Get ‘down’ with alum’s foldable two-wheelers

It’s cheaper. It’s a good workout. It helps the environment. It comes in handy for if SEPTA goes on strike – again. These are some good reasons for riding a bike. But what happens when

It’s cheaper. It’s a good workout. It helps the environment. It comes in handy for if SEPTA goes on strike – again. These are some good reasons for riding a bike.

But what happens when it’s raining and you decide to take the subway? Or what if you and three friends want to take a road trip and would also like¬† to bring along four bikes? Or what if you rushed out of the house so quickly that you forget your bike lock? Dr. Yan Lyansky, a Temple alumnus who biked across the country twice, said the solution to all these problems is the folding bike.

A downtube is an important part of the bicycle; it connects the top tube to the bottom bracket. It is also the name of the company that Lyansky started when he was a Temple graduate student who rode his bike to classes. Operating the Downtube Web site using the math department’s server, he made minimum profits.

“I started the company not knowing how to run a company,” Lyansky said. “I decided it was time to go on and get my Ph.D., or waste my time doing bike stuff.”
 
Lyansky shelved Downtube to focus on his education. After graduating, he taught at a different school each year, including Villanova University, Lafayette College and Furman University. He currently teaches at East Carolina University.

“I can’t get away from teaching,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Lyansky resurrected Downtube during his early years as a professor. After 10 years of establishment, it is now the largest online bicycling resource center. Recently, Lyansky opened a bike shop located in Bensalem, Bucks County, a suburb
of Philadelphia.

The most unique feature about the company’s bikes is that they fold in half. Once folded and placed in its bag, which comes as a gift valued at $65, the cyclist may carry and take it wherever they go. It is compact enough to accommodate at least two bikes in the trunk of a car.

Lyansky designed all of his bikes, which comes in either eight- or nine-speeds with aluminum frames. They have rear, front, full or no suspension. The bikes range from 24 pounds to 28 pounds and have been tested to support a 245-pound person.

Lyansky said that out of the 2,000 bikes sold this year, none have had defected frames.

Other than having high-quality control, Downtube bikes are customized to fit the rider as closely as possible.

“Most people don’t ride their bikes as often as they should or could because their bikes are generally not comfortable,” he said.

Downtube bicycles have seats with an angle back, which adjusts to the way the rider sits. They also have a shock that reduces tension from the rider’s buttocks.

The bicycles come with 16- or 20-inch wheels with adjustable handles and seat tubes to suit any rider, including young children.

Everything about the bike is standard, making it possible to replace any part except for the frame or stem. However, Lyansky said that it is impossible for the frames to break since they are overbuilt, meaning they are more durable because they are made from titanium, which is stronger than aluminum.

The company retails, imports and distributes its bikes, eliminating a middle-man and making prices more affordable. Prices range from $300 to $450 at www.downtube.com, but can be found cheaper on eBay. Any ordered products are shipped the next business day.

Downtube does receive negative feedback.

Typical consumer complaints deal with the prices, poor stitching on the carry bags or the high gearing on one particular bike.

But Lyansky has more positive e-mails than he can handle.

“The buyers didn’t expect the bike to be that comfortable or that high-quality, especially for the price,” he said. “They are using it dramatically more than they’ve ever imagined. They feel better and they’re happier. That’s what I get in my inbox.”

Anne Ha can be reached at aha.263@temple.edu.

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