The Montague Paratrooper Pro Folding Bicycle.
If you’re in the market for a folding bike this article may help you to decide what bike is right for you.
Around Japan there are plenty of cheap folding bikes. They’re not attractive, and most are not very functional either. The small rims, frail frames that wobble, and lack of any realistic features render these bikes impractical. So, I set out to find an effective folding bike, one that I could use for commuting, as well as travel, and sightseeing.
Are there any other reasons to possess a folding bike? Even though I live in a house, finding room to store a large bike is an issue. Having the ability to store a bike folded up, and in a bag when it’s not in use is very handy. Beyond that having a couple of folding bikes tossed in the back of a vehicle, and available on a whim can make for an impromptu adventure. Say, a trip to Kama Kura, Enoshima Island, or trekking along one of the beautiful beaches of Tateyama, such as the wonderful stretch of endless, and scenic roads along the shores of Ito.
After looking at several bikes, I decided to purchase a Montague Paratrooper Pro, in black of course. I chose the Paratrooper Pro because it was the only full size folding mountain bike available on the market that looked rugged. Further, I thought the price was reasonable, and from what I had read about it, I thought I couldn’t go wrong. I also purchased a carrying case, and a set of folding pedals, which would result in taking up much less space in storage, as well as in transportation mode. After contacting the manufacturers in Boston, Mass., I soon discovered that it would not be as easy as I thought. In fact, in the company’s own words, they were “reluctant” to ship a bike to Japan, as it was too much hassle. This is not the best way to deal with customers when attempting to break into new markets. The following information is what has transpired.
I had sent about a dozen emails, and even made some phone calls to find out how to purchase the bike in Japan. I didn’t receive any response, so I began looking around for distributors. There aren’t any in Japan. Finally, after making numerous other attempts at communicating with the manufacturer I received an email telling me there wasn’t any distributors in Japan, but that there was one in the works, if I was willing to wait another six to eight months. That wasn’t an option. I was then told to contact one of the distributors listed on the companies website, one in Taiwan, China, or Hong Kong. I did! Several times. However, none responded. I then contacted other international distributors posted on Montague’s website, including those in Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and even Indonesia. I received no response from most of them, and the distributors who did respond, and listed on the companies website as distributors for Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore responded saying that they were not Montague distributors. At this point, I felt I was getting not only bad information from Montague’s home office, but being lead around, and misinformed. How does a company not know who is, and isn’t its own distributor? I also contacted David Montague directly for this article about the company, and its products, hoping I could persuade him to ship me one of his products, but I hadn’t received a response from him either. Ah, the age of “globalization.” Isn’t it great?
I finally contacted Kent Koike at Koshida (USA) in good ol’ California. Kent exports wine to Japan, and owns Evolution Bike Shop. Kent also happens to be a west coast distributor for Montague, and had everything I needed in stock, and to all of my specifications, frame size, color, etc. I said, “Let’s make the deal.” Kent said, “It’s on!” I wired him the funds, and received the bike in less than a week. Yes, he’s that good!
The total price for everything came to $1,655.94. Shipping was handled by Yamato, and cost 474.55. I was charged for an oversized package, which is why the shipping fee was so steep. I thought the fee was excessive. The package only weighed 47 pounds, and was about half the size of a normal bike box, and much thinner. The packaging is much smaller than a surfboard, which cost less than 100.00 to ship, so I have no idea why the rate was so high. You don’t want to know what FedEx tried to charge. How does that company stay in business?
As soon as the box arrived I set to opening it up. It had no external damage, or crushing. As usual, Yamato did an excellent job shipping the package. I highly recommend this company, as they always seem to handle packages with kid gloves. As I began opening the package I noted the following information posted on the outside of the box, and in very large letters.
This merchandise was carefully packed and thoroughly inspected before leaving our factory. Responsibility for its safe delivery was assumed by the carrier upon acceptance of the shipment. Claims for loss or damages sustained in transit must therefore be made by calling the carrier.
Having a law degree, and having done plenty of contract work I know how ridiculous these attempts at unilateral waiver of liability are. First, these kind of “important” notices have no legal significance whatsoever. If there is damage to goods while in transport the manufacture, as well as the shipping company are always liable. Period! A recipient of damaged goods may bring action against any contracted party under grounds that the manufacturer, and/or the shipper fell below the professional standard of care associated within that particular industry. Action could be brought for breach of contract, intentional, reckless, or negligence handling; whatever would be applicable to the particular situation.
Next there was a strange notification that read: WARNING: Never ride at night. There was also other irrelevant information warning the purchaser that there may be helmet laws in their particular jurisdiction. Yada yada yada, and on it went. Ah, legalese!
As I began removing cardboard strips from the bike I was excited to see it beginning to reveal itself to me. But then… I saw some minor scratches to the top part of the frame. This was underneath the cardboard packaging, and could have only occurred prior to shipping, and during the assembly or packaging stage. So much for the “carefully packed, and thoroughly inspected” warning. Once I removed all of the paper, and plastic holding the bike in place, I applied some wax to the damage, and managed to buff out most of it. It’s a bummer to have a brand new bike arrive damaged. If I were in the states I would have forced the company to ship another one.
Getting my first look at the bike, and beyond the pain of those minor scratches, I thought it still looked great. But there were numerous childlike stickers all over the bike. I peeled every one of them off. A total of seventeen stickers were removed, and as each one was peeled away the bike started to take on a much cooler, and slicker look. The myriad of stickers actually made the bike look cheaper. The satin finish in all black looked cool, and the paint job itself was nice, and thick. Of course, it was nothing like the excellent paint jobs that used to come on Klein bikes, but hey… It’s a folding bike!
Some stickers on the bike’s frame were misleading. One read, Made in the U.S.A., while another one read, Made in Vietnam. The bike was shipped from Vietnam so that answers where the bike was manufactured. There is also a large “Patented Folding System” sprayed into the paint on both sides of the bike. Although it’s subtle, its unnecessary, as every component of every bike is patented. Imagine if every piece of the bike read, patented wheel rims, patented shifters, patented… Who cares? Keep it clean! Superfluous information is unnecessary, and gratuitous.
The cables, three of them that run along the frame are not noticeable in the promotional photos. It appears they are stored away inside the frame as they are on many bikes today. They are not! Besides having three cables running along the outside of the frame, they’re positioned in an ill thought location, where the bike actually folds. As a result, when the bike is folded, the frame presses against the cables, causing them to bend slightly. This could only lead to stretched cables, poorer performance over time, and damage to the bikes paint. The bike could easily have been designed to hide away the cables, and none of these problems would exist.
The tires, and rims are not the same as those in the company’s website promotional material. The tires are not as high quality, but the wheels seem to be comparable. Peeling the cheap stickers off of the rims made them look much more streamed line.
Montague Paratrooper Pro Folded Up.
Putting it all together.
It was a bit awkward getting it together for the first time, but once I figured it out, it didn’t take long to get things lined up. I needed to be careful with the front wheel, as the breaking system will rub if it’s not aligned perfectly. It took a bit of wrangling to get the tire finally lined up, and clamped in place. It’s was a bit harder to do than I thought, and definitely took longer than the twenty seconds the advertisements say. (More on the breaking system later.)
Once I got the bike all configured, I jumped on it, and took it for a ride. The patented folding system road very tight. The bike didn’t feel at all like a folding bike. Certainly, it was stacks above the competition seen around town. I changed through most of the gears, and was pleasantly surprised to see that they worked well without rubbing, and grinding. It was when I hit the breaks that left me with my first negative reaction regarding the mechanics of the bike. I don’t know how to put it any other way, but to state that the breaking system sucks! Hitting the breaks hard, it just kept on rolling. The bike would slow down, but it wouldn’t stop. This is unacceptable. Especially, when riding in the narrow, and crowded streets of Japan. My Schwinn stingray that had a sissy bar, and a banana seat when I was an eight-year-old kid had a better braking system. The embarrassingly ugly gold Murray ten speed that I had when I was ten had better breaks, and so did my Columbia, Raleigh, Klein, and every other bike that I ever owned as a kid. Who at Montague approved that deal? If I had Fred Flintstone’s feet it wouldn’t be much of an issue, but really… Talk about liability? If there’s one thing a bike needs to do is stop! So, apparently I’ll have to spend more money replacing that deplorably wretched breaking system. For the kind of money I paid for this bike, breaking should be the last thing I had to worry about.
Folding the bike.
The bike comes apart pretty quickly. But, the balance between the front, and rear where it pivots is disproportional. It’s awkward to carry in that manner, and although the bike is not heavy, it doesn’t take long before it gets wearisome. Forget about carrying this bike around as depicted in some of the promotional shots. It’s not gonna happen! After dragging the bike around a train station, and up a flight or two of stairs, I assure you, I was already exhausted, and I run, hike, surf, dive, swim, do yoga, and workout.
It was a bit difficult to manage the bike through a train station turnstile, even with the pedals folded down. Sitting on a train, it takes up two seats, so it’s not really ideal for commuting in Japan. There were no issues getting to where I wanted to go from my home station. However, I had a major issue returning home. I had already manuevered my way through the turnstile, and was about to step down the long flight of stairs that led to the train platform. Suddenly, I was blindsided with a shove. I nearly tumbled down the steps, which was equivalent to two stories. I didn’t quite grasp what was happening, and attempted to go down the steps a second time. I was blindsided, and shoved much harder a second time. My bicycle was ripped from my arms, and tossed to the ground. It took a moment before I realised what was happening. I was being assaulted!
I called out for the police to intervene. The perpetrator must have been twenty years younger than me, and was acting like he wanted to get into a physical altercation. Quickly, before the situation escalated any further, the station supervisor was on the scene. It turned out the person that was assaulting me was an employee of the station. The supervisor chastised the man, immediately sent him away, apologised that I had been stopped, and allowed me to proceed to the platform. As the station employee was walking away he uttered hate speech. Two eye-witnesses whom I don’t know would later tell my employer that I had been attacked by a crazy homeless person. Certainly, Japan has more than its share of lunatics, and racists, but that was no homeless person. It was definitely a Keisei Electric Railway Company employee.
If I have to get assaulted by station employees every time I want to go someplace then what’s the point of having a folding bicycle to commute to work with in the first place? I don’t fault Montague on that, it’s merely another example of a long list of antediluvian, and arcane predicaments where the nation of Japan, and its imperialistic miscellanies prove that it has failed miserably to segue into the modern era. Unfortunately, assaults against foreigners have become all too common.
Overall, the bike is damn nice. It looks really cool, and a lot of people took notice. It also handles well, and is quite sturdy. It’s great to store, as it doesn’t take up much room. However, it’s not a bike for commuting around Japan’s urban communities because of the extremely limited forms of transportation that is available. The brake system that is currently shipping on these bikes is extremely unreliable. The component that is supposed to clamp down on the disc is made of plastic, and bends easily, which causes the brake system to fail in a manner that could mean life, or death. In fact, as stated, but worthy of repeating, the braking system is exceedingly dangerous. Some of the other components are a bit cheap as well, and I would have much rather paid three to five hundred dollars more, and received some higher quality components. Quite honestly for the money, I could have purchased a much higher quality bike, like a Trek, and had a really nice mountain bike, with no component issues at all. Despite all of the down sides of the Montague Paratrooper Pro, having a folding bike to get around tourist spots, festivals, and the beach, is great. It’s excellent for throwing in the back of a car, and for being prepared for any adventure that may arise. That is, once the breaks have been replaced.
As for safety I give the company an F for effort, a D- for failing to communicate adequately, an A- for the innovative design, which I would change to an A+ if they hid away the cables, and did away with the childish stickers. As for the price of the Montague Paratrooper Pro, its durability, and ability to tuck it away, I give it a definite A.
If interested in purchasing a Montague bike contact:
Koshida (U.S.A.) Inc.
5201 Great America Parkway, Suite 320
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Stack Jones is an award winning writer, photographer and musician. In contrast to his music, Stack’s social, religious and political commentaries are scathing. He simply tells it like it is, without allowing external influences to mar his perspective. For more information visit http://stackjones.com.
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