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I've been thinking of buying an internally-geared folding bike for commuting (5 km each way) and errands. I want to spend $100-$200, but I want a reasonable-quality frame; I don't want to ever have to replace the frame with a new one.

Some "Auto-Mini" folding bikes were made in Austria about 50 years ago; I see a bunch for sale on Craigslist in my city.

How are the frames: are they well-made?

How's the bikes' ride quality?

[Edit: I've read that the frames are prone to cracking. Is the Auto-Mini still a reasonable choice, considering the criteria I mentioned above?]

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Dear all: The question still has zero upvotes. If you didn't upvote it: Why not? :) –  unforgettableid Jul 14 '13 at 16:03
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For me, two things. I've never heard of or encountered an auto-mini, and I'm not a big fan of community wiki. –  amcnabb Jul 14 '13 at 17:58
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Spending $100 - $200 on a folding bike won't get you quality of any sort. Folding bikes with quality frames are significantly more expensive. You may want to save up for a bit before buying, or find a way to get a non-folding bike. Also, just a friendly tip: Complaining that you're not being upvoted is not going to get you upvotes. –  Neil Fein Jul 15 '13 at 7:09
    
@NeilFein: Thank you; I guess I'll spend more then. Also, thanks for the tip. My comment wasn't actually intended as a complaint; I was actually worried that the question would be automatically deleted if it didn't get at least one upvote. But today I checked the automatic-deletion rules and I see that the question will actually never be automatically deleted. So I'm no longer worried about the fact that the question has no upvotes. –  unforgettableid Jul 15 '13 at 19:43
    
Dear downvoter: Why the downvote? –  unforgettableid Jul 22 '13 at 21:19

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted
  • Auto-Mini folding bikes were made by Puch in Austria for various department stores. In North America, vendors included J.C. Penney, Montgomery-Ward, and Simpsons-Sears. (thebikeguy, 2007; Martin, 1996; Thomas, 2011b; cf. Bikeworks, c. 1998.) The main-tube sticker always said "Auto-Mini" in huge type, with the word "Junior" in faint type inside the letter "T" of the word "Auto" (personal experience). The head badge may have "Executive", "Iverson", "Senator", or another "brand name" on it; I presume this varies according to which store sold the bike.

About the bikes:

  • They have 20" wheels. Any Auto-Mini can be adjusted to fit an adult or a child (UsedOttawa, 2012); note that this is a common characteristic of folding bikes. An Auto-Mini uses a Thompson-style bottom bracket. Keep it lubricated (Scott, 2008), as it's a hassle to replace it with a modern bottom bracket (Rehder, 2007, quoting Chen).

  • There were at least two distinct types of Auto-Mini. They differ slightly: for example, one has a slightly-larger frame; one has a slightly-smaller one (Thomas, 2011c). Thomas bought the slightly-larger type (Thomas, 2011c) and provided a detailed parts list in a blog entry (Thomas, 2011a).

About the frame and the ride quality:

  • "I have a few of them myself and find that they are a good sturdy riding bike." (Scott, 2008.)

  • "They are prone to cracking where the main tube intersects with the seat tube. There are fixes". (Rehder, 2007, quoting Chen).

  • "For some reason I find these ride nicer than the other old folders — maybe they got the wheelbase just right or the weight is a little less. I own a few (they're cheap) and they suffer from frame breakage in a couple of places; where the seat tube meets the bottom bracket shell (too much stress) and where the two thin seat stay tubes meet the seat tube (lousy welds). If you can weld, you can improve the frame by adding a piece of tubing between the bottom bracket shell and the main tube. Otherwise, ride gently." (Seal, 2011).

In sum, if you want a quality frame, spend more and buy something better than an Auto-Mini. "Spending $100 - $200 on a folding bike won't get you quality of any sort. Folding bikes with quality frames are significantly more expensive. You may want to save up for a bit before buying, or find a way to get a non-folding bike." (Fein, 2013).

Please feel free to edit this post and add your own personal opinions.

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+1 Nicely sourced. –  Carey Gregory Jul 14 '13 at 17:00
    
@CareyGregory: Thank you. But I'm not so concerned about the answer: I'm mostly concerned that the question has zero upvotes. :) –  unforgettableid Jul 14 '13 at 17:08
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I'm not sure why this is community wiki. I think you should get credit for your research. –  amcnabb Jul 14 '13 at 17:59
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I agree with @amcnabb. I think this is too much of an obscure, niche bike to be a wiki. It's perfectly fine to ask and answer your own question, and anyone searching for info on the bike will easily find your question. –  Carey Gregory Jul 14 '13 at 22:50
    
Dear @amcnabb and dear Carey: Fair points. Well, it's already community wiki, and anyway I don't need more than 400 reputation in order to do the things I want to do on Bicycles.SE. Plus I want to encourage future edits. Even if it's unlikely that anyone will ever suggest a future edit, it might happen, and I want to encourage the possibility of that happening. –  unforgettableid Jul 15 '13 at 19:46

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