NYCeWheels customer Alan is an enthusiastic patron of our little bike shop, and wrote us this in-depth review of the Montague Crosstown. After you've read this one, check out Al's equally delightful review of the Dahon Mariner.-Miles
My in-laws live in a lovely building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They moved to this apartment after twenty five years in their previous apartment, because they wanted a river view, which they now have. Only after they had made the purchase, did they find out that the building has a roof deck, a gorgeous roof deck with sweeping views of Manhattan, the Hudson River, and the George Washington Bridge. They bought the apartment without any knowledge of one of its best features. Which brings me to the Crosstown, by Montague.
I believe that if I had encountered this bicycle, with no idea that it could fold, I would think it a brilliant and fast hybrid, easy to love and recommend, with a unique and eye catching frame design. The fact that it is a folder adds an extra layer of utility to a bicycle that could otherwise stand on its own merits. We purchased this bicycle for our son, because he wanted a full sized bicycle that would take up less space in the bedroom he shares with his brother. I have been so impressed with the bike, I had to interview David Montague, president and one of the father and son founders of the company. Excerpts from that interview can be found throughout this review.
The Crosstown is a full sized, full wheeled hybrid bicycle, with seven gears, an adjustable stem and, of course, an adjustable seat. It rides on full sized, narrow tires, but is able to fold itself in half, and with the front tire removed, fit into spaces that would be very inconvenient for a regular bicycle.
The Crosstown rides like a regular hybrid bike, as simple as that. In a ride from 85th Street down the West side Greenway of Manhattan, up the East Side to Midtown, the bike ate up the pavement. On smooth asphalt, the bike has a wonderful sense of engagement; cranking the pedals gives that feeling of increasing speed that makes me want to go faster and faster. By way of comparison, it felt a lot like a Specialized Sirrus or Trek 7.3 FX, but with one significant difference--the adjustable stem (we'll come back to that).
This brings up a question. Most folding bikes have 20 inch or 16 inch wheels. Why did Montague decide to go with full size wheels? According to David Montague "Our goal was to create a full size bike that offers all the ride quality and components of a regular full size bike, and does not trade off any ride quality for the ability to fold." Mission accomplished David! Now, David also believes that full sized wheels make a bike ride better, and deal with potholes better than tinier wheels. I am sure there are small wheel zealots who would argue the point. However, it is true that smaller wheeled bikes at least feel different. So, if the feeling that you are riding a full sized bike is important in your folder- just a ride a Montague!
The bike trail on the East Side ends in Mid-town. After that, it was over to city streets. On this ride, and subsequent rides in New York City traffic, the downside side to the Crosstown's narrow tires became evident. The aluminum frame and fork do a good job of soaking up bumps and potholes. However, the super skinny tires ensure that you feel every road imperfection. By way of comparison, the aforementioned Trek 7.3 FX has tires that are 32 mm wide, whereas the Crosstown's are only 28. I brought up the skinny tires in my interview, specifically in terms of riding on the mean streets of New York. David's reply: "The beauty of using standard wheel sizes, is that, in the event that the Crosstown tires prove to be too narrow for a person's taste, they can be easily changed to wider tires, or tires with a more knobby profile. " Oh yeah, good point!
Riding in heavy traffic on the Crosstown after riding smaller wheeled bikes is a somewhat different experience. The bike feels big, and as a rider I felt "tall in the saddle". I had to be more careful weaving around cars, as the bike could not make the hairpin low speed turns that its smaller wheeled brethren excel at. However, it was easy to adjust my riding style.
The Crosstown is not going to win any "how small can it fold" contests. The bike folds at the part of the frame where the seat post sits. While this ensures that the bike cannot achieve a tiny fold, it does have the advantage of a solid frame, which means that while riding it feels rock solid. In order to achieve the smallest fold possible, the front wheel is removed. The front wheel comes on and off using the CLIX release system, which is both fast and secure. Of course this means that this regular sized wheel must be locked when the bike is parked on the street.
The resulting "package" is both large in comparison to smaller wheeled folding bikes such as Tern, Dahon, or Brompton, but also somewhat ungainly. This is not the folding bike to sneak past doormen into a building, or quietly bring in to the office at work. That said, it works brilliantly and as intended to stow the bike in a closet, or in the trunk of the car. On a recent car trip with a fair amount of luggage, it was a snap to fold up the bike, and shove it to the side in our SUV compartment for a trip to the Hamptons to visit friends.
I really, really like the shifter on the Crosstown. The seven gears are plenty for riding all over New York, as well as up and down hills. The shifter changes gear with a satisfying 'clunk', and it shows exactly what gear you are in at any moment. At stoplights, I tried shifting gears before starting to pedal, which you are not supposed to do. When I took off pedaling, the derailer fell into gear without protest, although I would not recommend doing this on a regular basis!
I mentioned a significant difference between the Crosstown and other non-folding hybrid bikes. The stem of the bike uses the Octagon system. Check out the web site for plenty of technical information. What I love about this system is that it allows for quick changes in the height of the handlebars. A notching mechanism ensures that once locked in place, it feels as tight as any bike that does not have quick change height adjustment.
In a way, that is emblematic of the whole bike- it does its folding magic, but does everything else as well or better than a non-folding bike. In terms of weight, the bike comes in at a manageable 27lbs.
The bike is very good looking and distinctive. The frame is a "double truss" design. Several people stopped me to ask about the bike. When you think about it, the vast majority of bikes either look like a road bike, a mountain bike, or a hybrid. The Crosstown stands out as something truly distinctive. David Montague told me that each frame is hand made, and there is a four layer painting process. The bike looks good!
When my son and I purchased his bike at NYCEWHEELS (the folding and electric bike experts) in New York, we saw they had in stock another Montague model, the Montague Paratrooper. My son was, of course, intrigued. Did paratroopers really actually use these bikes, or was it just marketing hype? So I put the question to David. Here is his response: "Montague bikes are currently deployed with U.S. troops in many major arenas including Iraq and Afghanistan. They are most often used in patrolling areas because they provide a vehicle that is fairly fast, yet produces no thermal or acoustic signatures. We developed the current frame design under a grant from DARPA. They wanted a durable bike that could fit through airplane doors. "
David also provided a link to show what a military jump would look like with a Montague:
Really? How cool is that! Maybe this is how to get to the Hamptons the next time, instead of crawling on the Long Island Expressway!
To sum up, the Montague Crosstown is a fantastic bike- distinctive looking, fast, adjustable, and a great space saver for the car and home. It would not be my choice to haul in and out of an office, but with smooth asphalt in front of me, absolutely!
In summary, the Montague Crosstown is great for:
...and less great for: