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Part 3: Folding Bike gearing

From a distance it can be difficult to understand the differences between different folding bikes.  Still, variations are important and several.  I have a shop full of different folding bikes.  I noticed recently that I have a great range of very nice bikes.  From my view they are quite different, and each one has their attractions.  From a distance, I am sure still, the differences read in the number of gears and not much more.

First of all, the number of gears are important.  1 Speed vs 3 Speed,  3 Speed vs 7 or 8 Speed, 8 Speed vs 14, 18 or 20 speeds, differences are significant.  Realize, too, that wheel size is part of the transmission system.  Taking a Gearset straiight from a 26 inch or 700c bike to a 20 inch bike will tend to make an underpowered bike because you have so much additional torque in the smaller 20" wheel.  Offsetting this with bigger chainrings changes this, but I also find that 20" builds give very considerable other advantages in bike transmission performance.

When considering Gears it is important to think about the "Gear Range",  ie the amount of range variation between the lowest and highest gear.  Generally, but not always, ranges increase with the number of gears themself.  At times however, this is not the case.  Bikes designed to "be fast" often have "fast gear sets" which are tightly packed and are designed to increase speeds with small and direct steps.  Dahon's Mu LT10 and Formula S18 are these type of bikes.  Changing the Cassette in the LT10 to one such as in the MU D10 Tour yields a much wider gear range, and specifically, a bike with more comfortable gears for climbing.  You can see this simply in the wider set of cogs, specifically the scale of the largest cog on the rear cassette.  

Beyond the cassette, the chainring situation is also significant.  Chainrings, the gears that are part of the front crankset, work to set the pace of all the gears in the back.   The smaller the chainring, the easier the peddaling, climbing and enjoying difficult rides.  Still, the smaller the chainring, with a smaller wheel size, (16, 18, 20") the slower the bike and the more difficult it can be to apply power.  A bigger chainring with a small tire makes, generally, for a faster bike and a bike that is fun in an urban setting.  Double Chainring sets work to balance these situations, allowing great climbing on the small chainring, and great speed on the big chainring.  1x9, 1x10 and 1x11 transmission setups can also give a great range, giving both climbing and speed in a functional and un-confusing system.

I am particularly taken by the Mu D10 Tour which has a great rear cassette and big front chainring.  The bike is fast yet capable in climbing.  It also has a great range of accessories, including fenders, rack and large comfortable tires.

The Visc D18 series likewise offers a great range of gears and a "fast riding feel".  The Visc comes standard with smaller wheels, a Tiagra or Sora Transmission set from Shimano, and together with a well spread front and rear chainwheel.  This set up is very broad in its gearing and very comfortable to work in climbing or cruising mode.  I find that I tend to ride on the big Chainring most of the times out on the planes, and switch to the small chainring when I am working the hills.  Each set is actually overlapping, but the simplicity of up and down shifting I find to work best in relatively conservative front chaingring shifting.

 Stepping into the realm of "non-derailleured" rear hubs.  The choices tend to be less.  Dahon offers standard Single Speed, 3 Speed and 7 Speed variations (the 8 Speed Curl has been announced).  I find the Vitesse D3 (I3 by new nomenclature) to be a tremendous value and a lot more fun to ride than simple single speeds.  Stepping to the Vitesse I7 brings ciomfortable step differences and a widens the gear range from 193% to 245%.  I have just added a 2 Speed FSA Patterson Crank transmission to a Vitesse I7 creatig effectively an internal hub 14 Speed for a considerably lower price than the fantastic Dahon Rohloff i14 (which is in a pricerange bordering on Maybach Automobiles in comparison).

If you are riding hills and flats, wider gear ranges really can change your experience.  If you are not, all those choices mostly will add to your cost, and perhaps will confuse some of your riding.  It is quite nice to jump on a 3 speed bike once in a while.  Easy, Normal and Fast.  1, 2 and 3.  Those are the gears.  I'm not much for single speeds, but it is true that I grew up with a a 3 speed Schwinn StingRay and you can have a lot of fun with 3 speeds only.  I am liking 10-20 speeds more but ultimately it depends where you are riding, how much versatility you need, and most importantly, whether your high and low gears are high and low enough for you.

Other component aspects will also make a difference for you, but your transmission setup is the most importat differentiator.  

Schedule a time to try some of our demos and feel for yourself what you prefer.  If that is inconventient, lets continue the conversation.

I hope to meet or speak with you soon.


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Nomadic, Inc. - integrating bikes, travel and experience

Here at Nomadic, Inc. in Boulder Colorado you will find our great assortment of folding and electric bikes, bike racks, cargo bike trailers and considerably more.  We actively seek the best products and pursue effective combinations and occassional modifications to make them even better.

Best integrating bikes into our lives requires integrating many activities, both work and recreation into the tools and body extensions that our bicycles become.  We need them to fit us well.  We need them to adapt to the terrain we will travel, carry the gear we need, be reliable, secure and adaptable to various situations we will want to undertake with them.

Folding Bikes Electric Bikes Full Shop Menu
Suitcase Packable Bikes Touring Systems Info and Blogs

Dahon Jetstream P8 Disc - unfolded


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Part 1: Choosing the best Folding Bike for you

Part 1:   There are quite a few choices we offer in Dahon Folding bikes.  We offer the widest range of Dahon Folding bikes and we know the bikes well.  In general the decision tree wants to look at the following subjects.

  • How do you want to use the bike?
  • How far do you want to ride?
  • How much gear do you want to carry with you? 
  • How do you want to travel with your bike?
  • Do you need your bike be to be easy to carry?
  • How much money do you want to spend?

It is a pretty simple set of choices and we can always "want it all" for the "least cost" and in some ways, this is possible.  The Dahon's we sell are all functional and nice riding bikes.  We do not sell, at present, the "entry level models" which are the Boardwalk and SUV which are fine bikes for simple usage.  

Our lineup of Dahon Bikes has functionally 4 Categories:

  • Functional Multi Purpose Bikes:  Speed Uno, Vybe D7, Speed D7, Mariner D8 and Briza D8,
  • Vertical Fold Urban and Travel Bikes:  Jifo,  EEZZ D3 and QIX D8
  • Multi Speed - Internal Hub Bikes:  Vitesse D3, Vitesse I7,  Ciao I7 and Mu N360
  • Touring and High Performance Line Bikes:  Mu D10,  Visc D18, Visc D18 Disc, IOS D9, Formula S18,  Mu SL 10/11, Mu LT 10/11, Mu Rohloff, Visc SL and Jetstream.

For expanded discussion of the variables to be considered follow this link to:  Part 2: Variables in choosing the best folding bike for you.

I am always happy to discuss.  We do have our favorites but every decision is a balancing act.  Please use the "contact me " button or drop me a line if you want to go into more details.

  • Landis Arnold
  • Nomadic Inc.,  Bouilder CO USA
  • office:  303-444-2336

 Contact Me:

This is a cursory view below of a few of the bikes.  Many more around the corner.

IMG 4709 compressed


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Part 2: Variables in choosing the best folding bike for you

This is a continuation from the Post:  Choosing the best folding bike for you

There are several variables in choosing the best folding bike for your needs.

As intoduced in the previous post these are:

Our lineup of Dahon Bikes has functionally 4 Categories:

  • Functional Multi Purpose Bikes: 
  • Vertical Fold Urban and Travel Bikes: 
  • Multi Speed - Internal Hub Bikes:
  • Touring and High Performance Line Bikes: 

To parse these categories consider the following variables

  • Price is a real variable.  Bikes in the "Functional" set  typically sell for $400 to $600.  Bikes in the Touring and High Performance category will run $900 to $1500 and a few of them even more.
  • A second variable is "how small" a bike may fold to out of the box.  Generally the 16" wheel bikes (Jifo, Eezz and Visc SL) fold smaller than the 20" and 24" bikes  (Briza D8 and IOS D9).  
  • Unobvious variables have to do with internal components.  Hubs,  Bottom Brackets and Transmission sets effect your bikes efficiency and capability in dusty and dirty situations.  Generally Dahon Bikes that have quick release hubs tend to have higher end hub races and sealed bottom brackets.  Bottom Brackets are the bearing structure that your cranks operate around and can have a major impact on your bikes efficiency and performance.
  • Transmission systems are a complicated matrix.  Internal Gear systems will run from 3 Speed, 5 Speed, 7 Speed,  8 Speed and some outliers that are 14 Speed (Rohloff) and Continuously Variable (NuVinci).  Derailleur geared systems run from 3 speed up to 18 Speed and sometimes more.  (Dahon's"Anniversary Replica actually combines a 3 Speed Rear Hub with a 10 Speed Derailleur which makes the bike a remarkable 30 Speed unit).
  • Tradeoffs in transmissions are weight (derailleurs weigh less), durability (internal transmissions are less prone to needing adjustment and damage).  Levels of a system do kick in generally as prices increase.  Shimano Tiagra systems on Dahon bikes are crisp and precise while Shimano Alivio systems in the functional line work well with some  level less in "crispness" and range.
  • Nearly all Dahon Bikes can be outfitted with fenders and racks.  The Jiffo and Ezz are the only two that cannot easily be outfitted with a rack.  The Jetstream needs a creative application of a rack.  Dahon Arclite, Traveller and/or Ultimate racks can be fit to all of the other bikes.  We also have a method to put front racks on most of the Dahon Folding Bikes which can be helpful for extended touring and also simply to keep your gear visible to you while you are riding.
  • Wheel Rims, Hub Connections and Hinge Systems enter in.  Double wall rims are normally tougher and less prone to becoming warped.  Quick Release Hubs are easier to service but are perhaps more prone to being stolen.  Certain Hinge systems can be modified easier than others to make "take a part" fromes which make a generally "larger bike" be able to fit still in a Airline Checkable (as a suitcase) bike.  The Mariner D8 and Visc bikes specifically we can modify this way.  We generally cannot do this with the Mu Series frames though we do have ways to fit Mu Framed bikes also into Suitcase Legal size cases.
  • Tires are not such a critical element.  They can be easily changed and upgraded on nearly all of the range of Dahon bikes.  Still, your choice of which tires to ride on a day to day basis can change your expereince quite significantly.  I do like Tires that run 1.75 to 2.25 inches when I can make them fit to the bike.
  • Trailers available and Suitcases available can enter into some considerations.  Our single wheel touring capable Topeak Journey trailer fits well with most of our Quick Release capable bikes.  Our Burley Travois trailer (as well as the Burley Cargo and Nomad) can fit to most of the Dahon Bikes.  Suitcase systems sometimes require a "in strore test" but we will be bringing systems out that have precise working realms.  Travel with your bike, whether on its wheels, or in a Multi-Modal way are incredibly rewarding and our bikes give you a way to travel that is really unrivaled.

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