24 January 2015

GEAR REVIEW: Montague Crosstown Folding Bikes

Location: Turtle Beach Campground, Siesta Key, FL, USA
We've ridden more than 700 kilometres on these new bikes, so now is likely an appropriate time to do a realistic review.

But, before I do that ... let me Review My Riding Performance on this bike, by recounting yesterdays' real-life experience. 

I've never pretended to be a good rider, but I do try and when I am doing a training ride, like I was yesterday ... I giver as best I can. 

The Scenario: Winds were over 30 mph and in my face. I was in a flat, paved bike lane heading home after completing about 25 kms and I was giveiner. My little legs were just a-pumpin' for all they were worth, but then, like a flash >>>>> ... I got passed by a really large older guy riding a pinkish beach bike with streamers dangling from the grips and a basket in the front. I was instantly demoralized and hoped no one had witnessed my embarrasing display of un-fit-ness-ness. What to do? Thankfully, I was packing the days' wine purchase ... I know? ... I'll head back to camp and lick my un-athletic wounds with a glass (or four) of Chardonnay. I arrive, dismount with slumped shoulders, announce my return and Wry (sensing my dilemna) is immediately there with a couple of empty wine glasses ready to fill ... this will surely ease my pain. First sip ... hmmm? that's interesting ... second sip! ... OMG, this wine is maderized, it's bad! Well, that's appropriate I suppose and Somelliers would agree with the accompaniment ... BAD wine to celebrate a BAD ride.

We're fortunate to have neighbours here at Turtle Beach who are seasoned riders and also, just happen to be from Elginburg, ON quite close to where we live. 

Meet Betty-Sue & Billy-Bob (pseudonyms)

They are heavily involved in the professional cycling scene in Canada and are sponsored by Jet Fuel Coffee a Toronto coffee and cycling cafe. They donate their time as support staff for one of Canada's most successful cycling teams. The Team can also be found on Facebook at Jet Fuel Norco ... check them out and support them if you can.

I asked Betty-Sue and Billy-Bob (not their real names) why I had the riding experience I did, hoping they would blame my poor performance on the bike. Unfortunately they didn't. Billy-Bob (once again ... not his real name) explained that a number of factors could be involved. 
 Billy-Bob (once again - again, not his real name) : Explains the details ... 'You were out performed Dann, suck it up and move on!'  Notice my dejected demeanor, slumped shoulders and a lowered head.

... the fact that my bike only has 7 speeds was certainly one of my 'performance limiting factors', but more than likely the fellow that passed me, because of his physical size was just capable of putting more horsepower through his leg muscles than I was. I did get a few pointers though ... use a heart monitor for peak performance, clip into the pedals to add power when you pull up, ensure your ride geometry is correct (leg and arm length, seat and handle bar adjustment) and check your tires for proper inflation.

I know their cycling tips will make me a better rider ...  so a great big THANKS to Betty-Sue & Billy-Bob (really not their real names).

Review The Bikes Performance: We've always carried bikes with us when we do road trips, but never as successfully as I would prefer. Bicycles are the single most important piece of gear we carry

They provide us with inexpensive transportation for shopping, they help to keep us fit and they encourage us to explore travel areas in a much less invasive manner. In the past, we've moved them from the outside to the inside of our truck camper, we've stored them on inside beds or dinettes covered with blankets. We've dangled them from rear receiver hitches, covered them with tarps, and separated them with cushioning and we've locked them. I've seen others travel with bikes on front receiver hitches, swing away rear hitches, custom hard-case carriers, elaborate rear wall racks ... and I saw one set-up that suspended a tandem bike from the side of a truck camper down alongside the rear fender and the pickup bed. 

Foldable bikes are definitely our solution to transporting bikes safely and securely with a truck camper. We often drive on rough, gravel, multi surface roads. We've damaged bikes in the past. No matter how well you cover them, cushion them or secure them ... if they are outside and exposed to the elements, they'll be damaged.

99% of our riding so far on this trip, has been on hard surface, asphalt, concrete and hard-packed trails. Montague is one of only a few manufacturers that build a full-sized, folding bicycle. The Crosstowns came fitted with road tires so we're limited with ride choices at the moment. We'll eventually move to hybrid tires for the bikes so that we can venture onto gravel trails. Road tires have a tendency to 'roll away' on a gravel or soft sand surface ... you can drop a bike quickly. 

We're biking in Florida ... there is hardly a grade change here, it's very flat ... seven speeds are all we need. Those $6000 road bikes with tires the thickness of a dime and 30some speeds will always blast by us, but with just 7 speeds ...  we get a better workout ... well anyways, that's our logic! 

The Crosstowns have 4 folding locations - front wheel, handlebars, seat and frame. The locking mechanism for these, is easy to use and keeps its' position well. Additionally, we upgraded to folding pedals and they also work well. 

These bikes are slightly heavier than an equivalent sized, non-folding bike might be. That's due to the extra hardware and additional rigidity built into the frame at critical fold points. The bikes 'feel' solid as you ride ... there is none of the 'frame wobble' associated with folding bikes.

Folding (or unfolding) is quick and easy ... maybe a maximum of 2 or 3 minutes for either. Remove the front tire, lower the seat and handlebars, fold in the mirror, fold the frame in half and fold the pedals in. I'm not sure I like the release mechanism for removing the front wheel. Once the wheels' locking mechanism is unclasped, it then needs to be squeezed between 'thumb and 2 forefingers' (much like a syringe), in order to free the wheel and lift it from the front forks. I find the manoeuver awkward at best.

Packing can be a little tricky! The bags supplied are 'just' large enough. There isn't any extra room whatsoever. Make sure the bike is folded in as small as possible at all locations. Open the bag fully and place it on a flat surface. Position the folded bike along the centre seam of the opened bag and then close the bag part ways. Use the handlebar velcro strap to secure the bike to itself and then place the front wheel into the bags inner pouch. Attach the bags' velcro straps to the bike frame for carrying ease and zip the bag together. 

They store easily in the Ford's crew seat for driving trips. Even though their smallish, folded dimension would make them easy to transport by air, I think the soft bags would allow for damage. If we ever fly with them, they would go into hard cases. 

I've always had a difficult time remembering peoples' names. I will never remember our new friends real names and now that I've given them the pseudonyms Betty-Sue and Billy-Bob ... that's who I will refer to them as, next time we meet .... and, I know we will!

Crusty ... ride safe and giver!


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