In the last few years there’s been a rather noticeable uptick in the number of folding bikes available on the market. Of course, there’s always been Brompton and Moulton around, with the former probably being the de facto brand that most commuters and people with an interest in cycling would name. A bit later, along came Dahon and Gocycle. Then there was a kerfuffle between the family that ran Dahon and out of the chaos a new brand appeared, in the form of Tern. Of course, these are just the major, more well known brands; there are others out there too…
The business models of the existing brands also somewhat differentiates them. Brompton is staunchly British and a brief interlude in Asia didn’t work out so well for them, re-entrenching their internal belief in be British, stay British. It’s worked out well for them, as they fit so well into the idea of ‘Cool Britannia’ and have become an amazing export success in a time of declining UK exports generally. Moulton have always been seen as both the pinnacle of craftsmanship and the reserve of the eccentric British sandal-wearing cyclists who’re lifelong members of the CTC. Whether this generalisation is true or not is sort of irrelevant because Moulton maintains a high reputation to this day, probably because of it. Tern was formed by a younger generation of the Dahon family, and as such employed more agile techniques when establishing themselves in the various markets. They focused on keeping costs very low (without compromising quality) and making partnership deals with major cycling specific retail powerhouses such as Evans Cycles in the UK. Dahon itself, being the incumbent, found it hard to change it’s methods as easily and so was quickly relegated to second place in the battle of the two companies. Although, who is the most profitable per unit sold is something we’d like to find out! Gocycle is fairly different altogether because they were serious early big players in the e-bike marketplace, and have been producing their generation 1&2 Gocycle for many years now, only recently replacing it with the generation 3 model. Obviously they were doing something right with v1&2 to have not only survived in an emerging market for so long with a fairly expensive product, but also feeling no need to improve upon it for some time either.
All of these brands work and sell differently, but the world generally has moved on too and the way bicycle brands build and maintain relationships with buyers in the future is perhaps exampled by the brand Canyon. They sell direct, online, to the end user and have built a mighty strong and positive reputation, even when they were experiencing an ever lengthening lead time on new orders because they couldn’t keep up! However, unless we’re completely wrong and uninformed (hey fate! Wanna come and slap us!?) Canyon don’t plan to be selling a folding model any time soon!
So, then comes Change Bike. They produce a range of folding bikes including MTB’s, Hybrids and Road bikes (and maybe some additional models soon – shh!). They also sell online, but are looking for dealer support too. They’re based in the South of the UK and they think of themselves as a start-up, and embrace the culture that goes with that too. They support young racers, are openly soliciting input from their users as to how they can improve their models AND have an incredibly agile approach to implementing any changes they do decide on, by having a very short lead time from factory to customer. Their relationship with the factory is based on a good understanding of the processes at either end it seems, and apparently that works quite well for both. Symbiotic comes to mind.
Anyway, enough of this. Take it from us, Change Bike are pretty unique in the bike industry as it stands and the biggest beneficiary of this can only be the people who buy and ride their bikes. So, should you? Buy and ride their bikes that is? Well, read on and you’ll find out what we think!
We had Change Bike’s DF-602 model for a week, and at the same time had some other products that we wanted to test and review (all coming soon!). So we decided to head out and make a multi-day trip of it, camping in between and riding long distances followed by taking public transport on occasion and packing it into the boot of our cars as well. Well, it’s a folding bike after all, so why wouldn’t you want to see how it works in every situation that a folding bike kind of exists for?
So, here’s how we did it… We took a train to Eastbourne in Sussex. We rode the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Winchester over two days. We took a train from Winchester to Guildford, camped where we shouldn’t and then rode the Downs Link Path from Guildford to Shoreham in one day, finally camping somewhere even more dodgy than in Guildford overnight before being picked up by car and driven back home, bikes inside the boot of our mini SUV. In total, we rode approximately 175 miles on gravel, chalk, mud, water puddles up to our hubs and tarmac. We travelled probably about 100 miles by train and 30 miles by car. All in all, just over 300 miles in 4 days (3 nights) through 4 counties using 3 modes of transport. We carried everything we needed to be self-supported and only stopped for coffee/cake and additional water along the way.
Why regale you with all of these stats instead of tell you what the bike was like and nothing else? Well, we see the strong point of a folding bike to enable any of these options on your journey. If your idea is to get somewhere specific to ride for as long as you can, and your time overall is limited, then why not take the train there and then maximise your adventure riding instead? Basically, we see these kinds of things as the ultimate flexible enabler of adventure I suppose. And we were not disappointed by the DF-602 at all.
The bike is an aluminium framed, XT equipped hardtail. The front suspension is provided by a pair of Fox Float CTD forks with remote lockout. It’s the lightest full framed folding MTB on the market today, and backed up by being the only folding framed MTB to pass the EN 14766 safety test too. It folds up without the need for any tools whatsoever, and is remarkably not difficult or unwieldily to carry when folded either, and we should know having had to run for a couple of trains at the last minute with it all collapsed down with the luggage still attached!
How about looks? Well, we think this bike looks pretty lush. It has a satin black finish with anodised parts of red, blue and sort of a light gunmetal blueing. The XT groupset looks streamlined and minimal on the bike, and the swooping downtube gives the bike an organic feel almost. The parts of the bike that are concerned with the folding mechanisms are unobtrusive and you really don’t notice them at first at all. Upon closer inspection, you do notice things like the clamp on the seat tube and the way the chain stays are asymmetrical (see pics), but none of these things detract at all, they just make you inquisitive.
How about the folding? This bike is no Brompton, let’s just get that out there from the outset. But why would you need it to be? Here’s the process: remove the front wheel, undo the clamp at the bottom of the seat tube, undo the clamp at the top of the seat tube, separate the two halves of the seat tube (top and bottom, see pics..) and fold it back on itself. Once folded, you clamp the front wheel onto one of the seat stays which has a special bracket in-situ (see pics…). Finally, loosen the seat clamp and turn the saddle to face the wrong way. That’s it. It’s quick to do, requires no tools and takes up surprisingly little space once folded. Unfolding is simply a reverse of the above process. If you’re packing it up for a longer period, or storage, then you can also unclip the full size pedals on either side and this makes the folded package small and narrow. Watch the video below for a demo on how to fold.
How about the ride? We had high hopes that the bike would handle well, having seen the video on Change Bike’s website, but our biggest takeaway from having ridden the bike for a long time over many different terrains, is that you simply forget it’s a folding MTB. There’s not much else we can say really, you just forget, and that’s down to the handling itself of course. This machine rides like it’s a high end hardtail and the folding mechanism simply gets out of the way. We don’t think it could be better to be honest. We rode the bike on tarmac, gravel, chalk, mud and on a pump track specifically to see whether we could detect any limitations or even indications that the ride would be compromised by the fold. Nothing. It’s a brilliantly handling bike that can take any terrain you want to ride it over and thrill you accordingly. The Fox forks up front, with their lockout on the handlebars perform flawlessly, and whether it’s locked out or not you are always able to predict how the bike with react to your input or the ground beneath it.
How about bikepacking with it? Well, as we’ve alluded to above, it’s brilliant at this too. The bike folds and ends up less than half of it’s unfolded length, this makes it perfect for pretty much any form of public transport, or private transport for that matter. You can even leave a lot of your luggage in place when you fold it up. When you’re riding, on harsh terrain and even with bags packed solid, it handles predictably and tightly.
As you can tell, we were incredibly impressed with the DF-602 overall and enjoyed every minute we had with it. That said, we did have a few very minor niggles with some aspects… Firstly, the pedals are full size, but the mechanism that clips them into and out of the crank arms means that your feet are unable to stay as close to the arms as they might otherwise. We did find this a bit of a pita during long days in the saddle, and at times of a lot of stopping and starting we became a little obsessed about foot placement. Also, we’re not sure if you’d be able to retro fit SPD pedals and maintain the ability to easily remove them, which may be a consideration for you. One thing that puzzled us, and we’re sure will be addressed in future updates to the frame, was the presence of V-Brake bosses on the seat stays (see pics…). Seemed a little pointless, but maybe there are people out there who still want the option? Lastly, in order to keep the bike together when folded, you need to loop a velcro tie around the two halves and fasten it. We wonder if there wasn’t scope to enable something on the frame itself to take over this job (of course, they may be already and we could have missed that..).
Our final verdict: a really solid bike, well spec’d and capable of almost anything you’d likely ask of it. On top of that it opens up a huge amount of possibility to utilise mass transit to take you further than you may ordinarily ride without taking up a lot of space. The folding mechanism looks like it’s robust enough to last for a very long time without loosening, and very little in the way of specialty parts are required to maintain it. We think this bike, and the other models in Change Bike’s range, have huge potential, and once the market becomes fully aware of them they’ll be a common site on the roads and trails of Europe.
The DF-602 is the top of the range model and retails for £1999 from Change Bike’s website. Other specifications and models are available.
Let us know in the comments what you think!