Cycling in Brisbane Australia
Decided today to see how the folding Giant stacked up against the other bikes I commute on, so, later than usual, I loaded up the little Giant and off down the road I went. Pretty much the first thing I noticed was that any small movement of the handlebars produced an instant change of direction. Also quickly apparent was that even with a 52-tooth chain-wheel and a rear cassette with an 11-tooth high gear, this bike is very low geared (for me anyway). I know everyone will have different preferences for gearing, but for me this one will climb hills like a mountain goat and as I found out later, even going up-hill with a load it is very low geared - not perhaps as good as a Surly tourer, but I was frequently looking for a higher gear when I was already in the highest gear. I see a 60-tooth chainring in this bikes future!
Going through tight corners is fabulous on this bike. The turning circle is terrifically small, much better than anything else I own. This coupled with the low gearing made riding through the tight tricky bits a non-event. The ride is a little harsh going through the ramps and driveways on and off footpaths. In fact, going over any bump in the road the ride was a bit harsh. I think that the short wheelbase, all alloy frame and forks and the high tyre pressure (100psi) makes for a harsh ride over bumpy bits. It’s the same on any bike I have ridden with the alloy forks / high pressure tyre combination. Overall though, the little Giant is a really comfortable bike, and after the 20-kilometre trip into town I didn’t the only need to stop was that I was at the end of my journey. A suspension seat post and low pressure / high volume tyres should fix the harsh ride over the bumps. The frame and mudguards will take a 2” tyre and that is a fairly inexpensive improvement. The pannier rack I fitted to the bike was brilliant and will stay. I even think the front forks will accept a small beer rack :)
Only got passed by one other bike, and that when I was giving way to pedestrians! Always makes me a little grumpy when I give way to pedestrians and some other guapo decides to push through. Anyway, I thought, this is a chance for the little Giant to shine, so I upped the cadence and sat on his wheel from the Brisbane Hospital to the land bridge over the Inner-city Bypass ... take that ‘Green Giant Mountain Bike Man in Riding in Boardies’ - you only slowed me down. When I stopped at the lights in front of the Cycle Centre under Turbot Street I was right behind you!! Wonder if he tells his mates he passed a 52-year-old man on a folding bike and then couldn’t drop him for kilometres ;)
I nearly got cleaned -up by a car turning across the road in front of me on Kedron Brook Road near the school, but I didn’t care at that point - I was having a lot of fun on the little bike passing the cars who were lined up from Eagers all the way back to the school at the top of Kedron Brook Road. Might have seen 50KmH down through there except for the turning car - as it was, the folder rolled down the hill at 35KmH and no pedalling was involved. Going up Fagan Street (a short steep hill) the bike popped a little wheelie over every bump - again the short wheelbase, low gearing and perhaps the load on the pannier rack the cause I think. A front rack would help here.
Took the train home, and I would say that it takes way longer to put the bike in the bag than it does to fold it. I think the bag design is a little lacking and I might make my own bag for this bike. It is also kind-of heavy if you have to walk a long way with it, but better straps (maybe shoulder straps) would go a long way to fixing this.
Overall, a surprising comfortable bike, capable I think of touring quite long distances in comfort. An excellent load carrier and commuter, and, though while not the smallest folder there is - I reckon it is still too big when folded - it is adequate. The bag is not really the best design but really happy I bought it :)
Ahh yes, and this bike was also the first to ever be ridden around the fifth floor of the building I work in too!
Score: 8 out of 10 freds
Awesome review, Doc!
You already answered my question about cruising speed, but how do you go carrying it? What's the weight like? Is it unwieldy to lug around onto the train/bus?
The bike is about 10Kg. Last time I measured I was about 176cm (seems I've shrunk since I got my licence 35 years ago - gravity sucks I guess) and 80Kg. Physically I might be described as gracile, but I am barrel chested and carry loads better if I can get the weight onto my shoulders. I don't like the bag provided with the bike. I'm still learning to 'bag-it-up' and the loops used as handles are OK to carry beside me, but I wouldn't carry it like that for any distance, I can get my arm through the loops and carry the weight on my shoulder, but it tends to slip off a lot and I find I am hitching it up every 50 yards or so. There is another loop that you can grab half way down the bag, but it doesn't fit my arm length (it's not low enough for me). If I was an inch or two shorter the bag would fit better I think. The zips are awkward to do up too.
I'm looking to get some canvas and make a better bag, or even better make a padded or quilted one so that no bike bits 'dig in'. I would also make the bag lace up rather than zip up too, as bagging the bike would be faster. I would set it up with a sash like a messenger bag and some handles lower down so I could carry some of the load with my arms. Back-pack style loops would probably work too. Like that I think I could carry the bike comfortably for a long while, though I would most likely ride it in that case.
I have only put it on the train, and it fits nicely next to the door where it is not in the way of anyone. I sat next to it to make sure it didn't fall over but it never looked like moving. I got on an empty train at Roma Street, and the train filled up at Central. No one seemed to mind that there was a large bag next to the door. I rarely catch buses, but maybe Lyn Stern could say more about carrying folders on the bus. I do recall that many buses have luggage bays at the front.
Just on the whole speed thing - it felt slower than my larger bikes, but then I wasn't in a hurry either. It took a few minutes longer over the 20-kilometres in to town from where I live, but that was most likely just waiting at lights and for traffic at intersections and me dawdling along. It really was an easy bike to commute on.
Now I want one :-(
Hi Doc, inspired by your post here, and by having to bring a lot of stuffto work today (including bolt cutters for Chris) and then catch a train out to the other side of the city after work then home, I decidedto load up the $200 Dahon and give it a go. It all worked a treat, and my 17km commute was only about 5/10 minutes slower than on the usual beast (including time taken to take this shot). The photo took longer than expected because I stopped on the ICB land bridge to take it, and to my happy surprise there was a lot of bike traffic and I had to wait quite a while for an opportunity to take the pic without another bike in the way.
You did very well with that bike - less than half the price of mine and looks nearly identical. I like the colour of yours better than mine too. I also think yours would fold up smaller - the seat tube on the Giant goes a bit higher than the top tube so the seat post can't pack down as much. I see that the seat tube on Lyn's Brompton is the same as yours too. I think your rack fits better as well. I modified a rack meant for a 26"/28" bike - but I'm happy with mine even though it sits a bit higher. I did feel the need to paint my rack from black to aluminium so it wouldn't look totally odd. The basket is a good idea - how does it go when you fold the bike?
Yes but yours was brand spanking new and if any problems you just take it back to the store to fix it. Mine was second hand and a bit scratched and rusty in spots. Still, I'm very happy with it.
The basket is a clever little thing with spring-loaded fingers that grip the rack. Very quick to release and it has a little handle that folds down so that it can be used as a shopping basket. It isn't as secure as a bolted-on basket of course, in the pic above my pannier is clipped to a convenient little part of the seat spring. It doesn't interfere at all with the fold, meaning I don't even have to take it off or unload it, but obviously the final folded package is a wee bit taller.
The rack is from what I can tell an original Dahon part that probably came with the bike. It is missing the elastic thingy however, so I have to get around to getting to a Dahon dealer and ordering it one day. It annoys me a bit that it is missing.
As for the colour, one quiet moment at home when I remember I have to go online and order some Helmet Freedom stickers for it.
I found a Basil wire basket in my 'box of bicycle bits'. It fits on like a pannier and it folds when not in use to about an inch wide (while still hooked onto the bike). Very fitting - a folding basket for a folding bike :)