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