Let’s be honest, the folding bicycle industry is a whole other ball game than the rest of the cycling world, targeting a completely different demographic. Meanwhile, full-sized foldies are still a bit of a novelty. They fall in the cracks somewhere in between the two segments, and are definitely not easy to sell.
There are not that many available even today, despite the plethora of choices in the already niche foldie market. If you consider the fact that not everything is available in Malaysia, that narrows the field even more. With this in mind, it took a bit of time to get my hands on a 700c foldie from Change Bike. With no local retailer and the closest one in neighbouring Singapore, I had to contact the makers directly in Taiwan.
Having met the folks at Taipei Cycle Show 2017, I had no trouble at all arranging for one of their bikes to be shipped over to Malaysia. The company, which has only been around since 2009, has several different frame sets configured into either a full suspension mountain bike, a road bike, or a hybrid model, with a range of components from different levels.
All three models run on 700c wheels and share full sized bike geometry. They are essentially normal bikes that just so happen to fold.
For the purpose of this review I opted for their DF-702W, namely their folding road bike which utilises the same folding mechanism as the MTB and hybrid. What the company has done is make the front triangle big enough that the rear end can swing around and tuck somewhat neatly inside it.
The unique swivel fold design means the structural integrity of the roughly diamond shaped frame is not compromised in any way. There is a sturdy clamp underneath the seat post to keep the frame in place when you are riding, with a ring of interlocking teeth to ensure the alignment is correct when unfolded. There is also a second safety locking device at the bottom of the seat tube, just in case.
The patented folding mechanism is simple enough, yet is the only folding bike to have passed the European Mountain and Road Frame Safety Testing Standard (EN14766/EN14781). That’s a pretty big deal indeed!
To fold the bike you do need to remove the front wheel, but undoing the clamps at the bottom and top of the seat tube are easy peasy. Once folded, you clamp the front wheel onto one of the seat stays which has a special bracket. The road bike variety comes with a kickstand, which locks onto the front fork nicely when folded.
You can also unclip the Wellgo Bearing full size pedals to make the folded package small and narrow. It’s really no surprise that they were awarded the Golden Pin design award for their patented folding system.
The frame is double butted aluminium and comes in four different sizes; I thankfully found a match in the smallest 460mm despite my short stature and short torso. Essentially I could have also ridden the medium sized frame at 490mm, but I have a longer term plan to convert the flat handlebars to drop bars instead.
This will essentially make the Change Bike a touring bike which folds, making it easy to pack for travel. And since the frame doesn’t stray too much from the traditional diamond shape, it will obviously fit into most if not all bike cases in the market.
The frame is fitted with a chromoly steel front fork, which works fairly well with the 700c wheels to absorb shocks and road chatter. Opt for a carbon fork instead and you’ll take care of the high frequency vibrations instead.
As is standard practice with bike makers, the stock drivetrain is on the lower end of things, namely an entry-level Shimano 24 speed Claris groupset with a 50/39/30T configuration. Even without upgrades, the basic groupset has held up extremely well going up all manner of hills and mountains, clocking in more than 1,000km in mileage during touring both in Malaysia and abroad.
The stock wheelset is also of decent quality, with an internal width of 14mm, so the 25mm tyre is the maximum recommended size for comfort. The frame can still accommodate a slightly wider wheelset with an internal width of up to 17mm with 25mm tyres.
You could theoretically fit 28mm tyres at the maximum, but depending on the make of the tyre, it all depends on whether it can still fit within the rear of the frame. Whatever size you go with, this bike is definitely made for the road.
Weightwise the Change Bike won’t win many votes with the weight weenies, since the fully built stock bike tips the scales at between 10 and 12 kgs depending on which frame set you opt for, whether the kickstand is included, or if you choose their carbon fork instead.
It’s not lightweight by any means, but the overall figure is not too shabby at all for an aluminium full-sized folding bike with 700c wheels. Swap out the stock parts with Shimano 105 or Ultegra components and the bike gets much lighter already (or SRAM Force for the SRAM lovers out there). Considering the bike is compatible with all standard parts, decent upgrades could get it down to sub-9kgs. That could very well be the lightest in the market, in its category.
But the ultimate question is, how does it ride? The bike’s rear triangle design ensures drivetrain stiffness and power transfer are solid, although the oversized front triangle could give better stiffness if it did not have the signature Change Bike curved down tube.
The curve is not as pronounced as the MTB frame of course, but it’s a pretty comfortable ride regardless. From the looks of it, Change Bike has designed the road model for commuters and tourers, though keep in mind that it's still an alloy frame that won't give you the comfort of steel.
It won't match the performance of a carbon road bike, but is decent enough for mid length rides. At the end of your journey, it packs nicely into the trunk of your car or onto the train for the commute home.