Review: Pacific Reach IF Folding Bike

Putting 5 collapsible commuter bikes to the test
Chris Lesser

Pacific Reach IF; MSRP: $2,070 (but available for $1,500)

Who it’s For: Short to medium-height technophiles who have money to burn, but are short on space.

Vital Stats:
Folded Size: 36 x 16 x 26 inches (8.6 cubic feet)
Wheels Size: 22”
Weight: 25.5 lbs
Relative Foldability Rank: 3rd Place
Hits: Stiff chassis, nice saddle, lightweight alloy wheels, Tektro V-brakes and levers
Misses: MicroShift drivetrain, narrow handlebars, stubby grips, phantom full-suspension
Extras: folding pedals
Buy it: ($1,500)

As the most expensive bike in the group, one would be right to expect great things from the Pacific, but I rank it third or fourth of the five we tested. While I’m all for the concept of full suspension, I just wasn’t feeling it on the Pacific. Literally, I couldn’t feel it. I got more shock abortion from the stem and frame flex from some of the other bikes than I felt from the Pacific’s gimicky trailing-arm front suspension fork. Nor did the bike’s rear shock didn’t produce much discernable vibration damping.

According the label on the tire, the Pacific shares the same "20-inch" wheels size with the Dahon, but on closer inspection they're actually closer to 22-inchers, wiht a 451mm inside diameter. Still, a comparison between the two is instructive: The Dahon weighs a full pound less, has better brakes, and a bigger front chainring—a 56-tooth versus the Pacifc’s 33-tooth. How about some more quibbles? The bike’s off-brand MicroShift twist-shifters have a much weaker spring than the SRAM GripShift shifters they imitate, and because of the narrow bars and stubby grips, I found myself inadvertently initiating shifts, and sometimes the MicroShift rear derailleur seemed to want to shift all on its own. Lastly, the customary telltale feature of a folding bike is its mile-long seat post, but even running the Pacific’s post an inch beyond the minimum insertion line still left me without proper leg extension. If I had my druthers I’d upgrade the Pacific to a slightly wider handlebar with some rise and some sweep to it.[slideshow:520]

Ironically the Pacific’s best feature—its stiff, well-braced chassis—works against what I suppose should be its best selling point: the full suspension. Even if it is unfortunately over-engineered, a pint-sized bike like this with a full-sized road bike drivetrain makes for a fairly zippy ride. I found no problem passing fellow commuters (with bigger wheels), and the bike’s geometry felt stable at speed.

If I was more than a half a foot shorter with child-sized hands, this bike would make a lot more sense. For what it is, an MSRP just north of $2,000 is fairly ambitious. If you’re in love with the design and must have one, the local folding bike shop (which also does a brisk national online business) is selling these bikes for a more manageable $1,500.

Editor's note: Pacific Cycles has nothing to do with the Wal-Mart brand, Pacific.

Second opinion: I’ll say it now: Folding bikes are not cool. And they’re not meant to be. This ride, despite what Chris says, has a cool factor that the other tested bikes didn’t touch. It looks and rides somewhat like a BMX bike, but with a badass 18-speed setup that allowed me to leave snickering fixed-gear hipsters in my wake on the 150ish-foot rise of the Williamsburg Bridge.

I found its full suspension to be buttery on even the most bone-jarring of New York City potholes, and the frame to be fairly stiff for a folding bike. As with most models tested, there was a fair bit of handlebar shake in the 20 to 25 mph range on bridge descents, but that’s to be expected. Chris’ gripes regarding the MicroShift shifters are justified, as I, too, did a fair amount of inadvertent shifting. It was nice, though, to be able to trim the front derailleur when gear crossover caused the chain to rub.

The folding mechanism is pretty innovative in that the frame itself becomes the handle, and it rolls on the bike’s 20-inch wheels rather than on some terrible plastic suitcase-y wheels. I still haven’t quite figured out how to collapse it in under five minutes, but people who’ve solved the puzzle tell me it’s a breeze once you’ve gotten it down. If it weren’t for the sticker shock (more than $2K?!), this would definitely be my #2 bike in the test set.  —Peter Koch

More info:

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