Changebike vs. Montague: A head-to-head comparison
December 9th 2020
While full-size folding bikes may not get much coverage in bicycling magazines, they are a well-defined category, with at least two credible entrants. In this article, we’ll compare the top bikes from the two top players: Changebike and Montague.
But first, some expectation-setting. What are the basic expectations of a full-size folding bike? These two requirements are what define the category:
- It’s a full-size bike that you can ride as your everyday bike.
- It folds into a smaller size that allows it to ride inside a car, stay safely inside your apartment overnight, and generally be less cumbersome than a full-size bike.
Who didn’t make the cut?
Most folding bikes of all types, including full-size bikes, use a split top tube consisting of a weld, a latch, a hinge, and another weld. If any of these weak points fail, it’s going to be a bad day.
A bike with that built-in vulnerability meets Requirement #1 above only if you normally ride gently or greatly reduce your expectations of your bike. The internet is littered with such bikes, often under $200, with the cheapest possible parts. We didn’t even consider them.
Narrowing and defining the analysis
Montague and Changebike each offer a family of full-size folding bikes, including mountain bikes, hybrids, and pavement bikes, all of which avoid the safety deal-breaker of cutting the top tube in half. These safer bikes include some low-end models near or below $1,000.
But it’s complex enough to compare two bikes in a useful, detailed way without adding different levels and different bike types to the mix. So this article will focus only on the highest performance bike model each from Montague and Changebike, diving into the nuances of performance (ruggedness, weight, and componentry), and lifestyle fit (frame sizes, folding, and price/value).
These are the two contenders:
Each subsection will get one point for a win, 1/2 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss. At the end, the points for each bike will be added up, with a total score awarded.
The whole reason you’re getting a quality MTB is to put it through its paces. Let’s see how they perform.
Ideally, we’d put both bikes through a root-strewn, jump-heavy section of singletrack and keep running both bikes at high speed until one of them breaks something (and if anyone has done this, we’re certainly interested in the results!)
The next best thing is a quantitative analysis that documents the ability to handle abuse. Such a test is the pass/fail ISO 4210 certification test suite for mountain bikes, which includes these destructive tests:
- Fatigue test with horizontal forces (50,000 cycles)
- Fatigue test with vertical forces (50,000 cycles)
- Frame and Front Fork Assembly-Impact Test (falling mass)
- Frame and Front Fork Assembly-Impact Test (Falling Frame)
- Fatigue Test with Pedaling Forces (100,000 cycles)
All CHANGE bikes on the Changebike MTB frame have passed the ISO 4210 test suite. As of this article, no Montague bikes have successfully passed it. So the ruggedness verdict is pretty clear-cut: Changebike 1, Montague 0.
As any bike expert will tell you, weight is typically one of the sketchiest data points on a manufacturer’s site. It’s standard practice for manufacturers to to anything possible to minimize the published weight, including weighing only the smallest frame and weighing without pedals.
(At Flatbike, we happen to think that pedals and an average weight are important, and add a couple of pounds to our bike listings to reflect real-world usage.)
The Changebike site lists the CHANGE 812 weight as 12.8 kg (28 lbs), which we know from experience is the smallest of three frame sizes.
The Montague site, meanwhile, lists the weight of the Paratrooper Elite at 27 lbs, despite measuring from a larger frame size and having a much thicker top tube. We’re skeptical, but it’s in print. Montague 1, Changebike 0.
With components generally having a hierarchy of performance, this is a relatively easy area for comparison. Also, since newer MTBs now trend toward fewer chain rings and more range on the rear cassette, we’ll look at total gear range for both bikes.
- Fork. According to a professional review of shocks, Changebike’s FOX 32 fork and Montague’s RockShox Reba fork are equivalent quality 100mm-travel shock forks chosen for light weight. Advantage: Neither (tie).
- Groupset: Shimano offers eight levels of derailleur/brake/gearing systems, from Tourney for beginners to XTR for pros. Both Montague and Changebike have hydraulic brakes and have committed to complete, integrated systems; The CHANGE 812 uses an experienced-level Deore groupset, while the Paratrooper Elite features an expert-level Deore XT groupset. Advantage Montague.
- Wheels. Mavic wheels are always a good choice. Montague’s Mavic XM319 are a bit heaver than Changebike’s Mavic Crossride (2220 grams vs. 1968 grams) but are also tubeless ready. (To achieve the same flat-free result with Changebike, we install Tannus Armour instead.) Advantage: Neither (tie).
- Tires. Both bikes include knobby 2.1″ tires, but Montague features the well-regarded brand of Maxxis Crossmark, while Changebike has Kenda (although possibly Maxxis during COVID for a while due to supply chain challenges). Advantage Montague.
- Pedals. The paratrooper Elite comes with. . . well . . . nothing. The CHANGE 812 from our store comes with Wellgo pop-off pedals in MTB, SPD or flat formats. (Sometimes we even sell replacements to Montague or Brompton owners). Advantage Changebike.
- Gearing. The CHANGE 812 features a 36/26 crank with an 11-42 rear cassette. The Paratrooper Elite features a 42/32/24 crank with . . . a completely undocumented cassette. Judging by the tight grouping of all but the lowest 3 gears, 11-32 is a realistic, possibly generous estimate.
This gives us the following math. Montague has a higher top gear (42/11 = 3.8) than Changebike (36/11 = 3.3). And Changebike has a lower low gear (26/42 = 0.6) than Montague (24/32 = 0.75). Given that strong climbing is a core function of a mountain bike, and top mountain bikes are moving away from triple cranks…Advantage Changebike.
This was closer than we expected, given Montague’s higher-end groupset selection, but overall this is a tie. Montague 1/2, Changebike 1/2.
Bike life isn’t all downhills and bunny hops. Your full-size folding bike also needs to fit your body and your life.
Frames and sizes
The Paratrooper Elite frame comes in two sizes: 18″ (for riders 5’7″ to 5’11”) and 20″ (for riders 6′ to 6’4″). Interestingly, both frames sizes have the same standover height of 31″, meaning that taller riders ride on a proportionally shorter frame.
The CHANGE 812 frame comes in three sizes: 17″ (for riders 5’1″ to 5’8″), 19″ (for riders 5’8″ to 6’2″), and 21″ (for riders 6’2″ to 6’7″). NOTE: Having personally fit a 6’7″ CHANGE rider from New Jersey, we recommend an angled stem at that height. Standover heights for these frame sizes range from 29″ to 33″, so that each bike is proportionally sized for the rider.
The CHANGE 812 frame fits a wider range of riders more comfortably. Changebike 1, Montague 0.
Folding full-size bikes aren’t completely optimized for minimum folded size–or else they wouldn’t have full-size wheels–but folding is still critical if you’re putting your bike in a car trunk, boat, or tiny apartment.
Both bikes require removing the front wheel–Changebike with a quick-release axle, and Montague by removing and replacing a thru-axle. Then both bikes swivel the rear end around after unlatching the frame–Changebike with a latch on the seat tube, and Montague with a latch under the top tube.
Montague claims a 36″ x 28″ x 12″ folded size. Of the three dimensions, the 12″ is most impressive, considering that a rear axle alone is 8″, leaving an incredible 4″ for the front of the bike and the front wheel. On the other hand, private pilots have mentioned to us that the protruding latch needs to be specially wrapped to avoid fuselage holes, while urban riders need to be aware that the chain rings can hit the ground.
The CHANGE 812 folds down to 37″ x 30″ x 15″ (for the largest frame. Others may be smaller). If the bike needs to be carried for any significant distance, there is a hook on the seat stay for attaching the front wheel while the bike is folded.
Overall, the Paratrooper Elite folds a few inches smaller, but the CHANGE 812 leaves no critical components exposed. This sounds like a wash. Montague 1/2, Changebike 1/2.
Price and dealer value
Montague sells the Paratrooper Elite for $2,599, plus shipping. A carrying case will add another $100. And buy some pedals.
Changebike (through Flatbike) sells the CHANGE 812 for $1,880, with free shipping to the US and Canada. The carry bag is included.
That’s for the bike. But who stands behind it?
Montague is US based, has been in business since 1988, has dealers across the United States for test rides, and has a 71% rating on bikeride.com.
Changebike has been in business since 2010 and represented in the US since 2015 by Flatbike in the Seattle area. Flatbike does a 15-point quality check on each bike, ships across North America for free, and has a 4.9-star (Excellent) rating on Trustpilot.
Both bikes have good representation in the US, but a $700 price difference cannot be ignored. Changebike 1, Montague 0.
And the final results are…
Thanks for reading this far. Honestly, I didn’t know at the outset how this comparison was going to turn out . . . which, I suppose is the only way to do a fair review. I won’t say unbiased, since we sell only Changebikes in our shop, but the least we could do is give credit where credit is due, one way or the other. Here’s the grand total.
A couple of items could have gone either way, but it would have taken both of those swinging to the Paratrooper Elite just for a tie, which surprised me.
So . . . what do you think? Was this a fair comparison? Was it useful?
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.
9 responses to “Changebike vs. Montague: A head-to-head comparison”
9I found the comparison very interesting, although at 86 I don’t plan on spending that kind of money on a bike I sure would like to have a reliable folding road bike.
Congrats on still riding at 86 — an inspiration to us all. I think our oldest customer is just four years behind you…
Hello, and thanks for the comparison. I’ve been riding the montague paratrooper in NYC for 12 yrs and commute with it on the LIRR. Looking into the Montague Allston as sidewalks and tough city conditions have destroyed my rear derailleur a few times…love walking a bike. Anyway, I like the 1/0 comparisons but to give pedals equal scoring as your other categories isn’t fair. If there is anything a biker changes, it’s the pedals. If you just exclude that category, Montague wins the side by side comparison. Also, on the seat tube, the bottom end on the change bike clearly can play into ground strike issues. Love to demo a change bike, also, I think the ratio for the change bike is 32/11 not 36/11 in your write up?
Well-considered feedback, James. Many thanks. Your comment about the gearing math was spot-on, and we have corrected the Changebike crank to 36/26. Now the math lines up.
Regarding the impact of pedals in the scoring, note that they are a subcategory of components (just like tires are), not a category of their own. Yes, riders change their pedals frequently. In fact, we routinely sell interchangeable pop-off pedal sets (MTB, SPD, and flat) to Montague riders. In our view, a bike that already comes with its first set of these–vs absolutely nothing–is a step ahead in that area. The point that this small area broke a category tiebreaker is secondary.
You also mention about the bottom end of the seat tube potentially causing ground strike issues. On the surface, that seems like a valid concern; we’ve just never heard of it from any rider. We’d be interested to know if others ever have.
Did I forget to mention price is very big deal so change bike wins that one…on crankest exposure during folding agree that montague is exposed, however new rear bike rack doubles as a bike stand when folded negating that issue…the stress test change bike passes is telling, that montague hasn’t passed yet…for NYC riding, I’m leaning to the montague Allston with the internal rear cassette and belt drive…eliminating the rear derailleur while still providing 11 gears…more than I ever use… all full size folding bikes should come standard with front fork dynamo for night ride lighting..that is all 🙂
I cannot find anywhere a Change Bike geometry such as wheel base, chainstay length, head and seat tube angles, reach, stack. Could you please give that info?
Well, some of it anyway, Bart. This is for a Large (21″) CHANGE 811 folding rugged hybrid:
* Wheelbase: 44″ (111.7cm)
* Chainstay length: 17″ (432mm)
* Head tube angle: 75 degrees
* Seat tube angle: 73 degrees
* Reach: 19″ (483mm)
* Stack: 24.5″ (622mm)
This part of a customer review may be useful to you geometry-wise for a CHANGE 812 folding off-road MTB using the same frame: “…when riding – it feels somewhere my old Gary Fisher Mendota and my main Cannondale Quick Carbon 2.”
Triangle geometry of Change 812 feels stronger than single-fat-pipe of Montague, and it is also feels more aerodynamic.
Paratrooper Elite and Highline both have “rear cogs 11-36T”, and for Highline lower gear would be 0.66 in theory.
I don’t understand 2x price difference between Elite and Highline models; of course, components could differ $300 vs $500, but why final assembly differ $3000 vs. $1500? And why all models have 31” inseam? Montague bikes definitely look discontinued (very old; with wrong marketing; and not enough reviews for such old models).
However… in Canada, there are few local companies providing service and support, and lifetime warranty.
Yes, we forgot to compare customer service 😉
You make several good points, Fuad.
First, yes, customer service is important, especially for bikes that have a large number of custom parts, such as on most folding bikes and recumbent bikes. That will require custom support.
That isn’t the case with either Changebike or Montague, both of which use industry-standard components, with Changebike components tending to be generally a level or two up from Montague. So any local bike shop can handle repairs, up to a point.
That point was made clear to me last week when someone emailed me about a recent purchase: “BTW – I purchased two Montague Allston folding bikes. Both were delivered (in factory sealed boxes) with the welding so misaligned that the front tire and the rear tire track were offset by close to an inch.” If the problem is in the frame itself, no bike dealer is going to be able to fix it. Either it’s a warranty replacement, like with Montague dealers, or it just doesn’t get shipped that way to customers because of pre-shipping focus–the Flatbike 16-point quality check.
One final point… warranty support doesn’t have to be in-country to function. US and Canadian shipping is similar enough that we offer free shipping to both from the US Pacific Northwest.