Folding bikes (oh the shame!)

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  • Folding bikes (oh the shame!)
  • Mowgli

    I am considering getting a folding bike to make my train-based commute a bit easier – there’s only room for a couple of bikes and it’s a busy train.

    I never thought I’d find myself in such a position of having to buy one of these horrid contraptions, but if I must, it’s got to be the pimpiest, fastest slick looking folder there is. Drop bars and very skinny tyres go with out saying as it’s a 7 or 14 mile cycle at the far end, depending on which stop I get off at.

    So, what would you recommend? Obviously there will be a budget, but let’s see what there is fist.

    Bike Friday?



    Mister P

    There is no shame in riding a folder. I get many admiring glances when I arrive at the station on my Ridgeback Envoy. Well I like to think they are admiring glances. Can’t help with your query as such but be proud to ride a folder!


    I’m no expert but I understand neither of those, especially the Moulton, is fast at folding.


    Dahon Speed Pro TT – quick, light, flash, good folder.


    The airnimal’s not a good folder for trains, not compared to a brompton or birdy. the Moulton is hardly a folder at all, its just got small wheels. The Birdy isn’t a dropbar speedster but you can ride it with quite a bit of verve, so if your commute is a bit of an urban hoon rather than a straight slog into a head wind then its worth a try

    Big Dave

    There is no shame in riding a folder. I love my little Dahon although I don’t get enough opporunities to use it at the moment.

    The Birdy and Mezzo look pretty high tech but I think the price of the Birdy reflects this. The Birdy is noce to ride however. It is possible to blow a load of cash on a top end Brompton and the Brommie is definitely the best when it comes to folding and storing on a train. I’ve never found Bromptons to be a satisfying bike to ride but that is just my own experience. Some people love them.

    There are some decently specced Dahons but the higher up the range you go the more obsessed Dahon seem to be with light weight wheels. I’ve got a basic Speed 7 which is fairly comfy, can be ridden a decent distance and is cheap enough and tough enough to take a few knocks.


    you could do that mileage on a brompton (especially with Kojaks tyres fitted)… I used to do that sort of miles 8miles each way ( going from my office to the Olympic park three times a week

    ontop of commuting via bike and train at start and end of each day.

    Flat bar brompton is best bet.

    (waits for howls of anti brompton people)

    but if you want a ‘faster’ bike then look at Airnimal Joey or Chameleon

    the fold is not so good (you need to take front wheel out) and the stem comes apart rather than folds (but you can twist it through 90degs instead.

    They ride really nice though, like a nice road bike, though tyre sizes is weird and limits choice.

    Other option would be a Swift Folder

    It can be bought in steel frame only from the states and takes std dimensioned components so you can use mtb/road hubs etc, can take derailluer, SS or hub gear.. also uses very common 20″ 406 wheels so HUGE range of tyres from fat to ultra thin

    the fold is not compact, but it is a stiff and quick and mega flexible build up options.

    You can get a aluminium version in the UK and is badged as the Xootr Swift

    I don’t think much of bike friday, the fold is poor (chain comes off) and they are very expensive.

    Moulton is very nice… and as it looks to train people ‘like a folder’ then you might be ok to get it on a train if it is not too busy without separating it..

    separating is not to hard as it has cable quick connectors to separate the rear brake and gear cables, but def not a folder.



    Brompton… the mostest acest folders out there. Here is mine;

    SL2-X Clear on Flickr


    Dahon MU SL. I follow a guy on my Dahon Cadenza (also a folder) down the hill from Southborough to Tonbridge station some mornings, and according to my cateye he hits close to 35mph near the bottom at the Judd School roundabout.

    Better, cooler and cheaper than a brompton. Having said all of that, my Cadenza is the bollocks; 26 x 1.0 Specialized tyres, Midge Bars, full tiagra…

    Premier Icon simon_g

    Bear in mind for train use that the ATOC have set dimension limits on the folded size of bikes (which are the same as those for luggage carried on trains) – 30cm x 70cm x 90cm.

    Something like that Bike Friday, Airnimal Joey or Swift would be over – it’s the sort of thing you can probably get away with a lot of the time, but it’d be sod’s law you’d get a jobsworth with a tape measure at an inconvenient time.

    Moulton aren’t so much folding as “packable” – they come apart nicely and go in a fairly small bag but there’s no way you’d want to do it a couple of times a day.

    There are road-focussed Dahons but even things like the 20″ wheeled Speed Pro TT doesn’t fold small enough for the train rules – they do have a couple of 20″ wheeled ones which will. Really you want 16″ wheel (Brompton or Mezzo) for a compact fold.

    I do about 5 miles on the longer leg of my cycle/train/cycle commute and would happily do further on my Brompton S2L. The flat-bar (s-type) is lower and more efficient than the M-type and with skinnier tyres it would skim along more quickly – although I’d rather put up with the extra drag of a Marathon Plus for not having to fix punctures at the most inconvenient times.

    And, having done this sort of journey for 6 months or so, I’d certainly not trade for a bike that’s any bigger folded. It will fit in luggage racks (on the occasional train that has them) or between back-to-back seats so as long as it’s not completely crammed like sardines there’s always somewhere to put it that’s out of other peoples’ way. I’d also not want one with a more complicated fold, given I’m either folding or unfolding at least 6 times a day.

    Give the Brompton a go – biggest limit to speed I find is the gearing of the two-speed model (three / six speeds have a higher top end), it’s more like a SS with a bail-out gear. Fine when the downhill is steep enough to keep accelerating you, but that slightly-downhill you just spin out.

    I had the Dahon Speed Pro. Was very very quick and took mostly standard brakes & gears but didn’t fold particularly small. In fact the only thing really suited to a busy train is a Brompton, especially around London. I don’t fancy trying to get that Airnimal on a crowded commuter train.

    Bear in mind you have to ride these bikes differently and stay sat down most of the time. If you stand up and heave on the pedals and bars, you’ll get a lot of flex and won’t do the stem any good.

    I sold mine in the end as it was a bit too expensive to leave locked up outside pubs/shops, yet a bit too big and bulky to carry around. Got a cheap old slicked up MTB instead.


    I’ve had a variety of folding bikes from Dahon through Strida etc but have been using my Airnimal Joey for the past couple of years. It’s not the best folder by far but for doing any serious distances it’s a whole lot better than Bromptons. My commute is between 35 and 65 miles a day and 24″ inch wheels make it a much more pleasant experience than my Dahons 20″ for example. It’s also been thus far pretty robust – coming up for 10,000 miles since I started now with a couple of new rims, a bottom bracket and a headset being the notable expenses along the way.

    I do carry the first-fold bag with me for the trains. I rarely get asked to fold it and there is always the possibilities of a station / train guard getting the hump but collapsed into it’s bag it’s no bigger than a large wheelie suitcase. Admittedly it’s not the faster or most practical folder – about 60 seconds all told – but I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been asked to fold it up (and that’s on a busy, crowded commuter train into London from the South East on the Hastings > Charing Cross / Cannon St line).


    If your looking for something, fast, cheap and foldy – mail me – I need to move my trek f600 on – has xtr v brakes, easton carbon bars. the bike was made by dahon and has been great for me. TBH The gears could do with some tlc at the moment but nothing major and it is going to be hugely cheaper than any brompton…

    Premier Icon IainAhh

    Will there a dedicated bike storage area on the train.

    On commuter trains unless you have a small fold up bike like a brompton, that will fit in-between the seats, hallway etc. Anything biggers will be a hassle and maybe with a full size you would be in the same boat.

    I have even been questioned about taking a brompton on a train until I showed it would fit in front of me (short legs.)


    yes a black bin bag is very handy for turning a cycle into ‘luggage’

    if you have a packed train (see below) then brompton is the only real option… as it can go between your legs… anything bigger and risk ‘issues’ with other passengers (i have witnessed fights (pushing and shoving) break out..

    Mowgli which train company do you have the misfortune of using?

    if you use Southwest Trains as a annual season ticket holder you can get a brompton, bag and lights for £2 a week.

    Real answer is to get train operators to cater properly for cyclist so you can use any bike.

    As far as I’m aware, the Brompton is THE ONLY folder that is actually useful on a train carriage as none of the other will fit easily between seat/rack like a Brompton can.

    If you ain’t going for one of them then pretty pointless buying a folder in my humble opinion, might as well use a full size bike and store in the carriage provided.


    You might want to keep an eye on wheel size. I had a leaflet from the train station a few years back saying any bike that folded could be taken into the passenger compartment. The modern version of the leaflet says that NO BIKE can be taken into any passenger area unless its wheels are LESS than 20″. Oddly enough, Brompton seemed to be sponsoring the leaflet as it had their logo on it. I am sure there is no connection to the wheel size rule change at all…


    You can hunt the internet for folding bike specialist shops. One for starters
    Based at Bath.

    Get three skip bikes from the local tip. Leave one at each station.


    might as well use a full size bike and store in the carriage provided.

    😆 😆

    Ha a separate carriage…. wishes 🙄 very few of these things exist nowadays..

    + many companies simply ban full size bikes at certain times of the day.. which due to overcrowding in general is getting to be almost self policing..

    though funny that the full size bike is also a folder.. (though a big one)

    on the subject of bigger folders…

    I’ve got 5 folders, 3 of them are Dahons, albeit the older ones. But, IMHO, 16inch wheels are necessary to get a proper small fold, and also hub gears, to keep it clean and tidy and save the rear mech getting caught. When folding etc.

    Given these criteria, Despite the popularity of the brompton, I would go for the Dahon Curve, either D3, SL or XL, depending on budget. No doubt at all.


    I have just bought the new Kansi 9 speed with a bag, folds in 10 seconds. Seems nice but yet to ride it any distance


    I’ll continue to bang the drum for the Dahon Mu SL – 20″ wheels are large enough not to lang in every pothole, but small enough to fold. Kojak tyres are quick and, at least so far, puncture resistant.

    10 second folding is important, though by getting a 7am train that doesn’t stop on the way to London I rarely have to fold it in any case.

    Drop bars are a pain for folding – make it a much larger shape – hence why I went for my flat-barred bike, though there are times when it feels like you’re riding a mainsail. I’d love drops on it, but for the distances I do (3.5 mile sprints) it’s fine.


    Thanks for all the replies guys. The journey will be transpennine express, Leeds to either York or Malton.

    The Swift Folder looks very good, but I will see if I can borrow my housemate’s Brompton for a bit to see if we get on (he never uses it).



    Big Dave

    Check Ebay if you end up going for a Brompton. There are usually a few on there selling at a decent price in fairly new condition. I suspect a number of people buy them and then decide they don’t like them.

    Premier Icon simon_g

    My experience was anything legit went for silly money. Plenty of dodgy ones on ebay and gumtree though, thanks to idiots who don’t take them into places with them, but locked them up with crappy locks instead.

    Got fed up with enquiring on <1 year old ones where the “owner” had no proof of purchase or even any idea where they’d bought it.

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