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 would 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?