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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photos: 2009 Kent Compact 16 Six Spd Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

Everyone in New Orleans (myself included) is just cringing right now at the thought of a Category 3 Gustav heading this way over Labor Day weekend. Since I had to head out today to purchase hurricane supplies, I decided to make time to take the new 2009 Kent Compact 16 out for some photos.

The Compact 16 is the latest folding bike from Kent International of New Jersey. Like the Kent Ultralite folding bike that it is replacing, the Compact 16 has 16" alloy wheels, a 6 speed drive train, v-brakes, rear carry rack, plastic fenders and a kickstand but there are several major differences between the old model and this one.

Differences: Ultralite & Compact 16 Folding Bikes
1. Frame
Bye, Bye, Magnesium Frame
For a variety of reasons, Kent has ditched the die cast magnesium frame used on the Ultralite 6 speed in favor of a welded aluminum frame. While the magnesium frame was incredibly light, took less labor to build and had a nice ride, production costs escalated. Additionally, the unusual location of the bottom bracket on the Ultralite 6 speed was fine for leisurely cruising but frustrated riders that wanted more speed.

Hello Aluminum Frame
With it's bottom bracket located ahead of the seat tube, the Compact 16 folding bike's aluminum frame offers a much improved pedaling experience. Similar in appearance to another outstanding but no longer available bicycle (the Aerlite B folding bike), the Compact 16 frame curves gracefully upward. A slender tube runs from the seat post forward to the primary folding hinge on the frame, providing additional bracing as well as a hand hold for carrying. The gold metallic paint on the Compact 16 is also an improvement over the original Ultralite's rather blah silver finish.

2. Improved Components
Derailleur & Shifter
I'm happy to report that Kent has done away with the cheap & frustrating Falcon derailleur and grip shifter. In their places, the Compact 16 sports a Takara derailleur and a micro indexing shifter. Hopefully, this combination functions much better; we'll see. I can report that the feel of the new grip shifter is much better.

Folding Handlebar Stem
The folding handlebar stem on the Compact 16 is beefier and appears safer to operate. The safety catch clicks into place when unfolding the stem for riding. To fold, the quick release must be opened, then you have to push in on the safety catch and lift the stem about 2 inches before folding it. Very safe.

The Compact 16's spring actuated kick stand also has a safety. To fold the kickstand, you'll need to push a large button on the kickstand with your foot and then swing the kickstand back. It may sound complicated but it's not and this will prevent your bike from falling over in a variety of situations.

Crank, Chain & Seat Post Protector
The Compact 16 has a small U-shaped piece of metal that protrudes down from the bottom bracket. If you fold your bike a lot and stand it on concrete, dirt, etc., you'll thank Kent for this seemingly minor feature because it provides critical protection to the crank sprocket, chain and the bottom of your seat post tube.

The Kent Ultralite packaging was notorious for getting totally destroyed during the shipping process. Some bikes would arrive damaged but mostly it was the poor appearance of the packaging when it arrived and the resulting poor customer perceptions that concerned me. That is no longer the case.

Although the Compact 16 uses the same outer shipping carton, the inside has been beefed up with heavy cardboard stiffeners that brace the folding bike securely. The result is that the bike does not shift during shipment; thus, the shipping cartons are no longer torn up.

Although I have more storm preparations to make tomorrow, I will try to make time for a ride and a brief review on the handling of the Compact 16. Don't be surprised if it takes a bit longer to get that review online though. When you live in New Orleans, you must take hurricanes seriously.



At Thursday, August 28, 2008 5:48:00 PM CDT, Anonymous Joseph (Atlanta, GA) said...

Could you talk a little about how the new Kent compares to the Downtube Mini?

At Thursday, August 28, 2008 5:49:00 PM CDT, Anonymous Joseph (Atlanta, GA) said...

what are the widths of the front and rear hubs?


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