Friday, November 18, 2011

Part 4: Cheap Bikes vs Premium Bikes: What is the Difference?

As stated in the Bicycle Maintenance book: "Wheels and tires, without which there would be no bicycle."

That is so true, as the word bi-cycle essentially means on two wheels. During normal usage of a bicycle, the only part of the bicycle that touches the ground would be the tires. Also, the wheels and tires are some of the many parts of the bicycle that rotates, and they are the components that have the biggest impact on rolling resistance.

Before we move on to the wheel and tire comparisons, you may want to start with previous parts of this article.

Cheap Bikes vs Premium Bikes: What is the Difference?
Part 1: Frame and Fork
Part 2: Frame and Fork (continued)
Part 3: Contact Points and Steering System

Let us move on to the comparisons, between an Aleoca Ready2Ride and a Dahon MuP8!

The wheels can be considered the core of the bicycle. It is the component that has the biggest impact on the ride quality and speed. With a good pair of wheels, you will be able to go fast and cruise longer with less effort. However, it is also one of the priciest single component on a bicycle. For a decent pair of 20" wheels, it can easily cost a few hundred dollars.

For me, the wheels can be split into 2 major parts, the hubs and the rims. We shall assume that both the bikes use similar stainless steel spokes.

Aleoca R2R Front Hub: Cup & Cone Bearings
Dahon MuP8 Front Hub: Kinetix Neutron Cartridge Bearings

Cartridge bearings in Dahon MuP8 hubs

Cup & cone bearings found in Aleoca R2R hubs

Cup & cone bearings are simple to service and maintain, but their sealing is usually poorer than cartridge style bearings. Cup & cone bearings can also be very smooth-running, but the bearings used must be of high quality (very smooth and round) and the cones must be well machined to very tight tolerances. Shimano is one of the few bicycle wheel manufacturers that still use traditional cup & cone bearings for strength, and are able to maintain the smooth running of the wheel hubs.

A bad cup & cone bearing hub is easy to detect. When spinning, there is noticeable drag and it will feel lumpy or notchy when you spin the wheels. Sometimes it is only because the hub is not adjusted properly, but many times, especially on lower end wheels, this is due to the poor quality of bearings and cones used.

On the other hand, cartridge bearings are difficult to service, as they require special tools to remove and install the cartridge bearings. The good news is that they are usually better sealed and require very little maintenance. If it wears out, it is possible to just swap in a new set of cartridge bearings. One disadvantage of cartridge bearings is that they are not built to withstand side loads, unlike cup & cone bearings.

In this case, the Kinetix Neutron hub of the MuP8 is far far better than the hub used on the Aleoca R2R. The Kinetix Comp wheelset used on the MuP8 is one of the most value-for-money 20" wheelsets available, especially with the extremely smooth running front hub.

Aleoca R2R Rear Hub: Cup & Cone Bearings and thread-on freewheel
Dahon MuP8 Rear Hub: Cup & Cone Bearings with 8/9/10 speed compatible cassette freehub


Both the rear hubs use cup & cone bearings. However, the similarity ends here. As seen above, the method and construction that is used to attach sprockets to the rear hub is vastly different. The Aleoca R2R is a 6 speed bike which uses a thread-on freewheel on its rear hub. Freewheel hubs are much cheaper than freehubs and the number of sprockets possible are very limited. Most freewheels available on the market are 6 or 7 speeds, with very rare 8 speed freewheels.

For the cassette freehub used on the Dahon MuP8, it has splines that enable the use of a cassette. The freehub spacing used for 8, 9 or 10 speed cassettes are similar, thus the potential for upgrade is there! Also, because of the construction, the bearings in the freehub system can be spaced further apart on the axle, improving the rigidity of the rear wheel.

Because of its better performance and upgradeability, the freehub found on the rear wheel of the MuP8 is a much better system than the R2R's freewheel system. Just to reiterate, the wheels are the core of the bicycle, and it is worth paying more to get a better wheelset that rolls well and lasts long.

The rims are a critical part of the wheel. For a wheel to roll properly, the rims have to be trued, such that they are as round as possible and are not twisted in anyway. By adjusting the spoke tension, different parts of the rim will be pulled to a different extent towards the hub, and the ultimate aim is to make the rim stiff and round. If V brakes are used, it is very important to have nicely trued wheels in order to have brakes that perform predictably and consistently.

Aleoca R2R Rims: Single walled rims
Dahon MuP8: Kinetix Comp Double walled rims

Single Walled Rim

Double Walled Rim

Rims can be classified into two main types, single-walled and double-walled. A single walled rim is easy to manufacture, but the downside is that it is not as strong as a double walled rim. A double walled rim will be stronger and more durable, and less likely to be damaged. Also, the double walled rim will be able to withstand higher tire pressures. That is also a reason why cheaper bicycles come with single walled rims, fatter tires, and lower tire pressures, whereas better bicycles meant for greater speed come with stronger double walled rims that can take high pressure slim tires.

Kinetix Comp rims are decent mid-range rims that are relatively lightweight and strong. It is worth paying more for a decent set of wheels in the first place, as these wheels are going to be used a lot, and can be very pricey if you decide to change out your wheels later on.

The bicycle tires will greatly influence the comfort and speed of the ride, much more so than the frame or other components. A good fast tire will be lightweight supple and absorb little energy when it rolls, preventing efficiency losses due to tire deformation. On the other hand, a tire meant for durability will be heavier, tougher, and probably thicker due to multiple layers of puncture resistant material.

For an immediate improvement in speed, the easiest and most effective way would be to change out the tires, and get slim road tires that roll fast. Changing the tires from a stock Kenda 1.75" tires to the fast Schwalbe Durano 1.1" tires will give you a significant speed improvement that can be easily felt.

Aleoca R2R Tires: Kenda 1.5" or 1.75" tires
Dahon MuP8 Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Racer/Marathon Plus tires

Kenda Kwest Tire, 20x1.75"

Schwalbe Marathon Racer, 20x1.5"

Schwalbe is well known as an aftermarket tire brand, that produces excellent tires that are lightweight, with low rolling resistance and good puncture protection. Most Schwalbe tires come with layers of Kevlar underneath the tread of the tire that helps to prevent sharp objects from poking through the tire. It is very effective at stopping small sharp objects such as gravel or thorns from puncturing your inner tube.

These Marathon Racers also come with a reflective sidewall that can increase your side visibility, plus it looks cool too! However, Schwalbe tires do not come cheap, as a single Marathon Racer tire can cost $40.

Based on the price of Schwalbe tires, it is no wonder why a Dahon MuP8 costs much more than an Aleoca R2R. The tires already take up a significant portion of the price difference.

After comparing the wheels and tires, it is obvious that the Dahon MuP8 uses much better wheelset components than the Aleoca R2R, which is why it costs significantly more. It can be troublesome and expensive to upgrade wheels and tires later on, which is why it is advisable to get a decent wheelset in the first place. If you don't plan to upgrade, the cheaper wheelsets may be good enough for leisurely rides, but if you forsee yourself upgrading the bike, it is much better to get a 8/9/10 speed compatible wheelset.

Part 5: Brake System

que continuar!


  1. What if I want to change the tyres of my Dahon Speed P8 from Schwable Big Apple to Marathon, Do I need to change the rims too? As I am not sure what is the type of my rims, whether it is single wall or double wall rims.

    1. No need to change rims. You can fit Marathon tires on the stock Speed P8 Kinetix Comp wheels. The Kinetix Comp wheels have double wall rims.

  2. Can I change my Raleigh Ugo stock tires Kenda 20x1.5 to Schwable Big Apple? Will it improve my ride?

    1. It will greatly improve comfort as the Big Apple tires at really comfortable. However you may find yourself traveling slower, as speed is compromised. Not a problem if you normally cycle below 25km/h and ride leisurely.

  3. Slower but I thought BA rolling resistance is low compare to Kenda 20x1.75. If the rolling resistance is lower, doesn't the speed improve as well?

    1. Not sure if rolling resistance of Big Apple is lower or not compared to Kenda 20x1.75. Depends on tire pressure also. Of course, the lower the rolling resistance the faster you can go with the same amount of power.

  4. Hi Steve.

    I am currently got the dahon formula s20. And want to upgrade the wheel to kinetix pro wheel set (use mostly on Tern). just wondering if it is fit with the disc brake? and what sort of tyre best fit?

    1. No you cannot use the Kinetix Pro, as you need a special wheel hub that can install disc brakes. If you change wheelset, you have to use other brakes such as V brakes or caliper brakes, but that would defeat the purpose of having the Formula S20 in the first place.

      However you can use slimmer tires if you wish to.

  5. Hi Steve,

    I've just picked up the Dahon Speed Falco, I'm planning to start back to cycling and eventually taking on longer cycling routes.
    Was wondering should I switch the stock wheelset to your recommendations or ride out my stock sets for a few months first?

    1. Just try out the stock bike first. Then you will know what components are worth keeping, and what you can upgrade.

    2. Thanks Steve, great blog. I've learnt loads from your posts and guides.

  6. Hi steve,

    i wished i would've found your blog before i bought my Raleigh Ugo. Now what is done is done and i have thoughts of upgrading current 7-speed rear cassette to a 9/10 speeder. From your post above it is possible that my Ugo's rear hub could be a freewheel. To your knowledge could you confirm it?

    Does it mean now, if i am to upgrade my rear speed to 9/10 speed i would need to get the rear hubs changed to freehub? If so, will any freehubs from road/mtb will do? or there is some specific freehub size that could only be fitted onto a raleigh ugo?

    Thank you for your generous knowledge sharing.

    1. No matter your rear hub is freewheel or freehub, to go from 7 speed to 9/10 speed will require a new rear wheel with a freehub.

      Most likely the width of your rear hub is 130mm. Road hubs will fit your frame.

  7. This is bias shitty comparison, leading to dahon all the time without fair emphasize on aloeca. Folding bike are purely short leisure rides and commute. Fairly decent FBs are good enough rather than premiums. It's all about usage. You don't wear hiking shoes in bathroo are you?

    1. This is a fair comparison between different grades of folding bike. I don't think you ride a folding bike yourself. They can be capable of long distance rides and for touring, basically anything except offroad. If you are satisfied with basic folding bikes, good for you. Premium bikes are nicer to ride and can be used for so many more purposes other than short trips.

  8. Hi steve, could u advice if dura ace 9000 11sp cassette could fit a kinetix pro freehub body?

    1. Depends on whether the hub is a new 11 speed hub or not. If it came on a new Mu SLX which is 1x11 speed then it will fit. Else you have to see if there is indication on the freehub body that states 11 speed.

  9. hi, i have a set of kinetix pro on my mu sl and need to tru those wheels. what tool should i use since it needs to be done inside the rim. i have been looking for tools but not luck so far. thanks

    1. You need to remove the tires and adjust the spoke nipples using a screwdriver from the holes on the rim.

  10. Hi, I have the same cartridge bearings as showen above (for Tern). I just purchased 2 new ones, because they are a bit loose now. Does anyone know how to replace them? Thanks a lot !

    1. You need to press out the original bearings from the hub with a special tool, and replace with the same sized bearings. Can check with bearing shop or bike shop.

  11. Thanks for replying! This morning somenone in the bikeshop showed me how to knock them out from the inside using a small screwdriver from oppositie sides. Pretty easy, actually! :-)
    Ps If you tap in the new ones, make sure to use an object that matches the bearing and only touches the outer ring.

    1. If you don't plan on reusing the bearings, yes you can just knock them out anyhow.