Sunday, April 5, 2009

Great value folder: Downtube 2009 8FS Review

4.17.09 Update. Have only done 3-4 rides on this bike. One of them was a wet ride. Anyway, after that ride, the rear derailleur wouldn’t shift. I tried all the suggestions on the Downtube site (http://www.downtube.com/Adjustment_Instructions/Rear_Derailleur_Adjustment/) to no avail. BTW, the derailleur on the above link is not the same as the one on my 8FS. For example, there are no H & L screws. It turns out that the inside of the shifter cable had developed some sort of white crud. It wouldn’t move. I replaced it with new cable and housing that I made sure was greased up. Now, the shifting is working great. It works even better than when I got the bike new.

I have been using the Dahon Yeah to run errands in mostly city streets and alleys, and the lack of cushioning is very noticeable. I really needed something to improve the rough ride. I was either going to get 1) some Schwalbe Big Apple tires to install on the Yeah or 2) get a brand new full suspension (FS) bike to replace the Yeah.

Big Apple tires are highly regarded because they are wider and tend to run at lower pressures which help to cushion the ride. On the bikeforums site, there were some posters that mention that the BAs are not really a replacement for a full suspension bike. That made me wary of them a little. The thing that turned me away from the BAs was the price. For a pair, they were going for about $80 (including shipping).

I decided to look at full suspension bikes. I looked at a couple like the Dahon Jetstream or the Birdy bikes. These bikes are expensive, though. They are usually around $1000 for each. I had been hearing good things about Downtube bikes. The owner of Downtube (Yan Lyansky) is a folding bike enthusiast and posts on the bikeforums site. He also is very committed to customer service as he always seems to “take care of” his customers esp. if they have problems with their Downtube bikes. While Downtube has a storefront and some dealers, their business model is geared to selling online, thereby passing cost savings onto the customer.

One of his full suspension bikes, the 8FS, was on sale for $299. This was the best price I could find on a new FS bike (and with a 1 year a warranty). Compared to the $80 I was going to pay for the new BA tires, I decided the 8FS was a better deal.

Let me cover what I liked about my 8FS. First, the bike was ready to ride out of the box. I just unfolded it, put it together like the instructions directed and I was ready to go. There was no rubbing of parts or squeaks of any kind. The suspension works as advertised. I can now do some curb drops and roll on the sometimes brick-layed streets of DC. The rear suspension is adjustable so I have set it sort of stiff so I don’t bob up and down when I pedal. The tires are Kenda Kwests (the same that come on the Yeah) and they roll very fast on asphalt. For some reason, I think that the Yeah makes me pedal more when I am on flat surfaces (high rolling resistance?). I believe that the

8FS almost feels like riding the 700c tires of my commuter bike. The bike also comes with some cushy handgrips. I usually ride without padded gloves so these grips are perfect. Downtube also includes bar ends. I probably won’t be using this bike to do long rides where I have to shift hand positions and use the bar ends, but it’s nice to know they are there. Finally, The 8FS comes with a bell to alert folks as you are about to pass them.

In terms of what I didn’t like, the first thing would be the shifting. I have tightened the cables and the shifting is still a little rough. It is acceptable to a person not used to riding bikes like I do, but not for me. There is a noticeable clunk when going to a low gear. Before I tightened the cables, gears would sometime slip down by themselves. That problem seems to have been fixed. Maybe a new derailleur and new cable would be an upgrade that I would consider. Another thing that’s good about Downtube bikes is that they use parts that would work on other “regular” bikes. Dahon uses mostly proprietary parts so upgrading those is time consuming and often costly. I probably won’t do the derailleur/cable upgrade because the area where I will ride this bike is mostly flat with just some gentle hills that would require me to use 1-2 gears.

The stock brake pads could be better on the 8FS. They don't give me the quick stops that I am used to. Kool stops will usually solve this. Another minor gripe is the high standover height of the 8FS. All the folders that I’ve ever ridden don’t make you raise your feet so high to straddle them. This one does. I also wish this bike came with full cover mudguards or a customized fender solution (from Downtube) to add them easily. The folded state is a little jagged. If you need a folder to put in the back of your hatchback, it will work though. This folder has given me the closest approximation of a full sized bike in terms of riding feel (I know, I know, I've only ridden Brommies and Dahons).

Other minor gripes: bike is a little heavy; about 28 lbs. and the stock saddle is more race inspired meaning thin like. I prefer something just a tad wider. Finally, some of my pix have question marks. That's because I don't know what the purpose of these holes that are on the bike.

Pros: ready-to-ride, cushy suspension, surprisingly speedy, handgrips, bar ends


Cons: rough shifting, weak brake stopping power, no fenders/mudguards, heavy bike, stock saddle not for me

Bottom line: If you are looking for a excellent value in a full suspension folder, look no further than the Downtube 8FS.

5 comments:

Cinderella7707 said...

BEWARE of downtube!!!!!I CALLED THE OWNER (YAN )OF DOWNTUBE TWICE AND HE WAS SO FRIENDLY TO ME ON THE PHONE AND ANSWERED ALL MY QUESTIONS AND I DECIDED TO PURCHASE A BIKE. HE TOLD ME IF THERE WAS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE BIKE, THEY WOULD GLADLY REPLACE IT. I ASKED HIM THIS BECAUSE I READ SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON THE BIKE FORUMS ABOUT HIS COMPANY AND THE QUALITY OF THE BIKES. HE TOLD ME THAT THOSE PEOPLE WERE JUST IDIOTS WHO DIDNT KNOW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT IN REGARDS TO BIKES AND THAT THERE USED TO BE SOME DECENT PEOPLE ON THAT SITE BUT NOT ANYMORE. HE SEEMED SO NICE BY PHONE, AND I DIDNT TAKE HEAD TO THE REVIEWS THAT I HAVE READ. ON A POSITIVE NOTE, THE BIKE IS OK FOR 389$..U CANT EXPECT BETTER FOR THAT PRICE AND YOU WILL GET A LOT WORSE FOR THAT PRICE WITH OTHER COMPANIES. HOWEVER, THE WIRES THAT ATTACH TO BRAKES ON THE HANDLEBARS ARE SO TIGHT THAT IT IS HARD TO REVERSE HANDLEBARS TO GET THEM CLOSER TO U OR TO PUT THEM AS HIGH AS THEY GO...THERE IS ONLY ONE FENDER IN BACK, THAT BACK TIRE IS A DECENT WIDTH BUT THE FRONT IS SMALLER AND MORE SKINNY. HE SAYS IT IMPROVES SPEED BUT I NOTICED IT ALSO MAKES FOR A HARSHER RIDE....THE BIKE FOLDS UP BUT IT IS NOT COMPACT. U CANT TELL FROM THE PICTURE BUT THE HANDLEBARS ACTUALLY STICK OUT ON THE SIDE, MAKING THE SIZE WIDER WHEN FOLDED AND IT ALSO MAKES THE BIKE FALL OVER TO THE SIDE WHEN FOLDED BECAUSE OF THE WEIGHT. IT ALSO DOES NOT STAY FOLDED ON ITS OWN. I HAVE TO BUNGY CORD IT CLOSED. THE SEAT IS EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE FOR BOTH ME AND MY HUSBAND AND NOT VERY CUSHIONED SO WE DECIDED TO CHANGE IT. HOWEVER, WE COULD NOT GET THE ALAN KEY TO OPEN THE SCREW BECAUSE IT CAME IN THE BOX ALREADY BEING STRIPPED SO WE COULDNT REMOVE THE SEAT. SO I CALLED YAN TO ASK THAT HE REPLACE THE PART AND FIRST HE TOLD ME THAT I WOULD HAVE TO SEND IT TO HIM AND IT WOULD HAVE TO BE INSPECTED TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT THEY WOULD REPLACE IT AND THEN HE SAID I WOULD HAVE TO PAY SHIPPING TO SEND THIS PART BACK AND WHEN I TOLD HIM THAT IT WAS VERY UNFAIR THAT I SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR IT WHEN IT CAME DEFECTIVE, HE THEN WENT ON TO SAY, THAT NO ONE HAS EVER COMPLAINED ABOUT THE SCREW BEING STRIPPED BEFORE AS IF I WAS LYING. I JUST RECEIVED MY BIKE TWO DAYS AGO. AFTER EXAMINING THE SEAT POST , I NOTICED IT HAD NICKS, SCRATCHES AND HALF THE STICKER MISSING, I REALIZED THAT THIS WAS A USED PART. IM NOT SURE IF THEY SENT ME SOMEONE ELSE'S RETURN BUT HE BECAME VERY DEFENSIVE AND I WAS TALKING TO HIM NICELY. HE SAID" I THINK YOU ARE TRYING TO BADGER ME COMPLAINING SO THAT I CAN SEND YOU A NEW SEAT POST. I TOLD HIM THIS IS BAD BUSINESS PRACTICE AND THAT I WOULD NOT BE ORDERING MY BIKE FROM HIM(IM SO GLAD I ONLY ORDERED MY HUSBANDS SO I COULD SEE THE BIKE FIRST)AND HE INSULTED ME BY SAYING THAT I WAS ACTING COMICLY AMUSING AND I TOLD HIM I WAS GONNA RECORD THIS EVENT ON THE INTERNET. HE SAID A FEW CHOICE WORDS AND THAT THIS CONVERSATION WAS OVER AND NOT TO CALL HIM, BUT TO EMAIL HIM IN THE FUTURE AND HUNG UP ON ME. THE PART I NEED IS 40 DOLLARS ON HIS WEBSITE. SO BEWARE IF U ORDER FROM HERE. AND IF YOU READ OTHER COMMENTS ON BIKE FORUMS, U WILL SEE SOMEONE ELSE SAYING THAT DOWNTUBE DIDNT HONOR THE WARRANTY. IF YOU ORDER AND YOU GET THE BIKE IN GOOD SHAPE, THEN U LUCKED OUT AS LONG AS YOU DONT MIND THE FEW THINGS I LISTED ABOUT THE BIKE. BUT IF YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEM WITH IT DURING THE WARRANTY PERIOD, JUST KNOW THAT THERE IS A CHANCE THAT HE WILL MAKE U PAY TO GET IT THERE AND THEN HAS THE OPTION TO DETERMINE THAT THE PROBLEM IS YOUR FAULT AND NOT REPLACE IT EVEN AFTER YOU PAYED TO GET IT THERE. WHAT IM GOING TO DO THIS TIME IS HAVE THE BIKE STORE ORDER THE DAHON I WANT SO I CAN PURCHASE IT FROM THEM AND IF THERES ANY ISSUE I CAN BRING IT BACK TO THE STORE.

pedaling fool said...

Sorry to hear about your experience, Cinderalla. I've found that Yan is pretty good about handling complaints. Maybe you caught him on a bad day.

My advice to you would be to post your complain on the bike forums site. That's pretty bad publicity for Downtube. Also, make sure you take plenty of pix to back up your case. Also, go easy on the use of upper caps, lol.

I'll leave your post up on this blog. Maybe you or Yan can update later on how this was resolved. Thanks for visiting.

elena said...

I sent e-mail to Yan, very politely ask a about his downtube bike.His respond was very rude way just one "NOPE". His not as nice as suppose to be with the people. I afraid to buy a bike fron guy like him.

Fred said...

Cinderella...you mentioned half a sticker missing. Who cares? Really...its a sticker. I think there is more to the story. I've wrote this guy and never had a problem- although I haven't bought a bike. Extremely nice and helpful. Its a bike..geez.

Gabriel N said...

You may have taken the sticker comment out of context. My comment was not about the sticker. i will recite again what i said back in the context i meant it and why i brought up the sticker. i stated"AFTER EXAMINING THE SEAT POST , I NOTICED IT HAD NICKS, SCRATCHES AND HALF THE STICKER MISSING, I REALIZED THAT THIS WAS A USED PART. IM NOT SURE IF THEY SENT ME SOMEONE ELSE'S RETURN…"(also i wrote in all caps because i was just too lazy to use the shift key and trying to write faster.) i noticed above that another post stated maybe i would come back and give an update. So i thought i would. it seems that Yan had quite a following of Bike enthusiasts that didn't care about how unfairly i was treated and attacked me as a troll on the Bike forum, the same forum it was suggested that i post my complaint on. in fact, i was actually insulted, threatened and blocked. i never realized there was such a bike cult. However, i told you the truth and there was another post under me who told you also he was rude to her as well. Maybe he has great customer service to with selective people. I expect that when a bike is shipped to me with a defective part, that the manufacturer should have to send me the part for free and not charge me to ship the entire bike back to them. i also expect that when i render an account of my experience, i don't get attacked by so many people who were not there and have no right to take sides. You hardly see this behavior on Amazon. So once again, i would beware with this company and the people who follow and defend him. They are not very professional. Furthermore, i had another issue with my bike a year later, with the lever part that keeps the bike from folding down on the handler bar post. i was never able to get a replacement since he does not sell any replacement parts off his website and i couldn't find any vendors that did either. i took the bike to so many different bike shops and they kept telling me this was a special part and no one knew where to go it. So i decided to take the loss and sell the Bike. i agree with the first reviewer at the very top. This is a good bike for the money as long as you can get along with the owner and the bike never has any issues. Also ask before you buy the bike, where you get replacement parts. Now i switched to a Citizen Bike, which is decent for the money and professional. These bikes aren't high quality but are good on a budget and for getting around short distances. FYi Also the capital i is broken on my keyboard.