Update 24/02/12: It has been nearly two years since I put up this article, and it’s still one of the most visted posts on the site. In that time I have received a number of comments on and offline about it. I posted it originally because I felt that it was the best way to get a single voice heard by the manufacturers, and I hope it has had some impact. Putting my name behind my opinion could only be a good thing. When I originally bought the bike, I had read good things about it and felt that it was the best small folding bike on the market. On balance, I don’t think that has really changed *ducks abuse from Brompton fans*. I do think that all products have room for improvement, and this is my honest feedback; I hope that the manufacturer has taken notice. Anyway, let the article inform you, but note that since I wrote this things may have changed.
It’s been over a year since I bought my Mezzo D9, and I thought I’d do a proper review with some serious mileage on the clock. The problem with most reviews is that they’re done too soon after the purchase and the quirks haven’t shown up. It’s easy to brush off issues with a new shiny toy.
I bought it because of a number of factors. Firstly, it folds into a small package – necessary since I live in an apartment and don’t have anywhere to lock up a full sized bike. It’s light, and I can fold it up and take it home on the tube if I ride it to work and the weather turns or an impromptu social occasion turns up. It’s nice looking in a geeky-cool kind of way, much neater than a Brompton, and the parts (brakes, gears etc) are interchangeable with off the shelf kit from the big name manufacturers (a big bonus). This is quite different from Bromptons, which have custom parts for pretty much everything. The ride is comfortable, and it really doesn’t feel like a small fold up bike. The somewhat weird handlebar positioning means it’s really stable, and not at all twitchy. All in all, good for city commuting.
I’d love to say it’s a great bike, but I can’t. At just over £700 it wasn’t cheap, and to be honest, I expected better. Mechanically (frame, gears) it’s great, but the standard small parts are a huge let down. A bit about my riding habits – home to work is 12km / 8 miles, roughly 3-4 days a week, London riding (potholes, uneven roads/concrete plates).
After two weeks, the folding plastic(!) pedals broke. Not off completely, but around the shaft leaving the flat part tilted at an angle. On looking around for replacements, I found the same ones on the net with a review that they’re cheap and breakage is common. I swapped them out for something a bit sturdier (metal folding ones, £25).
A month later, the brakes started failing. Not what you want in city traffic. On closer inspection, the standard brakes pads were about 2/3 the size of standard ones from a bike shop and were wearing unevenly. I switched them out for mid-range Shimanos with replaceable pads and haven’t looked back (£30).
Then there’s the tires. In the last year, I’ve done more tire changes than an F1 team in the same time frame. While I’ve learned a valuable life skill, I’d much rather just get to work and back. The rubber on the standard tires is just too thin. Replacement ones from Schwalbe (same size as the more popular Bromptons, and available from most bike shops) £35 each. Worse, and it’s something that you only discover through pain, the rim tape(!) is poor quality. What ends up happening is that the tube rubs against the spoke holes in the rim and causes punctures towards the inside of the wheel. I only worked out what was causing that after a half dozen punctures. Good quality replacement canvas tape? £2 a tire! Seriously, how hard is that to get right? Come on…
So, structurally good, but seriously let down by crappy off the shelf parts. Straight out of the shop, you may as well drop another £130 to replace the bits I’ve mentioned (and I haven’t counted the cost of tubes, tire repair kits, pump and other miscellany). Would I buy it again? Probably not. It’s a commuter bike, but not for the distances I travel, which admittedly aren’t huge. I’ve recently found fold-down hybrids and mountain bikes, which would seem to be a much better fit – the small wheels on the Mezzo mean you pedal twice as much for the same distance. That’s more a reflection as to how suitable it was for my needs.
As it stands, now that all the bits have been replaced, I do like it and I’m happy with it. If Mezzo got the parts right, it could be great out of the traps – as it stands, it’s a pain. It’s nonsense that you’d hesitate to ride to work because you’re constantly worried about changing flats.
Grade: B. Could do better.