By Andrew Schank
I ended up getting a good deal recently on a KHS Westwood, full suspension, 16 speed, folding mountain bike with 20 inch wheels. This is my first experience with owning a folder. Since there was no report at your web site directly about this bike, I'd though I'd write a short review of my experience with the bike so far.
First of all, I wanted a bike that would fold quickly, fit in the trunk of a small car, and could really be used off road. The Westwood and much more expensive bike from Bike Friday were the two bikes I heard about that would fit the bill. I decided the Bike Friday was out of my budget, and also it is more of a take apart bike than a folding bike.The other brand I considered, Dahon, doesn't really offer anything designed specifically for off road. The Birdy bikes are not readily available here, and the 18 inch wheels and cost of the model with more gears also led me to exclude it.
I found a fellow in Berkeley who recently closed his store called "Momovelo" who had a leftover KHS Westwood at a great price. I took it for a 30 minute ride on the UC Berkeley Campus, and I was sold. The bike is nimble, fast, climbs well, and comfortable. When I saw how fast it folds and unfolds (about 20 seconds) we made a deal ($500) and I left with my first folding bike neatly stowed in the corner of my trunk.
Here's my take on the bike so far: Strengths are as follows. The cromolly frame is solid, the full suspension works well to take the sting out of ruts and dips. This is not a fully tunable air suspension like you'd find on a $1500 mountain bike, but the elastomers do a surprisingly decent job of making a 15 mile off road run way more comfortable than on a hard bike. The suspension works great on the street, with little bounce. I can even stand up on the bike if needed. The supplied tires are knobbies, and work very well in the dirt, hooking up on anything I went though, but are not the lowest on rolling resistance on the street. The riding position on the bike is excellent for a person my size. I am 5 feet 9 and weigh 165 pounds. I don't think the bike would be too happy with a rider over 6 feet tall or 200 pounds. The seat post extension is 1 inch below its maximum for my size. The distance from the seat to the handlebars is the same is on my full size bike, and the bars are roughly the same height as the seat. Note: The standard bar stem can be replaced with a different one if a person wanted to experiment with different geometry. The supplied V brakes were adequate, but I had an extra set of Avid SD5 I slapped on, and now the braking is exceptional. I found the "power tools" V brakes it came with to work OK, but they don't stay in adjustment like a precision made Avid, and they are heavy. The bike shifts cleanly through all 16 gears without any fuss. The range is excellent. You can still pedal downhill at nearly 30 MPH (I hit 38 already), and climbing is good with the smaller 32 front ring and the 30 tooth rear. Comes with an 11/30 rear and a 44/32 front. The bike folds very easily into a very compact size, and showed no sign of play when extended. Other nice touches: quick release hubs, bottle braze ons in a great place, coolest kick stand I've ever seen.
Weaknesses. Bike is on the heavy side at a tad over 29 pounds. More on this later. The wheels are single wall, and the hubs are house brand low end-not the smoothest in the world. The seat is comfortable, but weighs nearly a pound! The seat post is also heavy, at 400 grams, and gets badly marked up from shoving it all the way in and out during folding. As delivered, the bike needed some tuning. The steering head had play and needed tightening several times. the rear wheel bearing was way too tight. The supplied pedals are too narrow for my medium sized feet.
Upgrades: Since I got such a great deal on the bike, I decided to put a few more dollars into it to make it a bit better of a ride. I mentioned the Avid brake upgrade above. I love the WTB Rocket V seat on my full size mountain bike, and found another for this bike. Saved 1/2 pound there, and the seat fits me better. The odd 29.2mm x 400mm heavy seat post has been changed out for a Carbon fiber one from MaxM components. I got a 400mm long 27.2 post and a 27.2 to 29.2 shim. This way the post won't get marred up when putting it in and out for folding. The Carbon post also helps soften the ride a bit further, and saves 1/2 pound as well. Got some Maxxis hookworm tires which perform as well as the supplied knobbies on the dirt, and far better on the street. They weighed only a bit more than the original tires, and I am very impressed with them after putting some miles on them. I went with clipless pedal, some basic Shimano ones the same as I have on my other bike. Made a big difference in bike control. The last upgrade I am doing is the wheels and hubs. I already had some problems with the single wall rims the spokes pushing into the tubes. I bought some cloth rim tape, and that seemed to do the trick. The sides of the rims are not machined, so the brakes pulse a bit as well. I found some nice Australian made, 24mm wide Velocity Aeroheat double wall rims at "Power on Cycling" These are very lightweight, with machined brake surfaces. Had them built up with Shimano LX hubs. They should be arriving here sometime this week and I can't weight to try them out.
In conclusion, the KHS Westwood is a great folding off road package right out of the box. With a few upgrade, mine will have shed nearly 3 pounds and roll and brake noticeable smoother. There may be better choice for those who want a bike for road use only, but for us dirt trail folks wanting a folder, I think its the best bike on the market.
For more information on this model, see the KHS Westwood web site
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Copyright (C)2003 Andrew Schank
Last updated: 26 September 2003