Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Build an Affordable, High Performance, Lightweight Folding Bike: Part 2

Continuing on from the first part of the guide, here is the second part of the guide. To recap, the main objective of this bike project is to build a 20 inch folding bike that is Lightweight, High Performance and Affordable.

Target is to build a 20 speed bike with a weight of <9.3 kg (without pedals) and total cost of < SGD 2000.

More components listed below!

Model: LitePro A61 seatpost, Diameter 33.9mm, Length 600mm, Weight Limit 80 kg
Estimated Weight: 350 grams
Actual Weight: 314 grams
Source: Taobao
Price: 0. Included as a package with the MuEX frame.
Alternatives: Crius Seatpost (416 grams, weight limit 105 kg), LitePro Carbon Seatpost (300 grams), KCNC seatpost, Controltech Carbon seatpost

This is a lightweight seatpost that has a lower weight limit than most other seatposts, at only 80 kg. For a lightweight rider this is fine, but a heavier rider should use a stronger seatpost so as not to exceed the recommended weight limit.

Picture from Taobao

Another picture of the seatpost 

Model: Biologic Impel
Estimated Weight: 230 grams
Actual Weight: 286 grams
Source: MyBikeShop
Price: $20

This is a pretty normal saddle, and it comes stock on many Tern bikes. It is also cheap at only $20, and yet is quite comfortable. The red lines on the saddle also matches the lines on the frame very well. Slightly heavy though. Possible to save quite a bit of weight here if a lightweight (but more expensive) saddle is used.

Biologic Impel saddle. The lines come in other colours such as blue, green, orange, white, etc.

I have tried mounting the saddle on the LitePro seatpost and the clamp seems to be OK. It is not tilted as shown in the picture below.

Poor design or installation, causing tilted clamps on the saddle rails

Model: LitePro Monster
Estimated Weight: 200 grams
Actual Weight: 178 grams
Source: Taobao
Price: $15
Alternatives: LitePro Spirit ($30, 146 grams), LitePro SuperLight Carbon ($80, 99 grams)

Nothing special about this handlebar, it is strong and relatively lightweight, and also cheap. No need to use a fancy carbon handlebar, I can spend the amount saved on other components where it actually improves performance.

LitePro Monster handlebar

At this point, the bike can be said to be one third completed. The basic outline of the bike can be seen, with the handlepost and seatpost fixed up, together with the wheels. However, it is still far from done as there are still many components to be installed. From the pictures below, you can see that the FD roller and the RD hanger are already installed on the frame.

Some pictures of the bike building in progress!

View of the partially built bike

Hardly any components installed yet

Model: Shimano Road Flat Handlebar Shifters SL-R780, 2 x 10 speeds
Estimated Weight: 280 grams
Actual Weight: 274 grams
Source: Bike Discount
Price: $180
Alternatives: Shimano Tiagra SL-4600 flat handlebar shifters ($110)

The reason I chose a road flat handlebar shifter is because I am building a 2x10 speed bike. As explained in another post (Road or MTB Components for Dahon / Tern Folding Bikes?), it is best to use road components for a 2x10 setup.

I don't like to compromise on shifters, which is why I went for the top end flat handlebar shifter, SL-R780. Naturally it shifts very well, with light shifting and nice clicking feeling. It has Instant Release and Multi Release features which originated from the MTB shifters. Another reason why I chose this is because it comes in black colour which matches the colour scheme of the bike nicely.

The Tiagra SL-4600 flat handlebar shifters are very similar to this, except for the colour, and there is no Multi Release feature. Other than that, they are virtually the same. The Tiagra shifters are much cheaper at $110 for a pair, so it is a very good alternative.

2x10 speeds SL-R780 shifters

Glossy black finishing the matches the bike

Nice aluminium lever that gives a very high end feel

Top view of the shifter

Brake Levers
Model: Shimano Deore LX V Brake Levers
Estimated Weight: 200 grams
Actual Weight: 206 grams
Source: Bike Discount
Price: $50
Alternatives: Shimano Deore XT BL-T780, Deore BL-T610/T611, Avid FR-5, Avid Speed Dial 7, KCNC or TRP lightweight brake levers, Extralite brake levers

For brake levers, it is a critical part of the bike. If the brake lever bends or snaps off while riding, it could be disastrous. Some of the lightweight brake levers look pretty flimsy and I am not sure if they will hold up to regular usage. I decided to go for the safe and solid option of Shimano brake levers. If is possible to save 100 grams here from using super lightweight brake levers.

A good and cheap alternative would be the new Deore BL-T610/T611 brake levers, the price should be around $30 for a pair.

Deore LX V brake levers. Comes in full glossy black colour to match the bike.

V Brake Caliper
Model: Shimano Deore XT BR-T780 V brake calipers
Estimated Weight: 330 grams
Actual Weight: 355 grams
Source: ChainReactionCycles (CRC)
Price: $30
Alternatives: Deore LX BR-T670, Deore BR-T610, Avid Single Digit 7, Extralite / KCNC super lightweight brake calipers

For V brake calipers, the performance is quite similar between Deore and Deore XT. The differences are mainly the surface finishing and the material used for the hardware. The Deore XT V brake calipers use stainless steel and aluminium hardware to prevent rust. Possible to save maybe 100+ grams here if super lightweight brake calipers are used.

Deore XT V Brake Calipers

Model: Stock grip from my Polygon Cozmic CX 3.0
Estimated Weight: 120 grams
Actual Weight: 104 grams
Source: Any bike shop
Price: $20-$30

I just used an extra pair of grips that I had lying around, no need to buy a new pair. These lock-on grips are actually quite lightweight. A similar pair of grips can be found at almost every bike shop for $20+. Foam grips would be even lighter though.

Entity branded grips. Lock-on grips and also lightweight, not bad for a stock grip!

This is the end of the second part of the guide! In the third part of the guide, the rest of the components (mainly drivetrain components) will be shown.

Part 3 of the guide is now up! Click here to continue reading.


  1. Hi Steve,

    Can I know if the Shimano SL-R780 Flatbar and Shimano Deore LX BL-T670 Brake Levers come with cables and outer casing?

    1) If they do, are they long enough to cover the whole bike?

    2) Do you recommend to use a cable with Telfon coating. I'm thinking of using this for the brake cable;navigation=1;menu=1000,2,168;product=21939

    3) For the sifter, I'm thinking of changing it to a cable with PTFE;navigation=1;menu=1000,4,167;product=21925

    What is your thought on this?


    1. 1) The SL-R780 shifters come with outer casing and inner cables. However the outer casing is only long enough for the FD, for the RD you will need a separate longer outer casing.
      The inner cable is long enough for the FD, but it may not be long enough for the RD. This is mainly due to the folding of the bike, which requires some slack at the handlepost area for folding.
      Most likely you will need to buy longer outer casing and inner cable for the RD.

      2) The brake levers don't come with anything, so you will need to get brake inner cables and brake outer casings separately.

      3) A brake cable with Teflon (PTFE) coating will make the braking feel lighter and smoother, definitely worth getting.

      4) The SL-R780 already comes with very good inner cables as it is a high end shifter. But you may need a longer shifter cable for the RD.

  2. Thanks Steve. I've really learn a lot by reading your blog. I'm in the process of starting my upgrade and ironing up all the parts. Thanks again.

  3. Hi Steve, can i know if ordering or purchasing from Taobao is safe?
    I mean are the stuff there genuine?
    I am also thinking of getting a frame there.

  4. Hi Steve, Thanks for the interesting and knowledgeable postings.....just one it safe to order from Taobao since alot of stuff in there are fake. And how do we know if some stuff are genuine in there?

    1. I order through the agent I don't order big brand stuff, such as FSA or such as there are many fakes around. Always order from those reputable sellers, and read the reviews first.

      Some items will be OK even if fake, such as decorative accessories or non critical parts. For critical parts such as seatpost or pedals, be more careful. If you are lightweight like me it is not an issue, but if you are heavier, don't take the chance.

  5. So you got your MuEX frame from as well?

  6. Yes I got the frame from Taobao using as the agent.

  7. How do you type the search in Chinese for the frame?

  8. Dear Tyisteve,
    I have been reading your blog for some time and am very grateful for the useful information you share with the rest of the world. I live in Ireland. Last year I bought a Tern Eclipse P9 to replace my previous 30 year old bike. I bought the P9 in England as there are no Tern dealers in Ireland. I would have preferred an Eclipse P24h which has a wider spread of gears but could not find any dealer in Europe selling it and, in any case, it probably would have been too expensive for my budget.
    I am very happy with the Eclipse P9 but find the gearing too high for the hills around where I live, and I never use the top gears even when cycling downhill. I tried replacing the original 46T chainwheel with a 38T chainwheel. This reduced the lowest gear to 29" but this is still a bit too high for me. I would really like the lowest gear to be 25" or lower.
    I have looked at the Tern website and do not see the Eclipse P9 or P24h there any more. However, I see that there are two new Eclipse versions, P18 and S18, both of which have a front derailleur with a double crankset. So my question is will a double crankset and front derailleur fit on the frame of my Tern Eclipse P9? I e-mailed Tern to ask them but they only forwarded my e-mail to the dealer in England. The dealer replied saying that fitting a front derailleur could cause issues when folding the bike. I do not understand this as there are three Eclipse versions with front derailleurs and I presume that the frame is the same on all of the Eclipse versions. So I would be grateful for your opinion about this.
    The modifications suggested by the dealer are Shimano M770 XT Dual Pull Front Derailleur Top Swing – Multi Fit, Shimano Deore M615 Double 40/28 10-Speed Chainset, and SRAM MRX Micro Shifter Left Hand Shifter. Do you think this will work?
    If I cannot have a double chainset I would like to change to a single with 32 teeth but I am not sure what type of bottom bracket or crank length would be compatible with the Tern Eclipse P9.
    Yours sincerely,

    1. I don't think you can fit a front derailleur on the P9, as there is no FD mount on the frame. The FD adaptor for 20" folding bikes don't seem to be able to fit on the Eclipse frame as the seat tube angle is different.

      I don't think there would be any folding issue with a FD or double crankset on the Eclipse P9.

      Since you can't mount an FD, it is best to stick to a single chainring, and maybe change to 1x10 speeds for a wider gear range, while maintaining a suitable jump between gears. My suggestion as below.

      Change to 10 speed MTB drivetrain (you can keep your current chainring)
      1) Get 11-36T 10 speed MTB cassette
      2) Get 10 speed MTB chain
      3) Get 10 speed MTB RD, such as Deore/SLX/XT. Make sure it is long cage to cater for 36T rear sprocket.
      4) Get 10 speed MTB rear shifter
      All should be of the same brand (Eg. Shimano or SRAM).

      Together with your current 38T chainring, and 11-36T cassette, you gear range would be 25.3" to 82.9", which should be ideal for you.

    2. By the way, I think your dealer does not know what he is talking about. A top swing FD will never fit the Tern Eclipse P9 as the standard clamp size is a maximum of 34.9mm, which is way below the 40/41mm required on the seat tube of Tern bikes.

  9. Hi Steve, seeking some advice. I have a Dahon vigor P9 and have changed out the neo rd to a sora rd with an alivio fb shifter following the tern verge p9 config. Now I am thinking putting a FD to make this a 18 sp with a 53/39 hollowtech crankset. As in yr post of not mixing road FD with MTB fb shifter, I am thinking to use the shimano FD R440 instead to handle the front shifting. My question is will this work with the MTB fb shifter ?

    Best regards


    1. Actually, the Alivio shifter should not be used with Sora RD, as Alivio is MTB and Sora is road. The shifting performance is not ideal.

      My suggestion is to get a Sora double FD, and Sora 2x9 flat handlebar shifters. Everything will then work together nicely.

  10. Steve, want to know from which supplier at TaoBao that you have bought the MuEx frame? There are so many supplier selling it thus don't know which is reliable.

    1. Just search for MuEX 车架, there is only a couple selling the frame.

  11. Great work ! Steve.
    I am looking at to replace my well worned tyres on my Horize. The stock tyres are a set of Kenda of 20 x 1.5. If I am to replace it with thinner tyres say 20 x 1.25, do I need to replace the inner tubes as well . Thanks a million.

  12. Most likely you will need to change the inner tube also, as it cannot cover a wide range of tire widths. Check the side of the tube to see what width of tire it is compatible with.

  13. Hi steve, I have manged to rebuilt my speed P8 to a 20speed from reading your blog. Many thanks and awesome writeup on Dahon modification and upgrades. Now I am poisoned to built a MuEx just like yours.
    Do you think the MuEx frame from taobao maybe not fake but just rejected from factory from QC problems? reasons being after reading what problems you had faced during your built such as seatpost too large, RD alignment problem and FD bracket too small.
    Can you advise after your built, how is the shifting like? smooth, easy to tune up? many thanks if you can enlighten.

    1. You may be right regarding the qc reject. However, these are rather small problems to reject the entire frame. Besides, it doesn't make sense to complete the entire frame including the painting before checking and rejecting. Qc would most likely be done along the way instead of waiting till the final step.
      Shifting is fine, tuning is as per normal for me. No major problems that can't be solved with a bit of diy.

  14. thanks for the insight steve. Then I am more relieve to press on the buy it button. Any chance you will organize a foldies ride. I will be sure to join and talk about modding bikes all day. Thanks again.

  15. Hi steve, should there be certain parts or components that I shouldn't buy at taobao? such as shimano shifters?

    1. I think most stuff on Taobao can be bought safely. There is no point buying branded stuff such as Shimano shifters on Taobao, as it will not be much cheaper than on reputable stores such as Chainreaction cycles. I usually buy stuff on Taobao not because they are cheap, but because I can't get it elsewhere. Example will be special Dahon components such as seatpost clamps, handleposts and etc.

  16. Hi Steve, I was greatly inspired by your blog that I actually embarked on a similar project. Halfway through ordering my parts, I was informed that the Mu Ex frame can only accommodate V-brakes and has no provisions for C-brake mounts? Is that true? Would like to clarify that before I buy the parts. Thank you in advance.

    1. There are holes on the frame where you can install caliper brakes. However you will need long reach caliper brakes and possibly brake pad extenders. You can refer to my other posts about installing caliper brakes on Dahon frames.

      Another method would be to use 451 wheels, which is likely to allow you to use standard reach caliper brakes.

    2. I had ordered a set of 451s before i realised the potential compatibility issues i might faced. I'm now more assured after your advice.

      Thanks Steve!

  17. I ordered one A61 LitePro seatpost from taobao recently, But after looking at the real thing made me worry the 4 claws that clamp the saddle rails may break. I can't tell is it a real or counterfeit but nevertheless the design should be enhanced on my opinion.

  18. Hi Steve, would you happen to know if the A61 Litepro seatpost could be shortened? At 600mm, the seatpost is still too tall even if its inserted all the way into my foldable bike. I'm wondering if cutting the seatpost shorter would affect it integrity. Your insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    1. You can cut it down, no problem. However, you must maintain the same minimum insert amount when extending it and using it.

    2. Thanks for the reply!

  19. Is there a big difference between kcnc seatpost vs the litepro one? at 81kg, u think the litepro A61 will break? thanks

    1. Not sure about the kcnc seat post. There is a higher weight limit Litepro seat post, A62.

  20. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your very informative blog. Now i am inspired to upgrade my groupset. And as i was shopping, i am unable to find Shimano flatbar road shifters for 11 speeds on CRC(SL-RS700). What other reliable places(online) can i get them or at a reasonable priced LBS do u recommend?

    1. You can try to get the shifters from The Bike Settlement.

  21. Hi Steve,

    Interesting blog!

    Don't know if you already know, but you can buy a FSIR Spin 5 for sg $800 and it weighs just 9.7kg stock.

    Is the extra $1200 worth a bike 0.4kg lighter? I wonder what you could have done had you started with this frame instead! Imagine a 6.5kg folding bike?


    1. In the first place, I don't think the FSIR Spin 5 weighs less than 10kg. It is probably quite a bit more from what I see.
      The price difference also accounts for much better components, 2x10 speeds,and of course lighter bike.

    2. You are actually mistaken. The FSIR Spin 5.0 is indeed under 10kg in stock form.

    3. Wonder why the FSIR is not more popular, given its lighter weight and supposedly better components? Anyway, nowadays in year 2022, can get a very good spec bike for just SGD 1K. Different from when this build was done in 2014.

    4. Good question. I bought several of them in Bangkok and in SG, and brought them back to Indonesia. I still own and use two of them, a 20"er and a 16"er. I crossed South Korea from one end to the other in an FSIR Spin 5.0 with zero problems so the things are solid. They were never massively hyped so people paid them little mind, but those of us knew better.

  22. Hi Steve

    Thanks for all the informative write-up thru the years.

    May I ask your opinion of Avid SD7 v-brakes + lever setup vs Shimano Deore T610 v-brakes + lever setup?
    In a dilemma of getting either setup for Dahon Boardwalk.

    Dun need XT setup though. Cost is almost double of the Avid SD7 or Deore setup.

    Thanks in advance. :)

    1. Either one will work well, just go with the one that matches your bike well.

  23. Wow! Thanks for the prompt reply!

    Fine with both brakes but wondering which is better in your opinion.

    Read reviews of both but dun see much comparison.

    Think read in your reply somewhere in your blog that you indirectly 'rank' SD7 < Deore < XT. May be misinterpret though.

  24. Any reason why you don't buy components like brakes and shifters from taobao? They are like half the price there

    1. Are they really half the price? Please share the link, thanks.

  25. Oh I think I commented in the wrong post. I was refering to the Tektro 559 long reach upgrade in

    Taobao has them at half price, but all recessed mount

    Most of the higher end components tend to be the same price on Taobao. But the lower end Tiagra and 105 seems to be cheaper there.

    1. The reason I bought Tektro from other websites is precisely because the Taobao version is recessed nut type only.

  26. Greetings from Tokyo, Steve. Thank you for the information that you have provided so far. I am looking for longer v brakes on my Tern Verge X10 since I need them to be able to clear the SKS front and rear fenders that I bought. It would be nice to have better stopping power too.

    Currently, all models of the Shimano Diore rear v brakes are either not available or sold out here and none of the preferred alternatives that you listed above are available. What is long (+105 mm) and readily available here is the Shimano Alivio BR-T4000. What is your opinion of this cheaper (but actually available) brake set and do you know if they'll fit on a Tern Verge X10? Thanks, Steve.

    1. The T4000 brakes will fit. It will have same performance as Deore, just that the surface treatment is a bit simpler.

    2. Steve, thank you for the information. I bought them and will install them soon. I’ll let you know how they perform compared to the factory v-brakes.

  27. Hi there,

    Do you know is the ratio is different between shimano road and mtb FRONT derailleur and shifters ?

    i know a mtb-rd can only be used with a mtb-shifter, and a road-rd can only be used with a road shifter, but what about front ones ?

    Also, I belive the mu-ex do not have any mount for FD, so how did you et it up ? have you used litepro adapter ? do you know if if fits a vigor frame too ?

    many thank's for this blog and your attention :)

    1. The MuEX does have a front derailleur mount, just look closely at the pictures. MTB and road FD have different pull ratios as well, so not cross compatible.
      For Litepro FD adapter, check out the Dahon Boardwalk and Vitesse blog page.

  28. Hi there,

    two questions regarding weight and parts selection :
    - why did you get the monster handle bar rather thant the ghost one ? that's 50g saved for free ; isn't it strong enough ?
    - why not getting the litepro ultralight brakes lever, they are 32g each ? I assume they won't be as rigid as shimano LX ones, but you think there are not good enough ?


    1. The Ghost handlebar felt too flexible for my liking. The Litepro brake levers are not rigid enough, and flexes alarmingly when braking hard.

    2. Ok, thank's for your reply !
      i do have the dahon orignal lever and caliper as well as the LX bl-m510 lever and XT br-m760 caliper, the latest are heavy, so I'll see what I'll use in the end :)


Every comment is moderated before publishing due to spam bots. If you don't see your comment yet, it is likely that it is currently being reviewed. Thank you for your patience!