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Montague Boston: Single Speed Folding Commuter

by Ted Johnson

Around Commute by Bike World Headquarters, I’m the folder enthusiast.

Last December, LBJ from Montague bikes baited me to try one of their folding commuter bikes. (It was like fishing from a barrel, wasn’t it, LBJ?)

I’ve waxed elsewhere about my years as a Washington DC city slicker with my Dahon. That perspective influences my feelings about the Montague Boston, which I’ve tested over the last few weeks.

The Montague Boston full size, single-speed folding bike

The Montague Boston full size, single-speed folding bike | Photo: Montague Bikes

When I unboxed the bike and put it together, found myself making conclusions about the bike before I’d given it my first ride.

Montague Boston in SedonaFirst of all, look at those skinny, 700mm tires. There was no way in hell I was going to ride this bike while there was still snow and ice on the roads around Flagstaff. So I folded the bike back up, and a few days later I took it to Sedona.

The Boston fit easily into the trunk of the Corolla, as long as there wasn’t much competition for space.

My first ride impressed me with the responsiveness and light weight (about 24 lbs) relative to my other bikes. But this bike was naked, so I didn’t want let myself been too impressed. (My Dahon with 20″ wheels is about the same weight, but exceeds 30 lbs when loaded with a giant U-lock, rack, fenders, etc.)

The 42T chainwheel seemed to be a good compromise for climbing, and for getting to a decent speed for city commuting. I’m not a single-speed rider, so I missed having gears.

When I tried to climb some hills in Sedona and Flagstaff (after the roads cleared a bit), I found myself having to do that zigzag thing where you make your own switchbacks. That worked fine when the street had no traffic. Had I been in San Francisco (or maybe even on San Francisco Street in Flagstaff), I would have had to stop and push the bike rather than traverse back and forth in front of car traffic like a drunk cyclist.

Montague Boston on a car bike rack

Wide Load

I took the Boston to the flatland of Scottsdale. This posed a dilemma. Our trunk was full of other stuff. So I put the bike on our car rack. Because of the folding system, the shape of the frame did not allow the bike to ride on the bike rack as our standard bikes do. The rear wheel protruded off the passenger side of the car, and I couldn’t stop imagining that I was going to take out a pedestrian as I rounded a corner.

Montague Boston on a car bike rack

Ingenious

With a little ingenuity, I found a way to strap the wheel to the rack where usually the frame would be secured. But notice that the seat post quick release is missing.

This bike is at it’s most compact when the seat is removed, which I did almost every time I folded the bike. The quick release ring just fell off at some point when the seatpost was pulled out. I thought I’d lost it. Luckily, I found it in the trunk of the car.

Montague Boston seatpost quick release

Escape Artist

Montague ought to make it a little more difficult to lose this important little part–maybe integrate it to the seatpost tube (as it is on my Dahon).

Once in snowless Scottsdale, with its canal paths, bike lanes, and flat topography, this bike really seemed at home.

But there was the problem of carrying stuff.

Because of this folding frame design, a standard rack would make folding impossible. [Update: See the comment by Montague on mounting racks.] By coincidence, we received an e-mail from someone who owns a Montague, and asked about compatible racks. The best minds in bike racking considered the problem, and this is what they suggested:

There isn’t a way to modify the rack to get it to conform to the folding process.

The best rack for this would be the Old Man Mountain Sherpa or Cold Springs. The reason for this is that it uses the quick release skewer as its bottom attachment and the brake bosses for the upper. When folding the bike we thought it might work to disconnect the brake boss mounting location and swivel the rack down toward the ground.

Good luck with that.

I took the easy way out and used a Vaude seatpost mounted bag, which was handy in that it could either remain with the seatpost, or it snaps off easily to be carried around man-bag style. It also completes a mosquito-esque look to the Boston, now that I think of it. Here it is happily surrounded by blood:

Montague Boston at Soleri Bridge

(The photograph above was taken at the Soleri Bridge in Scottsdale, by the way. I chose this destination because of some great blogging by frequent commenter John Alpha Romeo on his blog, One Speed Go.)

Montague Boston black streamerA strength of this bike is that it folds up small for storage, and possibly shipping. The front wheel must be removed when folding the bike. There’s a long strip of Velcro on the handlebars to strap the two halves together when folded. I found that kind of awkward. When unfolded, I wrapped the Velcro neatly around the bar. I did that exactly one time. After that I found it a nuisance, and just let it fly like a sticky black streamer.

This would be an ideal bike for a commuter (a) living in a fairly flat big city, (b) who does not need to fold and unfold the bike during the course of his or her commute, and (c) has cozy spots for the bike both at home and at the office. It does not come with fenders, so either this hypothetical commuter doesn’t mind skunk butt, or doesn’t intend to ride in rain or snow.

The bike also has a flip-flop hub, enabling fixie mode–which I know some kids like. I didn’t even try it. Just ’cause.

But I would not have liked this bike for my former city slicker days in Washington DC. This bike is not easy to carry in one hand when folded. It would be a real pain on a multimodal commute if you need to fold the bike before getting on a subway during rush hour.

Montague also makes the Boston 8, a version of this bike that comes with fenders, and an 8-speed internal hub. I’m hoping to get my hands on one of those in the not-too-distant future. We’ll see what unfolds.

 
The Chariot Summer Sale - 2013

16 Responses to “Montague Boston: Single Speed Folding Commuter”

  1. matt says:

    Props to Montague for figuring out how to build a full-size folding bike. That said, I don’t see why you would want a folding bike to be full sized, unless one believes that 700cc wheels are somehow superior.

    It’s a real limitation that you have to remove the front wheel to fold it, if I read correctly.

    You had a chance to try a Xootr Swift? I ride one and would recommend it in a heartbeat!

    • Ted Johnson says:

      That’s right, you must remove the front wheel. It’s not a huge problem as long as the spot where you fold the bike is the spot where the bike is going to stay. It’s a nuisance to carry the bike around when it’s folded–which is what I’m accustomed to doing with my Dahon. Still, the design could totally work for someone who likes a full-sized bike, and only needed to fold and unfold at their points of origin and destination.

  2. Shaun says:

    I am seriously considering a Montague fold up bike. The biggest issue for me is not being able to attach a standard bike rack. Are there any plans by Montague to address this issue? It probably would entail a complete redesign of the bike. I know that you can attach a standard bike rack to the Dahon Matrix.

  3. matt says:

    the Xootr Swift will also take a regular rack

  4. LBJ says:

    “We’ll see what unfolds.” Nice.

    Seems like you might have liked the Navigator (http://www.montaguebikes.com/navigator-folding-commuter-bike-2010.html) better – it has gears, fenders, and a rack.

    I commute on the Boston every day, about 5 miles each way. I do ride in bad weather (which is one of the reasons I like the single speed – when I had a bike with a derailleur, it was always full of ice and almost impossible to shift), so i just got a fender for the back, the kind that attaches to the seat post. My ride has a couple of hills, but nothing crazy, which is another reason the single speed works for me.

    About the seat – I’m a shorty, so I ride with the seat slammed as low as it can go – so I’ve never really noticed that the seat makes the bike less compact. Do you think it would have helped to just leave the seat on, but lower it all the way?

    • Ted Johnson says:

      LBJ: One of the reasons I’m intrigued by the Boston 8 is because of it’s internal hub, which ought to be much more immune to ice and other gunk.

      Re. The seat: When the bike was just stored next to my desk, and space wasn’t the primary concern, then it was no problem leaving the seat on. However, once I’d installed the bracket for the seat-post rack, it was no longer possible to push the seat all the way down.

  5. Ryan says:

    You can attach standard rear racks to Montague bikes. Check this one out: Montague with rack

    Just needs the ones that mount on your dropouts and then attach also to the seat tube.
    Sounds like one of your main issues was the single speed. Montague has plenty of other options with gears! check them out at http://www.montaguebikes.com/folding-bike

    • Ted Johnson says:

      @Ryan: I don’t think I get it. Do you have a photo of a folded Montague with a rack? When I look at the pictures of Montagues with racks, and then look at the pictures of folded Montagues, I can’t figure out how the seat-tube configuration works–unless the seat tube is permanently positioned; never adjusted, never removed. Unless I’m mistaken, that would make the bike even less compact when folded.

      If I’m right, then attaching a rack is possible (per the photo to which you linked and other photos I’ve found), but the seatpost mounting bracket prevents the bike from achieving its minimum size. That’s probably not a deal killer for many commuters–but it does bump into my personal idiosyncrasy: the desire to easily compact the bike to it’s teeniest form every time.

  6. Shanyn says:

    Nothing can compare to a vintage folder- great ride, and heads turn: http://oak.ucc.nau.edu/sam86/Raleigh.htm
    Hey, I live in Flag, too!

  7. Shaun says:

    I am talking about using a standard bike rack that you would normally use with eyelets or brake bosses. I am not interested in attaching it to the seatpost tube. Could an Old Man Mountain bike rack work by using the brake bosses for the upper attachment?

  8. Ryan says:

    You would be able to attach that rack design to certain models. I assume it needs V-brake style brake bosses for attachment? If so, then any of the bikes in Montague’s mountain line should be able to accommodate it as long as the supports can angle down to the bosses (most designs I’ve seen do allow them to).

  9. Shaun says:

    I was thinking about the Navigator bike. Will this affect the compactness of the fold? Will the bike rack have to be partially removed?

  10. I prefer a bit more dahon full size bikes (cadenza in mz case) but this one looks nice with these curved tubes and dahon doaes now no single speed which can make thing a lot easier manz times.

  11. Shaun says:

    Thanks.I just checked out the Dahon 18 speed Cadenza. I am pretty impressed. It is 27 pounds, disc brakes and the ability to use a standard bike rack.

  12. That sounds like an awesome ride – and isn’t it nice to be able to take your bike on the train? If you took any photos (especially photos featuring your bike) we’d love to see them!

  13. Lau says:

    Wondering if this bike can have a coaster brake added to it. Any luck??

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