This page provides some guidelines for commuting by bicycle. The Xootr Swift is a particularly good bike for commuting, but these guidelines are not specific to Xootr products. Notes by K. Ulrich (Xootr co-founder)
Where to Live
If you have not yet settled on a place to live or are considering relocating, then considering your bike commute can really improve your quality of life. In my opinion, the perfect place to live is 5-6 miles distance and 300-600 ft (100-200 M) higher in elevation than work. That gives you a minimum of a 20-minute downhill commute to work. The shortest commuting distance from home to the office for me is 6 miles (10 km) and 360 vertical feet (120 M) of elevation loss. I can easily make this 11-12 miles by taking the scenic route. It's hard to make your commute shorter. That's why I recommend living no further than 5-6 miles from work. The elevation loss is a key factor. You get to work without sweating too much. You get a nice workout coming home.
Only in rare cases will the best bike route be the best driving route. Look carefully at the map and try lots of alternatives. It took me about three years to perfect my bike route. My friends and I still try incremental improvements several times a year. Your goal is not to find the shortest route. Typically your goal is to find the safest route that is also fun and is the right length. Adding a mile to your ride is really no big deal if it lets you avoid a really dangerous stretch of road or if it takes you through a beautiful patch of scenery. Check out MapMyRide.com for a Google maps application that lets you, well, map your ride.
Weather and Clothing
Many people willingly spend several thousand dollars to experience cold wind in their faces outdoors (i.e., skiing at Aspen). You can have that experience every day while saving money if you ride your bike all year in cold climates.
In my opinion, Winter riding is no big deal in temperatures above 25F. (I still ride in colder weather, but it isn't a lot of fun.) Riding in Summer, even when 100F is no big deal until you stop and lose the cooling wind across your skin. Then, you're going to want to be in an air conditioned office or home in a hurry.
The key to riding in Winter is making the right clothing choices. If you get the clothing right, you'll be comfortable. Many years ago I developed a simple table that I use to dress correctly when I leave the house on the bike. I simply note the current temperature outdoors and look up the appropriate clothing choice. Here is my table. Of course, you may run hotter or colder than I do, so you'll need to adapt it to your own preferences. Do this once, however, and you'll be a lot happier in cold weather on the bike.
See our Bike Clothing Table.
Riding in the rain is no fun, especially in Winter. When it's raining, I look at the radar map to figure out if waiting an hour or two will let me avoid the worst. (It helps to have a very flexible schedule.) If I can't delay and it's raining, I just put on my rain gear and go. I have a rain jacket with a huge hood that fits over my helmet, which helps a lot. In Philadelphia, there are only five days a year when I get to the end of my commute and say "That was stupid. I should have driven to work."
Bike Clothes or Street Clothes?
How you handle clothing is largely a function of gender, dress requirements at work, the convenience of shower facilities, and the privacy of your work space.
I prefer to ride in athletic gear and change into work clothes. I avoid lycra bike shorts in the office. In the summer, I ride in shorts and t-shirt. In the winter, I ride in poly leggings and fleece. If my commute were just a mile or two, I would ride in street clothes.
I keep my work clothes in my office. I have done this for more than 20 years. I just cycle the clothes through the local cleaner. (I work in an urban environment with a cleaner just a block away.)
If you live uphill from the office you don't sweat much coming in. It's hard to get too sweaty in Winter. Really there are just a few days a year in Summer when sweating is a problem. If you are hung up about perspiration, then you could either take a shower at the gym at work (if you're lucky enough to have such a facility) or clean up with some baby wipes and a towel.
If you're serious about commuting, you should really set up a bike for that purpose. I ride a stock Xootr Swift with these accessories/modifications:
- clipless pedals
- Planet Bike fenders
- Planet Bike rear flasher
- CygoLite Rover II LED headlight
- CrossRack bike rack
- Eleven81 cargo bag
- Bar ends
- Water bottle cage (holds water bottle in Summer and battery for headlight in Winter)
- Reflective tape applied to sides of fork blades
Of these, I consider the fenders and rack esssential all year, and the lighting essential much of the year.
Tools and Repairs
The only tool some people carry is a cell phone. If they are stranded, they call a spouse or friend to come pick them up. However, if you are the slightest bit mechanically inclined you can easily deal with most on-the-road repairs yourself.
The most common repair you will need to perform is changing a flat tire. The tools you need for this are:
- replacement tube (faster than patching the hole)
- tire levers (you probably only need two of these, but most kits include three)
- portable pump (that fits the type of tire valve you have)
- rubber gloves (i.e., "surgical gloves") to keep your hands clean
Put all of this stuff in a heavy duty ziploc bag and put it in the bottom of your cargo bag. The only other repair that I commonly see required among commuters is a broken chain. If you are really conservative, you can carry a chain tool to deal with this. I take the approach of replacing my chain every spring, and I use a really standard heavy-duty chain like is on the Swift (KMC Z72). I've never broken a chain commuting on a Swift, but both of my commuting buddies have broken chains.
I keep a set of hex wrenches and a screwdriver in my office at work. This lets me fuss with brake cables, etc. These are rarely urgent repairs, but it's nice to have the tools at hand during the day to adjust the bike when you're thinking about it.
In my experience most flats occur in older tires because a piece of glass has become embedded in the tire and eventually works its way through the tread and punctures the tube. You can avoid this by (a) checking your tires for glass every week or so and (b) making sure you replace your tires every 1000 miles or so. Tires are relatively cheap. I just replace them, my brake pads, and my chain every Spring. I average about one flat tire a year, which is not really much to lose sleep over.
THE 406mm WHEEL: The compact wheel standard
Dave Mirra getting air on a bike with 406mm wheels...the wheels are bulletproof.
The 406mm ("20inch") has come a long way in the last decade, largely due to the developments in the BMX racing world. These wheels are now incredibly robust and tires are widely available. As a result, they make the perfect standard for compact bicycles. If anything, the 406mm wheel is stronger and lighter than the 700C standard sold on most recreational bikes. There are tons of advantages.
- Front foot clearance. Unless you wear clown shoes, your toes will never hit the front wheel on a hard turn.
- Overall length of bike. For the same wheelbase (and ride quality), a Swift is about 12 inches (300mm) shorter in overall length than a conventional cycle.
- Elevators and hallways. This bike fits the short way in most elevators.
- Weight. A 406mm wheel weighs 200-400g less than a 700C wheel with the same tire and rim.
- Tire availability. Compared to other small-wheelers, the 406 wheel has a huge array of affordable, high-performance tires.
- Sizing flexibility. The bike has a very low "stand over" height, and so fits riders from 5'0" to 6'7" (1.5m to 2.01m)
- 1 % higher rolling resistance. There's really just one disadvantage. Rolling resistance of a tire decreases with increasing diameter. However, rolling resistance is a tiny fraction of the energy loss on a bicycle. Unless you race, you won't notice this.
- Ride quality. Some people have the perception that wheel diameter has a large effect on ride quality. There is a small effect. However, the much larger effect is tire selection and tire pressure. If you run our Kenda's at 65psi, the ride will be like a stiff road bike. If you run them at 45psi, the ride will be quite plush. It's as easy as adjusting the tire pressure to meet your preferences.
- Ruggedness. Some people believe little things are not as rugged as large things. The opposite is actually true of wheels. These things are pretty much impossible to taco in normal urban use.
When aren't 406 wheels the right choice? (Short answer: rarely)
- Downhill mountain bike racing. Let's be clear. If you want to go near-vertically down the side of a mountain, you don't want to do that on a bike with 406mm rims. You want to be able to roll over huge boulders and clear giant felled trees. This isn't the bike for that job. USCF road racing. The Swift (nor any 406mm-wheeled bike) doesn't meet the precise technical standards of the Luddites in charge of most bicycle racing standards. Besides, if you are a road racer, you are going to obsess over grams of weight, tiny fractions of a percent of rolling resistance, etc. The Swift is not your racing bike.
- Super tiny bikes. Some folding bikes out there fold in a complex sequence of steps resulting in an intertwining of their complicated little bits. We are generally impressed that these bikes work at all, given the hinges, clamps, knobs, etc. Almost all of the super tiny folders rely on an itsy bitsy wheel (e.g., 16inch) to achieve their impressive tiny state. The 406mm wheel is a tad too big for this game.
Loosen the two quick-release levers clamping the seat post.
Place your foot behind the rear wheel, and retract the post almost all the way.
Rock back on the handlebar to allow the rear end to pivot under the main tube.
Push the seat post back down, allowing it to rest against the rear wheel and re-clamp the top lever.
If you need to take a bit more size off the folded package, just pop off the handlebar assembly as shown here by loosening the quick-release lever at the bottom of the riser. If you need the bike to get even more compact, you can pull out the seat post and/or remove the front wheel. Hint: when you reverse these steps to deploy the bike, you can usually quickly adjust the seat height by just lowering it to the height of your hip bone while you are standing next to the bike.
One of the nicest things about the Swift is that it can go in the trunk of the car in a few seconds and without any kind of bike rack. This lets you take your bike with you with on a whim, or lets you keep a bike in your car for when you need to park some distance from your destination.
The TrusFold system allows your bike to go where you go with a minimum of fuss, and with essentially no performance sacrifices.
Save your original shipping carton. It's a nice way to transport your bike. Here's how to pack your bike:
- Remove the pedals with a 15mm pedal wrench.
- Unclamp and remove the front wheel
- Unclamp and remove the seat post
- Unclamp and remove the stem riser tube (vertical tube holding handlebar).
- Put the bike in the box, padding well. Pay particular attention to the derailleur. In fact, you may want to remove the derailleur to avoid it getting whacked.
Most airlines will let you check a small cardboard box like the Swift shipping carton, especially if it is not identified as a bicycle. (For some strange reason, airlines have chosen to alienate bicycle riders by shamelessly singling them out for excess baggage charges.)
If you prefer, you may pack your Swift bike in a large hard-shell suitcase like a Samsonite "Oyster". You can usually find one of these on eBay for under $100. See the suitcase packing instructions for details.
First, please don't obsess over the sizing decision. The Swift frame is remarkable in that it accommodates a large range of uses for cyclists of almost any size and shape. Part of the reason for this is that the seat post has a great deal of vertical adjustment and is oriented at 72 degrees, which means that adjustments to the seat-to-pedal distance simultaneously change the horizontal reach of the bike as well. The basic frame on the Swift fits riders from 5'0" to 6'7" tall. This range is accommodated by changing up to three components, the length of the seat post, the extension of the handlebar stem, and the riser. If the size isn't perfect, it is easily adjusted without having to return the bike to the factory.
We define our sizes as follows:
Size S - You are less than 5'5" (1.65m) tall.
We remove 3 inches (75mm) from the seat post and install a short stem.
Size M - You are between 5'5" (1.65m) and 5'10quot; (1.78m) tall.
No changes are made to the Swift. The stock seat post and stem are used.
Size L - You are between 5'10" (1.78m) and 6'2" (1.88m) tall.
We keep the stock seat post and install a long stem.
Size XL - You are between 6'2" (1.88m) and 6'5" (1.96m) tall.
We install a longer seat post (590mm) and a long stem.
Size XXL - You are between 6'5" (1.96m) and 6'7" (2.01m) tall.
We install a longer seat post (640mm), a long stem, and a taller riser (300mmL).
If you want to fuss with the micro-level details of frame geometry, feel free to check out the frame geometry specifications.
Your satisfaction is very important to us. We warrant that your Xootr bike is free of defects in materials or manufacturing for a period of one (1) year from the date of purchase, subject to the limitations indicated below. If at any time within one year of your purchase, you discover a defect in materials or manufacturing, please contact us or your authorized dealer for repair or replacement.
This warranty is void if the bicycle was not purchased new from us or an authorized dealer.
This warranty does not apply to normal wear and tear, including wear of tires, brake pads, and cables.
Subject to the following limitations, terms and conditions, Xootr LLC warrants to the original owner for the lifetime of the original owner that the BICYCLE FRAME is free of defective materials and workmanship. The lifetime limited warranty is conditioned upon the bicycle being operated under normal conditions and use, and properly maintained. This limited warranty does not apply to paint/finish or components attached to the bicycle such as front forks, wheels, drivetrain, brakes, seatpost, handlebar and stem (all of which are covered under the one year limited warranty above).
Damage caused by stunt riding, off-road riding, racing, or other abusive treatment is not covered by this warranty. This is a consumer warranty and does not apply to products used in rental operations.
The Swift frame is remarkable in that it accommodates a large range of uses for cyclists of almost any size and shape. Part of the reason for this is that the seat post has a great deal of vertical adjustment and is oriented at 72 degrees, which means that adjustments to the seat-to-pedal distance simultaneously change the horizontal reach of the bike as well.
This diagram illustrates the key dimensions and geometric relationships for the frame. The table below provides the specific values for seat-to-pedal distance and reach for various positions of the seat post. Note that the seat may be moved fore and aft by about +/- 1/2 in (12mm) from these nominal values by adjusting the position of the seat on the seat post.
|Seat-to-pedal distance||Reach with standard stem|
|30 in (750mm)||18.0 in|
|32 in (800mm)||18.5 in|
|34 in (850mm)||19.0 in|
|36 in (900mm)||19.6 in|
|38 in (950mm)||20.1 in|
The standard stem on the Swift is 60mm, 40 degree, 1-1/8in threadless. Swapping a 100 mm 30 degree stem will increase all of these reach dimensions by about 1.5 inches (37.5mm). We configure the bike at the factory with a 100mm stem for riders taller than 5' 10" (1.8m) and a 60mm, 5 degree stem for riders under 5' 5" (1.65m). Most riders find that no vertical adjustment to the handlebars is necessary. However, there are two ways to adjust this dimension if desired. First, the stem can simply be flipped over, angling it slightly downward instead of upward. Second, the vertical stem riser can be easily shortened by cutting off a few millimeters from it's height.
Some people have asked us how the Swift geometry compares to other bikes. The short answer is that it is very close to a "hybrid" geometry. The image to the left is an overlay of the Swift on the outline of a Trek hybrid bike. You can see that the wheelbase is essentially identical. The seat-to-handlebar distance is also nearly identical. This explains why the Swift has such a solid feel and comfortable ride.
"There's no compromise in performance here--it's comfy even on long rides and a good value at $679." Read the full story...
"One glance at the Swift an you automatically think 'kid bike'. One ride on the Swift and you automatically think 'bad ass bike'." Read the full review...
"Test riding the clean-lined Swift Folder through Brooklyn is certainly a proud experience for any rider used to heavier, springier, or sillier machines"
"Everything comes together with the Swift... Best Overall."
"Within a single pedal stroke you realise that this is a delightful bike to ride. It's one of those rare folding bike experiences...where every ounce of pedal effort seems to be translated directly into movement. Very satisfying and very efficient."
"I found that the Swift can really go fast, and feels no different than a full-sized frame..." Read the The Bike Beat Blog, full review...
"The Xootr Swift is unlike any folding bicycle that we’ve sampled. Many bikes have small dinky wheels, rickety hollow frames, and a feel that’s comparable with Thai rickshaw standards. The Swift has NONE of those attributes..." Read the Spungle, full review...
"The quick ride proved that we made a good decision. These bikes really do ride like full sized bikes." Read the Xootr Commuter Blog, full review...