Thursday, April 18, 2013

Doppelganger FX13 Folding Bike Review

Folding bike. What do I know about them except that they have gotten a big following much like the fixies culture. Unlike the fixies, however, folding bike is here to stay. Highly popular in Japan where the whole idea is space saving and for commuting, it is no surprise that some of the more popular brand came from Japan (though made in Taiwan, mostly). My encounter with a folding bike came from a friend that has gotten the dealership to sell them. Here is my chance to try one, without committing to it and write about it.
The Doppelganger FX13
In it's full glory - The Doppelganger FX13
When I was presented what looked like a pseudo-roadbike, my reaction was blank. I meant. A folding roadie? Like seriously? 
"FX13 bro", my friend told me.
"Foldie Roadie", he added.
I've seen folding bikes racing in triathlon before and I have nothing but admiration for the rider to able to push the bike at speed that looked fast. Call me shallow, but a bike that make me look fast gets my attention.
But a folding roadbike?
I can't recall what my reaction was until he showed me his Doppelganger FX13 fitted with SRAM Chorus parts. OK. Now we are talking. No wonder why his FX13 looked 10-times more interesting than the one he lend to me. For the uninitiated, SRAM is a brand otherwise most of you would relate to as "Shimano". It is like asking for "Coke" when you were at KFC, as you will get Pepsi. Or asking to "Xerox" when you wanted to photocopy. Before I start to blab more nonsensical items (you see, I am still perplexed, a folding roadbike), my friend showed me how to unfold the bike. He has to convince me.
Unlocking The Foldie
Add caption
I have never had any experience with any folding bike. I've seen videos of how certain make can fold and unfold in seconds. But how am I going to do this?
Latch-lock mechanism
Lets start with the latch as the photo above. The mechanism is really simple it seems. You pull the quick release latch down. Then you full it out from the recessed portion.
The QR is easy to release.
Pull it out of the catch
And then you lift the QR upwards and the bike will come loose, held only by a hinge.
The bolt drops into the bottom hole, like a latch


And the bike come loose into two parts, held only by the hinge.
The locking mechanism is very simple. It basically is a spring loaded QR that functions like a door latch. The short metal piece will sits in the hole above and prevent the bike from separating. I've tried pulling the bike apart with the QR opened - unless I am able to bend metal, there is no way the bike will fold even with the QR loose.
This is how the bolt looked like when not pulled up
Once you remove the bolt, you can then "fold" the bike into half. As the FX13 does not collapse the handlebar when folding (likely because it is a roadie drop bar), you guide it go position the seat between handlebar.
Some practice needed
OK, almost there
And folded.
Tadaa!
One thing you will notice is that the FX13 doesn't fold to be very compact. Likely due to the setup being a "roadbike-like" with curve dropbar. I later found out a way to make it stand by itself. All you need to do is to back pedal  the pedal on the crank side and let it it against the tire. At that position, the other pedal (on opposite site), falls nicely at the 6.30 position. The footprint of the bike folded and the pedal position lends a legit position to keep the bike upright for storage.
Getting use to this
How it looked like on the crank side with the pedal against the tire
I practiced a few more times and soon enough, folding and unfolding become easier and I can perform that with one hand.
Riding It
I brought along my cycling helmet when I went to pick the bike up. Intention was to cycle back even if the bike can fit the small space in my car boot. It was a good choice, as the bike, even after folded, was not as compact as I thought. Perhaps it applies to other make and models too. I am not sure and I will be lying if i say this fits into my car's boot. I drive a Hyundai Matrix by the way and those familiar with this car will know the pain and limited space in the boot due to plastic housing on both the left and right of the tire well reducing actual usable space in the boot. OK. Now you see why i wanted a truck. All these problem will be solved - And I don't even need a folding bike. Haha. The cycle back was short and surprising. I was half expecting a ride that reminds me why I need a "proper" bike; and I was surprised. Bugger, this foldie rides like a full roadbike!
View from the top
The power transmission was good and there were very little flex which I was expecting due to it being a foldie. The balance was good despite it appearing to have higher than normal centre of gravity. Sitting position is a bit backward with me having to overreach if I were to place my hand over the brake's hood. That was the only thing I noticed uncomfortable with the standard setup.
I took the bike for a proper commuting from home to Tropicana City Mall to get some supplies for a friend looking for Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes. 
My logic is such that if this bike is indeed purpose built, There should not be any issue to ride it as part of daily commuting.
Hot day and i forgot my shades

I took the opportunity to test out the gearing as much as I can. I went over to a quieter part of Damansara Utama and did a few loops there. It was Sunday and traffic was minimal. 

The bike was well tuned. Comes in 7-spd standard, it was more than sufficient for both speed and climb. Now imagine what that 10-spd SRAM Chorus could do...
The total distance covered that day was less than 8km. But it gave me a rough idea how the handling would be like. Despite the small size and wannabe-roadbike-ness, I managed to push the bike to go past 25km/h on flat. It was not an effort and I believe if i did push it a bit more, maintaining a 30km/h average can be achieved. 
Again, handling wise, no issues - but I do foresee shoulder ache due to the further reach. Can be solved by changing the stem to a shorter one. Standard was a 120mm. Can be changed to a 50mm for more comfy reach.
Parked at Tropicana, folded to make it appear more difficult to steal, and locked to the metal railing. I removed the seat and brought it along with me.
Specs
Priced at RM1550 standard, the bike is cheaper than the most basic "road bike" and outperform those "re-badged" roadbike. It is good for triathlete on the move and need to bring along a bike smaller than a full sized bike with him/her, for training purposes. Serves it's function for commuting  and some spirited sprint.
Full Length : 1500mm
Folded : 900 (l) × 970(h) × 440(w) mm
Weight : 12.1kg/26.7lbs
Tire Size : 20inches/1.2inches wide
Material : Aluminium body - steel fork
Transmission : Shimano 7-speed indexed thumb shifter, right side
Cog : 11T-28T
Crank : 52T
Brakes : Caliper
Where to Find : Doppelganger Malaysia or in Facebook here

Pros
Handle like a road bike, or close to one
Stiff and minimal flexing when powering through
Standard and sufficient gearing
Upgradable - limited by your imagination
Price cheaper than most better known brand

Cons
Not compact when folded Can't fit into my car boot (which is actually my car's con :P)
Suitable only for someone between 160cm to 180cm.
Basic components

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