Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Modifications to Flamingo London NX7: Front Luggage Truss

I have been riding my Flamingo London NX7 for about 3 months now, and I am pleased to report that there have been no issues with the bike so far! Nothing has broken down yet or gone missing, which is good. Although the Flamingo has a rear rack, it is not really meant for luggage, especially if you intend to fold the bike. One of the things that has been bugging me is the lack of luggage capacity on the Flamingo. I don't need to carry a lot of things on the Flamingo, because I can ride the Dahon Boardwalk with lots of pannier space instead. However, I would like to carry some stuff when I commute to work.

Usually, when I ride the Flamingo to work, I will need to carry a bit of luggage, such as my work clothes or other small objects. Even though I have the Topeak MondoPack Hydro, which is huge, it cannot carry a set of clothes.

So far, I have been using my Crumpler sling bag when I commute to work with the Flamingo. It is a durable bag, but because it covers my back, it traps the heat and sweat, and is plain uncomfortable, even for short rides due to the heat buildup. I have heard that some messenger bags are good, but I would prefer if I don't have to carry anything on my back when cycling.

Remember that I was using the Dahon Tour Bag on my Boardwalk? Ever since I got a rear rack and Ortlieb Front Panniers for the Boardwalk, I have retired the Tour Bag from luggage carrying duties. It is a really nice bag, and I couldn't bear to sell it even though I was not using it. Maybe I would find a use for it in the future?

Then, I thought of installing the Dahon Tour Bag onto the Flamingo. To do that, I have to fix on the Luggage Truss that is used to mount the Dahon Tour Bag. This truss is designed for use on Dahon/Tern bikes, with the front luggage socket dedicated for this luggage truss. I had to check the compatibility before I can try to put on the luggage truss.

First, I need to find suitable bolts for the luggage mount on the Flamingo. M4 bolts are too small, while M5 bolts can only be screwed in a couple of rounds before it gets too tight. This is quite puzzling, is the thread size non-standard, using imperial thread sizes? I actually went around looking for imperial sized bolts, of 6/32 inches, which is about 4.76mm in size. These are quite hard to find, and when I found it, the bolts do not fit properly.

 The luggage socket located on the front of the head tube.

Finally, after asking around, Kian Lim from MBS told me that perhaps it is just paint inside the hole. Alamak! I didn't think of that as the entrance of the bolt hole seems to be free of paint, it didn't seem like there was paint jamming up the hole. I got a M5 tap, and tapped both the holes. After that, M5 bolts could go in easily! After so much trouble, the bolts I needed were actually just standard M5 bolts.

Next, to try out the Dahon luggage truss. After some measurements, I noted that the distance between the holes on the Flamingo were 25mm apart, while the Dahon luggage truss has holes 30mm apart. Also, the hole size on the luggage truss is meant for M6 bolts, while the Flamingo luggage mount takes M5 bolts.

Luckily, this discrepancy is not too severe. With some modifications, the luggage truss should be able to fit on the Flamingo!

See the difference? Different centre-to-centre distance for the holes. Holes are of different sizes also.

What is required is a bit of modification to the luggage truss. By modifying one of the holes into a slot, it will fit the luggage mount on the Flamingo. Also, I got some shims to increase the diameter of the M5 bolts to M6, so as to give a better fit and prevent any looseness between the truss and the mount.

After modification, with the bottom hole enlarged into a slot.

The luggage truss securely mounted onto the frame with M5 bolts

 The Dahon Tour Bag fits nicely onto the bike, does not affect steering.

When I need to fold the bike, I just remove the box from the luggage truss and sling it onto my shoulder. Example of this would be when I take the MRT with the Flamingo. The luggage truss does not affect the folding at all, although it does add a bit of height to the folded package.

This must be the cheapest upgrade I have done for my bikes. It costs nothing, since I am merely reusing the Dahon Tour Bag which I had previously retired. The modifications did take me a bit of time, but as you can see, it is worth it! With this, I can carry quite a bit of luggage when needed, without being bothered by a sweaty back. If desired, this can also be done on Brompton bikes!

Adding luggage capacity to the Flamingo without affecting the fold

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fitting 3 bikes into the space of 1

So many bikes at home and no space to store them! Luckily they are all folding bikes, no problem!

4 bikes at home!

From left to right, we have the Flamingo London NX7, the Dahon Boardwalk X20-R, the yellow yellow CarryMe (borrowed from 明天), and Bernice's Dahon Vitesse P18-TT. Wheel sizes range from 8" to 20".

Except for the Dahon Boardwalk, the other 3 bikes are fully folded.

By folding the Flamingo, Vitesse and CarryMe, the space that the bikes take up is much smaller! See how wonderful folding bikes are, especially if you have little space to store your bikes. Just look at the CarryMe, with such a small footprint when folded. It is practically the size of a bunch of umbrellas!

The 3 bikes curling up and snuggling up to each other cozily.

Together, these 3 bikes take up less space than a full sized road bike or mountain bike!

It seems that for folding bikes, it does not matter how many you have, as long as you can fold them! It is unlikely that you will use all of them frequently, so it is probably feasible to fold up a few of them and leave the rest unfolded. The best thing about folding bikes is that they take up so little space when folded.

How do your store your bikes at home?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Modifications to Flamingo London NX7: External Cable Routing

It has been a while since I rode my Flamingo to and from work! Have not had the chance to ride it, due to many reasons. Finally, I found the chance to ride the Flamingo home today. Because of that, I now have the chance to take some photos that show the modifications that I made to the Flamingo.

For this bike, because it is not meant for fast riding, the modifications that I made are not really related to weight or performance. Rather, it is to make the folding a bit better or for other practical reasons.

As can be seen in the bike comparison I made earlier, one of the main differences between a Flamingo London NX7 and a Brompton is the cable routing. For the Flamingo, the cables are neatly routed internally through the main frame.

Although this looks neat, it is actually not good for the cables if the bike is folded and unfolded frequently. At the area where the cable enters the front of the frame, and exits the rear of the frame, the cable will tend to snag on the edges of the holes when folding or unfolding the bike. Also, the bending radius is quite small, which may deform the cable housing over time.

This is the reason why I decided to tried out external cable routing on the Flamingo London NX7. By referencing the Brompton bike, I re-routed all the cables a la Brompton, hoping to improve the cable routing.

My Flamingo with external cable routing! Looks a lot like a Brompton.

 The stock Flamingo with internal cable routing. Looks neater, but harder to fold as the cables tend to snag on the edges of the frame holes.

Doing the external cable routing was not easy. First, I had to learn the Brompton way of routing the cables, and also to find suitable places on the frame to hold the cables in place. The Brompton has many small loops on the frame to help guide the cables along the frame. For the Flamingo, I have to make do with cable ties placed at strategic locations.

Another challenging part was to judge the length of the cable housings. For external cable routing, the cable length has to be quite precise. It must be long enough to enable smooth routing and unhindered steering, yet it must not be too long that it gets stuck or hooked when the bike is being folded or unfolded. Quite a bit of measurement plus trial & error is involved. The bike also needs to be repeatedly folded and unfolded during this process to try out the cable length and find ways to guide the cables.

Re-routing the brake cables is still OK, because it is not too difficult to replace the brake cables and clamp the cable on the brake calipers. However, installing a new shifter cable for the Shimano Nexus 7 internal hub is new for me. Mounting the nut on the cable is not that easy, as the mounting length is quite specific, which again requires some trial & error. However, once set up, there is virtually no need to adjust it anymore.

Re-routing the cables at the rear triangle. Note the new roller wheels!

 Cable routing at the handlebar area. Multiple cable ties required to ensure proper cable routing when folding and unfolding.

Routing the cable around the handlepost and frame joint.

After all that trouble, it is found that folding and unfolding the bike is a bit easier, as the cable does not need to slide into and out of the cable routing hole. Other than that, there is actually no big advantage by changing to external cable routing. I must admit that it is not worth the time and trouble to change the cable routing on the Flamingo London NX7. Still, it is interesting to try it out and learn more about the bike along the way.

By now, you must surely have noticed the box mounted on the front of the bike! It is actually my Dahon Tour Bag, with the Dahon Luggage Truss. See more info about the Dahon Tour Bag here.

The luggage mount does not fit onto the Flamingo luggage mount naturally, as the bracket dimensions are different. Some modifications was needed to make it work. I shall leave the story to another day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aerozine Ceramic BB on the Dahon Boardwalk

Just a short video which I took a while back, showing the newly installed Aerozine Ceramic BB which I bought from Taiwan. The bearings are really really smooth straight out of the box, as you can see from the video below! With just a light push on the pedals, the cranks go round and round for quite a while.

For pictures of the BB, check out the link below.

Refresh the page if the video doesn't load!

This video was taken when my Dahon Boardwalk was still a 9 speed bike with Shimano 105 cranks.

To read up on more good stuff which I bought from Taiwan last year, check out the blog post here!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bike Friday Tikit - Carbon Drive Alfine 11

The ultimate commuting folding bike, with practically zero drivetrain maintenance required: The Bike Friday Tikit, equipped with a Shimano Alfine 11 internal hub, and a Gates Carbon Belt Drive system!

As I have previously reviewed, the Shimano Alfine 11 internal hub is an impressive piece of engineering excellence. It befuddles most people as to how an internal hub works, including me. With 11 well spaced gears, there are more gears than you can use, with a very big gear range of over 400%. When paired with a disc brake, it offers excellent braking performance, and is quite weatherproof as the brake pad does not disintegrate in wet weather like those used on road caliper brakes or V brakes.

To make it even better, the bicycle chain can be eliminated with the use of the Gates Carbon Belt Drive. It uses a carbon-reinforced Kevlar belt that drives the bike. The beauty of a belt drive is that it rides extremely smoothly, has a longer lifespan than a standard chain, is lighter than a chain+gear system, is very clean and does not require maintenance at all.

When you combine an internal hub gear system and a belt drive, you get a drivetrain combination for commuting that is hard to beat! No gears or chain to clean or lubricate, no cleaning required, just get on the bike and ride!

How to make this system even better? Install the system on a Bike Friday Tikit, and you have made the entire system foldable and portable. Simply brillant!

I had a privilege of trying out this particular bike at MyBikeShop, and it was quite a revolutionary experience. No drivetrain sound at all, just smooth pedaling and quick gear changes. Drool over the pictures!

A very new bike, in striking yellow colour! Clean lines with no RD.

Belt drive system, once again very clean lines!

A closer look at the belt used for the drivetrain. Also, see the 2 bolts that are located on the upper arm of the rear triangle. This is required to allow the frame to split, so as to install the one-piece belt.

Close look at the belt, the internal hub and the rear sprocket. For a belt drive system, the sprocket and chainring are called pulleys.

The front pulley of the belt drive. Mounts on the crank using a standard 130mm BCD dimension.

I only tried the bike for a while, so I cannot comment too much on how the bike will perform on longer rides. However, the difference in ride quality is evident the moment you pedal off. The smoothness of the drivetrain is something which you will never feel on a bike that uses a conventional metal chain.

One unfortunate downside to this bike is the brake system that is used. For me, I think that it is a pity that V brakes are used instead of disc brakes. The Alfine 11 hub can accept disc rotors, and it should be used as it will make the entire drivetrain even more weatherproof. This is one area which I think this bike's specifications can be improved. Not sure if using disc brakes will affect the folding.

Other than this little disappointment, the Bike Friday Tikit Carbon Drive Alfine 11 is a very interesting bike that looks good, rides well, folds well and requires very little maintenance!