Downtube Mini 11 speed, Awesome bike and Customer Service
I would definitely recommend this bike! It is very fun to ride. Quiet, clean and fast. After researching folding bikes I decided that I wanted one that could be packed in regular checkable airline baggage (not oversized) and that had a belt drive and an internal hub geared for climbing hills. The Downtube Mini is one of only two options that I found on the current market that meets these requirements (apparently Bike Friday just released a new bike, called the “Pakit”, but it is 2-3 times the cost of the Mini and I haven’t seen any reviews on it at this point). Here is a list of the concerns that I had about buying a Downtube Mini and what I learned: 1) The bike would be too small for me (I am 6 feet tall). It fits me just fine with extension of neck/stem and the longer seat post. 2) The bike would not climb hills well as I live Tacoma Washington which is very hilly. With the Alfine 11 hub the bike is geared low enough to tackle the steepest hills in my area. 3) It might not fold well into regular airline baggage (so I would incur additional charges for checking oversized baggage). The mini fits well into the Samsonite F’lite hardcase. I did have to disassemble the bike at the neck and frame hinges but it is not hard to do. Takes about 10 minutes to disassemble and pack or to unpack and reassemble. 4) Parts would be hard to replace/find. According to Yan, only the frame and forks are proprietary so replacement parts should be found easily. 5) Customer service might be a challenge since the bikes are not found or commonly serviced in bike stores. Yan is great! He answers e-mails promptly, is easy to reach by phone and is very helpful in solving problems. I had a loose neck on the Mini when it arrived and he replaced it with a new one without issues. There is a potential downside for those who like to use rear rack panniers. Panniers on the rear racks of 16” wheeled bicycles tend to hit the heels of the rider as they pedal (this is not unique to Downtube). There are makeshift solutions to this such as moving the rack backwards (using some hardware and creativity) but the easier solution is to replace the stock rack with a seatpost mounted rear rack with a quick release. This puts the pannier higher and further back so your heel doesn’t hit the pannier. This is what I do and it works just fine. It does create an additional step when folding the bike (you have to loosen the quick release of the rack before lowering the seat post) but it is very fast. How does the Mini compare to a Brompton? Bromptons seem to be the easiest/fastest folding bikes on the market and the most compact when folded. However, I believe that the Downtube Mini 11 speed is a better bicycle especially for the price. The Brompton costs at least $600 more and that would only get you a 6 speed hub. I test road a 6 speed brompton at a local Seattle bike shop this week and I could not climb the steep hills next to the shop. But with the Mini I could. I have heard that Brompton can be customized to have “mountain gearing”(lower gears) but I don’t know how low the gears go and what the added cost would be for that option. To summarize, the Downtube Mini 11 speed is a great folding bicycle and at a good price.