It's time for a face-off! All of the best showdowns in history have been between two contenders with similar strengths: Ali and Frazier, Frost and Nixon, Rome and Sparta. In the world of folding bikes, there are two 20" bikes have similar features that make both of them great urban commuters. In one corner, the Dahon MuP8. Made by the biggest folding bike manufacturer in the world, this bike is like the returning champ ready to take on a contender. In the other corner, the Xootr Swift Folder. Designed by Brooklyn native Paul Reich, this underdog challenger is looking to score an upset. It's a favorite with the local New York crowd, and luckily that's where our match is to be set.
We've set both bikes loose on the rough streets of Manhattan. Which will fare better as an everyday commuter bike? Let's break it down!
Out of the thirty-something folding bike models made by Dahon, the MuP8 is definitely one of the best. The curved frame gives it better stability on uneven roads, and the adjustable handlebars and seat post guarantee a comfortable ride for practically anyone. The eight speeds provide a great range for city riding, and the components (brake levers, derailleur, hubs) are better than the average Dahon folding bike. The tires are Schwalbe Marathons, which are Kevlar lined and faster than the Big Apple tires included with some other Dahons. For a bike with 20" wheels, it's pretty quick.
Folding the Dahon MuP8 takes about four steps. Since the handlebar sits between the wheels, some adjustments have to be made so it doesn't interfere with the wheel magnets. This can seem like a hassle at first, but it gets to be an easy routine after a few folds. The folded package is smaller than the Xootr Swift, and weighs only about 25 lbs. The other advantage of the Dahon bikes is the plethora of carrying bags that can be used to lug the bike around when it's folded. For a commuter bike, the Dahon MuP8 folding bike is super convenient.
Another eight-speed bike, the Xootr Swift also has a great range of gears for urban commuting. Though the seat post isn't as adjustable as the MuP8, and the handlebars are fixed in one position, both can be altered with extensions if a different position is desired. Compared to the telescoping handlebar of the MuP8, which can flex if extended all the way, the Xootr Swift uses a better design with their extended handlebars. Also weighing in at about 25 lbs, the Swift Folder is also a pretty quick commuter bike.
On one hand, the Swift lacks the compact folded shape that the MuP8 has. On the other hand, there is only one step to the folding process and it takes much less time to break it down. Just pull the seat post up until the rear frame is detached, swing the rear wheel under the bike, and drop the seat back down. Commuters that need to travel by train or carry their bike up a flight of stairs will appreciate the few seconds this saves every day. There are also no adjustments to make to the Swift, unlike the MuP8. Aside from the seat height, the Swift is ready to ride as soon as it's unfolded.
Usually, since both bikes have a very similar ride, the customer compares the fold when picking a bike. For a more compact fold that takes a bit more time, the Dahon MuP8 is the obvious winner. For a quick bike that doesn't fold quite as small, the Xootr Swift is a bit more convenient. There's really no wrong answer when it comes to these two bikes, and sometimes it's just a matter of hometown pride that determines the champ.