Her Bike: Montague Navigator

October 6, 2014 | Posted in Gear Reviews, Nuts and Bolts | By

Montague Navigator folding bicycle review

Brandy’s bike, as of October 2014.

A review of the Montague Navigator 2013 model

Current model’s webpage

The good: Nifty folding feature, folds along the seat tube by quick release. After removing the front wheel, it fits neatly into a Montague carrying bag you can purchase for $100, or a massage table bag for half the price (more on that later!). Designed as a commuter road bike with 700c wheels, it is a fast and smooth ride. The frame is made of aircraft grade aluminum and seems strong. You have the ability to raise the handlebars easily, though not as easily while riding, as the unique octagonal design was intended. Most of the components are standard and changeable, and an allen wrench adjusts most everything. It is not too heavy, especially compared to steel framed traditional tourers. Attractive and unique frame design, great color!

The less-than-good: Not all components are of the highest quality for the price of the bike… you are paying for the unique design and the folding feature. But they are certainly satisfactory. Also, customer service is not easy to reach; it seems they prefer you communicate with the dealer from which you purchased the bike. Nor are they very responsive. It took several emails and over a month to get a reply on an issue I was having.  Other nuisances are simply based on the fact that I have converted this bike into a tourer, and it was not designed as such. I will get to that discussion later. Montague, please design a true touring bike and allow me to test it for you!

My experience: I love this bike. I really enjoy riding it, and it has stood up to some heavy touring so far, both on pavement, dirt, and gravel. As of this posting, I have had it for almost two years and perhaps 2000 miles, probably more. I have used it as a fair-weather commuter in NYC, and have taken it on several short but moderately loaded tours, before I started living on it. When I purchased it from a local bike shop in Manhattan, I had the wheels, tires, and back rack changed immediately, so I cannot comment on the quality of these original items.

The real selling point is the folding feature, which does not affect the strength or the ride of the bike. Lewis and I both have a Montague, and the ability to fold them has really come in handy. We have been able to take them on buses easily, even those with strict no-bike policies. We just pack them into massage table bags and refer to them as “our equipment” when questioned. We have been able to carry them onto Amtrak many times, which usually requires bikes to be boxed and checked.  We have been able to pack them inside of most cars, even with all our gear and our bodies.  It is not always easy, but it has never yet been impossible. We were even able to hitch hike when we found the roads of Virginia Beach too dangerous to ride… true, it was a minivan, but it was already full with two adults and an infant, and an unbelieveable amount of stuff. We would have never been able to take that ride if the bikes didn’t fold.

To address the customer service issue, here is the story. My seat was stolen, and I bought another seat post based on the website listed post size, which turned out to be incorrectly listed so the new post didn’t fit. After much searching of the website, I finally found a way to contact Montague and sent them a message alerting them to this. After receiving no response, I sent it again. In their defense, my email was rather long, but it was full of praise for the bike and a mention of how I plan to tour with it, etc. After  a few weeks and still no reply, I sent another more brief message about the seat post issue, and also mentioned the lack of customer service I had experienced previously. To this I finally did get a response. The agent was very polite, addressed the discrepancy on the website, and sent me a free factory seat post.

Now I will discuss the issues that have come up because of converting this commuter into a tourer. The original tire width was 26mm. I wanted to change that to 34 or 36mm, so that I could go off pavement when necessary, or hell, just for fun. However, due to frame and brake restrictions, the largest tire width that can fit is 32mm, and that is cutting it close. The brakes are not designed to really fit with even a 32, so the tire has to be deflated every time I want to remove the wheel. I was concerned at first that 32mm would be too small, as less than 36mm has been heavily advised against in many cycle forums for touring off pavement, but so far I really have not had too much difficulty riding on all but the worst terrain. This could of course change once we leave the US. I have also gotten used to the deflation and re-inflation, and I don’t really need to remove the wheel all that often anyway. Additionally, the factory rack is not supported in any way and just sticks straight out from the seat stem (I am assuming it is so that it does not inhibit the folding feature), therefore it is not strong enough to carry any real weight. Luckily, a normal back rack does not affect the folding of the bike all that much. The additional front rack does create some difficulty when trying to fit the bike into the bag, but this is remedied by removing the handlebars (allen wrench easy) and/or removing the entire rack (though this is not totally necessary, it is better if you have the time).

Changed components:

This is a list of the changed components, and why the change was made. I will add the details of the exact component make and model at a future date, and will review some of them separately as well.

  • Wheels were changed to double walled touring wheels, 32 spokes in the front & 36 in the back. The back wheel is a second change, since the first 32 spoke back touring wheel was bent in an earlier tour. It was straightened out, but the spoke tensions were uneven and I was concerned that the strength was compromised.
  • Tires were changed to 32mm puncture proof Armadillos. Only two puncture flats since I got the bike!
  • Back rack changed to a supported rack, and a front rack added.
  • Saddle changed to a leather Brooks knock-off, which is much more comfortable for longer rides.
  • Cassette changed for more mountain worthy gears.
  • Rear derailleur and chain had to be changed to accommodate the new cassette.
  • Pedals changed to simple metal mountain bike pedals with cleat attachment on one side and platform on the other, so that I can ride with any kind of shoe.
  • Brake shoes/pads changed after the factory pads wore down significantly. The new pads are supposed to last longer and be more effective.
  • Kick stand changed to a two-leg center stand that can support a fully loaded bike.

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