6 speeds, while BF gives you the whole range of Shimano or SRAM parts (e.g. Tiagra, 105, Ultegra).

Cost-wise there's a wide range from Dahon to Bike Friday, but basically you get what you pay for. You should be aware that a folding bike will always cost more than a regular road bike of comparable quality and performance. What I like most about the Bike Friday is not actually its folding but its geometry and its low gearing and that's what I duplicated when I bought my other bike, the NFE.

If you want a test ride, there is also a Bike Friday dealer in Tokyo: ehicle in Shinjuku.
 
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bloaker

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... and they had a number of Surly bikes on display with some larger frames, you could ask them for a test ride. Surly is well known among cycletourists for making very sturdy (albeit heavier) steel frames that are designed for big riders and laden panniers. They have a model/size catalogue here https://bluelug.com/bike-catalog/model/surly/page/3 with some 58/60cm size frames in there.
***WARNING***
Riding a Surly will result in you having more fun on your bike rides, enjoying more adult beverages and generally give less a f*$k what other people's opinions are.

Today I rode to work with my weeks worth of lunches and some drinks (Sadly not the adult kind).

I own the following brands: Surly, Salsa, Vassago, Ritchey, Stanton, Santa Cruz & Intense
The Surly is by far the least expensive frame, it is also the heaviest frame.
It has no suspension, it has no "trick" designs that make you overly excited on paper or anything.
Nope it is just a regular old study bike....
And it is the one I choose to ride the most. It is my go to bike that is a hoot to ride.

I had a Soma (MTB) that was fun to ride, but when I added the racks.... it became a noodle.
I tested a few other bikes loaded and had similar issues. I am 103kg/188cm and then add bags.... Noodles.

Here is the distributor's website.

Surly, Salsa & AllCity are all the same company (*QBP).
I am a fan of all three brands - out of the three, if I were looking for a bike to do what you want, I have a few I would look closely at...

Salsa - Vaya*
Salsa - Fargo*
All City - Gorilla Monsoon*
Surly - BridgeClub
Surly - Midnight Special

*These are bikes I have no need for and still want!!!
s1.jpg
 

Karl

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I like to take the train out to rural areas for day rides.I have been using a Dahon Espresso (folding) but a technician at my local bike shop told me he was concerned about the frame strength due to some problems he had heard of with folding frames.He said that as a result, Dahon does not even sell the Espresso in Japan anymore.I took his concern seriously, in particular, because my Espresso is about 10 years old and I am about 105 kg.I am now looking into replacement options.Basically I would like a bike which is easy to bag for train travel and able to handle someone of my weight and height (187cm).Any advice would be welcome.
I also like to skip the city riding and take the train up into the mountains or into the countryside. If you are set on a folding bike, I'm not familiar with them so I don't have anything to add other than what folks who ride them have already said. They look fun.

But, if the ease of 'rinko-ing' is your reason for going with a folding bike, I think it really isn't a problem for non-folding bikes. For non-folding bikes, I've found it really easy to use the Montbell quick carry bag and can have my bike bagged in 3 or 4 minutes. When rushing to catch an infrequent train, I've been able to bag the bike in about a minute then finish the job on the train. As you would have a lot more bike options with regular frames, and repair parts would be cheaper and easier to come by, I wouldn't let ease-of-rinko issues put me off considering a non-folding bike.

FWIW. I've noticed that most of the Japanese riders who rinko take off both wheels, but if the train isn't crowded, like on most weekends, removing just the front wheel is fine. I have two Montbell bags, one is designed for removing only the front wheel, and the other is designed for removing both. The one I use depends on how crowed I think the trains will be or how many transfers I'll have (it is easier for me to carry the bike through crowded stations if I have both wheels off).
 
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Kangaeroo

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I've ridden folding bikes for years, including several years of daily commuting with a Dahon and a Brompton. I've also toured on foldups, mainly with hte Brompton.
I'd agree with your technician and even more so with @Karl
A regular non-folding bike can be packed away almost as quickly as the foldups. It would be worth thinking about it, @poi
 
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joewein

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As @Karl and @Kangaeroo have already explained, ease of rinko-ing is not a serious argument for going for a folding bike.

I've joined numerous group rides with my folding Bike Friday and I've never been the fastest in the group to bag my bike. Sure, I may not have to take off the front wheel to reduce its size but I do have to select the right gears front and rear before folding to avoid undue chain tension and after that I need to secure the rear triangle to the main tube to prevent it from trying to unfold while in the bag as the motion of one part against the other could lead to scratches and other damage if I'm not careful. So I do end up with a compact package, but not in record time. A Brompton is probably quicker to fold than my bike, but then again that has a lot of other compromises such as limited gearing and non-standard parts. With Dahon (and perhaps also Tern) I would have reservations about build quality.

If you want to keep the bike in a small space at home or the trunk of your car or carry it into a shop or for other reasons were size is the ultimate criterion then a folding bike makes sense. If it's just to take it on a train to do long-ish rides in the countryside then other considerations should come first.
 
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