Thursday, September 08, 2011

Customer feedback on the Xootr Swift folding bike

Since the Xootr Swift is new this year to our lineup here at bikes@vienna, I wanted to post some feedback from someone who bought one a while back and has been riding it and enjoying it. I think it's a very fair, even-handed review, so it's worth a read:
Dear Tim,

Thanks for doing my "30 day" service on the Xootr Swift.  It was very thorough and professional, and one reason why people should come to a professional bike shop rather than order over the internet :-)

For the record, I wanted to offer a few reflections on the Xootr Swift.  I agree with the collected wisdom of all the articles you'll find online about the Swift and its folding competitors.  
Since and before buying the Swift I had ridden - some more intensively than the others - various Dahons and a Brompton.  So, here are a few reflections.

On riding performance the Swift is superb.  To paraphrase one review I read, people tend to think it's a slightly weird, a little bit cool bike, but, well, it's got small wheels and it's not a "real" bike.  Until, that is, you rocket past these skeptics, often leaving them with a "what the..." look on their faces.  

The gear change is extremely smooth, the gears are spread well over a large range.  The eight gears are plenty for most folk, although you can get an add-on front derailleur.

So, if you don't need it to fold too small, and you want a performance , seriously-zip-around-town road-folder, with decent downhill and hill-climbing gearing, that you can fit into the trunk of an (old-style) Honda Civic Sedan, this is your bike, at a not-too-expensive price for a quality folder.

But, I would add a few caveats.  The fold is mediocre, but that's your trade off for exceptional performance that does fit in the back of a Civic (so you don't have to lock the bike when you leave the car, etc. etc.).  It doesn't really fold down as bend in half.  And to get it in aforementioned Civic boot the handlebars do have to come off and "dangle".  I also pull the seatpost out (although you wouldn't have to do this for a slightly bigger car).  This is because a small saddle pouch and fenders make the seatpost stick out a little further.

On the subject of fenders, the Xootr Planet Bike "adapted" fenders on their website don't work: when you fold the Xootr in half it will rest on the rear fender.  Not good.  Instead, buy the Dahon mudguards which are shorter with a flap sticking out at the back that stops the edge of the spray.  When you fold the Xootr with them on, it is the tyre that is in contact with the ground, not the fender.

Also, the Xootr website will explain that you can get it disassembled into a 29" hardshell suitcase.  Well, yes, but it's definitely not as stress free as it looks.  For those interested, the only real folding bike that will fit into an airline legal suitcase (62" for three dimensions) without any disassembly is the Brompton.  For that and the spectacular fold the Brompton is unrivaled; and the Sport versions ride very tightly - so try out Tim's demo of that if you have the extra money!  And, by the way, even if it does fit into an airline legal suitcase or special bag, if you actually tell them it's a bike, the United rep says they will STILL charge you the $200 bicycle fee!!!!!

Two final points on the Xootr. First, you should get some small bar ends to improve wrist comfort and hill-climbing.  Second, the two quick release levers that hold the (structural) seatpost in place are quite tough to open especially if you don't angle them correctly when closing them.  You'll see what I mean when you do it the first few times!  And the quick-releases do have to be tight, or the seatpost will move.  

Overall, I am very happy with the Swift, and the fact that it fits in the boot of my Civic whenever I need it to.  Performance is spectacular.  And Bikes@Vienna's advice, delivery and after sales service were all excellent, and are why you should buy a Xootr (or any other bike) from a good local bike shop, especially Tim's!


A few comments from bikes@vienna now...
First, I'd like to thank Carl for his kind words about the shop. We try our best to provide quality service and sales here, and it's gratifying to know when we've succeeded.
On the Xootr, I'd agree with all of Carl's observations. A couple of comments about the air travel issue - it's true, many airlines will charge extra for a bike, regardless of how it is packed, which I think is grossly unfair. If it's under the size and weight limit for luggage, why is there a fee? The best course of action is to check with the airline BEFORE booking your flight to find out their policies. I know at this time that Southwest does NOT charge a fee for a bike if it is under the 62" limit, nor did Virgin Atlantic two years ago. But policies change like the weather, so it's best to check. I also know folks have gotten past the fee by simply describing the contents of the suitcase as "exercise equipment" or a "mobility device", so that's worth a try if you discover the word "bicycle" is a red flag for your chosen airline.
Also, it's worth noting that by shopping carefully, you can find a good Samsonite Oyster suitcase for under $100 online, so the combined price of the Xootr and case can actually be less than the cost of even the most affordable Bike Friday without a case. The Friday will have better components and some extra features, but it's something to think about.

1 comment:

Invisible Hand said...

RE: Airline charges ...

Often the people checking luggage are unaware of official policy. I always check the website or contact a representative prior to purchase for the official policy. For instance, when we flew to Albuquerque, we contacted United Airlines directly and got confirmation that a bicycle in a regular flight legal case would avoid fees. When we flew American Airlines, their website states their policy here ...

We also never tell them that it's a bicycle. We say clothes, tools and some sporting equipment. We also use a suitcase that is technically 64 linear inches. While the weight is almost always checked, I've never heard of a suitcase's size being checked if it's close. YMMV

The Bike Friday YAK is a good source for packing and flying strategies.