Deep dive on the CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike
September 28th 2023
Question: If you had a bike with the absolute widest possible usage across all types of terrain, what would it look like, and where would you go with it?
If you’ve followed the buzz in the bike world over the past couple of years, you might answer with “gravel bike” or more recently “all road bike”, and you wouldn’t be wrong, especially for long, fast rides on drop bars.
But not everybody wants bent-over riding on a drop bar. Some cyclists are more comfortable riding upright. Maybe it feels better on your back, or your neck, or you just want to look around more when you’re riding. Also, if you’re on a long, loaded-down bike-packing trip, does aerodynamics really matter?
For years, the CHANGE 811 folding rugged hybrid, built by Changebike, LTD in Taiwan, was our popular answer to that all-terrain need. With a solid carbon fork, 1.5” tires, and a wide range of gearing, it could go just about anywhere; there’s even a video out there of me riding up a 22.8% grade, seated, while drinking from a water bottle in one hand. A gear ratio of 0.7 can do that for you!
Here’s what some people said about this amazing bike…
And then… we put this popular bike on clearance, to be replaced by our own in-house build.
Why change a good thing?
It might seem like a not-so-swift business decision to replace our own best-seller from our trusted supplier with a completely new, unproven bike built in-house at Flatbike, but three opportunities for improvement drove that decision:
- 700c wheels. Not only are the new wheels faster and lighter weight, but there’s a wider selection of tires, and . . . we can finally put Armour anti-flat protection in these to guard against goat head thorns!
- Upgraded gearing. We can replace 3×9 gearing with more efficient and higher-end 2×11 gearing, and even offer a road-focused 1×11 model for folks who want the ultimate in simplicity.
- Focus on comfort. We can use the comfortable seating that we already introduced on the Road Warrior Folding Gravel Bike, combined with ergonomic grips for flat bars.
And… we can deliver it in the same general price range. How could we not do this?
Two models of the CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike
The CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike is built on the same folding MTB frame as the CHANGE 811 and is available in the same three colors (Matte Black, Pine Green, and Arctic Blue). And the general profile (of bike or rider audiences) is roughly the same.
From there, everything gets different.
The 1 x 11 model of the CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike features a single 40-tooth chainring, combined with 11-speed Shimano Deore shifting and a 51-tooth cassette. Folded, the bike measures 30″ x 37″ at the handlebars, in the largest size frame.
The 2 x 11 model combines a 46/30-tooth dual GRX crank/front derailleur with 11-speed Shimano Deore rear shifting, up to a 42-tooth cog.
But it’s more than just gearing that sets these bikes apart from their precursor, the CHANGE 811. Let’s walk through the differences, step by step.
Step by step through the CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike innovations
Wheels & tires.
The 700c wheel size, measuring at about 28” in diameter, is one of the biggest standards in biking. You see this size across all road bikes, and—fun fact—even the “29er” tire made popular in recent full-suspension mountain biking is actually fitted to a 700c rim (just a wider one).
Due to frame clearances, we can’t put a 29er MTB tire on these rims. But we wouldn’t want to, anyway; this bike is for zippy, effortless rides on roads, trails, and packed dirt. So we chose trail-capable 38mm tires with a built-in flat protection layer–tires that look great in the daytime, but also protect you on that night-time commute home.
As someone who commutes home in dark and rainy Seattle winter evenings, that view perhaps excites me more than most. Even a black bike can be totally visible in the worst conditions. How cool is that?
You can also add Tannus Armour for additional flat protection, if needed, against chronic threats such as goat head thorns or broken glass.
Bike and fork geometry.
This bike uses the same frame and monocoque carbon fiber fork as the CHANGE 811 rugged hybrid, and the same wheels as the CHANGE Road Warrior Folding Gravel Bike. For that reason, all the geometry for the Road Warrior applies here, and any customer observations about the handling of the flat-bar rugged hybrid apply here.
About the only measurement that might differ from the Road Warrior is the Stack, because the Road Warrior uses a THINstem, which raises the bars. The Folding Adventure Bike doesn’t require a THINstem, but if you opt for one anyway to fold your bike flat at times, then that measurement won’t change either.
Finally–we couldn’t pass this up–here’s a wonderfully descriptive analysis of this geometry’s riding performance from an experienced cyclist:
“The Rugged Hybrid with Carbon fork is basically perfect for me. I love hybrids. Riding position, speed, flexibility – I can take this on trails or ride centuries. The frame is rigid and uncompromised by the folding mechanism – which itself is easy to use and fast. In short, it feels a lot like my Gary Fisher Mendota, and even almost on par with my Cannondale Quick Carbon. It’s not even heavy.”
Carbon fork info for multi-day riders.
If you’re going to be out in the wilderness for a while, you’re especially attuned to equipment that is low-maintenance and versatile. This solid carbon fork is light, rugged, and requires zero maintenance. But Surly riders will surely ask… how versatile can it be with no mounts for water bottles and front racks?
Good question. Let’s dive deeper into this.
Lack of fork mounts for water bottles isn’t an issue because Flatbike also offers Anywhere Mounts–combination rubber & Velcro mounts that can be combined with a bottle cage to put water bottles anywhere you want them… from anywhere on the fork for lower center of gravity to the top of the steerer tube for fast, easy rehydrating. You can even change it up in the middle of a trip.
The lack of front rack fork mounts presents a slightly different issue—actually three issues:
- The front wheel gets removed during folding, so any front rack that is axle-mounted will get in the way when you fold your bike.
- When folded, the handlebars and fork are turned to the side, so a front rack would stick out–unless you add a THINstem to allow the handlebars to turn independently.
- There are no rack mounts. On the fork arms, this can be solved with Anywhere Mounts. But there is also no center mount.
One solution is to use the same type of attachment as the Anywhere Mount but built into the rack itself. For example, while we don’t carry it yet, the Topeak Tetrarack Mountain M1 looks like a good candidate to attach to the top of the fork; if combined with a THINstem, it would never need to be taken off when folding the bike. There may also be lower-mounting options that don’t require a center-bolt or axle-mount. Do you know of one to share with others?
27 speeds (3×9) on the CHANGE 811 rugged hybrid, vs 22 speeds (2×11) and 11 speeds on the two models of Folding Adventure Bike. How do we compare, evaluate one over another, and figure out which is best for our needs?
Math. Turn the gearing into a single-number ratio by dividing the front gear by the back gear, and then graph it:
- The higher the number, the more wheel revolutions per pedal revolution and the faster you can ride.
- The lower the number, the more power you can put into each wheel revolution, and the steeper hill you can climb.
It’s like this… a 40-tooth chainring up front and an 11-tooth cog in the back team up for 40/11 = 3.6 wheel revolutions for each pedal revolution.
The chart above shows the gearing range for each chainring as a band: highest possible gear ratio at the top, and the lowest at the bottom. Each different color represents a different bike.
Look at the green bands of the CHANGE 811. You’ve got a huge range from 0.6 on the small chainring to 4 on the large one, but need to hop over the middle ring to get there. In fact, every possible gear ratio on the middle chainring can be achieved on one of the other two, making the center mainly just a transition zone.
Compare that to the two blue bands of the CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike 2×11. The dark blue goes from nearly as low (0.7) to a bit higher (4.2) with just two chainrings. There is some overlap, so maybe you’ll stay in one chainring for a while–small for climbs and hilly areas, large for flats and downhills.
Finally, the single light blue band shows what a 1×11 can do. You give up some at each end, but it covers most of the distance and is weighted toward making uphills a bit easier over raw speed.
Which is the right bike? It depends upon on your individual needs. But after testing, we feel pretty confident in this gearing upgrade.
There are three places your body interacts with your bike, and we’ve paid attention to each of them: Your hands, your feet, and your bottom.
Grips. The Folding Adventure Bike features Ergon 1 ergonomic bar end grips that mold to your hand and remain comfortable even after a long bike ride.
Pedals. You can also get your choice of quick-removable pop-off pedals: MTB, flat, or SPD:
- Mountain bike (MTB) pedals are large and grippy, with individually removable cleats to get the best traction for your needs.
- Flat pedals are lighter, narrower, with subtle gripping, and easy to slip into a pocket as a theft deterrent when you pop into a coffee shop for a moment.
- SPD pedals are perfect for clipping in and efficiently using the power of all of your pedal stroke.
Mountain bike pedal on…
…and popped off for frame folding.
Seat. Finally, the seat. This is one of the most easily swappable parts on a bike, but we might as well start out with something known good, right? So we’re using the Venzo split seat that we’ve had great success with on our gravel bike. Nothing high-tech here, just comfort for long rides so you can focus on anything other than your seat.
The verdict: Did we hit the mark with the Folding Adventure Bike?
Although the 2×11 model is just out of testing in the Flatbike lab, we’ve actually been selling the 1×11 version for a few months now. And these are some of the reviews we’ve gotten:
In short, anyone who likes to ride more upright without sacrificing sportiness and ability to climb hills on the way to exciting adventures can benefit from a CHANGE Folding Adventure Bike.
But who benefits most? That’s a slightly more refined answer:
- Truckers can fit it in the back of a cab and have secondary transportation and much-necessary exercise after a day on the road. Explore a new area.
- RVers have something that fits in a cubbyhole of the RV and extends the exploration range of their RV. Enjoy more trails in more places.
- Boaters have a rugged fold-up bike for provisioning, since the store probably isn’t at the dock. Then explore the island on a full-size bike.
- Urban riders have a commuting vehicle that can fit in an elevator, narrow stairway, or studio apartment. Enjoy freedom from bike theft.
What needs do you have for portable adventure?
Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.