Review: Montague Boston 8 Folding Bike

Putting 5 collapsible commuter bikes to the test
Chris Lesser

Montague Boston 8; $999

Who it’s for: Apartment-dwelling riders not secure enough to ride a folding bike with little, admittedly silly looking wheels; urban paratroopers.

Vital Stats
Folded Size
: 36 x 28 x 12 inches (7 cubic feet)
Wheel Size: 700c
Weight: 28 pounds
Relative Foldability Rank: 5th Place
Hits: 8-speed internal hub is silky smooth, full-size tires feel bomb-proof, solid frame
Misses: worst folding system, sluggish handling, low stem/high seat feels awkward
Extras: quick-release fenders, chainring guard
Buy it: ($999)

The Boston 8 is the latest in a long line of Mongague folding bikes. The same basic design principle has been around since 1987, when then-MIT grad student David Montague came up with it. Montague’s goal was to produce a bike that didn’t sacrifice performance in pursuit of space-saving foldability. In one respect—delivering a solid and smooth-riding frame design—Montague succeeded. But in terms of foldability, these bikes miss the mark badly, especially compared with the other slicker, tricker bikes we tested.

The Boston 8 is available in three sizes—17-, 19- and 21-inch frames—and it folds down in two simple steps. We were left looking for a third or fourth step, because the Boston 8’s acrobatics are far less impressive than the others in the group.[slideshow:521]

The frame is built of 7005-series aluminum. It’s solid—28 pounds solid—and folds with a tube-within-tube hinge design that the company claims strengthens the frame. The hinge is operated with a CLIX quick-release lever that really is quick. What happens next, though, is mind-boggling. The frame folds in half, and you have to remove the front wheel to complete the fold. And then you have…well, you have an unwieldy hunk of bike in one hand, and a wheel in the other. Not an ideal situation, particularly when you are hoping to open a door, carry a bag, enter a subway turnstile or do anything that requires a free hand.

Of all the bikes we road tested, this one felt the most like a “real bike” thanks to its full-size frame and standard 700c road wheels. The handling felt sluggish, though, and the low stem made it awkward to ride for guys like Chris and me, who are 6-plus-feet tall. It offers all of the hunched-over discomfort of riding a track bike, with none of the lightweight grace.

One thing I did like is the Shimano 8-speed internal hub, which, while it adds weight to the traditional single-speed Boston, makes this bike a hell of a lot more versatile. This bike was designed for people to stow in their car’s trunk and haul somewhere—a nice bike path or a quiet country road. For the daily commuter, though, it’s just not that practical. Bicycling’s reviewer claimed, “It's a bike I'd ride, even if I wasn't short on space.” To which I say, I’d ride it, too—but only if it was the last bike on Earth.

Second Opinion: Like many ideas from the '80s—mullets, Camaros, parachute pants, communism—the Montague's design has not withstood the test of time very well.

In my days working working in bike shops I saw all manner of oddball bikes roll through the door. Remember the auto-shifting As-Seen-On-TV bikes? Thankfully, not many do. I’ve also worked on a handful of 26-inch-wheel Montague mountain bikes that were sold in catalogs like Hammacher Schlemmer and Sharper Image as “paratrooper bikes,” and have never been very impressed. Sure, I suppose folding the bike to get into the C-130 before you jump out of the plane would be pretty convenient, but on a day-to-day basis, there’s just not enough “fold” to justify this bike design’s existence, in my opinion. Will re-packaging the concept in this 700c version with street savvy matte black graphics save it? For some, small segment of the apartment-dwelling population, this is sure to be the perfect bike. For me—and I would bet a lot of others—the Montague is still thoroughly underwhelming. —Chris Lesser

More Info:

See the other collapsible commuter bikes we tested from Brompton, Dahon, Tern and Pacific Cycles.