By Robert Martin
I went through much of the selection process you advocate on the
Folding Society web pages before selecting my DiBlasi - via the Net,
then telecons with the dealer - and bought it last March for its
convenience around town, leaving it parked under my desk here in
Initial reasons for purchase were that it folds even faster and easier than the Brompton (great head-turner!), just as small, and is better equipped and cheaper. The fact that it weighs a couple of kg more wasn't much concern: it's still easily liftable and you'd put neither in your handbag. The 7-speed derailleur and hub brakes (wet weather!) were other attractions. I've also got a carrier bag for it, but that's used principally when I put it in the car.
It is a very comfortable ride, more so than my conventional 27" Falcon Roadster at home, and though I've no plans to cycle long distances (all my journeys of up to 10km around town), I've never felt I wanted to stop because I was tired or uncomfortable. This came as a bit of a surprise when looking at the upright riding position and non-adjustable handlebar height, but true nonetheless. I comfortably keep up with town traffic, but I wouldn't advocate it (or pretty much any bike for that matter) for the open road up here.
Credit for this must go largely to the gears: there's one for every situation, particularly now that I've swapped out the original 13-28 freewheel for a Shimano Megarange 11-32: faster top gear was the driver here, although the ability to climb near vertical slopes is also amusing.
And the hub brakes are by far the best system I've tried on any
bike: smooth, progressive, reliable, quiet, weather resistant; why does
anybody use Vee-brakes?? Well perhaps you need them on big wheels.
The only limitation I've found is off-roading: the combination of a conventional derailleur with 16" wheels brings the chain very close to the ground; and the small wheels throw up mud much quicker despite full mudguards (it's a geometry thing you know). Mind you, the fact that the derailleur arm in bottom gear virtually rubs against the fat rear tyre is a handy safeguard against jumping the chain onto the spokes! So unless you want to spend your evenings over a paraffin-filled washing-up bowl, suggest you stay on-road. Still, that's what I bought it for, and now I know not to stray.
To summarise, it seems to me the DiBlasi has all the folding benefits of a Brompton (ie you always fold it even if you don't have to) only more so, at a cheaper price and with better gears and brakes, but less tolerant of off-road work. And a bit heavier (although the R24 successor to my R5 is lighter, but has Vee-brakes and I don't know about the price).
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Copyright (C)2005 Robert Martin
Last updated: 26 May 2005