The Folding Society

Neobike Access and Vitesse D3

By Gunnar Carlson
First published 12 July 2010


1. Background

2. First blood

3. Second thoughts

4. Exit Neobike, Enter Vitesse

5. Conclusion

1. Background

I live in Sweden. I quite enjoy cycling, for transport as well as for recreation and excercise. I also travel a lot in my work. During periods when I have travelled regularly to the same location and stayed two or three days a week, I have transported a traditional full-sized bike there. It has stayed there for some months, and I have used it to and from work, for shopping or generally going about. However, the transports from my home and back again have always been a bother, so about three years ago I bought my first folding bike, a second-hand Neobike Access. I bought it from a sailing yacht owner who had owned it for three or four years, but not used it. He had sold the boat and did not see that he would start using the bike.

2. First blood

Neobike Access was a budget folding bike was equipped with 16-inch wheels and a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gear hub with a back-pedal brake. The front brake was a side-pull brake of "classic" design, and not very effective (Efffective side-pull brakes exist. They are quite light, quite expensive, and suitable for racing. On a week-day bike you are better off with centre-pull, cantilever or V-brakes.)  The seat post and the steering stem were both telescopic, allowing for short as well as tall riders. The frame was steel. There was a low luggage rack and a kickstand on the left side of the back wheel. The rack accommodated only narrow luggage because of heel clearance. The stand worked very well. The bike was well put together and reasonable value for money - but heavy. The riding position was strictly sit-up-and-beg, mostly because the distance between saddle and steering bar was (too) short. I did not like this and never found a reasonably comfortable riding position. Even if the riding position was not ideal, it was however comfortable enough for me to use the bike regularly for more than a year. The only technical problem I had was a flat font tyre.

The Neobike Access folded logically and reasonably fast. However, usually I didn´t. It was so compact unfolded that I could bring it inside as it was - and, the folding procedure was a bit of a bother, after all. As it came with a nylon transport bag, there was no problem taking it on a train. A careful decision however, because of the weight (14 kilos plus).

Neobike Access

3. Second thoughts

At some point during my Neobike ownership I stumbled over Over the following weeks and months I returned regularly and enjoyed browsing through the articles, especially the test reports. Also, I have used foldsoc as a base from which to explore links to other reading about foldables. I became somewhat acquainted with Dahon, Bike Friday, Birdy, Brompton and others ...

4. Exit Neobike, Enter Vitesse

From my surfing the Internet I had learnt that Dahon was a low-to-middle price brand, and according to reviews, reasonable value for money. I had also taken a fancy to the Dahon Curve, partly on account of a well-written review on foldsoc, partly on account of a number of YouTube videos. So when I saw an ad offering a secondhand Dahon folding bike, I impulsively responded. The bike in question turned out to be a Vitesse, not a Curve. Hmm... But after looking it over and taking it for a short test ride, I mentally waved goodbye to the Neobike and bought the Vitesse. And yes, the seller was a boat owner (motor) and I eventually sold the Neobike to a sailing yacht owner.

The Vitesse was also in mint condition (apparently boat owners mostly "boat" and don't ride bikes very much). It came with an aluminium frame, 20" wheels, a V-front brake, and an Sram 3-speed gear hub with a back-pedal brake. It also had a luggage rack and mud guards. And although the bathroom scale said it only weighted between two and three kilos less than the Neobike, I found it was much easier to carry when folded. A combination of less weight and a useful handgrip with good balance, I think.

I have fitted another luggage rack, an ancient Karrimor I once used on a touring bike. The only extras needed to mount it was a pair of long support struts at the front end, and after asking around a bit I found them at a local bike shop at about £2 for the pair.

My current travel pattern is that I make a train trip with one change, and spend one or two hotel nights at my work location, Stockholm. So, for several months now a typical work trip has gone as follows. I use the Vitesse to the railway station early Monday morning, fold it, put on the shower cap, and stow it on the "Redeye". At the change I carry it about 100 meters and stow it on the next train. At my work location, I carry it up two flights of stairs, unfold it and ride 2 miles into the office. In the evening I ride to the hotel, 4 miles, and later ride about sightseeing for an hour or two. When it is time to return home, Tuesday or Wednesday, the procedure reverses.

Dahon Vitesse

The compact camera case fits "naturally"
on the bottle cage and is useful for tyre tools, lunch money & other small items.

5. Conclusion

So far, I am very happy with the Vitesse. It is solidly made. It folds easily and quickly. When folded, it is compact enough that I can stow it aboard Swedish trains (not above the seats).

The 20" wheels handle potholes, etc, significantly better than 16". The riding position is good enough, much better than on the Neobike (although not as good as on a fullsized bike). The longest trip so far was 42 km on a wide variety of surfaces, from riding path to dirt road to streets, and it was enjoyable all the way.

I am used to having a lot more gears, but the ratios on the Vitesse work well for me. In low gear I get up all the inclines I normally am confronted with, even with some luggage, and in 3:rd gear I roll pleasantly along. In traffic I find that I usually keep about the same pace as any 3- or 5-geared bike.

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