Log in

No account? Create an account
There were never any "good old days" — they are today, they are tomorrow
so... folding bikes, you say? 
23rd-May-2007 11:28 am
Lexi in the woods
As spiritualmonkey mentioned, the Car Repairs of Damocles have come crashing down and we are, at least for a while, without automotive transport.

This might actually be a good thing. We've been wanting to get the bikes out for ages, but the bicycle storage situation at our apartment building is really inadequate and it's such a hassle to get them out that it never seems worth the effort. For now we're just going to have to work with what's here — hey, spiritualmonkey, we should talk to the building manager about getting keys to the garage entrance since we're using the bike rack down in the parking lot — but in the long run we're looking into getting a couple of folding bikes.

The one we're most interested in is the Xootr Swift, and I want to pull together some of the references I've found for future use.

Here's a review of the Xootr Swift from Commute by Bike. One of the comments is from a Swift owner who says, in part,
$679 may be steep for some, but in order to get a folding frame as stiff and as solid as the Swift, you’ll have to spend $1000-$2000 for a Bike Friday, which according to one Friday owner I met on the train, still doesn’t deliver the same frame rigidity of the Swift.
Here's a table comparing folding bikes at Personal Transportation. (Comes with a disclaimer: "The editor of Pertrans is a founder of Xootr LLC, the manufacturer of the Xootr Swift folding bike. I've tried to be fair, and we created the Swift to do well on most of these dimensions with the existing products in mind. However, I acknowledge that I have a conflict of interest in preparing this table.")

Here's a review of the Xootr Swift from treehugger.

Bike Forums has a whole discussion board for folding bikes. Comments in one thread include the following (most from the same poster, who also owns a Dahon folding bike:
I'm very pleased with my Swift and highly recommend it to anyone stuck between deciding whether to buy a Bike Friday or Dahon.
My Swift folds-up roughly 12" x 35" x 37". The height and length of the bike when folded can be reduced by up to 5" in both directions simply by removing the seatpost. The width of 12" is with non-folding clipless pedals. The length in terms of the actual footprint on the ground when folded (tire-to-tire) is 31". It's not a very compact and uniform fold like the Dahon, but it still gets me on the train and fits nicely in my cube at work and in the trunk of my car.... Again, my only caution should you get a Swift is expect to replace the stem. The 65mm stem is way too cramped for my 5'6" frame, and anyone taller than me will feel like their pushing a shopping cart. Swift does fit the bike with a 100mm stem for taller riders. I've actually fitted my Swift with a whopping 130mm stem, and it feels nice and stretched-out, the way I like it.
The frame feels rigid with no flex whatsoever, regardless of how hard I crank out of the saddle, yet the ride is not as harsh as I expected. The welds are generous and have that "stacked-coins" look, which is presumeably indicative of a good, correct aluminium weld. I've been thrashing this bike around some nasty potholes in downtown San Francisco, and I haven't noticed anything in the bike frame that would have me concerned.
I commute with the Swift every day on the Caltrain from San Francisco to Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale), and have had no problems.... I haven't tried the bus, but then again, I wouldn't even bother taking a Muni bus to any place in San Francisco, since it would easier, faster, and so much more pleasant to just ride my Swift. ;)
I haven't taken the bike up California street yet, so I can't say how it would do on the extreme end, but as for getting around most of the SOMA district, I find that with 8lbs in my messenger bag, the gearing has been perfect (I haven't even shifted through 3rd, 2nd, and 1st yet....haven't had the need to.) I stand on the pedals every chance I get, so I'm usually climbing in 4th.
I originally bought the Dahon thinking I was just going to pack it on the train and ride between stations...nothing serious. But as I got the bike bug, I started craving for my old road bike (trashed from a collision with a car I had 7 years ago), and wanting that road bike feel and perfomance all over again. The Dahon just didin't have that feel...Helios or Vitesse. I was so close to buying a Bike Friday NWT, until I saw the Swift. One look at those simple, elegant, but functional lines, and I was hooked. Having been burned by my Dahon's proprietary parts and lack of customizeability, the Swift's extensive use of standard parts made absolute sense.
The Helios is not lighter than my Swift, and it's ride performance can't hold a candle to my Swift. The only thing my Dahon beats my Swift at is folding size, but then I have no problems stowing my Swift on the commuter train. The Swift looks better all-around as well. But for someone looking for optimum foldability with modest performance, then a Helios would be the better choice. If you're willing to give up some space for a larger fold but get screaming performance, then the Swift is the one you want.
The closest route to the area was blocked-off, so from Embarcadero, I climbed up 2 hellish hills: Vallejo and Montgomery. Vallejo was as steep, if not steeper (but shorter) than Taylor (the toughest hill on the race course). I dropped into first and stood up the whole way, cranking slowly, but steadily. 2 roadies whom I had been following got off their bikes and walked half-way up Vallejo. When I hit the crest of Vallejo St., I hung a right and continued the insane climb up Montgomery. Those 2 hills are about as infamously steep as San Francisco has to offer, and my Swift felt rigid and efficient all the way up the climb. No creeking or ticking sounds from the bottom bracket or stem.... Looks like the Swift passes the San Francisco hill test. I'm very pleased with how this bike performed in the hills today. :)
I do agree that the frame is quite robust. I've been putting it through it's paces on some of the crappiest pothole-infested streets of downtown San Francisco (thanks to our ever absent Mayor). In my area, there is a lot of construction work going on to build new high-rise condos, so my route often takes me through broken-up concrete and debris, and over several successions of iron plate road covers. As noted earlier, I took my Swift up some insane 18 percent climbs up Vallejo and Montgomery streets, and the frame felt rigid and efficient all the way up. I also hop my Swift up curbs and over gutter grills as needed, and inspite of the short-term abuse, the bike still rides smooth and straight on clean suburban flats.

Here's a Xootr Swift owner's blog dedicated to the Swift.

Business Week reviewed a number of folding bikes and said this about the Swift:
MOST LIKE A "REAL" BIKE The Xootr Swift. With an aluminum frame, high-pressure tires, and a geometry similar to a full-size bike's, the 24-lb. Xootr requires no compromise in performance. It's the most stable and the easiest to ride no-hands, making it the best in this group for long, comfortable rides. Quick to fold and easy to carry, it's a good value at $679.
Given what we need our bikes to accomplish, the Swift seems to hit the best balance between price and functionality.

ETA: Here's a Flickr set of photos of a rear fender/mudguard available from REI for $13.

More from that 47-page thread — here's one of the Xootr founders discussing how he has his fenders set up. And here are photos.

Might want to look into changing out the stock tires & tubes.

Instead of toe clips, Power Grips?

Here's a 3 month/500 mile report.

Apparently if you get the Swift directly from the designer rather than from Xootr, the frame is chrom-moly steel instead of aluminum and powder-coated instead of painted. And you can get it custom-equipped to your specifications. Reportedly the paint isn't very durable.

Here's one article about why steel frames are preferable to aluminum frames. And this is the article that it points to, The Frame Weight Wars.

In fact, the whole Bike Recommendation Short List article at nordicgroup.us is worth reading.

Hey, nordicgroup.us hosts a number of interesting pages:
Steven M. Scharf's World Famous Bicycle Coffee Systems
Bicycle Lighting Systems

Discussing racks & panniers, one poster really likes the TransIt Pannier Seatpost Rack, which he's carried as much as 70 pounds on.

Several people like the Thudbuster suspension seatpost.

One poster really likes the City bicycle trailer from Carry Freedom: lightweight and compact, but pricy. Another poster prefers the BOB trailer.

Several people prefer an internal hub shifter to a derailleur. Others think it's not worth the weight trade-off.

This post recommends buying a Swift Folder from Human Powered Machines:
Basically for a couple hundred more dollars you get the same Swift with the addition of deore LX V-brakes, an all steel frame, and you get built-by-the-designer/made-in-U.S.A. quality. You also get a lifetime warranty on the frame, and your choice of around 20 different powder coating options.
24th-May-2007 04:04 pm (UTC)
My family of four live in a small (1000 sq foot) apartment -- my bike is parked behind the dining table. My son's bike is outside in a space right by the front door. We're the two regular bike riders in the family. We also have a garage where my other three bikes are kept along with my wife's and daughters bikes.

I'm thinking of getting a folder, too, because I have a multi-modal commute (bike + bus + train + bike) and sometimes there's no room for a full size bicycle. I'm thinking of one of the Dahon's, which are of reasonable quality and fairly inexpensive. The Xootr looks okay (I've seen them on the train), but I'm personally a little bit suspicous of a bike made by a scooter company, plus I think I'd prefer something with internal hub shifting instead of the derailleur that's on the Xootr.
24th-May-2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
The more I read about the Swift, the more customizable it seems to be. The version sold by Xootr seems less so, but if you order a Swift from either of the designers (swiftfolders.com or catoregon.org/hpm/swift.htm) it sounds as though they'll work with you so you get exactly the bike you want.

The internal hub shifting appeals to me more than the derailleur. At least one of the commenters on the 47-page thread on bikeforums.net is strongly pro-hub, and the reasons he gives for his preference make sense to me.

I think being able to get on public transit easily with it, even during commute hours, is one of the things I like best about the idea. A lot of the places I need to go are just far enough from BART or from a bus line that I don't want to walk. Plus I think I'd save time by not needing to wait to transfer to a bus once I get off BART.

I'm realizing it's been a long time since I've ridden, and an even longer time since I've done any bike maintenance at all. Gotta see my dad for a crash refresher course before I visit the bike shops, I think. "Hey, Dad, help me not sound like an idiot when I talk to the bike mechanic, okay?" :-)
21st-Jun-2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
oh i rode my Xootr today. I mean the coaster scooter, not the bike. I guess a folding bike could be useful... if Metro lets me load/unload downtown. They get so prissy. So a coaster scooter is possibly more useful in that scenario. $700 seems high for a bike, unless the folding added substantial utility. I'd try the $300 electric motor hub kit first. That's on my list but i haven't gotten around to it. I want an electric bike and a traditional one.
25th-Jun-2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
For us, being able to store the bike(s) in not much space is one of the top priorities, so the extra cost for a folding one seems worth it.

Besides, as someone pointed out on a bike-related blog I was browsing this weekend, you can go completely over the top with tricking out your bike just exactly the way you want it and still not spend as much as you would to buy a beater car and basic car insurance. Everything's relative...
2nd-Aug-2007 09:46 pm (UTC) - Wow, great summary
Found your blog by googling for flexcar.

I've had a Swift for about a year and like it pretty well. You've created a fabulous summary of the enormous bikeforums thread (did you really read the whole thing?).

I bought a stock Swift from Xootr because both Peter and Jan were backed up with custom orders. I don't know what lead times are these days, but some of the custom steel bikes are really stunning. There's now a "Swift Gallery" thread.

I also owned a Downtube (a friend has it now), and while both put a smile on my face and Yan (the designer) is a pleasure to deal the stiffness of the Swift is a big improvement.

Bottom line: I'm very pleased but a bit short of being an evangelist (I added a rack and PowerGrips but don't spend my weekends swapping out parts). If you haven't ordered one yet and happen to be in Marin, you're welcome to take mine for a spin.
9th-Aug-2007 05:48 pm (UTC) - Re: Wow, great summary
Hi! Yeah, I read the whole thing. When I find something I'm interested in, I go into ResearchGirl mode and there's no stopping me. :-)

We haven't ordered yet — household finances have been tight lately, so it seemed more prudent in the short run to just spiff up the bikes we have now to get them rideable. Probably a good thing, as it's giving me plenty of time to mull over different options and what I actually need.
This page was loaded Aug 25th 2019, 4:43 pm GMT.