Category Archives: Folding Bikes

Folding bike reviews, technical guide, price guide, and more..

Folding bikes

Folding Bike Price Guide (UK)

Folding bikesThis page used to list all non-electric folding bikes. Keeping the list up-to-date became increasingly difficult, as brands exploded, and prices fluctuated wildly, both on and off the web. In May 2017, we decided reluctantly to drop the ‘Under £500’ table altogether and replace it with a ‘wish list’ to help you make your own judgement.

UK Folding Bike Under £500

Wish List:
Weight Under 12kg
Frame: Alloy
Gears: 3-spd Hub
Wheel size: 20-inch
Equipment: Rear rack, mudguards

A higher price is a very poor guide to quality, so look for the best spec at the cheap end before reluctantly opting to pay more. It is still feasible to get a decent bike for less than £200

Obviously go for the lightest bike you can find, but treat all manufacturers figures with caution. Very few distributors bother checking such things, so the quoted figure will usually be something jotted down on the back of an envelope by the Chinese manufacturer. Tipping point for weight is 12kg – anything genuinely under this weight is OK in this price range, while anything over will be hard for most people to carry far. Alloy frames are usually lighter than steel, but not always! A well designed steel bike will weigh less than a poorly designed alloy one.

Wheel Size
With the better quality, pricier bikes, 16-inch wheels are quite acceptable, but at this cheap end, go for 20-inch. Cheap smaller wheelers with slow tyres, poor geometry and excess weight need all the help they can get, and all things being equal, 20-inch tyres will roll better than 16-inch

The vast majority of these bikes are fitted with very cheap derailleur gears. These have a limited life, and cannot usually be repaired. As a rough guide, the more gears, the better the quality, so 6 is poor and 9 is good (with a front shifter, 18 gears is poor and 27 is good), but there are exceptions.
If you can’t afford a hub gear, a single speed can be very good for shorter journeys, and there’s less weight and nothing to go wrong. For more serious use, go for hub gears if you can find them.
Hub gears are a little heavier than derailleurs, but they last forever, need virtually no maintenance, and can be regeared to suit your personal preference. A 3-speed hub is much better than a cheap 6-speed derailleur, and if you can find a 5- or 7-speed hub in this price range (unlikely), you are in folder nirvana

Really, seriously, don’t think about it with a cheap bike. Cheap suspension won’t work well, and it will add a great deal of weight that you will have to lug around. You’ll regret it forever

All equipment adds weight, but makes the machine much more practical. A rear rack is a must, as are mudguards. Lights are lovely, but very rare on cheaper bikes

In the internet age, branding has ceased to have much meaning. At this cheaper end of the market, most bikes come from Vietnam or China, where countless brands are churned out in the same factory using the same crummy components. It makes sense to go with a High Street brand if you can, because you’ll get some back-up when it goes wrong, but don’t seriously expect the hip young dudes at Halfords to know any more about folding bikes than the kindly till-assistant at Tescos, so the actual brand doesn’t really matter


UK Folding Bike Over £500

Manufacturer & Model (1)
PRICE(3) Wheels Gears Gear(3) Frame & Weight Comment
Strida LT Circa £500 16″ 1 Alum 10kg Only seems to be available from Velorution of London or online from European shops.
Strida MAS Edition review
Tern Link D7i £500 20″ 7 Hub Alum 14kg Big discount from retail price
Montague X50 MTB £522 26″ 3×6 Der Alum 15kg
Junction 1707 Country
£529 20″ 7 Der Alum 12kg Badge-engineered Tern with derailleur
Junction 1707 City
£529 20″ 7 Hub Alum 14kg Badge-engineered Tern with 7-speed Nexus hub
Montagu Urban £540 28″ 7 Der Alum 12kg Halfords Price
Ridgeback Attaché £540 20″ 7 Hub Alum 12kg
Giant Halfway 2
£549 20″ 7 Der Alum 13kg Now quite an expensive bike
Dahon Mu Uno £560 20″ 1 Alum 10kg Very light, single speed and coaster brake
Dahon Speed P8 Fire £513 20″ 8 Der Alum 12kg Available at Fudges only in-store
Giant Halfway 2 City
£599 20″ 7 Der Alum 13kg
Dahon Curve D3 £599 16″ 3 Hub Alum 12kg
Strida SX £599 18″ 1 Alum 10kg Only seems to be available from Velorution of London or online from European shops.
Bickerton Docklands 1824 Country
£579 26″ 3×8 Der Alum 14kg Badge-engineered Tern
Tern Verge P9 £635 20″ 9 Der Alum 11kg
Mezzo d9 £725 16″ 9 Der Alum 12kg
Xootr Swift £749 16″ 8 Der Alum 11kg
Dahon Visc P18 £720 20″ 9 Der Alum 12kg Neos derailleur
Montagu Paratrooper MTB £720 26″ 3×8 Der Alum 13kg
Di Blasi R22 £736 20″ 7 Der Steel 13kg Heavy, but quite a practical folder
Dahon Mu P27 £740 20″ 3×9 Hub/Der Alum 13kg
Tern Eclipse P18 £765 20″ 2×9 Der Alum 13kg
Brompton M1E £770 16″ 1 Steel 10kg Cheapest Brompton variant
Montague Swissbike X50 £800 26″ 3×6 Der Alum 15kg
Mezzo D-9 Curve £799 16″ 9 Der Alum 12kg
Di Blasi R22S £836 20″ 7 Der Stainless 13kg Marine version of Italian folding bike
Bike Friday Tikit £850 16″ 8 Der Steel 13kg Heavily discounted at Cycle Sense, Tadcaster. Seems to be old/end-of-line stock. Great little bike
Mezzo D-10 £875 16″ 10 Der Alum 11kg Top-end Mezz
Montague Paratrooper Pro MTB £882 26″ 3×9 Der Alum 13kg Halfords Price
Brompton M3L £895 16″ 3 Hub Steel 12kg Representative price of popular variant
Brompton S2L £895 16″ 2 Der Steel 11kg Representative price of popular variant
Strida Evo £899 18″ 3 Hub Alum 13kg Only seems to be available from Velorution of London or online from European shops.
Birdy World Sport £999 18″ 8 Der Alum 12kg Entry level Birdy
Riese & Müller Frog £999 16″ 8 Hub Alum 12kg End of line discount
Dahon Speed Pro TT £950 20″ 3×7 D + H Alum 12kg BIG end of line discount
Pashley Moulton TSR2 £995 20″ 2 Hub Steel 13kg Separable frame
Airnimal Joey Sport £1149 24″ 8 Der Steel 11kg Entry-level Airnimal
Tern Verge X10 £1150 20″ 10 Der Alum 10kg More realistically priced
Montague Swissbike X70 £1200 26″ 3 x 10 Der Alum 12kg
Pacific IF Reach White £1200 20″ 18 Der Alum 12kg Fudges seem to be the only dealer
Birdy World Comfort £1289 18″ 7 Hub Alum ?kg NEW in 2014
Tern Verge S11i £1280 20″ 11 Der Alum 12kg Big discount
Bike Friday Pocket Llama £1299 20″ 8 Der Steel ?kg Discounted. Prices varying wildly
Airnimal Joey Explore £1299 24″ 27 Der Steel 13kg 507mm rims allow chunkier tyres. Explore Drop £200 extra
Birdy Light £1379 18″ 8 Der Alum 11kg New in 2014 and a popular model
Airnimal Joey Commute £1399 24″ 8 Der Steel 14kg 507mm rims allow chunkier tyres
Bike Friday Pocket Crusoe £1399 20″ 11 Der Steel ?kg Discounted… price and spec vary wildly
Brompton S2L-X £1465 16″ 2 Der Steel/Titanium 10kg Representative price of popular variant. Modest price increase
Brompton M3L-X £1465 16″ 3 Hub Steel/Titanium 11kg Representative price of popular variant. Modest price increase
Birdy City Premium £1499 18″ 8 Hub Alum 12kg  
Di Blasi R32 TRICYCLE £1540 20″ 5 Der Steel 22kg Heavy, and undergeared, but wow, what a folder!
Brompton P6R-X £1585 16″ 6 Hub/Der Steel/Titanium 12kg Representative price of popular variant. Modest price increase
Birdy Touring £1549 18″ 8 Der Alum 12kg
Bike Friday Express Tikit £1775 16″ 9 Der Steel 10kg Great Brompton-style bike, but now very expensive. See entry at £850 for cheaper bike
Birdy Speed £1889 18″ 9 Der Alum 10kg
Airnimal White Rhino £1899 24″ 8 Der Steel 14kg Big price increase
Pacific IF Mode £1900 26″ 2 Geared Crank Alum Innovative folder from Pacific, fitted with Schlumpf SpeedDrive
Airnimal Chameleon Performance Sport £1999 24″ 2×10 Der Steel 10kg
Birdy Speed Disc £2149 18″ 9 Der Alum 10kg
Airnimal Road Rhino £2199 20″ 3×9 Der Steel 12kg
Airnimal Chameleon Ultra £2349 24″ 20 Der Steel 10kg
Airnimal Joey Explore Elite £2499 24″ 14 Hub Steel 14spd Rohloff hub version. 507mm rims allow chunkier tyres.
Birdy Rohloff £2739 18″ 14 Hub Alum 12kg Top end Birdy – very expensive
Birdy Rohloff Disc £2999 18″ 14 Hub Alum 12kg Absurdly expensive
Airnimal Chameleon Ultima £3349 24″ 20 Der Steel 9kg Big Price Increase
Airnimal Black Rhino £3199 24″ 14 Hub Steel 14kg Rohloff 14spd hub model

Folding Bike Manufacturers or UK dealers/distributors

The comments relate to our own experience with manufacturers or local UK distributors where one exists. As a general rule, a company that supplies a good product will be open and helpful with the press, and give good service and back-up. The others are something of an unknown quantity, but if you think we’ve been unfair, do let us know…

Completely uncommunicative
Airnimal Designs Ltd, 61 Mulberry Close, CAMBRIDGE CB4 2AS (difficult to discover this!)
01954 782020
e-mail not given

Has never contacted us
01268 762616 (unable to verify this) (unable to verify this)

Never responds to emails
Larger Argos stores

AS Bikes
Only contacted us once, when they were starting out
Coppice Close, Leamington Road, Ryton on Dunsmore, COVENTRY CV8 3FL
024 7630 3228

Has now been in touch
Kaitek Trading Ltd, c/o Sterling Power Products, Unit 8 Wassage Way, Hampton Lovett Industrial Estate, DROITWICH WR9 0NX
01905 778751

Bike Friday, Xootr
Always friendly and helpful
Avon Valley Cyclery, rear of Bath Train Station, BATH BA1 1SX
01225 442442
USA webform:

Birdy, Frog
Always friendly and helpful
Riese und Müller GmbH, Haasstraße 6, 64293 DARMSTADT, Germany
+49 6151 366860

Always friendly and helpful
Brompton Bicycle Ltd, Kew Bridge DC, Lionel Road South, BRENTFORD,Middlesex TW8 9QR
020 8232 8484

Buy Buy

Helpful, but rather grudgingly so
Moore Large & Co Ltd, Grampian Buildings, Sinfin Lane, DERBY, DE24 9GL
01332 274200

Claude Butler
No online sales facility
Claude Butler Ltd, Bridge Street, BRIGG, North Lincs DN20 8PB
01652 656000

Dahon – see Raleigh, below

Dahon (Spares & Advice)
Direct sales division of Cyclemotion, run by the ever-charming Mark Bickerton
World Wheels is licensed by Dahon Global through Cyclemotion as the official UK and EU Internet Reseller.
E-commerce and pre-delivery inspection for World Wheels are handled by:
CH White & Son, (Dept WW), 51 High Street, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 9AG, United Kingdom
01233 731234

Badge-engineered Dahon models
35 Tameside Drive, Castle Bromwich, BIRMINGHAM B35 7AG
0121 748 8050

New to folding bikes, but interesting machines
Canada Water Retail Park, Surrey Quays Road, London SE16
020 7394 2000

Di Blasi
Helpful, but rather grudgingly so
Concept Edge Power Ltd, 12 Field Heath Road, HILLINGDON, Middlesex UB8 3NF
01895 850455

Fisher Outdoor Leisure, 8 Brick Knoll Park, Ashley Road, ST ALBANS AL1 5UG
tel: Fill in webform and ask to be telephoned back
email: Webform

Folding Bikes 4U
Appeared like a mushroom overnight, and seems to have gone just as rapidly

Helpful in the past, but currently playing the ‘remote multinational’
Giant UK Ltd, Charnwood Edge, Syston Road, COSSINGTON, Leics, LE7 4UZ
tel: 0844 245 9030

Fairly well known
Larger Halfords stores

Land Rover
Badge-engineered Dahon models
2×2 Worldwide, Unit 6, Hall End Business Park, Dordon, TAMWORTH, Staffs B78 1SX
01827 331099
mail webform:

Friendly and helpful
ATB Sales Ltd, Whitworth Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN37 7PZ
01424 753566
(no contact information found on website

Mission Cycles
Always friendly and helpful
Mission Cycles & Components, Unit 3, The Alders, Seven Mile Lane, Mereworth, MAIDSTONE, Kent M18 5JG
01622 815678

Information from French export manager
UK: Cyclecentric Ltd, 7 Spring Lane, Bottisham, CAMBRIDGE CB25 9BL
01954 789284

Some confusion over who the ‘official’ distributor is
2X2 Worldwide, 27 Wellsbourne Road, WELLSBOURNE, Warwickshire CV35 9JB
01827 331099

Cool, but efficient; their website is one of the most uninformative encountered
Alex Moulton Bicycles, Holt Road, BRADFORD-ON-AVON, Wiltshire BA15 1AH
01225 865895

Seems to have exclusive UK distribution
Fudges, 564-566 Harrow Road, Paddington, LONDON W9 3QH
0208 969 5991

Pashley Moulton TSR
Totally uncommunicative in our experience
Pashley Cycles, Masons Road, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6NL
01789 292263

Probably doesn’t know A to B exists – Also an agent for Dahon
Raleigh UK Ltd, Church Street, Eastwood, NOTTINGHAM NG16 3HT
01773 532600

Primarily badge-engineered Dahon models
Madison Cycles PLC, Burnell House, 8 Stanmore Hill, STANMORE, Middlesex HA7 3BQ
020 8385 3385

Sea Sure Ltd, Clock Tower Works, Shore Road, Warsash, Hampshire SO31 9GQ
01489 885 401

Sinclair A-Bike
Gone quiet since we tested the A-bike
Mayhem UK Ltd, The Perfume Factory, 140 Wales Farm Road, LONDON W3 6UG
0870 766 8498

Bike Republic has taken on the excellent Velorution store
Bike Republic, 91-93 Great Portland Street, Marylebone, London W1W 7NX
0207 148 5572

New breakaway Dahon brand
F W Evans Cycles Ltd, Camino Park, James Watt Way, CRAWLEY, West Sussex RH10 9TZ
01580 755633 (shows as such on website)

Universal Cycles
Probably doesn’t know A to B exists
Festival Leisure Park, BASILDON, Essex SS14 3WB
01268 247007


Brompton Raw Lacquer Folding Bike

Folding Bike Buyer’s Guide (UK)

This page ranks folding bikes available in the UK based on our reviews in A to B magazine, and each folding bike is judged by a star system. This can only provide a rough guide, particularly where one rating covers a range of different bikes. You’ll find the best folding bikes at the top of the page and the worst below. At the very bottom is our ‘Dead & Buried’ section, covering bikes formally in the list that have been withdrawn. We hasten to add that many of these are fine machines that just didn’t make it commercially. The list is not comprehensive, but we’ll keep adding to it.

Generally, the arrival of the internet has been positive, pushing folding bike prices down, but it’s also destroyed the rich diversity that was available only a decade or so ago. Specialist machines find it very hard to survive where prices are under such constant pressure, and the result has been a distinct reduction in folding bike variety. Very sad, but inevitable.

Full reviews of most of the folding bikes featured below are available from our back numbers page, but new subscribers can receive all digital issues back to issue 55 (August 2006) for just £2, so it will usually be cheaper to take out a digital subscription than order several recent back numbers.

Brompton starstarstarStarStar

Price: From £840   Production: 1981 on   Rating: 5/5
Verdict: “Still the best compact folder on the market”

A to B folding bike - BromptonAfter a production run of over a quarter of a century, the Brompton remains the definitive folding bike. Revamped several times, the model range was completely reconstructed in 2005, with two new families – the sporty S-type and touring P-type. With the new bikes came a whole range of new accessories and options, from ball-bearing rollers for the rear rack to lightweight titanium frame parts. Folding the Brompton takes less than 15 seconds to a volume of 85 litres (3 cu ft) and it locks together, so it’s easy to carry. Unique to the Brompton is a range of pricey but effective luggage secured over the front wheel by a quick-release system. Rear suspension deals with the bumps and the small 16-inch wheels make the Brompton very maneuverable through traffic, its natural habitat. It weighs from about 10kg and is currently available with a 3-speed hub; 3-speed hub plus Brompton’s own 2-speed derailleur, producing an effective 6-speed; 2-speed derailleur, or single speed. Primarily a commuter machine, the Brompton can actually be ridden considerable distances thanks to its rear suspension and high-pressure tyres.

Some Brompton models have a rack and dynamo lights, but our tip is to opt for the cheaper, lighter ‘L’ type, plus the front luggage and optional battery lighting set. If you can afford it, the L-X option is lighter still.

Although designed and produced in England, the Brompton has also been built under licence by Neobike in Taiwan for sale in the Pacific rim countries, but this agreement has long been terminated and production wound up. Strangely, if you see a Brompton carrying a Union Jack flag, it will either be one of these early pattern machines, or a more recent pirated copy. It will almost certainly be made in Taiwan or China! Other manufacturers – notably Oyama and Merc – have tried to copy the Brompton, but the results are usually a bit laughable and Brompton has taken legal action to have them destroyed. Recently, reviews elsewhere have questioned the Brompton’s place at the top of the pile, and it’s true that in the last few years the Brompton’s meticulous engineering evolution seems to have been replaced by lifestyle accessories and PR guff, but the bike remains fundamentally in a different league to everything else. The spec of the titanium bikes has recently been downgraded, which is a real shame, and several recent engineering projects have come to nothing, but titanium bits and bobs are now being produced by a Brompton offshoot in Sheffield, and the electric project is back on track and due for release in early 2018 (we have an exclusive road-test in A to B 117). It’s fundamentally such a superb product, we can see no viable challengers for the foreseeable future. More recently, the ‘H’ type bars were introduced for taller people for whom the bike could feel a bit tiddly.

Beware of imitations – see Merc in the ‘Dead & Buried’ section below!

We have numerous road-tests of Brompton models and technical articles. The best way to see all of these is to choose our entire digital back-number archive or subscribe to the Exact Editions digital subscription, which is cheaper, but only gives short-term access to the digitised back-numbers.

Airnimal starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: From £1,499   Production: 2002 on  Rating: 4/5
Verdict: “Superb performance machine”

A to B folding bike - Airnimal Joey Commute

The Airnimal is designed in the UK, but the frame is made somewhere cheaper, so this attractive, low-volume performance folding bike is less expensive than you might think. Like the Bike Friday range, the Airnimal can be quick-folded for the train, or dismantled for long-distance hard-case transport. Airnimal’s special selling points are suspension on some models, and larger (507mm or 520mm) wheels. These are sometimes described as 20-inch, but are actually 24-inch. Tyres are a bit rare in these sizes, but the extra diameter will give a slight performance edge and a bigger bike feel without undue compromise on folding.

Hummingbird starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: From £3,495   Production: 2017 on  Rating: 4/5
Verdict: “Superb performance machine”

This bike might have squeezed into the 5-star zone if it had been cheaper. The company was hoping to sell it for a pricey but manageable £1,500, but it’s ended up rather more than double that.. Never mind. So it’s expensive, it folds rather badly, and it’s only one- or four-speed. What’s the USP? In a word, weight. The development target was 6.5kg, and they’re claiming 6.9kg (presumably single-speed), but it’s still pretty good… almost unequalled in fact. Being light, and quick and easy to fold – albeit into a rather cumbersome package – it makes a perfect hop-on-and-off city bike for the seriously well-heeled.

Tern starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: From £499   Production: 2011 on  Rating: 4/5
Verdict: “The best of Dahon, repackaged”

Tern Verge P18 Folding Bike

When Joshua Hon broke away from his father’s company Dahon in 2011, to set up a younger, slicker outfit, we expected all sorts of exciting things, but the reality has been a very similar range, with the only real difference being in the, er, younger, slicker marketing. At least the range is simpler and easier to understand, with just five frame styles and 22 variants in all, from the 20-inch Verge to the 26-inch Joe. Prices were all over the place while former Dahon dealers were selling off their very similar stock, and in early 2014, there was a great deal of confusion, with 2012, 2013 and 2014 models being sold side-by-side. This was not helped by Tern’s decision to sell the bikes through Evans in the UK, whereas Hon Senior had landed with Raleigh, but Dahon is now with Evans, and Tern is distributed by Moore Large, hopefully to a wider range of local shops.

Dahon starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: From £485  Production: 1982 on  Rating: 4/5
Verdict: “Looking stronger in 2017, with better UK distribution”

A to B folding bike - Dahon Curve

Designed in America, but built in Taiwan, and more recently China and Macau, Dahon produces a range of neat folders, from economical 16-inch (305mm, rather than the bigger 349mm tyre) models to full-size MTBs and 700c road bikes.

In early 2010, a confident Dahon claimed to be the biggest folding bike manufacturer in the world, and it certainly offered the widest range. But within a year, the empire had split apart, with young Joshua Hon leaving to set up Tern, taking the youngest and most able designers and marketeers with him, while his father David stayed at the helm of Dahon. For while it looked as though Dahon wouldn’t survive, but David is made of tough stuff, and he’s been in the business a long time. Dahon signed a UK distribution deal with Raleigh in 2011, giving Dahon access to Raleigh’s huge dealer network, but it seems Dr Hon couldn’t resist the ‘pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap’ ethos at Evans Cycles, and this is now the primary outlet for Daghon in the UK.

Dahons have also been marketed under a variety of brand names in different countries, and this process of ‘Badge Engineering’ continues apace. In the UK, badges include Dawes, Ridgeback and Rudge. Dahon also licenses its technology to affiliated companies such as Yeah bicycles, so very similar looking machines may turn up under different brand names, sold through marine chandlers and other outlets. Dahon’s bikes have also been copied by Neobike.

Ignore the basic 16-inch Dahons, which have smaller (305mm versus 347mm) tyres than the Brompton, Tikit and Mezzo, and no suspension, so rolling resistance is horrible, and they trip up in every pothole. The specification and performance of the larger wheeled Dahons has improved out of all recognition, and they currently produce some of the lightest bikes on the market too. Dahon is best known for its 20-inch (406mm) machines, and there are plenty (some would say too many) to choose from. At the budget end, we’d recommend the Vitesse or Speed, and the elegant Mu SL, which weighs less than 9kg. There are also a number of 26-inch and 700c full-size machines available, including mountain bikes of varying sophistication.
We have numerous road-tests of Dahon models.

A to B tip: You don’t need to buy a Dahon to get a Dahon, because the machines are so widely ‘Badge Engineered’. There are also lots of old stock bargains to be had, and bikes from a year or two ago are often very similar to the latest models. Shop with caution.

Moulton TSR starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: From £995   Rating: 4/5
Verdict: Cheaper Moulton variants built under licence”

A to B folding bike - Moulton TSR2 Demountable
Some years ago, Pashley began producing mass-produced version of the Moulton bicycle, with front and rear suspension, 20-inch wheels and a steel space-frame. This APB (All Purpose Bicycle) was comfortable and rode well, even off-road with the right equipment. But at 13 to 14+kg, it was heavy, and had a solid, frumpy feel that left many owners dissatisfied. It was replaced with the TSR, a lighter, neater and rather upmarket machine, with prices starting at £1,200.
The process has now reached what was perhaps a logical conclusion, with the Pashley badges being removed and the TSRs sold as Moultons through the Moulton distribution network… all possible because Pashley now owns Moulton. Like the ‘proper’ Moultons, the TSR doesn’t fold, although most split in two, which takes a few minutes. These machines are not suitable for regular folding, so don’t expect to undertake daily commuting. Incidentally, the rumour is that the TSR is named after the British jet strike aircraft of the 1960s that promised to outfly the Americans and Russian designs, but was tragically cancelled and scrapped, along with our space project and almost everything else that looked new and exciting. Hope the bicycle doesn’t go the same way. Joking apart, these are lovely bicycles, and cheaper than you might think, but they are knocked down the list by their poor folding abilities. 

We have two reviews of the Moulton APB and one of the Land Rover, but none of the TSR.

Strida Mark 3 starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: From £480  Production: 1987-1992 and 1998 on  Rating: 4/5
Verdict: “Lots of style, and now a surprisingly good performer too”

A to B folding bike - Strida

After six years, the unique Strida returned to the market in 1998 as the Mark 2, but production later moved from Suffolk to Taiwan and the bike was revamped to produce the Mark 3. In China the number four is considered unlucky, so Strida produced the Mini instead, then moved on to the Mark 5. Although rare in Britain, the bikes have been a huge hit in the Far East and it is this success that has funded a gradual process of development of this unique folding bike.
For many years the bike was a single-speed, but you can now buy a two-speed with a Schlumpf crank-mounted gear set, and even a 3-speed – almost certainly the first three-speed, kick-change crank-mounted gear set ever.
Ironically, considering its UK origins, the Strida is hard to find in the UK, but it has developed into a great little bike. Constructed from aluminium and plastic, and weighing less than 10kg, the Strida has drum brakes and an oil-free toothed rubber drive belt for easy maintenance. Folding in ten seconds or even less, this is the ultimate ‘stick’ folder. A much prized fashion accessory for the cyclist with everything, and now re-engineered to perform much better. No, honestly, we rode 10 miles without the slightest problem – it’s now a perfectly practical bike. Folded size has improved too. The maximum dimension is still 113cm, but folding handlebars have cut the folded volume in half, to 130 litres (4.6 cu ft).
We have three road-tests of the Strida.

Giant Halfway starstarstarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £529   Production: 2001 – 2016?  Rating: 3/5
Verdict: “Stylish and practical, but undergeared and heavy.”

A to B folding bike - Giant Halfway

The Halfway is based on a Mike Burrows design, but built in Taiwan by Giant. Despite – or perhaps because of – the monoblade forks, the handling is very safe and secure. Twenty-inch wheels and a rigid alloy frame inspire confidence, particularly for those unfamiliar with small wheels. On the downside, it’s a bit heavy and the gearing is on the low side, but something of a modern classic all the same. The Halfway was joined by the Subway in 2011, a cheaper, more conventional 16-incher of dubious origins, kept hidden firmly under the counter by wise Giant dealers. This nasty little bike was supposed to retail for much the same price as the Halfway, but thankfully was dropped in 2012. The Halfway has been looking a bit old and tired, and production appears to have stopped in 2016, but do correct us if you know otherwise. Well worth buying if you can find one discounted in a dusty corner of your local Giant dealer.

We have one road-test of the Giant Halfway Multispeed.

Birdy starstarstarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £1,170  Production: 1995 on  Rating: 3/5
Verdict: “Unique all-purpose machine, but less attractive than it was”

A to B folding bike - Birdy

The German designed/Taiwanese built Birdy epitomises a new breed of high tech, forward-looking folding bikes. The frame is made of sturdy aluminium and has both front and rear suspension, offering a smooth ride, anti-dive braking and excellent handling. Unfortunately, the UK price is now a little high, thanks to exchange rate thingies. The Birdy was starting to look a bit dated, but has been revitalised with a new monocoque frame on most models. Manufacturer Riese & Muller seems to have given up on the cheap end, and the re are now far fewer bikes, top of the range being the Rohloff, with 3-speed Sturmey transmission… no only joking, 14-speed Rohloff hub transmission. You’ll need a mortgage for that one. The Birdy weighs from 10kg, so it’s reasonably light, but rather overtaken by recent Dahon and Brompton models. Folding takes from about 15 seconds and produces a 190 litre (6.6cu ft) package, but not everyone finds the technique easy. Tyres are 18×1 3/8″ (actually barely larger than 16×1 3/8″) and the available range of tyres are mostly of quite poor quality, although things have improved. There is no specific off-road version of the Birdy, but optional knobbly tyres produce a machine that performs well on tracks and trails. The Birdy sounds a powerful contender on paper, but it’s too finicky for daily commuting and much too expensive.

We have numerous road-tests of Birdy models and two technical articles.

Moulton New Series starstarstarNo StarNo Star

Price: Mentioning the price would be vulgar   Rating: 3/5
Verdict: “At 16mph all you can hear is the ticking of your knee joints”

A to B folding bike - Moulton New Series

The Rolls-Royce or Morgan of cycling, depending on who you believe. Still hand-built in Wiltshire, England, Dr Alex Moulton’s radical space-frame design has stood the test of time in its latest incarnation – the New Series. Front and rear suspension, high-grade components; a bike for the connoisseur. Superbly engineered, the Moulton doesn’t fold, but splits in two like the APB. Moulton produced the first small wheelers, and his latest machines are rightly considered amongst the best in the world. On the other hand, they cost an arm and a leg, and they don’t fold.

We have two road-tests of the older Moulton AM.

Mobiky Genius starstarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £489   Rating: 2/5   Production: 2003 on
Verdict: “Heavy and expensive, but rides surprisingly well”

A to B folding bike - Mobiky Genius

The Mobiky Genius is a rather elegant French ‘concertina’ folding bike design. Although it uses small 12.25-inch wheels and a double reduction gear to get reasonable gear ratios, the bike actually rides much better than you might expect, thanks to free-running tyres and sensible 3-speed hub gears. So you’ll look dead sexy swishing down the boulevard on your Mobiky, but rather less chic when you fold it. The bike makes a heavy (14.1kg) and rather bulky package. As is so often the case with these compact machines, we’d give it quite an enthusiastic thumbs up if you couldn’t get a Brompton for the same sort of price, but you can.

We have one online review of the Mobiky Genius.

Sinclair A-Bike CitystarNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Price: £699   Rating: 1/5   Verdict: “Fabulous folder, but almost unrideable, now power-assisted”

Ato B folding bike - Sinclair A-Bike

The original A-bike Plus was replaced by the more expensive, and slightly more conventional A-bike City, with improved saddle and slightly larger 8-inch wheels, but dynamically it was not so very different. Our single star is for the fold, which is very neat, and the light weight. The bad news was that the City cost £300, and was almost unrideable – something of a flaw on a bike. We rode ten miles largely on the flat, and taking great care to avoid pot-holes. Others have ridden up the road and back. Some blogger somewhere claims that his wife has ridden a nonchalant 30 miles, which is almost beyond belief, but people do odd things. The company decided to make it more rideable by putting an electric motor in it, which added £400 to the price and made it a lot heavier, but didn’t actually make it much easier to ride. And after a week or two ours shot ball-bearings all over the road and expired. Still, Sir Clive is a smashing bloke, and we look forward to his next invention with trepidation.

We have a free online review of the Sinclair A-bike.



Dead & Buried Section

Some folding bikes survive for decades, while others are extinguished overnight like shooting stars. This is usually because they are poor folders, poor riders or over-priced, but some manufacturers have been unlucky, and a few bikes have made triumphant returns. As records tend to disappear rather fast in this digital age, we’ve decided to keep this interesting and varied selection of folding failures in this black museum of curiosities. Dates soon get forgotten too, so we’re adding introduction and expiry dates where we can:

Bike Friday starstarstarstarNo Star

Price: No UK outlets at present   Production: 2007-2017
Rating: 4/5   Verdict: “Probably the best high-performance folding bike”

A to B folding bike - Bike Friday Tikit

A high performance 20-inch (406mm) wheel folding bike from Oregon, USA that has competed and toured all over the world. Most models are made to measure, and the best known is the touring/commuting New World Tourist. Over the years Bike Friday has produced a bewildering range, from out-and-out sportsters, through off-road bikes, machines designed primarily for easy transport by air, and even tandems and recumbents. Perhaps wisely, the company has now retracted to its core range. The 16-inch Tikit is an interesting machine, taking the company into Brompton-style commuter territory. It’s a lovely bike to ride, but less practical than the Brompton in terms of folding and luggage carrying and has faded away in the UK, but is still in production.

Lightweight (from 7.3kg upwards), with quality components, most Fridays fold in 15 seconds to a package of 170 – 340 litres (6 – 8 cu ft), and can also be dismantled and packed in a hard case in about 30 minutes. The Tikit is suitable for train/bus commuting, but the other folded packages don’t lock together so are really only suitable for occasional air travellers. Unfortunately, the brand has been completely eclipsed by Airnimal in the UK, so they’re hard to find.

We have a number of road-tests of Bike Friday models and one technical article.

Breezer starNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £450   Production: ??  Rating: 1/5
Verdict: “Itzy and i3 were poor, but the i7 was worth considering”

A to B folding bikes - Breezer

When big companies put their badge on a folding bike, it’s vital that they choose well from the available machines. US company Breezer made one good decision (the i7) and two rather dubious ones (the itzy and i3). The bikes were actually made by Oyama: The little Itzy had a super-short wheelbase and was not really suitable for carrying a typical North American. The larger i3 was a rather half-hearted Brompton clone, sold in the UK as the Space Genie. OK, but against the Brompton it was completely outclassed. The i7 was a much better machine, with a decent alloy frame, 7-speed Nexus hub and some proper components. However, at $699, it was up against the cracklingly good Dahon Speed Pro and the base level Bike Friday Metro. All the same, the i7 would probably get three or even four stars on its own, but it was dragged down by it’s smaller cousins.

We have one road-test of the Breezer i3 (Oyamao Space Genie).

 Kansi starstarstarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £500   Production: 2011-2015  Rating: 3/5
Verdict: “Appeared overnight”

A to B folding bike - Kansi 1Twenty

Kansi was an entirely artificial creation of Fisher Outdoor Leisure, one time UK Dahon distributor. When Fisher fell out with Dahon it got revenge by introducing its own folder brand, produced by U-bike of Taiwan. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and good luck to ’em, but Dahon got the last laugh when the Kansi bikes were all recalled in July 2011 following a couple of frame failures. They were neatly styled machines, with some nice straightforward gear options, but completely lacking in such things as mudguards and lights, and much too expensive for what they were. 

Jango Flik starstarstarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £499   Production: 2011 – ?  Rating: 3/5

A to B folding bike - Jango Flik

An interesting development, but doomed to a short and cheerful commercial life. The Jango folded very quickly – you dropped the saddle stem and the wheels move towards each other, but sadly never actually met. And that’s the basic problem. It was an attractive bike, and nice to ride, if a bit low geared, but a rather disappointing folder. The saving grace was a width of only 27cm with both pedals folded, but the near one metre length and height would count against it on the train, and cause some serious issues on a bus or coach journey. The more expensive ‘V’ models were fitted with Bickerton style ‘V’ shaped handlebars that allow the stem to drop further in the quick ‘Shuttle’ fold, which is supposed to make the machine easier to manoeuvre in airports and railway stations, but the overall folded size was no smaller.

We have one road-test of the Flik T8.

Universal starNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Last Price: From £130   Rating: 1/5   Verdict: “Long established fold-in-half”

The Skoda of folding bikes – the Universal was the cheapest folder available right into the new Millenium, but the Chinese challenge eventually proved overwhelming. Made in Poland, the bike looked like a 1960s-vintage ‘shopper’, which is exactly what it was. It was heavy, it didn’t fold very well or clip together, and the ride and handling were poor. Well equipped, with luggage rack, propstand and bell, the Universal was available in single speed or Sturmey Archer 3-speed variants.

We have one road-test of a Universal. (See back issues)

Merc starNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Last Price: £400   Rating: 1/5   Verdict: “Dysfunctional pirate copy”

The Merc was an attractive Chinese pirated clone of the Brompton, correct in most respects, and apparently upgraded from the classic British bike, thanks to a light alloy frame. The reality was a bike that weighed 13.2kg (heavier than the steel Brompton), on which almost nothing worked properly – the saddle slipped down, the brakes barely functioned, the front carrier block was a bit dodgy, and the cables got in a tangle when you folded it up. Yet it was offered for sale at the ludicrous price of £499.

The Merc briefly attracting a vociferous following who got extremely grumpy about our negative reviews:
‘It’s just as good as a Brompton…’
‘a Brompton rider stopped and offered me money for it…’, etc, etc.
We can only say that these dynamic qualities were not immediately obvious in the bike we tested, and the enthusiasts seem to have gone quiet. No doubt their bikes have fallen to bits. Brompton responded through the courts and ultimately managed to get European stocks destroyed, but they may still pop up worldwide. Certainly worth buying for its novelty value.

Mezzo starstarstarStarNo Star

Last Price: £900-ish  Production: 2004-?  Rating: 4/5
Verdict: “Good idea, early detail problems, but later bikes much improved

Mezzo Folding Bike

When the Mezzo was first shown at the 2004 Cycle show, its sporty good looks and neat engineering promised great things. But the reality with the Nexus hub-geared i4 was a little different, thanks to poor tyres, a poor hub and unambitious gearing. The d9, with a similarly under-geared version of Shimano’s normally delightful 9-speed Capreo derailleur, also proved a bit disappointing, but the bikes was later extensively revised. From July 2010, the rather square original design was joined by a Curve variant in 9-speed spec, and more recently the flagship 10-speed d10 revamped with yet another frame design and improved spec all round. It became a good folding bike, and lookied quite good value against the Brompton too, but was eventually squeezed out of existence by the Brompton’s overwhelming market dominance. A shame, because it’s basically fine.

We have road-tests of the Mezzo i4 and d9.

Giatex starNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Price: Appears to have gone to that great scrapyard in the sky.   Rating: 1/5   Verdict: “Guaranteed to break the ice at parties”

A to B folding bikes - Giatex

A horrible short wheelbase small-wheeled folding bike that folded by, er, telescoping the mainframe. An interesting idea, but it was less stable than a more ‘conventional’ folder, heavier than most, and it folded into a ginormous package. Hence the name, one assumes. Next please!

Gekko starNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Last Price: From £150   Rating: 1/5   Verdict: “Absolutely no redeeming features”

A to B folding bikes - Gekko

We’re too kind – one star is extremely generous. A good idea, but poorly executed in China, resulting in a cumbersome, heavy, over-priced folding bike with tiny wheels, and the rolling resistance of damp putty. We wouldn’t ride this machine if it was the last bike on earth. Seriously, we would walk instead. It seems to be out of production now, but we leave it as an awful warning.

We have one road-test of the Gekko. (See back issues)


 Di Blasi starNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Price: From £439   Rating: 1/5   Verdict: “Heavy, undergeared and overpriced”

Di Blasi Folding Bike

A 16-inch Italian folding bike, the Di Blasi R24 is now out of production, but may still pop up new or second hand. Don’t buy it. It folds very quickly (about 12 seconds), but it’s a heavy machine and a horrible lump to ride. It has been replaced by the more practical R22 with 20-inch wheels, but this is still a big, heavy machine compared to the 20-inch Dahons and other more conventional designs, and at £740, it’s much to expensive. The R32 folding trike is an astonishing machine, but even heavier and more expensive. For some reason, the Di Blasi remains popular with the yachting fraternity.

We have one road-test of a Di Blasi trike. (See back numbers)

General advice on TANDEMS and Recumbents

Price: From £1,595 or $1,195   Verdict: “One day, all tandems will be built this way”

Want a tandem, but don’t have room to store it? There is now a range of folding tandems available. The Green Gear (Bike Friday) Family Tandem provides excellent value and can be set up to fit children as well as adults in the stoker position. Unfortunately, the bike is not currently available in the UK.

The Family has small wheels and splits in two, but conventional tandems, such as the Co-motion Co-pilot and the Swallow, can be fitted with S&S stainless steel couplings, allowing the frame to be split into 6 or 8 pieces. Folding is a time-consuming process, but the most compact machines can be carried by train or air in relatively small hard or soft cases. Bike Friday also produce the Two’sDay – a clever, but rather complex small wheeler, and Montague and Redlof produce economical full-size folding machines.

We have two road-tests of folding tandems. (See back issues)


A to B folding bikes - Toxy Flite

The Toxy Flite Folding Recumbent

Tandems are pretty cumbersome, but recumbents are even worse. Partial folding or separable recumbents have been around for some time, and there are now a few innovative folding machines such as the HP Velotechnik Grasshopper,  Toxy Flite, and ICE B1 & B2. There are also several folding recumbent trikes available such as the ICE Sprint 3 and Greenspeed ‘s  GT3. Unfortunately the Brompton recumbent kit is no longer in production.

Brompton Bicycle Book - 2nd edition

Brompton Bicycle Book 2017 edition

The first edition of Brompton Bicycle was hugely popular with the legions of Brompton fans. The review below refers to the first edition, the 2017 revised second edition contains an extra 32 pages, with a whole new chapter on where Brompton may be heading in the future plus new coverage of early folding bikes in the U.S., more detail on military use of folding bikes and, of course, the low-down on new products and company developments.

Author signed copies by credit card on 01305 259998 or BUY NOW

Review by Tony Hadland
The only folding bike that people fold when they don’t need to.’ This comment on the Brompton sums up the genius of the design. Created a third of a century ago, the Brompton still sets the bicycling benchmark for compact portability. Now, David Henshaw has produced the book that many have long awaited – a comprehensive, readable, informative and beautifully illustrated history entitled simply Brompton Bicycle.

The volume is attractively presented, with numerous illustrations, some very rare, and the majority in colour.The Foreword is by author and TV presenter Adam Hart-Davis, who took to the Brompton whilst filming his television series ‘Local Heroes’, in the early 1990s. As Adam points out, ‘David writes clearly and amusingly … about the tortuous history of this superb bicycle.’

David briefly describes his own involvement with the Brompton – how he discovered it in 1991 and how it changed his life: ‘If it wasn’t for the Brompton, I might still be writing books about historic motor cars.’

A short history of folding bicycles then sets the scene. As early as 1878, Grout’s Portable ‘penny farthing’ highlighted the key factor of wheel size. In the post-Suez era, Alex Moulton’s development of 14-, 16- and 17-inch rims and tyres for adult cycles established the practical limits for wheel size reduction. Moulton had no interest in folding bicycles as such but the fact that some of his bikes separated for easier stowing stimulated interest in folders. David Henshaw recounts the nest of curates’ eggs laid by imitators of the Moulton, including Raleigh’s ironically named RSW Compact, the Russian tank of the folding bicycle world.

A groundbreaking development was the Bickerton – lighter and more compact that any previous commercially produced folder but flimsy and wobbly to ride. For some years, the Bickerton represented the state of the art in compact folding bicycles. As David explains, it was also the catalyst that stimulated Andrew Ritchie to try and do better.

Brompton's Andrew RitchieAndrew is a gifted but shy person, who has successfully side-stepped publicity for most of his career, which makes his surprisingly cosmopolitan background all the more interesting. His ancestors include a Prussian Count and a Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Read the book to find out more!) Like Alex Moulton, Andrew graduated in engineering from the University of Cambridge, albeit a generation later. David highlights the inventor’s initial restlessness: ‘Andrew Ritchie had shown a flair for engineering design, but chose to move into computers; he had a talent for computer programming, but moved into the world of commerce.’ For a while Andrew even ran a business selling house plants door-to-door.

The story of the Brompton’s evolution is an heroic one, full of fascination, both in the technical ingenuity displayed, and in the human drama involved. For a private individual successfully to design and market a new bicycle is a huge and daunting task. It has led to at least one tragic suicide in the specialist bicycle world. That Andrew Ritchie succeeded is truly remarkable and you will need to read this book to understand just how he did it. The project was certainly not helped by the giants of the industry, such as Raleigh, who twice rejected the Brompton. Andrew Ritchie must surely be excused a little schadenfreude now that Raleigh no longer manufacture bicycles in the UK, whereas his output, made by British workers in a British factory, continues to climb, year on year, decade on decade.

As David Henshaw explains, by 1977 Andrew Ritchie had evolved the Brompton into the classic form we would recognise today. From thereon, Andrew demonstrated a remarkable tenacity.The earlier restlessness was harnessed, tamed and directed. Where other designers might be tempted to make frequent major changes, a key aspect of the Brompton story is the continuous incremental development and refinement of the design.

David’s book contains chapters on each phase of the Brompton’s history. There is also a section on Brompton specials and useful information on using and maintaining a Brompton.The appendices include a detailed chronology, a guide to serial numbers, and charts showing profit and sales figures. At the back of the book, there are short sections on Brompton people and making a Brompton. The book is comprehensively indexed.

‘Iconic’ is an overused and clichéd term, but it certainly applies to the Brompton. Brompton Bicycle by David Henshaw is the definitive companion volume. Whether or not you own a Brompton, you will find this an interesting and inspiring read. I heartily recommend it.

David Henshaw has edited and published A to B magazine, specialising in folding and electric bikes, since 1997 and helped Brompton establish its dealer network in the 1990s.

Author signed copies by credit card on 01305 259998 or purchase BUY HERE

Brompton folding bike

Why choose a folding bike?

Brompton folding bikeFrom our magazine reviews we’ve seen folding bikes come a long way since the early days and you can now expect a bike that has virtually the same performance characteristics as a full-sized bike. From folding mountain bikes to super-compact bikes, there’s practically a folding bike to fit every need.

Advantages of Owning a Folding Bike

Folding bikes used to be heavy, crude, hard to ride, slow to fold, and once in a while they collapsed in a heap. But in the early ’90s that all changed as rail operators and airlines began to tighten restrictions on conventional bike carriage. Fortunately, bikes that could be treated as hand luggage continued to travel free, and so the concept of a super-compact foldable bike caught on.

Today there are more than 150 folding bikes, and thanks to developments in small tyre technology and frame materials, the weight, ride quality and performance of the best is similar to that of their rigid cousins. Foldable bikes offer five primary advantages over conventional machines:

  • Free and unrestricted carriage on public transport
  • Relatively thief proof
  • Space-saving at home and elsewhere
  • urban multi-modal travel (such as rail/folding bike) is usually cheaper than using a car
  • High resale value

Not all foldable bikes fit in a suitcase, or fold in seconds, but they can be made significantly smaller when you’re not in the saddle. And they generally travel free and without booking restrictions on rail, bus, underground, ferry or air services. It’s that freedom to travel anywhere with your bike that gives folding bikes a magic quality. A folding bike can open up entirely new ways of travelling.

Choosing a Folding Bike

The more you pay, the lighter the machine. Expect to pay £500 or less for a 14kg clunker, £450 for a mid-range 12kg machine, or £1,000+ for something close to the exotic 10kg mark. That might sound expensive, but folding bikes keep their value. A second-hand Brompton, Birdy or Bike Friday will cost almost as much as a new machine, so it’s generally better to buy new if you can afford it.

Folded size is important too. If you are just carrying a couple of bikes into the country at the weekend by car or train, almost anything will fit the bill. But if you expect to commute by air, rail, bus, or metro, you’ll need a really compact machine that folds quickly. And to keep ahead of bike thieves it needs to be light, compact and quick to fold, or you’ll soon give up and put it back in the garage.

Small wheels usually give lighter steering and a harder ride, but forget all the stories about wobbly handling, hard work and unusably low gears. Folding bikes tend to be more manoeuverable than traditional bikes; they’re lighter; and most offer a low step-thru frame. They also tend to come in one size suitable for all the family, with a few quick adjustments.

Folding Bikes with Full-sized Wheels

If you really can’t live with small wheels, there are now a few folding bikes with conventional wheels, mainly from Dahon and Montague. These ‘full size’ folding bikes start at about £200. Other good full-size bikes include the Montague, and the Redlof range. Not currently available in the UK, the Redlof is widely distributed in the USA as the CariBike.

If you insist on a ‘conventional’ machine, why not make your own bike separable? It’s not as difficult (or as dangerous) as it sounds. US engineering company S&S Machine produces a range of frame couplings that are claimed to be stronger than the original tubes.

Grand Tourer Folding Bikes: 20-inch wheels and above

The real ‘compact’ folding bikes have wheels measuring 20-inches or less in diameter. As a general rule, bikes with 20-inch wheels perform well, but fold slowly, and produce a large (if lightweight) package. The best-known 20-inch bike is the Bike Friday, made by Green Gear in Oregon, USA. The company build custom-made MTBs, tourers, racers, triathlon machines and a new recumbent, with prices starting in the region of £1,000 or US$1,000..

There are much cheaper 20-inch machines, such as the Raleigh Boardwalk. It’s heavier than the Bike Friday and it doesn’t fold or ride with the same finesse, but it costs only £270, which gives some compensation.

It’s also worth mentioning the Moulton APB range. These machines aren’t really foldable bikes (they actually unbolt into two halves), but they will fit into a car boot, and have wonderful suspension, suitable for use off-road. Don’t buy one if you intend to commute regularly on the train, though. Most experienced APB owners split their bikes only in an emergency – it takes several minutes.

Super-compact Folding Bikes: 16 or 18-inch wheels

Bikes with 16 or 18-inch wheels have a more limited range, but with the right tyres and components, the best are capable of 50-100 mile rides. Generally, these are amongst the most compact and fast-folding machines, zipping down to suitcase dimensions in 20 seconds or much less.

Small wheels can give a harsh ride, so suspension is a must if you are riding any distance. These bikes are sufficiently compact to be wheeled around the supermarket, carried nonchalantly onto a bus, or even kept under your desk.

The British-made Brompton is king of the 16-inch bikes. It gives an excellent ride (thanks in part to rear suspension), it’s sturdy, and it folds very quickly to a smaller package than any other bike on the market. They cost from £600 and can be fitted with a neat range of quick-release luggage. Any downside? It’s a bit heavy at 11.2kg plus – if you want a lighter bike with a better ride the ‘Superlight’ Bromptons start at £1,125. The 18-inch German/Taiwanese Birdy has a light aluminium frame and full suspension, at the expense of a larger folded package but a price tag of £1,200 to £2,200. You can even specify off-road tyres, turning this road bike into a great little performer on tracks and trails.

Very Small Wheeled Folding Bikes: sub 16-inch

Below the 16-inch bikes are machines with 16×1.75 or 16×1.5 tyres. Confusingly, these measure 305mm across the rim, and little more than 15 inches overall. They are generally less sprightly on the road than the true 16-inch tyres. These bikes rarely offer suspension, and tend to get by with soft squidgy tyres that can make pedalling hard work. Strangely, most of them produce a larger folded package than the Brompton, despite their smaller wheels.

The best known 16×1.75 manufacturer is Dahon, and its 2011 offshoot Tern. Although Dahon bikes start at around £500, the company also ‘badge-engineers’ folding bikes for other manufacturers, and these can be much cheaper. We should also mentuion the unique Strida – a revamped version of the ‘stick’ folder from the 1980s. It has only one gear, but it’s light and relatively cheap.

At the bottom of the heap are a whole range of good, bad or indifferent, mostly Far-Eastern folding bikes. These tend to be heavy, with dodgy folding mechanisms, but they can be very cheap – from £100.

Choose the right folding bike and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one!

Brompton S2L

Commuting with the Brompton S2L

Brompton S2L

Teresa commuting with the Brompton S2L

Most people would agree that if a significant proportion of car commuters were to stay at home, or commute by some other means, our transport problems would be largely solved. More easily said than done, of course.

Our own delightful and multi-talented Teresa was headhunted by Bournemouth Borough Council a year or so ago, and made an offer she couldn’t refuse. Since then, she’s been working away two days a week (Incidentally, Thursdays and Fridays are the days to avoid if you want your A to B renewal dealt with quickly). Teresa agreed to experimentally replace the car commute with a folding bike and rail combination.

This is very typical of longer commuter journeys. Teresa currently travels by minimalist car (a ‘real’ Mini called Max), and the 30-mile journey from Dorchester to Bournemouth Town Hall typically takes 45 minutes, although traffic being what it is, the door-to-door time can vary from 40 to 75 minutes.

Max is an inexpensive car to run, so cost is not a big issue, but interestingly the pressure is more about demand management of parking spaces at both ends of the journey. Like many local authority jobs, Teresa’s comes with a parking permit, giving free all-day parking, but without actually guaranteeing a space. Until recently she was able to use the car park adjoining the Town Hall, but rationalisation of the spaces has meant a five-minute walk from further afield.

At the other end of the journey, there is very little on-street parking in central Dorchester, and the few streets that allow parking have recently been turned into pay-and-display zones, putting pressure on parking spaces in residential areas further out from the centre. Anyone returning home from work mid-evening was liable to find the spaces full before these changes, but the situation is now even worse. Residents permits are a possibility of course, but again, there are no guarantees for late arrivers. So although traffic congestion and car running costs are relatively insignificant elements here, parking issues are. Even in a rural county like Dorset, road space is limited, and political pressure is continuing to squeeze car parking spaces.

Public Transport

There is an alternative. The Weymouth to London railway line runs through Dorchester and Branksome (closer, and more convenient for the Town Hall than Bournemouth station), and since 2008, the electric trains have run to a half-hourly schedule, although not all stop at Branksome. The line speed limit is 85mph, but there are several 60mph restrictions, and in the morning peak, trains generally stop at all seven intermediate stations, so journey times are not particularly good – typically 42 minutes in the morning, and 35 minutes in the evening.

With rail, of course, door-to-door journeys are longer, because there’s usually a foot, taxi or bus element involved. According to Transport Direct, the Department for Transport’s online journey planner, Teresa’s journey by public transport can be expected to take around 84 minutes: a 15-minute walk to the station on top of the basic train schedule, plus a (rather optimistic) ten-minute bus journey from Branksome station to central Bournemouth, and a further ten-minute walk to the Town Hall. Hardly competitive with the car, and including a change onto – and in the evening from – a bus, something that we would never normally recommend unless a connection is guaranteed. What the government journey planner still doesn’t mention (despite numerous promises, but you know our opinion of the DfT) is that wonderful invention, the bicycle.

Brompton S2L Commuting

By 7.30am Poole Road in Westbourne is solid with traffic...

The trains here do carry bicycles, but like most British rail services, the number of bike spaces is strictly limited. In theory, there are six spaces on the Class 444 Desiro, but if the trains are not full, guards may allow more on board at this rural end of the London run. But, as with the parking spaces, nothing is guaranteed. Currently, there is not too much bike-space pressure in Dorset, but trains generally have a full load of five or six bikes, so turning up and hoping for the best can be something of a lottery. And even when you’re on board, it may be necessary to enter into complex negotiations with other cyclists to decide whose machine goes inside the three-tier racks, and whose goes outside. All-in-all, the process can be fraught with hassle and worry – not something likely to tempt anyone out of a comfy car unless they’re a hardened cycle enthusiast.

For everyone else, something more flexible is needed, and as expounded so often in these pages, the answer is often a compact folding bike. King of the compacts for the last twenty years has been the Brompton.

The Brompton S2L

Brompton S2L Commuting

... a half mile away the cycle route through the park is quiet.

There have been a number of changes to the Brompton range in the last year or so, principally to a matt – or more accurately satin – paint finish: in our case Cornflower Blue with white extremities, the sort of combination you either love or loathe. Brompton had selected an S2L, which is basically a cheaper version of the light and sporty S2L-X, but without the titanium bits, so almost half the price, at £617. This machine has only two gears (50 and 74-inch), but by swapping sprockets, it’s fairly easy to reduce bottom gear to 50-inch.

Two gears are quite a compromise, but it’s surprising what you can do with two ratios. The S2L comes with battery lights, which are fine for urban commuting, although we’d want something more powerful at the front in open country. The S2L weighs a reasonable if unspectacular 11.2kg, which – intriguingly – is exactly the same as our 1991-vintage 3-speed. Admittedly, this particular S2L has a slightly heavier telescopic seat pillar, and our elderly bike has lighter Kojak tyres and a few other lightweight bits, but it’s disappointing all the same. Of course, Brompton does offer much lighter bikes than this, but they’re also much more expensive, so only an option if you have deep pockets, or your bike/rail commute is saving a lot of money elsewhere.

Gauging the bike against our own fleet of older ‘M’ type Bromptons, we felt the rolling resistance of the new ‘stickier’ tyres was a bit high, but a roll-down test revealed little or no difference. Either way, for an inexperienced cycle commuter, the extra grip is probably useful insurance. We also felt the ‘S’ type bars were a bit low too, and this comment came up again and again with those who rode the bike. Cycle shops appear to be steering customers towards the ‘S’ type models these days, but take our word for it – the ‘M’ bars are more comfortable, and the upright position is safer in traffic. Even if you habitually ride an MTB with low, flat handlebars, give the ‘M’ type Brompton a try. So although the S2L is a good choice for short distance commuting, we think an M2L would have been more successful.

The Trial

Cycling from home to Dorchester South station takes about six minutes at 6.30am, although a minute or two extra would be needed later in the peak as traffic starts to build. All our trains were on time during the experiment, and at such an early hour, all had Brompton capacity to spare. The Class 444 trains are seriously lacking in luggage space, but there are plenty of nooks and crannies to hide a folding bike away, especially at commuter times. The Brompton will just fit behind facing seat backs on most trains including these (it’s probably the only folding bike that will), but as the trains have mostly airline-style seats, these useful spaces are limited. We put the Brompton in the disabled area, wheelchairs being rare at peak times, and this two-wheelchair space alone could provide room for up to 20 Brompton, should the need arise. It doesn’t, because in the whole experiment we only saw one folding bike (a Brompton as it happens), even though the conventional bike spaces were generally full and occasionally over-flowing into the vestibule.

At the Branksome end of the journey, the cycle ride takes 12 minutes downhill and about 15 minutes back up, against the (optimistic) DfT estimate of 20 minutes by bus and foot. Overall journey time door-to-door is about 64 minutes, each way, the morning run being slower on the train, but downhill on the bike, and visa-versa in the evening. This compares to a theoretical 50 minutes by car (45 minutes plus a five-minute walk), or 84 minutes by public transport alone.


The modern railway franchisees are supposedly quick on their feet, but most have missed a trick with flexible peak-time tickets. Teresa, like many commuters – and, perhaps soon a majority – works part-time with flexible hours, so the traditional weekly, monthly or annual season, offering an unlimited number of return journeys for a set period, is simple not practical. At £1,964 per year, it can halve the cost of travel for those who commute at least once a day, but is unrealistic for part-time workers. The only option is the Anytime Day Return at £9.90 per day. At 17p per mile, that’s a little more than the petrol cost for a small car these days, but around half the true running costs.


Employer: The factor that really skews commuting in favour of the car is the subsidised parking. Parking a car all day in central Bournemouth costs upwards of £8, so the free parking for council employees is effectively a big subsidy. In keeping with the tough economic conditions, the local authority is making noises about withdrawing the subsidy, but a kinder option would be to offer non-car vouchers in lieu. This alone would almost cancel out the train fare from Dorchester, and represent a cash bonus for those who cycled or took a bus over shorter distances. Like many local authorities, health authorities and other big employers, this one doesn’t operate a tax-free bicycle purchase scheme. Why? Apart from the admin issues, the cost is minimal. If big employers are serious about reducing their traffic and parking problems they need to provide a carrot as well as a stick.

Department for Transport: The Transport Direct web portal ( is a useful innovation, but despite being around for a few years, it still fails to address its primary function – incentivising a switch from private car to alternatives. The site only shows private car versus public transport, and – as in this case – the car times usually beat train/bus/foot hands down. But it takes little account of congestion, ignores the time taken to park, and walk from the car park, and for longer trips, fails to include essential ‘comfort’ stops. Most annoyingly, despite promises, bicycle, and bike/rail options are neither displayed nor even discussed. In many cases, the bike/rail option will give the fastest door-to-door time, and it’s usually comparable, something that potential mode switchers would fail to discover if they approach government sources for advice.

The Rail Industry: South West Trains could make life easier for part-time or self-employed workers who travel irregularly, by issuing carnet tickets (this is another grumble that surfaces in A to B once in a while). The company or user purchases a book, typically of ten tickets, and uses them as and when required, saving money and eliminating queueing time. Carnets are rare in the UK, but National Express is experimenting with transferable carnet books for businesses, although these offer a rather disappointing 10% discount over the full fare, so they can actually work out quite expensive at off-peak times.

For National Rail, the infrastructure could be improved in Dorset, as elsewhere. A line speed of 85mph was good twenty years ago, but speed restrictions on the competing roads have since been bypassed, leaving rail under pressure. SWT also has to live with a lengthy section of single track here, making scheduling very awkward.

Brompton: As Teresa discovered when her new mode of transport came up for discussion, several other employees had looked into and dismissed bike/railing to work, but none seem to have discovered the Brompton option. The Brompton has traditionally sold through recommendation by early-adopters, which has worked well in the big cities, but elsewhere the bikes are still rare. How to encourage more people to try this fast, healthy and effective form of commuting is a big question, but one that needs to be addressed.

Teresa’s Commuter Diary

Brompton S2L commuting in the dark

Once again I find myself in the role of A to B guinea pig as David Henshaw sells me an idea. “Surely it would be less stressful to take a Brompton on the train to Bournemouth and cycle from the station?” he said. Prior to my A to B association, I tended to view Brompton riders with a mixture of amusement and admiration. However, let’s face it, anyone who drives a car smaller than a shopping trolley can’t afford to be too high and mighty! “OK.” I replied.

The biggest negative of the experiment was psychological, as en route photography meant getting up half an hour earlier than usual to straightening my hair, apply make-up and choose clothing that was indicative of an office professional and yet allow easy cycling.


I managed to unfold the bike in a respectable time (considering my one lesson), squeeze my normal haversack into a Brompton bag and leave the house without disturbing the sleeping inmates. The morning was dark and autumnal, but the sky was beginning to brighten and soon I found myself taking real delight in blowing away the last vestiges of sleep.

Getting on at such an early point in the journey meant plenty of seats to go round, and I parked the bike easily in the wheelchair space. The train’s population increased with each stop and I noticed a mixture of admiring and curious looks at the bike from other travellers – I began to enjoy my commuter role.

Brompton S2L commuting in the dark

At Branksome station I left the train accompanied by a sizeable number of passengers and a couple of bicycles. I rebuilt my wheels, lugged bag and bike up the stairs and into the car park. This was a mistake. I understand that with practice I’ll develop my own carrying technique.

By now there was a continuous flow of traffic on the roads and everyone wanted to be somewhere quickly. The handlebars on the ‘S’ type Brompton are much lower than I would choose and I felt that all I could d

o was keep my head down and pedal. I’m not sure that I’m cut out for standing my ground on two wheels against blindly determined motorists. I was relieved when I entered the protection and calm of the Bourne Valley cycle path into the Upper Gardens. The quiet tree-lined pathway is bumpy with protruding roots breaking through the tarmac, making me aware that I might be a little saddle-sore later but it is none-the-less a welcome final stretch.
At the Town Hall I collapsed the Brompton with what I felt was professional speed and negotiated the flight of stairs and series of security doors with relative ease. With my ‘steed’ stashed under a table, I tried to calm my frizzy hair, and subdue my high temperature and flushed face. Throughout the morning colleagues greeted me with a variety of comments ranging from; “Is that a bike?” (obvious or what?), to “Did you ride to work” (all the way from Dorchester?), and finally a sensible and heartening comment: “I was thinking about buying a folding bike, how do you get on with it?”Brompton S2L in the office

The day soon passed and although I work flexi-hours, I have a heavy workload and was concerned about leaving on time. Would I make the train? I wasted a few moments before I worked out that the saddle has to be raised before the frame can be assembled. There were a few joggers and dog walkers in the gardens, but otherwise this was again a great route. As I joined the traffic the journey became hazardous, but I stood my ground and resisted the temptation to cycle on the pavement. Unfortunately the final bit is uphill and before long I realised that either I’m extremely unfit or I need more than two gears.

The station was quite crowded so there was a surge as the train doors opened. I opted to use the bike carriage and withstood the curious and possibly hostile looks of two cyclists who were standing defensively by their machines. Once again the human traffic dwindled as we travelled west and I found a seat. The obvious thing would have been to store the Brompton behind the seat but I didn’t want to make a fool of myself by squeezing it into a tight space, so I sat on the edge of my seat, guarding at a distance.

That night, as I soaked my sore bits in a Radox bath and counted the bruises on my thighs (evidence of a poor carrying technique) I reflected on the day. My contract includes a parking permit and ‘flexible’ flexi-hours, but not all my colleagues share these perks. Driving for anything up to an hour I can’t imagine spending further time and money trying to park Max for the day. Without parking I might consider a half commute: perhaps driving to a quiet area of Bournemouth and parking up for the day and cycling the final stretch. I want to be greener, but it also has to be a practical solution. The bike commute involves getting up earlier and getting home later, it is dependent on a regular finish time, train fares are more expensive than petrol, and how would I feel on a rainy day? I had missed the mist over the River Frome, John Humphries and even the traffic jams, where I gain childish pleasure in catching up the vehicles that had whipped past me earlier in the journey.

After day one, the positives and negatives of the experiment were evenly balanced. Who knows, as the Council is currently carrying out a review of staff parking, I may find that a Brompton becomes an essential part of my life in the future.

Bike/Rail Hints and Tips

  • Despite a lack of cycling information, Transport Direct gives a useful guide as to which core rail or bus combination will work best. Extra work will be needed to calculate the bike bits.
  • Put the National Rail ‘Live Departures’ page in your web browser for instant access. The information can also be displayed on some phones.
  • Set your watch one minute fast. Useful for those tight connections.
  • When making the first outward cycle journey, always check the start-to-stop cycling time. Add five minutes for contingencies (more for longer, hillier rides) and you know when to depart on the return.
  • With the Brompton, practice sitting on the folded bike. This can give you a free seat on a packed station or train. Crossing a bridge with bag in one hand and tea in the other? Balance the nose of the saddle on your shoulder, leaving hands free.
  • At busy stations fold the bike well clear of the barriers. With buses, always fold and cover the bike in advance. Arguing is pointless!

A to B 55 –

Strida MAS Edition folding bike

Strida MAS Edition

Leaf back through the A to B archives (on our web site at and you’ll see that we’ve come back again and again to the Strida. Designed by Royal College of Art graduate (and later lecturer) Mark Sanders, the Strida was produced from 1987-1992 at various sites in the UK, before moving to Portugal from 1993 to 1995, back to Britain in similar Mark 2 guise from 1998 to 2000, then redesigned and relaunched as the Mark 3, initially in the UK, but with manufacturer outsourced to Ming Cycles of Taiwan in 2002.

In China the number 4 is unlucky, so the next Strida was the Mini, with 14-inch wheels to suit the smaller Far Eastern riders who were increasingly the bike’s primary customers. Ming took over the rights to the Strida in 2006 and continued to develop the design, establishing outlets in Korea, Japan and the Netherlands, which isn’t surprising, plus France and the USA, which is. Given the Strida’s British lineage, it’s ironic that they are rare here, and purchases have to be made through the Dutch operation.

The Strida hasn’t sold in Britain in any numbers since Duran Duran were in the charts. Why are sales so weak? Like most folders, the Strida tends to suffer from the ‘Brompton’ effect, being designed and launched at about the same time, and having to fight Brompton for buyers ever since. The Brompton suffered from all the positive and negative attributes that come with small wheels, but it proved capable of doing a great deal more than commuting. It was heavier than the Strida, slower to fold and more expensive, but it could carry bigger loads and go a lot further and faster. To be fair, the Strida was never intended to compete in that area and was designed with a very specific brief: to fill the gap between walking and cycling. This is something it does very well.

Mark 5

Strida MAS Edition

The SpeedDrive is the magic MAS ingredient. You change gear by kicking the crank-arm covers.

It’s good to see Strida development continue apace after more than twenty years, and now we have the Mark 5, offered as three models.The basic LT looks much the same as a traditional Strida, but as on all the new bikes, the drum brakes have been replaced by discs front and rear. At 10mph, you won’t be able to take advantage of the improved cooling, but more usefully, they are less likely to bind (a common problem with the drums).

Up from the base model is the SX, which is similar, but with a polished alloy frame, 18-inch alloy wheels and Schwalbe Kojak tyres.The larger wheels and free-running tyres help reduce rolling resistance, and push the gearing up by about 25%, making the bike a lot faster in a flat urban environment, but even more gradient-challenged than the base model anywhere else.

Top dog amongst the Mark 5s is the MAS Edition, MAS being Mark Sanderson’s design company, still involved in a small way.This bike is 16-inch again, but reworked with a Schlumpf Speed Drive in the chain ring to give two gear ratios: direct drive, or a 1:1.65 overdrive.This gives gears of 40 inches and 66 inches, which may not sound very exciting, but two gears are a revolution in Strida terms, the previous bikes being encumbered with a single gear somewhere in the mid-50’s, which was neither low enough to climb modest hills or high enough to crack along on the flat when you had a following wind.

When we tested the Mark 2 in 1998, it cost £335 and weighed 9.8kg. Eight years later, the much improved Mark 3 had dropped to £220, and inched up to 9.9kg.These Mark 3 bikes were much more practical than their predecessors.They looked the same, but changes to the geometry made them far more rideable. In fact, we only really had two criticisms: the bikes were single-speed and the package – although reasonably compact with the new folding handlebars – was rather long.

With the MAS Edition, the gear issue has been cracked. But why has it taken so long? The difficulties involve the Strida’s trademark toothed rubber belt drive and trademark monoblade forks.The belt is oil-free and lasts more or less forever, but it can’t jump on and off pulleys like a derailleur, and you can’t fit a hub gear because of the monoblades.The only practical answer was to put gears inside the chainring, and there’s only really one gear system mounted at that end of the bike; the Swiss-made SpeedDrive.With a SpeedDrive costing much the same as a Strida, the price has long been a bit of a barrier, but the technology (like the bicycle) has now been licensed to the Far East, which has finally made it realistic to bring the two together.

The spec is better elsewhere too. Kenda Kwest 100psi tyres have cut rolling resistance to a commendably low level, and the better tyres allied to the improved Mark 3+ geometry, make the bike feel stable, secure and free-running.The little disc brakes are powerful and progressive, against the puddingy feel of the drums fitted to older bikes. Like all cheap discs, they rub slightly at first, but we managed to get the front wheel spinning freely with some gentle fettling, suggesting that in the longer term, the pads should run clear of the disc.This gentle rubbing is a common problem with disc brakes – not really an issue with a car, but with limited horsepower, it’s something a bicycle can do without.

The riding position is unique.You sit rather behind the pedals, which gives an almost semi-recumbent feel, and this, plus the straight, narrow handlebars, and the frame rising up between your knees, give the impression (not that we’d know) of riding a penny-farthing. Pulling away is easier because of the lower first gear, and after changing gear with a simple click of the heel on the SpeedDrive crank arm, the bike accelerates up to an unprece- dentedly high cruising speed.True, it’s only four minutes faster over ten miles (49 minutes against 53) than its predecessor, but they’re important minutes, bringing the Strida up from A-bike territory into the land of the living. Speed-wise, it’s in the same sort of ballpark as cruisers like the Giant Vida, and the MAS could even outpace a Mezzo D9 if it happened to come across one in original low-geared form. Something we’d love to see.

In MAS trim, the Strida no longer feels out of its depth away from the suburbs, and a ten-mile commute seems quite an attainable ride.We shouldn’t get too carried away, of course.The rubber drive belt, although admirably clean, adds a little friction over the good old steam-era chain, as do the ‘small’ 16-inch, 305mm tyres.These are actually 15-inch in diameter, and although the technology improves all the time, they’re on the small side for serious transport, and not best suited to rough roads, pot-holes or lengthy rides of any kind. Our bike also had a tight spot in its freewheel that rather spoilt downhill coasting, but we’re told these should run-in eventually. So although the realistic range of the Strida has rocketed from the original three miles, it’s still only ten miles or so, unless you’re quite masochistic. But as Mark Sanders would say, that’s plenty of range for a typical commute.


Strida MAS Edition

The Strida can be pushed along on its road wheels, a big advantage where the bike can’t be pushed or ridden.

Folding is much the same as it ever was, and it’s the sort of operation a Neanderthal could master after a few bruised knuckles. The only remotely complex bit is releasing the handlebar clamp. After that, there’s just one frame clip at the bottom-front corner of the frame triangle, and folding the pedals, which sort of splay in half, a pattern we haven’t seen before. The rear rack folds up against the saddle – something we’ve forgotten to do in the photo – but it makes little difference to the package size. Incidentally, we rode the bike with the saddle right back, but we haven’t included this in the folded size.

Once folded, the Strida produces a long thin package of W27cm x H50cm x L112cm. That’s a fraction shorter than the Strida 3, but quite a lot deeper, and a full 4cm wider, presumably because the SpeedDrive has a longer axle. The result is a package of 151 litres, or 5.4cu ft, weighing a reasonable 10.9kg… much of the extra weight presumably being down to the SpeedDrive. Not bad, and from some angles, very compact.

We’ve always treated the Strida’s long, thin package as being a bit inconvenient on a commuter train, but the times they are a-changin’. Bicycle space has become so sought after on peak hour trains that even Bromptons are starting to look a bit chunky. A machine that can be chucked in the overhead racks (the Strida is just about the only folding bike that can do this) may well be set for a come-back. And then there’s the thorny issue of railway companies forcing commuters to carry their bikes from the barrier to the train. True, the Brompton can be pulled along on its little rollers, but the Strida stands on its road wheels, so it can be trundled along on 15- inch tyres, a big advantage where the bike can’t be pushed or ridden.


The MAS is a fun, practical folding bike, provided you don’t want to carry a lot of luggage or go too far. The only real downside is cost. There are a handful of UK agents, or you can buy mail-order from the Netherlands, where the Strida LT sells for 478 Euros (£423 including delivery to the UK), and the MAS for 849 Euros… around £733 delivered. That puts it in the same sort of territory as the basic Bromptons, the Mezzo d9 or the Dahon Mu.These are all excellent commuter machines, but the Strida says something about you that a Brompton, Dahon or Mezzo never will. It’s not a bicycle, it’s a triangle, and a masterpiece of industrial design. Normally you’d have to pay just to look at something like this in a gallery. For less than five hundred quid you can ride it work.

Strida MAS Edition Specifications

Strida MAS Edition
Price £733 (Inc. UK delivery)
Weight 10.9 kg (24 lbs)
Gear ratios 40 & 66-inch
Folded Size H 112cm L 50cm W 27cm
Folded Volume 151.2 ltr (5.4 cu ft)
UK Distributor Strida Europe

A to B 80 – October 2010

Riese & Muller Frog Folding Bike

Riese & Müller Frog

Frog folding bikeMy word, we’ve been doing this a long time. Trawl back through the archives, and you’ll find a Frog test in October 2002, when Alexander’s Like-a-Bike was getting under the feet of security guards at the London Cycle Show. He’s now riding full-size bikes.

Riese & Müller is a German company, set up by young engineers Heiko Müller and Markus Riese in 1993, initially selling earmuffs, but moving on to bigger things. Like so many others, the pair set out on the road to folding bike nirvana, designing a neat folder with 18inch wheels called the Birdy. It was a rideable and rather clever machine, but like everything designed since the 1980s it came head to head with the Brompton and suffered accordingly. Built by Pacific in Taiwan, the Birdy proved a hit in its home German market and in the Far East, where it was marketed as the BD1, but less successful elsewhere.

R&M went on to design and market a number of innovative bicycles, and in 2002, very much to our surprise, the company launched a more compact folder called the Frog. It was a clever little bike, but expensive, and it wasn’t immediately obvious how it would attract sales from the bigger and more capable Brompton. It seems not to have done, because by 2006 it had been quietly deleted, but R&M continued to get requests from caravanners and other leisure types, for whom the longer-legged Birdy was altogether too big and unwieldy. As a result, the Frog was revised and reintroduced from December 2009.We’re taking a look at this interesting new machine.

The Frog

Compared to its predecessor from eight years ago, the Frog has changed almost out of recognition. The basic geometry is much the same, but like the Birdy, the frame is now made of hydroformed alloy tubing, rather than round and square tubes. The curvaceous tubes work well with the colour options of black or magenta; a shocking pink, guaranteed to draw a crowd.

Equipment-wise, the most important change is from 121/2-inch to 16-inch wheels. Back in 2002, we thought the 121/2-inch wheels worked surprisingly well considering their diminutive size, but in the real life cityscape of pot-holes and awkward kerbs, regular commuting would have been a nerve-wracking affair.

Most manufacturers seem to agree that the smallest useful wheel size is 305mm (16inch), and R&M have gone down this road, matching the wheels to ultra-wide 50x305mm Schwalbe Big Apple tyres. The Big Apple is a strange tyre. It looks heavy and sluggish, but in reality it’s quite the opposite, and in the bigger sizes at least, it offers very low rolling resistance. With such a massive cross-section, the tyres also offer a degree of suspension, making them an odd choice for the Frog, which has Birdy-style suspension – a leading link and polymer/coil spring on the front and swing-arm and polymer block at the rear. Still, with little wheels, you really do need all the suspension you can get, and compared to most 16-inch folders, the Frog has a real Rolls-Royce feel on ordinary roads. Jolly good. Oddly though, it’s not as proficient at climbing kerbs as we expected it to be. Hit a kerb too hard and the front wheel will bounce into the air. This is partly down to the short 87cm wheelbase, which also tends to encourage wheelies in the lower gears.

At 14.1mph, the roll-down speed was a bit lower than we expected (for comparison, think 15mph for a good Brompton or Birdy and 13mph for a tacky Taiwanese smallwheeler). Riding our ten-mile ‘commuter’ route gave a similar result: the time of 441/2 minutes put the Frog behind the Brompton, Birdy, new Mezzo D9 and 20-inch Dahons, but ahead of the Strida, the early Mezzo, and innumerable wierd and whacky machines, such as the ‘A’ bike. Not very impressive, although the sluggish performance might have as much to do with ‘stiction’ in the 8-speed Nexus hub as anything else. As delivered, the resistance in the hub was very noticable, but after running in for a few miles, it reached an acceptable level, although still much higher than one would expect from a typical hub gear.

When we tested the Frog in 2002, it was fitted with a light, simple 3-speed Nexus hub, although the rather low gear ratios of 35″, 48″ and 65″ were barely adequate for town use. Today’s 8-speed Frog has a more or less ideal spread, from a wheel lifting 27.4 inches to a reasonable, but not super-high 84 inches. That’s on paper. In practice, the resistance in the hub, and a rather tight chain tensioner, makes the gears feel somewhat higher than they are.You don’t really notice this until you come up against a Birdy or a Brompton (The Riese & Müller engineers will be tut-tutting into their morning coffees at this point), but in practice a Brompton with three gears can do much the same things as a Frog with eight, because the drive train (principally tyres and rear hub) runs so much more freely. If the Frog is being aimed primarily at the leisure market, we’d suggest a lighter, cheaper 3-speed option like the previous model.

In all other respects, the Frog goes and stops well. The powerful V-brakes are connected left lever to the front, right to rear, Euro style, so British riders have to take some care, especially as the bike has such a short wheelbase.You might get used to this, but lend the Frog to an unsuspecting friend, and they’ll be sailing over the bars the first time an old lady in a Ford Fiesta pulls out in front of them. The brake cables can be swapped, but we hear this leaves things rather untidy at the front. We didn’t try it.

Handling feels slightly odd at first, mainly because of the strange handlebar geometry, which looks (and feels) similar to the old Cresswell/Pashley Micro.That’s not really a criticism though.The suspension and geometry of the bike give a surprisingly stable, trusty feel – a real improvement over the twitchy, wayward handling of that original 121/2-inch bike.

Fit & Folding

The real strength of the Frog is its adjustability. The handlebars can be locked at five heights between 94cm and 102cm above the ground. The saddle has an even broader range of 63cm to 103cm, so you can more or less assume that anyone can ride the same bike after a momentary adjustment.

The folding process is similar to that of the Birdy, but without the latter’s derailleur gears, it’s an easier, more repeatable process because you don’t need to get the bike in the right gear to avoid a greasy chain incident. The only preparation, as with the Brompton, is to get the pedals in roughly the right position. Then the front wheel can be released from its suspension spring by pressing a little locking lever, and with the front of the bike held up, the front wheel can be rotated back to lock into a folded position. If the pedal is still where you left it (probably not), you can release the rear frame lock, allowing the rear frame, wheel and rack to swing forward in an asymmetrical manner – in other words, the hinge is offset, so that as the wheel goes forwards it ends up to the left of the front wheel. After a brief tussle, the front wheel settles against the rear wheel, allowing the main seat post to slide down, locking everything in place. The handlebars have their own quick-release, and fold down to the left against the rear wheel, while the telescopic seat pillar only needs to be dropped if space is an issue.

No, it’s not Brompton convenient, Brompton quick, or Brompton balletic come to that, but the steps are easy to remember, and a piece of cake after a bit of practice. The chain looks untidy, but it’s safely sandwiched between the wheels, and the only potential for grub is from grasping that front wheel early on. Fine if you keep your bicycles in as-new condition, but fury invoking of you’re folding the bike on the steps of the office just before a crucial meeting. Compared to the Birdy though, it’s a much easier, cleaner operation.

Folded size contains good and bad elements. The package looks lower than a Brompton, but at 60 centimetres tall, it’s actually the same height. It’s bigger in other dimensions too: 36cm wide (Brompton 28cm), and 84cm long (Brompton 60cm).You can reduce the length to 71cm by putting the saddle right down and turning it sideways, and in this slightly amended form, the bike has a volume of 153 litres or 5.5 cubic feet. That compares well to the 18-inch Birdy (7.4 cubic feet), but less well to the Brompton, which on a fairly conservative fold (ie, you can make it smaller on a good day) takes up only 3.6 cubic feet. Incidentally, the original Frog occupied 3.5 cubic feet, the difference being down to the significantly taller and wider wheels on the 2010 version. So the Frog isn’t quite as pace-setter as it once was, but it still gets into the exclusive super compact club.

Once folded, the bike has Brompton-style rollers on its rear rack, so it can be pulled around by the saddle with reasonable ease. The only problem is a distinct tendency to fall over to the left, which is odd, because most of the weight seems to be on the right. You soon remember to lean it up against something, and it’s not the only folder with this tendency, but it’s unfortunate nonetheless.

If it does happen to fall on you, you’ll be rubbing your leg for some time. Our test Frog weighed no less than 12.9kg (28lb), 2.5kg heavier than its predecessor. Mind you, the original Frog was little more than a frame and wheels, and our new bike has the optional propstand (waste of time), rear rack (useful), and mudguards (depends where you live). That sort of weight would be typical of a steel Brompton with all the extras, but it’s two or three kilograms heavier than the titanium jobs. And at £1,295 against £1,125 for a typical superlight Brompton, the Frog will inevitably be compared to the titanium machines.

Although longer than the Brompton, the Frog is one of the select group of bikes that fit between typical train seat backs


Back in 2002 we concluded that the Frog wasn’t a very practical machine, which it wasn’t, but that funloving types might be willing to part with £720 for one – a lot of money at the time. The 2010 model is a lot more practical, but it’s also a lot bigger, somewhat heavier and considerably more expensive.

Nevertheless, it’s still a fun machine. Everyone from old ladies, a group of passing soldiers, even kids on the local BMX track, says much the same thing: ‘cool bike’. And they really mean it. This bicycle exudes cool from every pore. To sum up, we can’t do better (which is a bit sad) than to slightly paraphrase our 2002 conclusion: ‘The Frog has fun in abundance, and if you still think it’s funny after parting with £1,295, it’s definitely the bicycle for you.’


Riese & Müller Frog £1,295 .Weight (with accessories) 12.9kg (28lb) . Gears Nexus 8-spd hub Ratios 27”, 34”, 39”, 44”, 52”, 64”, 74”, 84” . Tyres Schwalbe Big Apple 50x305mm Folded Dimensions W36cm H60cm L71cm . Folded Volume 153 litres (5.5 cubic feet) Wheelbase 87cm . Manufacturer Riese & Müller T +49 6151 366 860

A to B 77 – Apr 2010

Dahon Curve SL Folding Bike

Dahon Curve SL

Dahon Curve SL Folding BikeFirst published in A to B  60 – June 2007

Readers may or may not be surprised to hear that Dr Hon thinks A to B has something of a Brompton bias. Fair comment? We tend to find that those who adore the Brompton are happy with our coverage, and those who don’t are either suspicious or grudgingly accepting. For years , Dahon UK, fronted by Mark (son of Harry) Bickerton came into the latter category – Mark was wily enough to understand that if we did show signs of bias, our readers would soon give Dahon free publicity by complaining. This all changed last year when big cycle distributor Fisher Outdoor Leisure was given the Dahon account. Soon after, we picked up a whisper that a Fisher’s rep had been pushing the Curve, ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’ as a ‘Brompton Killer’. Great stuff. We duly passed it on (Mole, A to B 56), but a few months later, in November 2006, a furious Fishers settled on a policy of noncooperation with non-compliant magazines. The company would now invite ‘impartial independent reviewers’ to test Dahon bikes, and distribute these (presumably favourable) reviews to magazines willing to accept such ‘advertorial’. A to B , said Chris Raven of Fisher, ‘…compared every single other model out there to the Brompton. Most of the models in Dahon’s range have very little comparative relevance to the Brompton’. True, maybe, but in the case of the Brompton Killer, the comparison had come from Fisher, not us. And, whatever the company spokesperson might say, the Curve is undeniably a Brompton clone.

The Dahon Curve

You’ll be glad to hear that we’ve overcome these Stalinist restrictions by obtaining a Curve SL independently. We’ll do our best to conduct an independent and impartial review before the commissars cart us off to the Gulag. First, let’s look at price. The basic Curve model is the DL, with 3-speed hub and rear rack for a very reasonable £350, undercutting the basic Brompton C3E by £45 and the more comparable M3L by over £200.

The more upmarket Curve SL sells for £550, putting it right in the middle of a bevy of Bromptons – about the same as the basic 3-speed models, but much cheaper than the 6-speed. Significantly, it’s also £100 cheaper than the Mezzo d9, which in terms of looks and aspirations is probably its closest competitor. The SL comes equipped with a Sturmey Archer 5-speed hub, and has no rack, which superficially seems a bit of an omission for an extra £200. On the other hand, it’s lighter,and painted a snazzy battleship grey, rather than any-colour-you-like-as-long-as-it’s-red. So both the cheaper bike and the sexier lightweight demonstrably undercut the British bike. Round One to Dahon.

Weight is slightly less clear-cut. The SL is claimed to weigh 9.9kg, but our scales say 10.8kg. That’s some way off the claim, but a full kilogram lighter than the Mezzo D9. As for the Brompton, it’s a bit hard to judge, because no models are strictly comparable. The lightest Bromptons are lighter, but they only have two gears and cost twice as much as the SL. A more typical £600 Brompton would weigh 11 or even 12kg, so the Curve SL has a small advantage in this field as well, although the 12.6kg DL is heavier than all but the chunkiest Bromptons. It isn’t exactly a knock-out, and may have to be decided on points, but it seems Round Two goes to Dahon.


Saddle height has always been a weakness with the Brompton, although the company can provide a choice of seat-pillars to suit individual riders, and recent changes have increased the wheelbase, making the bike feel much roomier. The Curve has bars adjustable from 90-102cm, but we’re not sure they’re worth the complication, as we kept our test bike at the maximum throughout. More usefully, the saddle goes up to 103cm, which is higher than a standard Brompton, but shorter than Brompton’s optional extended seat posts. Oddly though, the 103cm height of the Curve saddle is lower than it appears because the bike has a strangely high bottom bracket, giving the pedals 12cm of ground clearance. We can’t imagine why they would want to do this, but it forces the rider to put the pillar higher than normal to get a decent riding position.The Dahon also loses out in having a much shorter wheelbase – only 97cm, against 105cm for the new Brompton. That’s a huge difference, and it makes the Taiwanese bike feel choppier on the bumps and generally more cramped. The Dahon should win this category with its higher saddle and adjustable bars, but we don’t think it does.

“…it lacks zip, pep, call it what you like, but we came home grumbling rather than smiling…

On the Road

On the move, we felt the Dahon was completely overshadowed by the Brompton. Why? We’re not really sure. The slightly smaller wheels and wider, low-pressure tyres don’t help, but the Curve’s Schwalbe Big Apples are actually quite good, giving a roll-down speed of 14.3mph, which is excellent for 305mm tyres. The SL’s Sturmey 5-speed hub certainly imparts a bit of ‘stiction’ into the drive: they’re nice hubs, but there’s a distinct resistance in first and fifth gears. Frame flex? Well, it bends more than the Brompton, particularly side to side, where the Curve’s tall thin frame tubes count against it, but this only shows up when you’re really pulling on the bars. After looking over the Curve and the Brompton quite carefully, we concluded that the Curve’s high bottom bracket was part of the problem. You need to ride with the saddle much higher than you expect, and this is enough for most people to have difficulty in putting down power on hills. Whatever the reason,the Curve doesn’t possess that essential ‘feel-good’ factor on the road. It isn’t painfully slow – our ten-mile ride took a fairly typical 44 minutes – but it’s slower than a Brompton or a 20-inch Dahon,and the effect is most noticeable on hills, little hillocks feeling like the Alps.

Whatever the reason, we felt it lacked zip,pep, call it what you like, but we came home grumbling rather than smiling.

This round, and it’s arguably the most important, goes to Brompton.

Gears and brakes

The Curve comes with 3-speed or 5-speed Sturmey Archer hubs, which are more or less perfect for small folding bikes, but slightly limited against the range of 2-speed, 3-speed and 6-speed hub/derailleur hybrids produced by Brompton. As for gear range, there’s little in it. The Dahon 5-speed has a slight edge, with 225% against the 215% of the Brompton 6-speed, giving evenly spread gears from 38″ to 85″. The Brompton does slightly less well here, but it offers six gears, and the Brompton system is slightly more efficient than the 5-speed dual epicyclic hub on the Dahon,so there’s very little between them in practice. The Brompton certainly wins in terms of gear options, although not everyone is happy with the 6-speed’s twin levers. Neither bike offers very much gear-wise, but on balance, the Brompton set-up is probably more flexible and efficient.

Brakes are an area where Brompton is often criticised, and the Curve’s front and rear V-brakes offer much more powerful braking. This is thanks in part to the use of Jagwire cables, which reduce friction, resulting in a light and precise braking action. The brakes on the Curve are excellent. Unlike many modern V-brakes, there are no power limiting devices, so it’s rather too easy to lift the rear wheel with a front application, or lock it with the rear brake. But for most people, this light action and effortless power is the sort of thing the Brompton has never quite supplied. Another point to Dahon, making three each in total.

…The Curve’s brakes are excellent… Another point to Dahon…


This is generally regarded as the Brompton’s special feature, with the simpler fold-in-half Dahons coming in a poor second. This still holds true with the Curve, but the small wheels help a great deal, producing a long, low and relatively slim package. The folding process doesn’t take long, but you need to concentrate, something that isn’t really an issue with the Brompton, which can be folded at night, or in a thick fog, or while completely blotto, or all three. The Dahon handlebars must be rotated to bring the brake levers and cables up out of the way, then – if the pedals are correctly positioned – the bars can be folded down against the frame, and the frame folded in half. Pedals are the now familiar MKS MTE which simply pop out when you squeeze a ring on the shaft. Actually, it seems they’ve been popping out a bit too easily, because they now come with a fiddly plastic ring, which needs to be removed before the pedals will come off. More cavalier owners will chuck it away on Day One, which MKS no doubt appreciates.

The folded package now measures 67.5cm tall x 76.5cm long x 34cm wide,giving a volume of 176 litres, or six cubic feet. That’s getting on for twice the Brompton volume, and slightly bigger than the Mezzo. The package can be significantly lowered by removing the saddle stem and storing it between the frame halves, reducing the height to 52cm and the volume to 134 litres or 4.8 cubic feet. That’s still some way from the Brompton volume, but usefully lower,which can be very handy (the Brompton stands 58.5 cm tall). Unlike the Brompton, the package doesn’t lock in the folded position, but two little magnets come together, which is enough to hold the frame halves in place, but they’re not secure enough to, for example, run down a railway platform carrying the bike.

Where folding is concerned, the Curve is the clear loser. It’s lighter than most Brompton variants, which helps, but it’s bigger and more likely to fall apart once folded.


The Curve comes with a stand, nice big efficient mudguards and (on the cheaper 3-speed) a rack. This is broadly similar spec to the Mezzo, but it’s difficult to make comparisons with the Brompton, which doesn’t need a stand, and can be supplied with a rack, but doesn’t really need one of those either, most purchasers opting for the luggage system. So any comparison is likely to be in the area of options, which the Brompton positively drips with, from an ever-widening frame colour range,to dynamo or LED lights (now fitted as standard),alternative tyres,and that custom luggage system with a choice of neat bags. Dahon produce many interesting accessories, but very little targeted at the Curve, suggesting a slightly half-hearted assault on Brompton’s core commuter market. The key thing the Curve does have (now fitted to all Dahon models) is a little frame lug designed to take the Rixen & Kaul KLICKfix luggage system. This is similar to the Brompton carrier system: with a plate screwed to the frame you can fit a huge range of bags, from ‘small pet’ carriers to wicker baskets and panniers. Strangely though, Dahon doesn’t seem to have capitalised on this innovation. Bikes are not being sold with the KLICKfix adapter (0211R) and plate, so you need to buy the whole kit before you can carry luggage Brompton-style. There’s also a slight issue with the brake and gear cables,which would be obstructed by a large pannier. None of the dealers we contacted knew anything about the carrier plate or bags, and we had to do our own research.In fact,the adapter and plate only cost £11.40, although some of the luggage (like Brompton luggage) can be expensive. By contrast, Bromptons now come pre-fitted with a carrier block,and the company supplies a range of classy and practical bags.The Dahon system is certainly a great advance, but tracking it down has proved difficult, and we’ve yet to see one in action, leaving the Brompton to win this category by default.


Perhaps A to B doth protest too much, but for a machine that shouldn’t be compared with the Brompton, the Curve seems skillfully targeted at Brompton customers. In some ways it really is better: Price, weight and braking efficiency go to the Curve, but folding, rideability, gears and accessories go to the Brompton. The Curve is a pretty-looking bike, and by far the best 16-inch Dahon yet. And it really might have been a Brompton Killer, if it hadn’t fallen down in a number of key areas. Fisher might argue that we’re not comparing like with like, as the Curve was never intended to be a commuter machine, but that’s not the impression we get from the publicity. Nevertheless, the £350 DL in particular is a good buy if you are looking for something cheaper than a Brompton for leisure use, but we’re not convinced it’s up to daily commuting.


Dahon Curve SL £500 . Weight 10.8kg (24lbs) . Gears 3-spd Sturmey Archer hub Gear Ratios 38″, 57″, 76″ . Folded Dimensions H67.5cm L76.5cm W34cm . Folded Volume 176 litres (6 cu ft) . Maximum saddle height 103cm . Wheelbase 97cm Manufacturer Dahon  UK Distributor Fisher Outdoor Leisure tel 01727 798345 mail

A to B  60 – June 2007

Bridgestone Moulton Folding Bike

Bridgestone Moulton Custom Separable

Bridgestone Moulton Folding Bike

The Bridgestone is quite closely modelled on the 1960s machine,but in alloy,with some minor frame alterations

Moulton is unique in the history of cycling.Dr Alex Moulton’s suspended small wheeler kick started the small wheel revolution,made cycling fashionable in ‘60s Britain,and over 40 years later,the basic concept is still in production.

It’s the great survivor:built first by Dr Moulton after Raleigh refused to do a deal;then by Raleigh when they saw how successful it was;sidelined in the 1970s (Dr Moulton says after Raleigh’s corporate head was turned by the success of the high barred Chopper – see page 42); reinvented in the ‘80s as the space frame Moulton,built both in the tiny factory at Bradford on Avon,and in cheaper APB form by Pashley.And 20-odd years later, the space frame Moulton is still with us,with those small wheels and full suspension that have underpinned every single bike with the Moulton badge.

There’s just one hurdle to owning one of these iconic bikes today.The space frame Moultons are built in tiny numbers by a small team of skilled craftsmen, and they cost a few thousand pounds apiece.There are plenty of wealthy enthusiasts around the world willing to pay that,and for those who can’t or won’t,Pashley offers the TSR range from £895, but that still leaves a gap between the two,and in any case some ‘Moultoneers’ still prefer the simplicity of the original ‘60s Fframe Moulton.

Enter Bridgestone of Japan, which has been building a replicais much more faithful than that.It looks like an exact replica of the original,with the advantage of modern componentry,but there are some key differences.The frame is of aluminium,not steel;the front suspension uses an external hinge rather than internal splines;the rear frame pivot is in a different place;the wheels are 17-inch (369mm) Moulton specials,not the original (349mm) 16s;and no ‘60s Moulton offered an 18-speed derailleur,let alone one made in Japan.Prices start at £975, and the quality looks spot-on.

For some,the thought of a 100% Japanese Moulton might still be too much to swallow,in which case there’s the Custom,and that’s what we test here.The standard Bridgestone bike is wheeled into an annexe of the little factory in Bradford on Avon and treated to upgraded components,plus a whole array of options.So the Custom Separable comes with a polished and lacquered frame,double chainring and adjustable dropbars with STI shifters.The front suspension medium – polymer only in the standard Bridgestone – has a steel spring added,and they claim reduced stiction as a result.Options fitted to the test bike included front rack,large rear rack,bags for both and MSK quick-release pedals.The basic Custom Separable costs £2,175,so even before you add any of these,it’s not cheap.

Just like the original Moulton Stowaway (plus many Moultons since),this one splits in half,though they do a rigid frame version as well.But it’s not intended to compete with modern small-wheeled folders.Instead,say Moulton,just like the ‘60s pioneer,this is a genuine alternative to a big-wheeled bike of the same spec,with the added advantage of a split-in-half frame.Are they right?

On the Road

If you’re particularly big or small,do take a test ride before buying,as there’s only one frame size,and at 5’ 6”,with arms to match,I felt quite stretched out.Thanks to a swivelling stem,there is some adjustment in the drop bars, at 97-100.5cm off the ground,but even with the Brooks saddle slid right forward,the bike still felt big.Still,that’s no problem for taller riders,and there’s also lots of saddle height adjustment,from 101cm to as low as you like.

Some bikes reveal their sporty character within the first few metres,and the Moulton is one of those.Even pedalling away from a dark,wet railway station,it had that get up and go feel that encourages you to push that bit harder and head for the horizon.It’s got fizz and zing,a bit like a Mini Cooper in fact – and that’s a real Mini Cooper,not the bloated pastiche made by BMW.

The Bridgestone is quite closely modelled on the 1960s machine,but in alloy,with some minor frame alterations

…it was great to slip into that 113-inch top gear, allowing 20mph cruising…

This efficient energy transfer comes from a stiff,strong frame that is uncompromised by the fact that it splits in half.Plus the Shimano bits Ultegra and Capreo are near the top of Shimano’s componentry pecking order,which shows in clean,precise gearchanging.The STI shifters will change down two,three or four cogs at a time,which is especially useful on steep hills,and also allow one to trim the big chainwheel.As the Custom is built to order,there’s a choice of ratios,and the test bike’s 928 tooth rear cogs came with 46 and 58-tooth chainwheels,giving 29-89 inches on the small chainwheel,and 40-112 on the big one.There’s also a monster 62-tooth chainwheel, which would deliver 119 inches.

Either way,there’s a cog for all occasions,and while the bottom 29inch isn’t a genuine granny gear,it climbed every hill we tried.There’s a whole folklore about climbing hills on Moultons,with some riders convinced that the front suspension will bob up and down,wasting valuable effort.If you stand on the pedals,pull on the bars and ride aggressively,it will,but sit back and pedal smoothly,and it won’t – simple. At the other end of the scale,it was great to slip into the 113-inch top, allowing (given athletic legs or a following wind) 20mph cruising.Like pedalling with seven league boots on.

Not surprisingly,the Moulton proved to be the fastest non-electric bike tested around our standard 10mile course,at 38 minutes.That put it a decisive nose ahead of the Brompton S2LX,at 41 minutes our previous fastest pedal-powered machine.We’ve never tested a conventional fast tourer,but we doubt it would exceed the Moulton’s average 15.7mph by very much. There is of course another side to all this get …suspension has always been part of the concept… combining the benefits of small wheels with big wheel comfort… up and go.Small wheels do take some acclimatisation,especially when allied with narrow drop bars. The Moulton has a flighty,quicksteering feel – it’s not unstable,but certainly needs more concentration than a big-wheeled bike.And the narrow,high pressure tyres (Bridgestone of course) which roll so freely aren’t well suited to loose surfaces riding off tarmac and straight onto a gravelly Sustrans track resulted in a lurid front wheel slide.Fortunately,good brakes are part of the package,Shimano side-pulls that are light, progressive and powerful.

Full suspension has always been part of the Moulton concept – the whole idea was to combine the benefits of small wheels (strength,acceleration,open frame) with big-wheel comfort.The Bridgestone’s suspension isn’t adjustable like that on Bradford-built Moultons, but the Custom does have that steel spring added to the front polymer.And the whole setup works superbly well,floating over manhole covers and speed humps,and giving you the confidence,despite those hard,narrow tyres,to ride straight over undulations.Not only that,but the single-tube suspension,with its scissor linkage,looks a far more elegant solution than the motorcycle-style front forks fitted to many bikes.The rear suspension consists of a non-adjustable lump of elastomer,which proved much too hard for my 10 stone.


The Moulton doesn’t fold like a Bike Friday,let alone one of the classic small-wheel folders,but then it was never intended as the sort of bike to slip onto a crowded commuter train.Instead,just like the original Moulton Stowaway,the split-in-half frame makes it easy to fit into the boot of the car (Bentley,in the case of some readers). Splitting the bike is a quick operation. Select top gear and split the three cables via the neat little threaded connectors,then unscrew the big allen bolt in the middle of the frame and gently lift the bike in half.After a couple of practice runs, we were doing this in 20 seconds,plus another 7 seconds to remove the saddle stem and quick-release pedals.The latter slip off after pushing down a spring-loaded collar,and very well they work too.The essential allen key is kept in in a slot underneath the rear rack,which is jolly handy…as long as no one nicks it while you’re around the corner sipping a cappuccino.

Anyway,the result is a bike of two halves. The front half measures 103.5cm long,26cm wide and 55.5cm tall (149 litres or 5.2 cu ft);the rear 101.5 x 53 x 43.5 (234 litres or 8.3 cu ft).Not something to have Brompton quaking in its boots,but still more adaptable than a conventional big-wheeler.We had the whole lot back together in 30 seconds,plus 12 for the saddle and pedals – no doubt more practice would bring a faster time.And once the allen bolt is tightened,the whole thing is as rigid as a solid frame.

Together again,the complete bike tipped our scales at 14.4kg with the racks in place but no bags – Moulton claim 12.1kg with the racks off,which sounds about right.Either way,the Bridgestone Moulton is a bit on the tubby side for such a sporty machine,though oddly it doesn’t feel heavy and slothful on the road – quite the reverse in fact.And according to our 10-mile time,it doesn’t perform that way either.

As on the more expensive Moultons,a small rear rack comes as standard,with a front rack and larger rear as extras,plus bags.Our test bike had the lot.They aren’t as capacious as conventional panniers,but big enough for a few days touring.Both bags slip on and off fairly quickly,thanks to velcro fastenings,so there’s no need to leave them outside the pub. They are waterproof,have external pockets and,best of all,little leather ‘Alex Moulton’ zip pulls.The rear bag does get muddy in wet weather though.


Some riders would never consider buying a Moulton;others would consider nothing else. The Bridgestone’s frame badge proclaims ‘The Spirit of Moulton,’ and it is just that.To all intents and purposes,this is the original Stowaway,but with modern components and superior performance.Forty years on,it’s become a fast,sporty tourer with a long pedigree,plus that elegant front suspension.It’s undeniably expensive in Custom form,and the standard Bridgestone (or Pashley’s TSR) looks better value.But the Moulton,wherever it’s made,is still a unique small-wheeler.


Bridgestone Moulton Custom Separable £2,175 . Weight 14.4kg (32lbs) . Gears 18-spd Shimano Capreo derailleur . Ratios 29″-113″ . Folded size (front) :L103.5cm W26cm H55.5cm (rear) : L101.5cm W53cm H43.5cm . Folded volume 383 litres (28 cu ft) Wheelbase 115cm . 10-mile circuit 38 mins . Manufacturer Bridgestone/Moulton UK Distributor Alex Moulton Ltd  tel 01225 865895 email

A to B 58 – Feb 07

Space Invader & DownTube Folding Bikes

Mission Space Invader & Downtube IX FS

Space Invader & DownTube Folding Bikes

With handlebars on the inside, the Space Invader produces a much neater package. The DownTube is wider and more cumbersome.

There was a time, not so long ago when you had to pay quite a lot for a light reliable practical folding bike. To be honest, little has changed, but the cheaper bikes have certainly improved. Some of the equipment may still be a bit dubious, but for £300 you can buy a Chinese bike that does quite a reasonable job. We’ve selected two from the recent crop of imports.The Space Invader is the latest incarnation of the Oyama Victor 1.0, first tested in A to B 44.The derailleur is less sophisticated, but the frame has been beefed up, and the bike costs a whacking 28% less, selling for just £249 in the UK. The DownTube is a relatively new concept, designed in 1996 by US bike shop owner,Yan Lyansky, produced in China, and sold direct to the public (via the ubiquitous eBay) to keep costs down.The result is a range of bikes priced from £249 to £299 ($299 to $329 in the USA). We’ve tested the fullsuspension IX FS, costing £299.

On the Road

Price is closely allied ton the folding bike market, so don’t expect either of these machines to be lightweights. Both have aluminium frames and wheels, but at this level frame material has little effect on weight.This might sound odd, but whereas the high-tec manufacturers will use clever computer design techniques to make frail alloys as thin as possible, the cheapie manufacturers tend to play safe by using a lot of it, particularly in the hinges. The Space Invader weighs 13kg (29lb), which isn’t too bad for a bike with a stand and full mudguards. But with front and rear suspension, the DownTube weighs a much more substantial 14.3kg (32lb). Only the very muscular would contemplate running for a train with either of these bikes under their arm, so if weight is an issue, read no further – you probably need to spend a bit more.

The Space Invader is equipped with Shimano’s cheapest derailleur, the SIS, now in 7-speed form, but still offering a disappointing 200% range (in other words, top gear is twice as high as “…neither bike is very quick, bottom). In this case, bottom gear is 32″ and but the Space Invader is certainly top gear 64″, which sounds pretty limiting. It the quicker of the two… is, but – in town, at least – the bike makes up for the limited gears with sharp steering and a lively, nifty character. It looks and feels fun to ride, until you find that your legs are spinning like mad and you’re still only doing 15mph. But it’s surprising how far and how fast you can go with a 64″ gear, and the change is pleasingly clunky and positive.

DownTube has chosen the Sunrace JuJu M90, which we’re not familiar with, but it looks slightly down-market, thanks to carbon fibre-effect paintwork on the mechanism. Strangely, the label (key parts are helpfully labelled) identifies the material as magnesium. Whatever it’s made of, it works well enough in a rather vague, woolly way, giving nine speeds from 28″ to 81″. Gears are the strongest element of the DownTube package.The JuJu is claimed to be the cheapest 9-speed folder in the world, which sounds unlikely, but seems to be true – you certainly get a lot of gears for the money.The tie-up with Sunrace means the company will also be selling a Sturmey Archer 8-speed version from early 2007.

On paper, the DownTube promises considerable advantages – a wider gear range (289% against 200%), more gears (nine against seven) and that full suspension. But where money is tight, less really can mean more, and in this case, although everyone fought over the DownTube initially, most defected to the Space Invader after a few rides. It just feels more lively.This might have something to do with the lighter weight, but it’s probably more about tyres. Both bikes use Kenda, which are almost universal on cheap Chinese-made machines, but the Space Invader rides on sprightly 32-406mm tyres, while the DownTube, rather oddly, comes with a 40-406mm on the front, and a slightly knobbly 47-406mm on the rear. All the tyres are rated at 65psi, but the Space Invader’s 32mm tyres seem to roll much better. Our new test hill (hopefully calibrated to match the old one) confirmed that neither bike is very quick, but the Space Invader is certainly the quicker of the two, recording a speed of 12.8mph, while the odd mixture of wider tyres on the DownTube held it back to 10.2mph. For comparison, a good 20-inch bike should hit 15-16mph, and a good 16-inch bike, 14-15mph. Incidentally, we hear a whisper that Dahon is unhappy about our claim (A to B 55), that the 16-inch Brompton S2L-X rolled marginally better than its 20inch MuSL.Ten years ago, 20inch bikes had a real advantage, but apart from smoothing out the bumps, the differential seems to have narrowed quite considerably today.

These 20-inch bikes are much slower than the Mu or the Brompton, but again In terms of numbers, the crude SIS there’s a marked difference between the must be one of the most successful derailleurs ever produced two. Riding our new 10 mile commuter circuit (again, we hope it’s “…The Space Invader recorded comparable), the Space Invader recorded a creditable time of 45 minutes… the a creditable time of 45 minutes, despite DownTube a lethargic 491/2…” being unable to capitalise on a strong tailwind on the outward leg. Riding back into a headwind, the little 7-speed gradually overhauled a twenty-eight-zillion gear MTB.

With more gears, the Downtube should have done better downwind, but it proved slower throughout, recording a lethargic time of 49 minutes 30 seconds. On one long uphill drag, the bike came perilously close to being passed by a jogger…

Handling is neither dangerous nor exciting on either bike, which is probably all you need to know. Both feel solid and dependable, but there’s a little play in the Space Invader stem hinge, and the pivot bush is a bit frail, so the movement can only get worse. Both have a 109cm wheelbase, which is typical for this sort of folding bike, and long enough to avoid choppiness and instability.The steering bearings were rather tight on the Downtube, which caused some low speed problems.This is easily adjusted, but it’s annoying to have to do this with a new machine. Both bikes needed their gears and brakes set up – not a problem with the Space Invader, which will usually be bought through a dealer, but DownTube bikes are sold on eBay in the UK, so a man will turn up with a box and you’ll have to make it work yourself. Once properly adjusted, the V-brakes on both machines worked well, although with a pronounced squeal from the front of the DownTube.

Kerb Hopping

This is where the DownTube comes into its own.The bike has fairly rigid rear suspension, but the front forks (borrowed from the junior MTB world) offer 50mm of travel without noticeable damping.This makes for great entertainment – pogo-ing at the traffic lights, plonking up and down kerbs, or pelting along fire trails, but the lack of control is less useful if you’re riding hard, when energy is wasted bouncing the bike. And in seriously rough conditions, those horrible tyres are too smooth for useful traction, the derailleur is only 7cm from the ground, and the heavy, cumbersome frame awkward to manoeuvre. Needless to say, the willowy Space Invader neither looks nor feels like an off-road machine, but then it doesn’t pretend to be.

Fit and Equipment

The DownTube should fit more or less anyone.The saddle extends from a low 79cm to a very high 108cm, and the bars from 97cm to 106cm, but you’re unlikely to use the extremes. Adjustable bars are probably more trouble than they’re worth on cheap machines.There’s quite a weight penalty, and in this case the crude clamp left a rusty stain and scored the alloy stem, which both looks unsightly and weakens a critical area. In any event, the bike comes with bar-ends, which effectively do much the same thing The as height-adjustable handlebars, JuJu has a vague and woolly accommodating a number of gear change, but offers a good range for the price riding styles.

In the equipment department, the bar-ends are about all you get.The DownTube has no pump, mudguards, stand, rack (the mountings are there though) or bell (now a legal requirement on new bikes in the UK).The Space Invader has practical, effective alloy mudguards, a bell and a stand.The handlebar stem is steel, and non-adjustable (which is probably a blessing), giving a fixed height of 105cm.This is a little on the high side, but great for riding in town.The saddle goes as low as you like, or up to 100cm, which will be too low for the really tall.


The Space Invader wins easily here.The fixed height bars fold neatly to the left, ending up between the wheels, the hinges are simple (the frame has a liftable safety pin) and fairly easy on the fingers, and the bike comes together quickly and neatly. Folding pedals are the near universal ‘Next’ pattern, which are strangely unbranded, save for the helpful legend ‘do not trap fingers’ in English and Chinese. As these are sold in pairs, and the Chinese like symmetry, the bike has two, but folding the right one will only slow you up, because it makes no difference to the folded package.Width is an admirable 37cm (narrower than most Dahons), height is a reasonable 64cm (less if you remove the saddle stem) and length is around 85cm.The folded package doesn’t lock together, but the volume of 210 litres (7.1 cu ft) is excellent. Not quite the smallest in class, but close to it.

By contrast, everything goes wrong with the DownTube.The bars fold to the right, ending up outside the package, and the height adjuster has to be fiddled with to get the bar-ends parallel with the wheels.The chunky frame hinge and less substantial bar hinge have spring-loaded safety catches as well as clamps, which is a nice touch, but the very wide front forks fold round and clank against the rear wheel.This results in one of the widest folding bikes we’ve ever measured, at 50cm. Both height and length are above average too, at 66cm and 88cm respectively, producing a package of 290 litres (10 cubic feet). As nothing locks in place, the bike constantly threatens to unfold in a heap and the bar ends prod you in the privates. This unwieldy 14kg lump must be carried very carefully. If you’re looking for something that will fold once in a while, either of these bikes will suffice, but only the Space Invader can really claim to be train friendly.The DownTube is not the sort of thing your fellow commuters will be happy about.


If you get the feeling we prefer the Space Invader, you’re right, but only because we look at everything from a sensible, practical point of view. It’s cheaper, lighter, faster, and makes you feel cheerful, without giving you a wet bottom in damp weather.The gearing is a bit on the low side, but it all works well enough. At this price, there’s lots of competition these days, but not many of them could be considered practical commuter machines. Best of the bunch are the badge-engineered ‘old model’ Dahons, such as the Philips Boardwalk and Ridgeback Impulse.The Space Invader competes well with these. The DownTube is an interesting paradox. It’s cheap, and offers lots of gears for the price, but it’s let down by weight, the indifferent fold and slothful performance. On the other hand, if you want suspension on a folding bike, it’s less than a third of the price of the equivalent Birdy, and with some good quality (ie free-rolling) knobbly tyres, it could make a neat little train-able mild off-road machine.We’d be interested to try the 8-speed Sturmey Archer version too, but not with these tyres.


DownTube IX FS £299 . Weight 14.3kg (32lbs) . Gears JuJu M90 9-spd derailleur Ratios 28″-81″ . Wheelbase 109cm . Manufacturer DownTube tel +1 (215) 245 4032 mail

Oyama Space Invader £249 . Weight 13kg (29lbs) . Gears Shimano SIS 7-spd derailleur Ratios 32″-64″ . Wheelbase 109cm . Manufacturer Oyama . UK Distributor Mission Cycles tel 01622 815615  mail

A to B 57 – Dec 2006

Sinclair A-Bike vs Mobiky Genius

Sinclair A-Bike v Mobiky Genius

A-Bike A to B magazineSinclair A-Bike versus Mobiky Genius

For decades, engineers have poured time, effort and money (usually other people’s) into designing a better folding bike. The Brompton broke radically new ground in the early 1990s by combining excellent rideability with a compact package, and this combination has remained the gold standard ever since. Just for the record, a Brompton can be ridden more than 50 miles in a day, and fold as small as three cubic feet, or 90 litres for Euro-people. It weighs 9.7 – 12.5kg, according to model.

Unbeatable? Well, yes and no. The Brompton is relatively heavy, and – as these micro-folder manufacturers are quick to point out – we don’t all need to ride 50 miles in a day. Most commuter rides are a couple of miles,and some even less. Surely,a lighter, simpler, more compact machine would suit many users?

Quite by chance, two have arrived at once: the Mobiky Genius is designed in France and manufactured in the Far East. From London (but manufactured in Malaysia) we have an advance sample of Sir Clive Sinclair’s long awaited A-bike.


A-Bike chain layout, A to B magazine

The A-bike has a double reduction chain drive. The primary chain is conventional, but the secondary uses a micro-pitch chain. Note the quality bearings and the rather frail casing.

sinclair a-bike sprocket

The tiny drive sprocket in the rear wheel. Note the reflector and rather awkward valve.

mobiky genius versus A-bikeBoth of these machines look like stylish, sophisticated urban transport tools, and for some people, that’s more than enough, whether they work or not. The A-bike, in particular, is cheap (£199) and sufficiently compact to be artfully posed as a loft-living object d’art. As a folded package it’s as neat and homogeneous as a folded Brompton. Unfolded, it’s rather less successful, appearing somewhat spindly and frail. It also looks like a bike without any wheels, because where you expect to see wheels, there are two six- inch rubber diskettes. Yup, those are your wheels.

The Genius is rather less satisfactory folded.The bits don’t come together so neatly, and it produces a big untidy package, but unfold it and you’ve got a relatively normal bicycle with a 97cm wheelbase, sitting on (relatively) conventional 12½” wheels.

Both bikes get around the small- wheel gearing problem with double reduction drives to spin the tiny wheels at a reasonable rate. The Genius uses a 3-speed hub and conventional chain and sprockets, which look rather over-engineered in this application. It’s hard to understand why they bothered, because a 54- tooth chain ring and 13-tooth sprocket would have achieved the same thing for a lot less weight and cost, without increasing the size of the folded bike (although it would have needed a chain tensioner when folded).

The first chainset gives a reduction of 2.36:1 and the second 1.75:1. With 12½” tyres (more like 12″ in reality), and the Sturmey Archer hub, the gears come out at 37″,50″ and 66″ – a bit on the low side, but more or less conventional. Anyone wanting higher gears can simply change the final 16-tooth sprocket for something smaller.

The A-bike is altogether more sophisticated. The primary reduction is by conventional chain (oddly 1/8″ width rather than the narrower 3/32″), but the secondary reduction uses a dinky micro-pitch chain, making the drive lighter and more compact. The result of all this technology is a whacking 6.8:1 gear reduction, and a single 41-inch gear. This is painfully low, but a necessary compromise. Sprocket sizes are 14-tooth and 8-tooth on the primary drive, and 35-tooth and 9-tooth on the secondary. An A-bike ridden predominantly on the flat could certainly pull a higher gear, but space is tight, so there’s little or nothing that can be done to change the ratio. The wheels, layshaft and bottom bracket use ball bearings throughout, but the bearings are a fairly loose push-fit in plastic housings which twist under load. Time will tell whether this light, simple system survives.

A-bike and Genius on the Road

A-bike A to B magazine

Cornering on the A-Bike has to be a measured affair. Unless you sit well forward there’s little weight on the tyre.

A-bike, A to B magazine

Riding the A-Bike one handed can be tricky.

The Genius is a pleasant surprise. The concertina folding design opens out into a long, low and rather comfortable bike. The 12½” tyres work surprisingly well, despite a lowly pressure rating of 35psi. These tyres are still rare,but there’s no doubt this size has a future. The Genius’ Cheng Shin tyres are a chunky 2¼” wide, giving a supple ride with reasonable rolling resistance. We managed a roll-down speed of 11.6mph on our test hill, which is the sort of result we might have expected from a 16-inch bike a decade or so ago.

The gears feel ‘grown up’, despite the lowish range, and well up to a modest commute. We rode our 10-mile commuter test course in 45 minutes, which is only a few minutes off the ‘big folder’ pace. The frame is wonderfully rigid, thanks to some seriously over-engineered bits and pieces and ball bearings, no less, in the frame joints. There has to be a penalty, and in this case it’s a bike weighing 14.1kg – one of the heaviest folders we’ve ever tried. No, you wouldn’t want to carry it far, but under duress we would be willing to ride the Genius for 15 or 20 miles.

So much for 12½” tyres! The A bike has 6-inch tyre s,and it’s hard to understand why designer Alex Kalogroulis chose this size over say, 8-inch. Slightly larger wheels would have added very little to weight and folded size, but improved the ride quality no end.

Well, it’s clearly not going to be well placed in the Tour de France, but is the A-bike up to a daily commute? To find out, we did quite a bit of fettling to get the thing rolling properly. To be fair, our bike is a pre-production prototype, but it arrived with a number of high-friction faults; rubbing brakes (of which more later), a tight, dry chain and squidgy tyres. The tyres are rated at 90psi, and you need every pound in the rear, if not the front. Connecting a track pump nozzle to the constricted Schrader valves is difficult, but when you do, 90psi comes up in three full strokes. Very useful, but if you pause for a microsecond in disconnecting the pump, most of it comes out again. Incidentally, these tiny tyres have conventional tubes, so the puncture repair procedure should be familiar.

Wheel removal is easy at the front, but at the back you can get in quite a tangle with the brake band and chain. Adjusting the secondary chain means removing the front wheel, reaching in, removing eight allen screws and rotating the bearing housings. As there are only three tension options, you may find – as we did – that the choice is between overtight causing too much friction, or over-loose, allowing the chain to jump under load. Even getting at the (non-adjustable) primary chain and freewheel means splitting the chain case, which essentially involves dismantling the whole bike. Clearly chain adjustment is a long-winded and tedious job.

A-bike A to B magazine

Unlike the Genius, the A-bike is a seriously lightweight machine, weighing just 5.7kg, exactly as claimed. To achieve this headline figure, they’ve used some clever materials in clever ways, but the bottom line is a rather wobbly frame. There’s an 85kg weight limit, but even those safely below this will feel the frame flex as they climb aboard. Press on the pedals and the bottom bracket twists and squirms. You get used to this, but the flexy frame and stictiony headset bearings tend to result in a wobbly ride at first. With a 74cm wheelbase, and the saddle over the back wheel, the only safe riding position is to sit right on the nose, leaning well forward. Relax and you’ll be off the back before you’ve realised what’s happening.

Once under way and up to cruising speed, the ride is quite good if you avoid potholes and rough, broken surfaces. The official line from the manufacturers is that cyclists instinctively avoid potholes anyway. This is true, but if you are faced with a kerb, a pothole and two white vans passing at 60mph, you’ll probably go for the pothole. That’s unpleasant on a conventional bike, and survivable on a 16-inch folder, but with 6-inch wheels, it isn’t an option. Consequently, you have to watch the road with particular care and keep escape routes in mind.

If you can find a decent surface, the 6-inch wheels do surprisingly well, although the bike stopped some way short on our test hill, despite all the fiddling to make it roll better. You don’t notice too much on the road though. A bigger problem is friction in the crude plastic headset bushes. Small wheels need to make rapid changes of direction, and friction in the steering doesn’t help. After a few miles, the grumbles became aches and pains caused by the peculiar geometry of the triangular frame. With a maximum saddle height of 92cm, a high bottom bracket, and 140mm cranks, you’d need the legs of a leprechaun to find a comfortable straight-leg riding position.

Ah yes, the saddle. The problem here is that it’s shaped for folding rather than riding, with a big cut out at the back and a rather high and solid nose. If you have a bottom this shape, you’ll be a medical curiosity, and we couldn’t find anyone willing to sit on it for very long. The need to sit well forward tends to put you on the nose of the saddle, throwing a lot of weight onto the handlebars, straining the lower arms and putting a bit of a kink in the neck. If you suffer on a normal bike, you are unlikely to be comfortable on this one.

So how far did we ride? Showing true grit and determination, we completed our 10-mile commuter run in a slow, but by no means disastrous 66 minutes – an average of 9mph. With a 40″ gear, it’s hardly surprising that the A-bike managed to climb all the modest (sub 10%) hills on our circuit, but despite all the wobbles, it was surprisingly easy to ride out of the saddle. This brought the bonus of blessed relief from riding in the saddle. Record-breaking runs aside, we think the practical range for a nicely run-in example with well-inflated tyres, would be about two miles. Top speed? If you need to ask, sir, you’re buying the wrong bike. Cruising speed is in the 8-10mph zone (making our 9mph, 10-mile ride quite good going), but with some super cadence and great concentration, we managed to accelerate the A-bike to 15mph on the flat.This takes nerves of steel, a good surface and strong legs. The rear tyre gets quite warm after a few miles, which shows where much of your effort is going. But to be fair, small tyres show the heat more than big ones.

Cornering on the Sinclair has to be a measured affair. Unless you sit well forward there’s little weight on the front tyre 66 minutes – an average of 9mph. With a 40″ gear, it’s hardly surprising that the A-bike managed to climb all the modest (sub 10%) hills on our circuit, but despite all the wobbles, it was surprisingly easy to ride out of the saddle. This brought the bonus of blessed relief from riding in the saddle. Record-breaking runs aside, we think the practical range for a nicely run-in example with well-inflated tyres, would be about two miles. Top speed? If you need to ask, sir, you’re buying the wrong bike. Cruising speed is in the 8-10mph zone (making our 9mph, 10-mile ride quite good going), but with some super cadence and great concentration, we managed to accelerate the A-bike to 15mph on the flat. This takes nerves of steel, a good surface and strong legs. The rear tyre gets quite warm after a few miles, which shows where much of your effort is going.But to be fair, small tyres show the heat more than big ones.


Mobiky Genius versus A-bike

The Genius front disk brake.

Brakes on micro-bikes tend to be poor, and this pair are very typical. The Genius has a classic Chinese combination of band brake at the rear and cable operated disc at the front. They are appalling. The rear band brake has a convoluted cable run and can just about manage 0.3G going forward, which is enough to lock the wheel in dry conditions. In reverse (holding the bike on a hill, for example) the braking force more or less evaporates, and in the wet (reproduced this hot, dry summer with a watering can), the force is about halved. None of this would matter too much if the stylish front disc brake was any good, but it’s a wonderful example of style over substance. To stop the brake binding you need to slacken the adjuster until the pads hardly bite. Testing the brakes thus with our handy G-meter the bike ran off the end of the car park, depositing the tester in a patch of nettles. Reset with binding brakes, we managed a pathetic best stop of 0.25G, which is positively dangerous for a front brake. The only good news is that things don’t get much worse in the wet, so once you’ve acclimatised, there should be no nasty surprises in store.

A-Bike brake, A to B magazine

The band brakes on the A-Bike are delightfully minimalist, but efficiency is marginal, especially in the wet.

By contrast, the A-bike’s little band brakes work quite well. Both suffered from binding bands initially, but once properly set, worked well. Best stop from the front is a passable 0.45G, and from the back, 0.3G, which is just enough to lock the wheel. As with the rear band on the Genius, the effectiveness is more or less halved in the wet. The open design means that water is more likely to get in, but on the other hand it’s more likely to dry out too. Shielded band brakes can stay moist and unpredictable for days. The A-bike gets a very cautious thumbs up in the braking department, but neither bike would be up to the cut and thrust of city traffic on a damp February morning. Both bikes have mudguards, but they’re too short to keep you dry, especially the vestigial ‘dodo wings’ on the Sinclair. And we all know what happened to the dodo. The Sinclair does at least have enclosed chains, but there’s a big gap underneath and the chains share the enclosure with the rear tyre, so it’s guaranteed to fill with salt and grit in the wet. Carry-bags are standard accessories with both bikes. The A-bike pops into a neat shoulder bag, with a smaller compartment for carrying tiny luggage, which looks useful. The Genius bag is huge, but with no shoulder strap you’re supposed to lift the 14.1kg bike with two straps on the top of a tall bag. Smaller folk will find this impossible.


Both bikes score very highly here. The A-bike looks tricky, but it’s a logical process and if you get stuck there’s an excellent manual written by someone whose first language appears to be English. You start by pressing a button on the ‘crosspiece’, which hinges upwards, bringing the wheels together, where they clip neatly in place. Then the handlebars rotates through 180 degrees, leaving the bars facing backwards ,and you whip off a pair of quick releases and press four buttons (easier than it sounds) allowing the frame tubes to telescope downwards. As the tubes drop,the saddle stem automatically folds down and clips into place. Apart from the folding pedals and hinging down the handlebars, neither of which are essential, that’s about it.

A-Bike, A to B magazine

The difference in folded size is quite striking.

For the novice, the operation takes about 20 seconds, but we saw an experienced member of the A-bike crew fold the bike in seven seconds. Unfolding will be a little slower because of the need to tighten the two frame quick-releases (the saddle height should not need adjustment). Incidentally, if you forget, the bike is still rideable, which may turn out to be a problem in practice, but then it may not. It all depends how stupid the Great British Public turn out to be.

We made the folded size a little more than the manufacturers’ claim: 67cm tall, 33cm deep and 17cm wide, but that still gives an incredible folded volume of 37.6 litres or 1.33 cubic feet. Sinclair claims that the folded A-bike is a third the size of the Brompton, and that’s more or less true. And carrying that 5.7kg (12 1 / 2 lb) package will be easy over modest distances.

A-bike versus Mobiky Genius, A to B magazineIf anything, the Genius is even easier to fold. The scissor-style frame is held in either the up or down position by a single metal rod resting on the rear frame. When you’re riding, this takes your weight. Lift the bike by its central carry-handle and the rod prevents the frame closing up until it’s pushed towards the chunky saddle stem. With the rod out of engagement, a lift on the handle brings the frame and wheels together. Finally, a quick-release lowers the saddle,and you lift a pair of buttons like trumpet valves to fold the bars down. Time is broadly similar to the A-bike,but at 14.1kg (31lb) the resulting lump is very nearly three times the weight.

Once folded, the Genius can be wheeled around in collapsed form, which is useful at a busy station for example – but sooner or later you will have to lift it, and many people would be unable to lift this bike into a car boot.


The micro folder is an intriguing concept. There are many occasions where a Brompton or Dahon is too darn big for the job, and these clever designs promise to fill the gap between micro-scooter and grown-up folding bike.

Do they succeed? Not very well. Despite their undoubted attributes, both these bikes come unstuck for different reasons. The Genius can tackle longish rides and modest hills almost like a ‘proper’ folder, but when folded it’s significantly bigger, heavier and clumsier than a Brompton. You could forgive this if it was half the price, but at £499 it’s well into Brompton territory.

The £199 A-bike is a bit more realistic, but the performance is closer to the microscooter end of the market. On paper, the A-bike seems to fill that scooter/bike gap very well, but the practical range of a mile or two is not a great deal more than a lighter, cheaper and more compact micro-scooter can achieve. If your trip to the tube station is right on that limit, you may well disagree – the Sinclair certainly does have an application, but we think it might be rather narrowly defined.

Would we buy either bike? No. The Genius is too heavy and with the A-bike it comes down to safety. We do sometimes ride a micro-scooter to our local station. It won’t even look at potholes or rough surfaces, but it nips along the pavement reasonably well, jumps over obstacles and folds to nothing on the train. The A-bike has to share the road with 40-tonners, mad phone-wielding reps, killer potholes and all the other unpleasantnesses of modern travel. We’re comfortable with 4-inch wheels on the pavement, but very nervous about 6-inch wheels on the road. The A-bike is oddly reminiscent of the C5 – a superb idea, quite well executed, but impractical in the real world.

Update: The A-Bike City (£299.99) with 8-inch wheels was introduced in 2010, but we don’t expect this to significantly improve the overall performance.

Folding Bike Specifications

Sinclair A-Bike Mobiky Genius
Price £199 £499
Weight 5.7kg (12½ lbs) 14.1kg (31 lbs)
Gears Single Speed.
Ratio 40″
3-speed Sturmey Archer.
Ratios 37″, 50″, 66″
Folded Size H67cm L33cm W17cm H78cm L67cm W30cm
Folded Volume 37.6 ltr (1.33 cu ft) 156.8 ltr (5.5 cu ft)
Wheelbase 74cm 97cm
Coasting Speed Failed 11.6mph
10-mile Circuit 66 mins 45 mins
Manufacturer Daka Mobiky
UK Distributor Mayhem Magic Bikes

A to B 55 – August 2006

Brompton S2L-X vs Dahon Mu SL

Dahon Mu SL v Brompton S2L-X

Brompton S2L-X Folding BikeWhy would anyone want to pay much, much more for a lightweight folding bike? We get asked this quite often by big burly types.There are two primary markets,the obvious one being smaller people looking for something light and easy to hoik up into a car boot for leisure rides.The other is much more interesting stuff,and goes right to the heart of what we’re about and what we believe,because a lightweight folding bike takes the user into a new world of seamless, effortless integrated transport. Once you’ve ridden one of these bikes on city streets,hopping on and off, and vaulting onto trams and trains, you will be hooked. In the leisure market, a kilogramme here or there is of little consequence, but if your folding bike is your primary means of transport, you too will be prepared to pay big money to make it as light and convenient as possible. These are the lightest bikes around,if we omit custom Bike Fridays and esoteric folders like the Sinclair A-bike.We’ve tested both the S2L-X and Mu before in slightly different form.The Mu replaces the lightweight Helios SL we tried in August 2004 ( A to B43 ), we had a brief go on the Brompton S2L-X in April 2005 ( A to B47 ) and have since built our own super-lightweight derivative ( A to B49 ). Here we test them together for the first time. Is there are a clear best buy?

Fun to Ride

Lightweight bikes are undeniably fun to ride,but the widely held belief that they offer higher speed and nippier acceleration is mostly myth. If a bike weighs 12kg and the rider 70kg, reducing the weight of the bike by 2kg will shave little more than 2% off the gross weight,so performance will be broadly the same.But these bikes certainly feel faster than their more portly cousins.Why? No doubt there’s a psychological effect here: these lightweight machines feel sharper,and presumably that sportier feel encourages more spirited riding. the world of Brompton oneupmanship, this bike has it all… but a passerby would never know…

Both are derived from standard models in production for decades, but the S2L-X and SL couldn’t be more different.The Brompton is neat and understated,the only obviously sporty feature being the low,straight ‘S’ type handlebars.But in the world of Brompton oneupmanship, this bike has it all:titanium seat pillar,rear frame,front forks and mudguard stays,Schwalbe Stelvio tyres,Jagwire cables,and a few other rarefied bits,although a passerby would never know.Concessions? It’s a normal Brompton in every respect, with full wet weather gear,front luggage carrier and everything else (except standard lights), but the S2L-X has only two gears,and they’re quite close ratios.You can fit wider ratios if you want ( A to B52 ),or choose from any of Brompton’s gear options (1,3 or 6 gears), but the single-speed is a bit limiting,and the others add weight,so the 2-speed is probably the best compromise.Like all Brompton variants,it has 16-inch tyres,which at 349mm, are almost 17-inch,and noticeably bigger than the 305mm ‘16-inch’ tyres common on Far Eastern bikes. The Mu SL looks pretty conventional too.Like the Brompton it has Stelvio tyres,but these are the next size up – 406mm or 20-inch.The bike has eight derailleur gears, but where Dahons are usually well equipped,the downside of the lightweight variant is a somewhat stripped down feel.The SL has no stand and no mudguards,which presumably won’t matter if it never rains again. More important,if you are hoping to do practical things with it, there’s no system for carrying luggage.

Dahon Mu-SL Folding BikeOn the Road

Considering how different they are,the two bikes feel remarkably similar on the road.Both are rigid (the Brompton through those lower bars and the Dahon through a sturdier frame,stem and hinges),and both feel lithe and sporty.In traffic the Brompton’s 2-speed is slicker and easier than Dahon’s SRAM derailleur, but with a choice of only 56″ and 74″ gears,the Brompton can lag behind on hills.The Dahon has eight well-chosen ratios,from 31″ to 89″,which sounds like a clear advantage,but both these bikes respond well to standing out of the saddle on hills,so the lower gears are not as essential as they might sound. Presumably the bigger-wheeled Dahon rolls further and faster? As we were testing identical tyres,we went to some trouble to set the tyre pressures the same (60psi front and the maximum of 85psi rear) and test in identical conditions,but to our surprise the Brompton coasted slightly better,hitting 15mph against 14.7mph. The answer, presumably,is in the riding position.The ‘S’

…don’t go assuming that bigger wheels are better… Clearly they aren’t…

type bars are quite low,whereas those on the Mu give a more comfortable upright position. This increases the wind resistance enough to overshadow the slight bonus of the bigger wheels.Strange but true. Put these factors together and there’s another surprise.On our 10-mile commuter run the little Brompton was marginally faster,at 40 minutes against 41 minutes.It’s quite a flat circuit,so hills don’t really enter the equation,and at 15mph we aren’t riding particularly fast.Obviously hills and/or speed would tend to benefit the bigger bike,but don’t go assuming that bigger wheels are necessarily better.Clearly they aren’t. Although both these bikes are fun to ride and both nip along very efficiently, neither is particularly comfortable.The Dahon’s bigger wheels give a less choppy,more relaxed ride, but the handlebar grips stop the blood flowing to your fingers after a few miles.The Brompton counters with rear suspension, but we didn’t like the low‘S’ type handlebars which put far too much weight on your arms.


All right,we won’t keep you in suspense any longer…The Dahon is the lighter of the two,but at 9.5kg (21lb), it’s noticeably heavier than the 2004 Helios SL. On the other hand,it’s noticeably tougher too.The Helios was fitted with Rolf wheels which were said to be quite problematic, and it was certainly weaker around the hinge,stem and frame than the Mu,which feels a lovely solid machine.The Brompton weighs 9.7kg,exactly the same as the early production example we tried in April 2005. With folding, the honours definitely go the other way, as one might expect. We usually quote a folded size of 85 litres or 3 cubic feet for the Brompton. This is certainly achievable for smaller people, but if you prefer the saddle back and/or up,or you’ve fiddled with the handlebars or

…folding the Dahon is much simpler, and in this bulkier guise, any idiot should be able to master it…

brake levers,the folded size will grow. Set up for a typical rider of 5’ 9″,our test bike occupied 97 litres,or 3.4 cubic feet. Fit a taller seat pillar and the volume can exceed 106 litres (3.7 cubic feet). But against almost every other folder on the market,it’s unbeatable,and the folded package clips together really well.This makes it easier to carry and you can even sit on the folded bike on a crowded train, which is a real bonus. (If you fancy trying this,put the saddle stem right down and lock it with the saddle turned at an angle to create a comfy bottom-shaped seat out of the frame tube.) By contrast the Mu folds into quite a big package,and is noticeably longer than the older Helios.At 68cm it’s the same height, but 5cm longer (85cm) and 3cm wider (43cm). This results in a package of 249 litres or 8.8 cubic feet,which is big by any standards.On the other hand, the little magnetic catches that hold the frame halves together really work on this bike,where on more‘compact’ Dahons they never really make contact. Folding and unfolding the Brompton is easy once you’ve learnt the fold order,but can be confusing if you haven’t.The fiendishly clever folding pedal in particular (many folding bikes have two,but most,like the Brompton,only need one) can cause all sorts of aggravation for the inexperienced. Folding the Dahon is much simpler, and in this bulkier guise,any idiot should be able to master it.The magnets lightly clip the frame shut,and the handlebars fold down outside the package and are locked by a little plastic clip.But you do have to be careful,because if you miss the clip,the bars will clonk into the stem, which can be nasty. Once the Dahon is fully folded, you remove the MKS MTE demountable pedals (note, as above,that only one really needs to come off).These weigh 150g apiece, or 25g less than the MKS Promenade pedals fitted to the Helios.Demountable pedals are good and bad in equal measure.They pop off easily, leaving very little sticking out of the cranks,but the shafts are greasy,and you have to put them somewhere safe or the bike is rendered completely useless.On the other hand,the Dahon is a useful 300g lighter without them, so you only need to carry 9.2kg in one chunk.


We hate to be wimpy and weedy on this crucial question,but it really does depend what you want a folding bike for.The truth is,they’re both very good in their way… At £800,the Mu SL is much cheaper than the Brompton,which costs a delightfully precise £1,007.The Dahon is lighter too. For leisure rides where you don’t intend to carry more than a day bag,it’s a fine machine for the price. On the other hand, the Brompton S2L-X folds quickly and repeatably to less than half the size and is a much less cumbersome package on trains and buses.For a very small weight penalty,it comes fully equipped (except for lights),and it appears to be marginally the quickest of the two.


Brompton S2L-X £1,007 .Weight 9.9kg (22lbs) . Gears 2-speed . Ratio 56”,74” . Folded Size H64.5cm L57.5cm W 2 8 . 5 c m . Folded Vo l u m e 96.7ltr (3.4 cu ft) .Wheelbase 105 c m Coasting Speed 15.0 mph. 10-mile Circuit 40 mins . Manufacturer Brompton Bicycle tel 0208 232 8484

Dahon Mu SL £800 .Weight 9.5kg (21lbs) . Gears 8-speed SRAM derailleur . Ratios 31-89″ Folded Siz e H68cm L85cm W43cm . Folded Volume 249ltr (8.8 cu ft) .Wheelbase 102 cm Coasting Speed 14.7mph . 10-mile Circuit 41 mins . Manufacturer Dahon Folding Bikes  mail UK distributor Fisher Outdoor Leisure  tel 01727 798345 mail

A to B 55 – Aug 2006

Brompton vs Birdy vs Bike Friday

Brompton v Birdy v Bike Friday Folding Bike ReviewDecisions, decisions, decisions… You know how it is, life’s treated you well, and you’ve settled on a Roller for best, and a Bentley for , you know, just pottering. But where do you find a matching folding bike? And what criteria do you use? Andrew Hague takes up the story, while Laila models the bikes…

Here are three folders,all modified and all with the 14-speed Rohloff gears,V-brakes and Schmidt hub dynamos (not shown in the summer photos).Which is best? I believe that a folding bike should fold in twenty seconds, fit easily into a car boot and be suitable for a hundred-mile ride. Originally,I had a Brompton with a Sturmey 5-speed, Schlumpf Mountain drive and conventional Brompton brakes and although it did all I wanted it to do, I thought there might be something better.

The Bike Friday

I fell for the Bike Friday propaganda, ordered a NewWorld Tourist with a Rohloff 14-speed hub and V-brakes,and went to Oregon to collect it.I fell in love with the Rohloff, the Shimano brakes and the H-handlebars, but the rest of the bike was disappointing.The claim from Bike Friday was that it would ride like a big-wheeled bike and fold into a suitcase in 30 seconds.All of that proved wrong.Small wheels can never ride as well as big wheels.The Friday folds in a few seconds but is still big.To get it into a suitcase it has to be dismantled and that takes an hour;in that time any bike can be dismantled and put in a case.If Bike Friday know how to do it quicker they are keeping it a secret;there are no instructions. The Friday had to be completely rebuilt to be reliable.The Rohloff’s gear cables were replaced by an external assembly because the cables could not move in the tight bends of the Friday’s design.By rerouting the cables and making a stainless steel guide at the bottom bracket,gear changing and folding became easier. The bronze bearings in the hinges shattered in less than a year, letting the hinges distort.I made and press-fitted mild steel ones with lots of grease,and these have remained trouble-free.Proper mudguards were fitted and the shoddy assembly of the bike corrected;it is now rideable. The initial fold is quick.The chain does now not come off and the gear cable doesn’t snag.It just fits in the boot of my Bentley Continental,but if the pedals are the wrong way around the lid won’t close.The boot of my Rolls-Royce is much bigger,but this is not a car I can park anywhere whilst out on the bike! The best bag system of any folder can be found on the Brompton,so I asked Bike Friday to fit it and sent them the braze-on boss.When I got to their factory in Eugene, they had made no attempt to fit it.Instead they supplied a pannier carrier and a pair of absolutely water-tight Vaude bags.This works,but it wasn’t what I ordered.


The Birdy Grey is an example of design for design’s sake.From the novelty of the folding front forks with soft springs comes a soft,energy absorbing ride and dangerously unstable steering.The geometry is all wrong: to move the saddle forward I made the aluminium adaptation shown in the photo of the seat post.The handlebar stem was of fixed height and position,which might suit someone,but certainly not me,so I made stainless steel H-bars and an adjustable stem.I can do this with my own workshop but it is beyond the scope of most cyclists and bike shops so I wonder how many satisfied Birdy owners there really are. I rode this bike in France and Austria where I climbed the Grossglockner Pass but on one of the descents the wires of the rear Schwalbe Stelvio tyre snapped at about 50mph. Although smaller than the Friday and fitting easier into the car boot, the folding is messy,the tool bag has to be removed before a fold and the chain always comes off,meaning dirty fingers later on.The Birdy brochures promote their bikes as serious tourers,but that is an unjustified claim.


The Brompton in comparison is a modest machine.Although the company admits its bikes are in use all around the world,they are sold as commuting bikes.In fact, they are much more,and can do anything.With the Friday and Birdy equipped with Rohloff hubs and Vbrakes,and a Brompton with a Sturmey hub and side-pull callipers,I realized that the ideal folder had to be an upgraded Brompton. I bought a new L3 for the conversion,and in my opinion,this is now better than the other two bikes in almost every way.Of the three bikes in their ex-factory state, only the Brompton with its 3-speed Sturmey was suitable for a hundred-mile ride,so bad were the faults on the Friday and Birdy. This proves the excellence of the Brompton geometry and the thorough thinking that has resulted in a design that includes a folding pedal,bag,and lights that don’t clash with folding.When folded, the Brompton chain never comes off and lies between the wheels,meaning clean legs and fingers.I made a Brompton trailer-bike for my daughter and bought another Brompton for my wife.All three fit into the Bentley boot.No other bike is so neat and rideable.

The Brompton is the cheapest, and superficially – the crudest of the three. Not so, says Andrew Hague, and the family now have a Brompton each…


Brompton Bicycle tel 0207 232 8484
Birdy web tel +49 6151 366 86-0
Bike Friday (UK agent) Avon Valley tel 01225 442442
Bentley Motors tel 0808 100 5200

A to B 55 – Aug 2006

Birdy Folding Bike

Birdy 2006

Birdy Folding Bike‘It goes like the wind’: my initial somewhat subjective assessment of the new Birdy as I cycled across Westminster Bridge in London three days before Christmas last year. Would I feel as happy after the honeymoon period? The new Birdy was announced last September at various German cycling shows and a pre-production example was on display at the London Cycle Show in October. So what’s changed from the old model? The most obvious difference is a completely new frame. Instead of the angular rather unconventional look, the new frame is two pieces of shaped aluminium welded together. Riese and Müller, the manufacturers, call it a ‘monocoque frame’ welded together using ‘robotic technology’. The lines are much cleaner and the overall look much more twentyfirst century than the old model. R & M claim that the new bike is marginally lighter (140g less) and has a stiffer frame.

New colours; old gear options

On the old Birdy, the colours were model and specific, but as an optional extra you can choose from the list of five colours.There are four models: 24-speed SRAM 3 x 8, Shimano 8-speed Nexus, Shimano Deore 9-speed derailleur and Rohloff 14-speed hub. Other components have changed, some for the better: a higher quality handlebar stem hinge; both optional stems are now height adjustable; the cable runs are inside the frame and so on. However, some changes are less convincing: Cheaper Avid brakes instead of Shimano Capreo for example.The new colours are bold: orange, blue (nearly purple), grey, cream and black. You either love them or hate them! Black probably looks best, as most of the add-ons mudguards, rack, etc – come in black too.

…How is it? Very fast is my first reaction and perfect for my needs…


I placed my order in October and Simpsons of Kentish Town, London – my excellent local dealer and A to B advertiser – took delivery in December. So how is it? Very fast is my initial reaction. And perfect for my needs. Every day I cycle 16 miles into London and return by train. A Brompton can do this and I have made the trip on a Brompton many times. But on a Birdy it is a breeze, particularly with the Rohloff gears.Whatever the situation, it is always in the right gear. This is not my first Birdy (I sold my previous Birdy Black through A to B last year). So where does the new Birdy deliver against the old? It is fast and performs well – ideal for a longer commute and potentially for touring too (touring panniers are available). It has good acceleration and is excellent at hill climbing.The suspension is a bonus on London’s rather variable roads. Folding can be divided into four stages: front wheel, back wheel, seat post and handlebars. The hub gear makes folding as easy as the Brompton (it’s slightly more difficult on the derailleur versions) but the folded package is not quite as neat. South West Trains, not renowned for being cycle friendly, give no problems during the rush-hour, even with the Birdy uncovered!

The niggles

As with any new model there are a few things that don’t work as they should. The worst is the problem with getting the seat post to stay where you want it. It doesn’t move much but it shouldn’t move at all! The new clamp looks much neater but seems not to perform as well. Riese & Müller is looking into this! The small piece of metal to protect the frame from the chain when folded fell off after 100 miles.The jury is still out on the new Marathon Racer tyres.These are faster and lighter than previous Marathon variants, but two punctures in the first 200 miles does not augur well.The tyres look good but seem painfully thin and cost a fiver more than the often criticised Birdy own-brand tyres they replace (although I personally had no problems with them on my old Birdy).

…the Racer tyres are faster and lighter, but two punctures in 200 miles does not auger well…

Great if you fit the niche…or my commute the new Birdy is ideal and apart from the niggles above I am very happy with it. Of course, the competition is stiff out there, as every issue of A to B reminds us. Personally I think it provides a better ride than both the Brompton and various Dahon models. But it can cost a lot more too (apart from the basic Birdy Red which is still based on the old frame).And it doesn’t fold quite as neatly as the Brompton nor has such a good luggage system.The Birdy fits a fairly niche market and if you fit that niche, it’s perfect. If not, you might be better with something else. In the end it depends on your needs and the depth of your pocket. If you can afford it and it fulfils your needs it is a great bike.

Birdy Specification

Birdy Red (old frame) 8-speed Shimano Deore £830 . Birdy Touring £1,080 – orange, with 3×8-speed Shimano Intego derailleur . Birdy City £1,000 – cream, with 8-speed Nexus hub . Birdy Speed £1,340 – grey, with 9-speed Shimano Deore XT derailleur . Birdy Rohloff £1,950 – blue, with 14-speed hub Folded size 79cm x 61cm x 36cm. . Weight Birdy Speed weighs 10.4kg (23lb). The others are around 1kg more . Accessories mudguards and various racks extra . Other accessories include a bag, rucksack, lighting and kickstand. Off-road and Sch walbe Big Apple tyres are also available Manufacturer Riese and Müller GmbH mail . UK distributor None, but a limited number of specialist stockists.

Andrew Croggon

A to B 53 – April 2006

Airframe 8-speed

Airframe Folding Bike 8-speedOne wonders what goes on in the boardrooms of folding bike manufacturers. Are board members instructed never to mention the ‘B’ word? Or do they ritually stick pins in plasticine models of the Brentford Folder? The fact is – and we might as well get this over with – the Brompton is more or less unassailable in terms of practicality, ride and foldability.We’ve never seen a bike come close: a few 20-inch big wheelers are faster (not all though), a handful of machines have a rudimentary luggage carrying system, and some fold quite well, but the Brompton scores at least 8/10 in all these areas, so it can’t be beaten. Not yet, anyway. To successfully compete against the wunder-fahrrad, you need a machine that is significantly cheaper (certain Dahons and others), faster  (Bike Friday and Airnimal), or that exploit the Brompton’s primary weakness – its limited gear range.

Wisely, Airframe manufacturer Silkmead has gone for the latter course, upgrading from the lacklustre 4-speed Nexus to an 8-speed Sturmey Archer hub gear. We tested the 4-speed Airframe relatively recently (October 2002), so we won’t dwell on the things that haven’t changed.The main advance is with the hub – the Sturmey only weighs 100g more than the Nexus, but gear range increases from 184% to 305%, which is a lot more than the broadest Brompton option.The Sturmey 8-speed needs careful adjustment, and a degree of precision in the gear change, but once you’ve got the hang of it, the drive feels light and efficient. Our own early test sample has a weakness in Gear 6, and the Airframe has a tendency to slip out of Gear 7 after a few miles. Clearly, it’s the sort of mechanism where each gear has its own character and good and indifferent days… Gear selection isn’t helped by the Airframe’s unusual in-frame cables which put the gripshift at a funny angle, so you can’t see the gear selector window.

…the disconcerting creaks and groans have  all gone…

Quirks aside, the 8-speed gives the Airframe a wider range than almost any other folding bike on the road.With a bottom gear of 27″ and top of 83″, it makes the Mezzo, Brompton and most Dahons look like seafront Airframe makes quite a boulevard cruisers.

The Sturmey is unusual, providing quite close ratios in the intermediate gears, but a big jump down to 1st and up to 8th. Generally, this works well, giving plenty of close gears for fiddly variable gradients plus a good low first (it’s also a more efficient direct drive, which helps) when the going gets tougher.

Although greatly improved, the Airframe itself is still a bit flexible.The disconcerting creaks and groans of the prototype have gone, and the frame is much more resistant to twisting, but if you expect everything to stay put without a millimetre of ‘give’, you’ll still be disappointed. Riding technique helps here – the best method is to sit lightly on the saddle and twirl the pedals – advice that holds true for most folding bikes, but especially for the more flexible ones. The only real disappointment on the road is the tyres.The Airframe is a gentle, soft, feminine machine, and quite unsuited to the rather stodgy ‘Wellington boot’ Schwalbe Marathon tyres.They feel hard and uncompromising, recording a roll-down speed of only 12.4mph on a cold afternoon, and 12.8mph after a good warm through. As the Airframe is never going to attempt serious – or even mild – off-roading, we think a faster, lighter, more delicate tyre, such as the Schwalbe Stelvio, would suit it much better.

One thing the Airframe doesn’t need is suspension.The advantage of the scissor-style frame is a degree of well-damped vertical ‘give’ that would take some beating with gas-shocks and other heavy, complicated things. Of course, the downside is some lateral flexibility, but much less than in days past. Quite how heavier than its predecessor – which might give a clue.That’s still lighter than most folding bikes, and a small price to pay for a more rigid machine with a much wider gear range.

…a briefcase or courier bag fits into the carrier pretty well…


All broadly unchanged, but either the rear mudguard design has changed or we failed to notice how ineffective it was in 2002.The long front mudguard is quite good, but the short one at the rear leaves your back plastered in mud. It desperately needs a mudflap of some kind. Otherwise, there’s a bell, plus the odd hinged Airframe carrier system (you take the bike out of the bag, unfold it, hang the bag from the carrier and ride off) which we compared to a deflated balloon in our previous test. The latest bag has a little pocket so it slips over the carrier, but it still looks a bit of an afterthought. On the other hand, a briefcase, or courier bag squeezes into the carrier pretty well, and with a bungee to hold it in place, you have a quick and effective luggage system.


This isn’t the easiest bike to fold and it isn’t the most rigid to ride, but the new Airframe ticks a lot more boxes than the old one, and at £770 it offers a lot of gears for the price. We haven’t said much about looks, but there’s no doubt this is an attractive machine – another area where it scores over the un-self-consciously practical Brompton. If you’re light and don’t have stonking great calf muscles, we’d strongly recommend a test ride.

Airframe Specification

Airframe 8-spd £770 .Weight 11.1kg (24lb) . Folded dimensions W32cm H55cm L103cm Folded volume 181ltrs . Gears Sturmey Archer 8-spd hub . Ratios 27″ 35″ 39″ 44″ 50″ 57″ 65″ 83″ . Manufacturer Silkmead Tubular Ltd tel 01582 609988 mail

A to B 52 – Feb 2006

Lightweight Brompton

Superlight Brompton

Superlight Brompton Folding BikeBig strong men sometimes ask us why we put such an emphasis on reducing the weight of folding bikes. If you have to ask the question, you really don’t need to know the answer.Taking weight out of a bicycle has little effect on performance, but a great deal of effect on the ease with which it can be carried.

Many people would be willing to use a folding bike but cannot lift a 14kg (33lb) weight, let alone haul it upstairs or run for a train with it. Get the weight down to a reasonable 12kg, and most people can deal with it. At 10kg, we’re up to, perhaps, 90% of the adult population, and if weight can be pared down to less than 8kg (already feasible, but expensive), the bike becomes practical for almost anyone to carry.Weight reduction is a truly emancipating technology, bringing folding bikes to those previously excluded.You might argue that they still need to be pretty wealthy, but this is really only a state of mind problem. If a high-end folding bike eliminates the need for a second or third family car, a purchase price of £1,000 or so can represent great value for money.This technology is getting less expensive, but don’t expect fanciful titanium creations to ever be cheap.

Design Challenge

The challenge for designers is to get as close as possible to the 8kg weight goal without seriously compromising the strength and rideability of the machine. Current leader is Dahon, whose Helios SL weighed a genuine 8.65kg (19lb) when we tried it in August 2004.The Helios SL is a delightful machine, but it has 20-inch wheels, so it makes quite a big folded package. It also comes with beautiful, but frail Rolf wheels, and no mudguards, so it’s not really a daily commuter machine.

The Brompton is a classic commuter bike, but it’s heavy. In A to B 1, we built a lightweight Brompton weighing 10.9kg. Considering that the Brompton weighed 12kg at the time, this was, with hindsight, quite a good result for a broadly conventional three- speed bike.The following year we were at it again, fitting a 1950s alloy shell to the hub (saving a whacking 120g), fewer, slimmer spokes, a carbon fibre seat pillar, Birdy suspension polymer and a few other bits, hauling the weight down to 10.4kg (22.9lb).

TA AXIX Light Bottom Bracket

Some lightweight parts are strikingly attractive in their own right.This is the TA AXIX Light bottom bracket

For the next few years, the bike clocked up several thousand miles. Most of the parts lasted well, the only weak spots being the aluminium rear roller securing bolts (they should have been titanium), and the carbon fibre seat pillar, which ate through two frame bushes and ended up dangerously worn itself. In the meantime, of course, the industry had been busy with its own weight reduction programme, and although some of the new stronger Brompton parts (such as the handlebars) were heavier, most were lighter…The company was gradually catching up.

In April 2005, Brompton launched the 9.7kg S2L-X and left our lightweight machine looking a bit sad. Could we do better using the S2L’s new technology – principally a two-speed derailleur hub and titanium frame parts?

A to B Bites Back

Eight years after putting together our original machine (the day of the Princess of Wales’ funeral, for those interested in historical minutia), we’ve built a new machine that’s both lighter and stronger.This isn’t a stripped-down special – our bike has mudguards and all the usual equipment you would expect to find on a Brompton S2L-X, but with the ‘traditional’ M-type Brompton handlebars, because that’s the way we like ‘em. This older design has a shorter stem, saving 60g, but a more complicated handlebar, adding 110g, giving a net weight increase of 50g. Drat and double drat.The taller handlebars also make it impossible to fit the S-type’s shorter Jagwire cables, adding another 50g, so before we’ve even started, our bike weighs 100g more than Brompton’s super-light model.

…the trick is to replace steel parts with titanium… or aluminium…

If our bike is effectively a standard machine, how is the weight taken off? The trick is to work methodically through the machine, replacing steel parts with lighter alternatives. For safety-related bits, this generally means titanium, which is as strong as steel, but about 40% lighter. Less critical things can be replaced with aluminium – 65% lighter than steel, cheaper than titanium (not much in these specialist areas), but weaker, so it needs to be treated with care. Cosmetic things can be made in plastic, or omitted altogether, but ‘easy’ weight savings of this kind will be hard to achieve if the development engineers have already done a good job.

Brompton Folding Bike Clamp

Tranz-X clamp - note the reversed nut and pin preventing the clamp from rotating

As in 1997, we’ve laid out a table indicating the cost-effectiveness of each change. Today, most of these lightweight parts are easily obtainable from Brompton dealers and other specialist outlets, so they’re cheaper than they were eight years ago. At anything up to £1 per gram saved, it’s still an expensive business, but to paraphrase the RSPCA, titanium is for life, and not just for Christmas. Once you’ve raided the piggy bank and fitted the bits, they can be transferred from bike to bike until your knees give out, and then passed down as family heirlooms.

If you’re in the market for the bigger, more expensive chunks of titanium, it’s generally cheaper to go for broke and buy one of Brompton’s own lightweight machines. As fitting is so complex, the two-speed derailleur probably comes into this category too. Even if you’re hoping to upgrade a near-new six-speed bike, it will be easier (and cheaper) to sell the old one and buy a new two-speed.

Top of the ‘worth doing’ list are things like pedals, handlebar grips and reflectors, lighter versions of which can be found quite cheaply.We chose to leave the wheel reflectors off altogether, but you may feel it’s not worth compromising safety for the sake of a few grams. Other parts, like alloy spoke nipples and lighter 14-gauge rear spokes, are cheap, but fitting can involve a great deal of labour, and the long-term strength of the bike will be slightly compromised.The S-type’s Stelvio Light tyres and tubes come into this category too – they are lighter, but more vulnerable to punctures.

Some standard parts are hard to beat – for example, there’s very little to choose between 3/32” chains.We spent £26 and saved a paltry 16g by fitting a KMC X9 Gold chain which is, believe it or not, gold plated. Still, it goes very nicely with the exposed brazes on the Raw Lacquer frame. It’s difficult to beat the weight of the standard Brompton saddle too. On our original bike, we fitted a Terry Race Vanadium saddle weighing 227g.We were able to reuse it, which is fortunate, because it no longer seems to be available.The best we could find today was the Fizik Vitesse Twintech ladies saddle, weighing a claimed 230g and costing £60.This sort of upgrade could never be cost-effective, but saddles are a personal thing, and in the final analysis, a lightweight bike is a fashion statement. Like any other fashion statement it wouldn’t be complete without a few decadent touches.

Superlight Brompton Folding Bike

Superlight Brompton Folding Bike Components

Anything we’ve missed? The cables and brakes could be lighter, but it’s unlikely the weight and complication would be worthwhile. Otherwise, apart from odd nuts and bolts, we’ll probably have to wait for Brompton to introduce a titanium mainframe, which would save perhaps another kilogram.

On the Road

If you’re worried about the lack of gears, don’t be. Under most conditions, the two-speed derailleur performs much like a conventional three-speed Brompton.The bottom gear of 56″ can tackle hills of up to 12.5% (1:8) with a suitably enthusiastic rider, and the top gear of 74″ is adequate for most urban situations. If you can live with a slightly high pedal cadence, it’s OK on the open road too.As we’ve suggested elsewhere, it may be possible to change the 16-tooth sprocket for a 17-tooth (a 53″ gear) without any other work, and with a bit of titanium-bashing, an 18-tooth can be squeezed in, giving a bottom gear of 50″.That’s almost as low as first on the old three-speed, but a bit of a jump down from top gear, so we’ve left the gearing unchanged and will see how we get on.

In theory, the lightweight parts make next to no difference in terms of speed, but the lighter rotating bits improve acceleration, and they certainly make the bike feel livelier and sharper to ride.We can only say that our lightweight bike seems to accelerate well, and it’s a delight to ride. If it feels good, that’s all that really matters…

Carrying the bike is obviously a lot easier. It’s difficult to visualise how light it is, but try taking the wheels off a Brompton L3 and lifting it…

What does the bike actually weigh? Er, um, a bit of a dispute here. All the parts, old and new, passed over our traditional scales, so we’re quite certain that our bike weighs 2.5kg less than a standard M3L, or L3 as it used to be called. But according to our electronic scales, the finished bike weighs 9.5kg, which is two or three hundred grams more than we were expecting. Drat and double drat!

And how much did it cost? This is another tricky question, because the costs depend on how you do it.To upgrade an elderly Brompton would cost around £800, excluding the two-speed kit, which is not really cost-effective as an upgrade. If buying a new Brompton, the cheapest option is to start with the M2L-X, which comes with most of the Brompton lightweight kit for £873. Adding the Stelvio tyres and the A to B bits and pieces would cost another £250 or so, and bring the weight down to 9.2kg or 9.5kg, depending whose scales you believe.


Not all these parts can be bought off the shelf. The locknut on the Tranz-x seatpost clamp has been turned down to fit inside the Brompton frame lug, with two pegs fitted at the other end to stop the clamp assembly rotating, effectively mimicking the action of the Brompton clamp.The Birdy yellow suspension polymer is a useful upgrade, especially for lighter riders, but needs some shaping to fit – ours is also drilled like an Emmenthal cheese to give a softer ride. We used an aluminium bolt in the suspension, but this should really be titanium.The axle on the AXIX titanium bottom bracket has marginally less bias towards the chainring than the Brompton’s FAG axle. We fitted a 1mm shim, but tolerances vary – we probably didn’t need to. Two home-engineered bits we didn’t reuse this time were the alloy three-speed cable-guide nut (not needed) and the steering head alloy expander nut, which is now a standard fitting.



CommutingAfter buying two Bromptons I found myself with rather a lot of bikes, and was able to compare their performance on my regular commute on the Atlantic coast of France. I live in Hennebont and commute through the town of Lorient to my office on an industrial estate ten kilometres to the west. My conclusions aren’t rigorously scientific, but I have corrected for differences in cycle computers and only included simple rides on the same route, without detours for shopping etc. I have also excluded exceptional weather conditions (strong winds, ice, etc) and night rides (some bikes have dynamos and some battery lights).

Most of my data comes from this daily commuting round trip of 42.6km (27 miles), mainly on rural roads. Because Lorient is on a river estuary and there are not many bridges over the river Scorff, there are few routes to choose from.The total climb for the round trip is about 500 metres (1,600 feet) with one steep hill, so single-speed bikes are not a good option. After 3,391 kilometres, I can report that the speed variation between the fastest and slowest bikes is only 3.7mph.

On this commute, I usually cycle both ways during the summer, but I tend to use the Brompton plus the train in winter to avoid a long ride in the dark.When cycling, I allow about an hour each way. By comparison, the train plus Brompton takes five minutes to the station, five minutes waiting, 17 minutes on the train and ten minutes riding to work, making 37 minutes in total. As the evening train doesn’t stop at Gestel, my nearest station, I have to ride to Lorient, increasing the journey to about 47 minutes. It is possible to get to work by bus, but that takes 90 minutes each way.When I get a lift by car, the trip takes about 30 minutes on back roads – the quickest car route is on the motorway, but this is risky because there are frequent jams.The best ‘commute’ of all is working from home using my ADSL router to transmit documents over the net!


Commuting by Bicycle

Martin's experience will be familiar to commuters worldwide. The motorway is fast, but can be unreliable, train/bike comes second, but needs careful planning, bike is slower but more predictable, the bus is slowest of all.

From my research, the four factors that most affect bike speed are riding position, gear type (hub or derailleur), wheel size and tyre type. Apart from the huge difference between road-going Martin’s experience will be familiar to commuters worldwide.The motorway is fast, but can be unreliable, train/bike comes second, but needs careful slicks and off-road planning, bike is slower but more predictable, the bus is slowest of all knobblies (bikes 3 and 10 are the same!) I have not investigated the difference between different brands of tyre, but this is probably significant.Wind resistance is important too.The two fastest bikes had aerodynamic drop handlebars, and one of these was the Moulton, which proved 2.5km/hr slower with ordinary straight bars. Wheel size is less important, but small wheels would seem to be slightly less efficient. Comparing bikes in positions 1 and 2, the Moulton is a little slower, but it is also heavier, has fewer gears and a smaller top gear sprocket (11-tooth). Another interesting pair are the Roadster in position 4 and the SP Brompton in position 8. Both share the same hub gear, but the Brompton is noticeably slower. Hub gears seem to be slightly less efficient, although bikes ranked 3 and 4 achieved very similar results, with few differences, except for the gears. On the other hand, the two Moultons (one with 7-speed derailleur and the other with 7-speed Nexus hub) performed very differently.The Nexus was very inefficient when new, so after a few hundred kilometres I took it apart and greased it, but it’s still noticeably less efficient than the oil-lubricated Sturmey S5-2.

Commuting by Bicycle

…I use one of the Bromptons when there’s a likelihood of other transport being involved…

Best Commuter?

Which bike gets the most use? Neither of the fastest two.Though the derailleur- geared Moulton is fast and comfortable, it is only suitable for good roads and fine weather, or the derailleur will pick up muck too quickly. I tend to choose one of the Bromptons when there is a likelihood of other transport being involved, and the roadster gets a lot of use because it can carry a lot of shopping and the wide tyres enable me to explore paths and tracks. But the bike I used most in 2004 was the Moulton with the Nexus 7-speed hub – it also has a rear roller brake and hub dynamo that work in all weathers, and I appreciate the comfort from the suspension.

Editor’s Note: If, like Martin, you are expecting to commute daily, don’t be scared off by small wheels. They really do make very little difference, and a smaller, lighter folding bike can be a more flexible solution. Even on this long ride, the Moulton is only three minutes slower than the conventional lightweight racing bike. On a shorter more urban commute, the tables could be reversed.Tyre type and quality are more influential than tyre diameter. So don’t choose an MTB! The gear system is important too, and Martin’s figures seem to confirm that the Nexus 7-speed hub is relatively inefficient, the Sturmey Archer 5-speed less so, and the Brompton/SRAM 3

A to B 48 – June 2005

Brompton Folding Bike Wide Range

Brompton Wide-Ratio Gears

Brompton Folding Bike Wide RangeLong-term readers may recall that the bankruptcy of hub gear manufacturer Sturmey Archer in the summer of 2000 left Brompton short of a suitable 5-speed hub. Other bike manufacturers migrated to the similar SRAM 5-speed, but the Brompton frame is unusually narrow, and it was not until May 2002 that the company came up with its own solution – the 6-speed (more correctly 2×3-speed) SRAM/Brompton derailleur/hub gear.

The new system took advantage of the Brompton chain tensioner. On a basic 3- speed hub-geared variant, the tensioner only moves when the bike is folded, but by fitting tensioner wheels designed to ‘float’ from side to side, it was possible to fit two sprockets side by side, doubling the number of gears. It all sounds a bit Heath Robinson, but engineered with Brompton’s usual attention to detail, the 6-speed soon established itself as a neat and efficient conversion.

The company decided to fit 13- and 15-tooth sprockets.The very similar sizes helped to give a slick gear change and resulted in evenly-spaced ratios.The bad news was a rather disappointing overall gear range of 215%, which was not much more than the 187% of the basic 3-speed. At 86″, top gear was the same, but first was reduced from 46″ to 40″. Just to recap, lower gears (measured in terms of the effective wheel size), give better low-speed hill-climbing, and high gears allow you to ride faster on the flat.

Fortunately, when the chain tensioner assembly was re-engineered for the 6-speed, the opportunity was taken to leave space for bigger sprockets, enabling the company to introduce the new 2-speed variant. Home tinkerers soon discovered that a sprocket as big as 18-tooth could be squeezed in, and paired with a 12-tooth sprocket, this stretched the gear range to 282%; better than most 7-speed hub gears.

…this stretched the gear range to 282%; better than most 7-speeds…

We tried a Steve Parry 12/18-tooth conversion in August 2002 and used it successfully for a couple of years until the 12-tooth sprocket shattered. As we had been warned, this was the weakness – the 12-tooth is so slim that it eventually cracks. A 13-tooth sprocket is stronger, but it reduces the gear range, and gives two pairs of ratios that are almost identical, resulting in a rather disappointing 4-speed.

Now, thanks to Highpath Engineering, the wide-ratio Brompton is back, and the new conversion seems to work very well.The basis is a combined 12/18-tooth sprocket assembly, the two components being tig-welded together, then re-hardened to give a reasonable working life.

Complicated Things

Brompton Folding Bike Wide RangeThe first decision for those contemplating a gear upgrade is to calculate the sort of gears they want. Using Brompton’s 50- tooth chainring and the new Highpath sprocket set (£39.50), the standard gears of 40″, 46″, 55″, 63″, 75″ and 86″ become 33″, 46″, 50″, 62″, 68″ and 93″ – in other words, the high gears are higher and the low gears lower. Note that the fairly even spaces of the original have been lost, but as with the Sturmey Archer 8-speed (see A to B 40), we now have broad gaps at the extremities and narrower spaces between the middle gears, which can be useful.

If you’re looking for lower gears, you’ll need to fit a smaller 44-tooth chainring as well as the sprockets.This produces ratios of 29″, 40″, 44″, 55″, 60″ and 82″.Top is now lower than standard, but first is almost as low as a Speed Drive conversion! A new 44-tooth chainring costs £23.40, but if you’re planning to order a new bike, the option adds only £9.

For those without a 6-speed bike, a post-April 2001 3-speed (with the SRAM hub) can be upgraded to 6-speed spec for £78.40, but this would be a lot more expensive on an older Sturmey-geared machine.

A word of warning about chains, chainrings and widgets: for years Bromptons came with 1/8″ chain and 1/8″ chainrings (some are a little narrower), but since the arrival of the 6-speed the situation has become more complicated. Retro-fit 6-speed kits and a few early production bikes were supplied with 1/8″ chain, but all other 6-speeds will have narrower 3/32″ chain.The standard 50-tooth, and smaller 44-tooth, chainrings have been produced in both chain sizes, although Brompton expects to standardise on the narrower 3/32″ soon.The wide-ratio kit will work with an 1/8″ chain, but we’d strongly recommend 3/32″. A 1/8″ chain will run on either chainring, but a 3/32″ chain will only fit a 3/32″! Before doing anything, it’s a good idea to try a new piece of 3/32″ chain on your chainring and see what happens – if it fits, great, if not, you’ll need a narrow version.

If in doubt, renew anything that moves, because the new sprockets ask a lot more of the changer mechanism. It’s good practice to use Brompton chain, because the nominally 3/32″ chain pin length can vary, and not all work happily in the Brompton derailleur. If your eyes are glazing, simply trot down to a hub gear expert, such as Bicycle Workshop of West London (tel: 020 7229 4850) who will solve all the technical bits.


Brompton Folding Bike - Pusher Plate

A 5mm drill soon gets the bearing spinning again

Brompton Folding Bike - Rear Frame

The inside face of the rear frame tube must be ground back to clear the 18-tooth sprocket.

Brompton Folding Bike - Rear Frame

Note how filthy the tubes can get...

Changing the sprockets is easy, but if working on an older bike, you’ll need to check that the system is working properly first. Remove the rear wheel and chain, and flick the gear changer back and forth whilst observing the ‘chain pusher plate’ at the rear end. If the operation seems sticky or unreliable, release the cable assembly and try moving the pusher plate by hand – any tightness or roughness will have to be sorted before you go any further. On early ball-bearing units, in particular, the bearing will almost certainly need to be thoroughly cleaned or replaced.

With the spring clip popped off the hub, and the old sprockets removed, the new sprocket assembly will slide into place after refitting the original dust shield and the new shims. At this point things get a bit more difficult, because it’s necessary to remove a few millimetres from one of the rear frame tubes to clear the teeth of the larger sprocket.We did this by gently squeezing the tube and grinding away the last millimetre or so.

…Fitting the sprockets gives the Brompton… a gear range similar to a typical hybrid…

With the dodgy bit out of the way, all should now be plain sailing.With the rear wheel in place, feed in a new 98-link (100-link for a 50-tooth chainring) x 3/32″ chain and connect it up. As the new 18-tooth sprocket fits slightly outboard compared to the standard 15-tooth one, the chain pusher plate will need adjusting. Disconnect the cable assembly from the pusher plate, and move the plate by hand as far as it will go, checking that the plate either gently touches, or just clears the chain at each extreme. If it needs adjustment, turn the relevant stop screw until you’re satisfied that the pusher plate is just going far enough to change gear smoothly.

Brompton Folding Bike - Pusher PlateFinally, reconnect the cable assembly, turn the bike upside down (or get someone to lift the rear frame) and try changing up and down through the gears.The 2-speed changer gives twice as much cable movement as is required to change gear, so it should work well enough, even when slightly out of adjustment. If one or other of the gears is failing to engage properly, remove the trigger cover and move the outer cable to another of the four location slots until both gears engage smoothly and cleanly.

In Use

The most noticeable thing is the very different characteristics of the two sprockets: the 18-tooth feeling silky-smooth and the smaller 12-tooth relatively ‘coggy’.The change quality is a little lumpier than standard too, but it should remain crisp and fast – obviously new components will cope better than well worn examples.

In normal riding, we tend to stay in the top range, using the top two gears. As a steep hill approaches, the change from middle gear/top range to top gear/low range is one of the closer ones, but it sets the bike up for more serious climbing. Over the top, and it’s back into the high range and up to top gear. Being slightly lower than standard, top does tend to run out of steam on the descents, but for most people this will be a small price to pay for the much lower gears.

A really steep hill will defeat the bike, even with a 29-inch bottom gear, primarily because the front wheel begins to lift as you pedal – in any event, walking may now be quicker. In all other circumstances, this is more or less a go anywhere Brompton.


Fitting the 12/18-tooth sprocket block takes a few hours, but it’s a cheap, light and effective solution, giving the Brompton a gear range similar to that on a typical hybrid. Efficiency is better than a 7- or 8-speed hub, and although the double changers may seem confusing, the system is no more complicated to use than a 3×7 derailleur.

How long will it last? As our prototype has done only a few hundred miles, it’s hard to judge.The 18-tooth sprocket should last forever, but the 12-tooth will have a relatively short life, and of course, when it eventually fails, you’ll have to throw the whole assembly away.We would expect to see 2,000 miles at the very least, and 3,000 miles or more with care. Given the relatively low purchase cost, that sounds quite acceptable against the alternatives, and would equate to many years of leisure use.

Brompton 12/18-tooth block £39.50 plus postage of £3 (UK), £7 (Europe) or £15 (worldwide) . Manufacturer Highpath Engineering tel/fax 01570 470035

A to B 47 – April 2005

Brompton P6R-XDL Folding Bike

Brompton P6R-XDL

Brompton P6R-XDL Folding BikeBrompton P6R-XDL Folding Bike Crikey. This is all beginning to sound a bit like the comedy sketch (one of several) where the innocent man goes into the shop and asks for a record player, and is mercilessly ribbed by the spotty youths behind the counter. Ask for a folding bicycle these days, and you’ll be laughed back onto the pavement: ‘With or without the titanium crown-fork assembly, sir?’ ‘Hub, dynamo or battery lights?’ ‘Pentaclip or traditional clamp?’ P-type bars?’ With or without Stelvios?’ And so on through the gear options, ad infinitum.

Brompton P6R-XDL Folding Bike

The high riding position is slightly more upright than the classic Brompton.

For those with plenty of money, the easy answer is to opt for the P6R- XDL. Assuming you’ve had the foresight to jot the code number on the back of an envelope, and you have a cool £1,225 in your pocket, you can walk out of the shop with just about every option and cut out the tiresome discussion.

We’re being flippant, of course, but no doubt some people will buy this top of the range model because it’s the most expensive option and thus (hopefully) the best that money can buy. But is it? That depends what you want. The P6R-XDL is aimed at cycle tourists and professional folding bike users: the Sustrans Rangers, map-makers and surveyors for whom a folding bike is a work station rather than a means of getting from A to B.

T6 to P6

The core of the machine is the current T6: rear rack, six gears, dynamo lights, and front luggage. Under the skin the bike is very different, but the most striking difference is the odd rectangular handlebar assembly.This looks ludicrous at first glance – the sort of geeky accessory fitted by earnest types searching for an extra 0.1mph on the Great North Road. But please do put your prejudices away for long enough to try it, because the P-type handlebar works really well.

Like drop-handlebars of old, the bars give you two very different riding positions: high for traffic, and low for fast riding in open country. At 104cm from the ground, the top riding position is ideal for city use, with the brake and gear levers immediately to hand. Once out of town, the idea is that you move your hands down to the lower position, where the bars are shaped like the turned-down bars favoured by scorcher cads at the turn of the 20th Century. At 89cm or so, these lower bars reduce your frontal area, giving a comfortable and wind- cheating position.

Unless the roads are seriously empty, you shouldn’t relax too much in this position because the gears, and more importantly, the brakes, are now a long way from your fingertips.Whether sleepy P-type riders will start ploughing into stationary buses remains to be seen. After a while on the ‘drops’ you tend to forget and reach for the brake, then realise your mistake and change position. This process takes a few heart- stopping milliseconds. Otherwise, the system works well, the two primary positions and myriad alternatives giving relief from aches and pains as well as headwinds.

Interestingly, the difference in frontal area seems to make quite a difference to the roll-down speed. Riding in the low position and attempting to create a good wind- cheating shape, we recorded a speed of 15.9mph – a whisker faster than the slightly more upright S2L-X. Holding the bars in the top position, rolling speed drops back to 14.7mph; a huge difference.The differential would probably be of little consequence in town, but at higher speed, the new bars will have quite a big effect.

…high for traffic, and low for fasty riding in open country…

The other major design feature of the P6R-XDL is the same titanium kit used on the lightweight bikes. In this case, the chunky rack and other accessories rule out a headlining weight, but at 12.1kg, the bike is still a little lighter than its predecessor.

On the road, the machine rides broadly like a traditional Brompton.The only downside for those expecting to scale the Himalayas is the narrow gear range of the Brompton 6-speed, which remains unchanged.There are a number of upgrades around, of course, from cheap and cheerful Highpath sprockets to a pricey but capable Mountain Drive, but it seems odd that Brompton has not engineered a solution of its own.This bike does deserve more gears, or at least, a wider range.

…professionals will choose their own spec from the long list of options…

Interestingly, this top-end model comes with Brompton’s own cheaper ‘Green Flash’ kevlar tyres rather than the Schwalbe Marathons fitted to the cheaper P6R-PLUS. If you keep in touch with Professor Pivot’s musings, you will know that we’re not overly-keen on any of the kevlar-reinforced options, but this tyre is at least cheap and pretty light.

Brompton P6R-XDL Folding Bike HandlebarsWhich brings us to illumination. If you’ve had enough of seized dynamos, broken wiring looms and faulty bulbs, the lighting package on this bike should help to get your night-life sorted.The rear lamp is the familiar stand-light version of the Basta LED used by Brompton for several years, while the front is a Basta Ellipsoid halogen.This pair are powered by the new narrow version of the SON hub dynamo, designed specifically for small- wheelers.This delightful thing is controlled by an equally small (and rather inaccessible) switch on the back of the front light.

Brompton P6R-XDL Folding Bike Aero Dynamics

Surprisingly, the difference in frontal area is barely 1%, but the lower position makes a more streamlined shape, while the upper position is more comfortable!

With the switch off, the rolling resistance of the dynamo is almost unnoticeable.Turn it on, and the lights work well, right down to a walking pace. Rolling resistance increases, but in terms of roll-down speed, the difference is barely noticeable.We can’t claim that the wires won’t break or connectors drop off, but the basic hardware is very good indeed and should work effortlessly and quietly for years.

Other Accessories

SON Hub DynamoWith Brompton’s mix-&-match policy, published spec gives no more than a guide. If you don’t want the SON hub dynamo, you can choose a lighter bottle dynamo, or battery lights, or all three, or nothing. Similarly with luggage: the P6R-XDL will accept any of Bromptons range of four front quick- release bags, although there is a one small proviso with this handlebar pattern: if you fit the front battery light, it will be obscured by all but the new lower S-bag.

Brompton Rack PannierFor the rear rack, Brompton and Radical have come up with a neat bag which – in marked contrast to the S-bag, which has a tardis- like interior – looks huge, but holds only 17 litres (slighter more than the old Pannier bag, but rather less than the Touring bag). That said, it more or less doubles the bike’s carrying capacity, so it will have its uses.


One thousand two hundred and twenty five quid sounds a lot of money. All right, it is a lot of money, but in this case it buys an awful lot of technology. For that sort of amount you could have a Birdy Black, which weighs about the same with a similar accessory pack, provides a bigger gear range, but folds into a much larger package. Brompton P6R-XFL Folding Bike Otherwise, we’re well into Moulton/Bike Friday territory; machines that can’t compare folding-wise, but offer legendary performance. In this company, the real strength of the P6R-XDL is that it combines the folding ability of the Brompton with reasonable weight and decent equipment. The feedback we’ve had is that professional users wouldn’t go for the P-type bars (‘not really that keen’) or the lightweight components (‘didn’t notice it’). But in this market, reliability is paramount, so users will happily pay big money for such extras as SON hub dynamos, hub brakes (not yet an option) and puncture-resistant tyres. It seems the professionals will choose their own spec from the long list of options. Our prediction is that they won’t go for the P6R-XDL, but for cycle tourists, reduced weight and alternative riding positions are more important.

Specification – Brompton P6R-XDL

Brompton P6R-XDL £1,225 . Weight 12.1kg (27lb) . Gears Brompton/SRAM 6-spd Ratios 40″, 46″, 55″, 63″, 75″ and 86″ . Folded Dimensions W29cm L58cm H58.5cm Folded Volume 98.4 litres (3.48 cu ft) . Manufacturer Brompton Bicycle tel 020 8232 8484

A to B 47 – April 2005

Brompton Folding Bike

The 2005 Brompton

Brompton Folding BikeSomething has been up at Brompton for months. Little snippets of information have leaked out, but the dead giveaway was the report that a group of Russians had been spotted in the Brentford factory discussing strange grey metal objects. They obviously weren’t selling vodka, said our contact. The metal could only be titanium, and the Russians just had to be negotiating to supply it. It turns out that the rumours were largely true – Brompton has made arrangements for the fabrication and supply of a number of titanium parts from both Russia and China (you can’t be too careful these days). Initially, these parts will be fitted to a range of new expensive models, but the technology should gradually trickle down, bringing a new era of lighter, more durable folding bikes.

Brompton describes its 2005 model changes as ‘greater than anything we’ve done since the Brompton was first introduced 17 years ago. We can’t argue with that. For well over a decade the Brompton has set the standard in terms of foldability and compact folded size. But, as we’ve often said, the classic Brompton is relatively heavy, and although it’s a rigid and practical machine, for some people the odd handlebars and low-slung frame present something of an image problem.

We’ve made suggestions over the years to broaden the appeal, as have many others, and the company has at last responded with a Big Bang upgrade to be rolled out from May this year. We’ll try and keep things simple, but this being Brompton, the options are legion and the technical wizardry complex. As a measure of just how complicated the picture has become, the range of five bikes has been extended to ten, and there are numerous other options, special options, and under- the-counter options for very special customers.

The good news for traditionally-minded folk is that the old C, L and T-types remain on the books, and at similar prices.The C type becomes the C3E at £380, the L3 becomes the M3L at £480, and the T6, M6R-PLUS (yes, R for rack) at £635.The C still comes in red, but in true Henry Ford style, the M3L and M6R will be available only in black with silver forks and rear frame. If you really want a 6-speed L, or a 3-speed R – or any colour other than black – you can have it, but you will have to pay for a special build machine.

…the old C, L and T-types remain on the books at similar prices…

Beyond this basic range, things get a bit complicated, because the company has gone for choice, choice, and more choice.

Superlight Bikes

The lightweight bikes feature a range of new bits, principally titanium (seat pillar, front forks, rear frame assembly, mudguard stays and folding pedal bolt) in various combinations, a simple 2-speed derailleur (as seen on the current 6-speed), lightweight saddle, and lower, flat handlebars on a slightly taller stem.

The basic lightweight bike is the S2L at £560.This has the new handlebars and 2- speed gear system , but none of the pricey bits. A good option if you are looking for a simple, reliable and slightly lighter about town machine. The commuter version is the S6L-PLUS (£735), with six gears, new slightly lower front luggage (we’ll come back to this) and battery lights – an updated L6, if you like. The standard colour for these bikes is all-over black, unless you are minded to pay £25 or more for one of the colour options.

New Brompton Folding Bikes 2005

Current Brompton range on the left, new range on the right. Most current models remain in production at slightly lower prices after inflation, but any colour other than black/silver now costs extra. The new titanium-based machines take the Brompton into a whole new price zone.

Lightest and sexiest of the lightweight bikes are the superlight machines – M2L-X and S2L-X, available in a choice of three pastel matt finishes (blue, green or pink) to compliment the natural titanium scattered liberally about the machines.The M2L-X is basically a two-speed version of the old L-type, but with most of the titanium bits on board to reduce weight. At £873, this sounds a practical solution for those who need a significantly lighter bike at reasonable cost.  Lightest of all (unless you special order a single speed) is the S2L-X, with the straight bars, all the titanium kit, Vitesse saddle and Schwalbe Stelvio tyres. At £965, this bike comes in just under the psychological £1,000 barrier and weighs a head-lining 9.7kg. That’s a kilogram heavier than the Dahon Helios SL we tried last year, but the Brompton has mudguards and a front luggage block, so it’s better suited to regular commuting, should one be so inclined.

Brompton Folding Bike Rear Frame

The titanium rear frame, seen here on the P6R-XDL, is significantly lighter.

Brompton has decided that the flat-handlebar S-type machines should only be fitted with the S-Bag, a new lower but deeper front bag made by Radical. We’ve tried the conventional bags on the S-type, and provided they’re not over-filled (a problem on any variant), there’s little risk of the bag fouling the bars. On the other hand, the S-bag is just as spacious as the standard Pannier; both holding 16 litres of water, measured by the Archimedes principle (bin- liner in bag, bag in bath, boy fills bag with water and records result in Handy Tablet notebook).

High-spec P-type

For some users, of course, quality equipment and touring capabilities are more important than weight.To this end, Brompton has developed an extraordinary new handlebar, giving a choice of seating positions – upright, as on the old bikes, or dropped.The bars are similar to the Bike Friday H-bars, but in a vertical plane.This is the ‘P-type’, and there are several options, all in black/silver as standard.

…For some users, touring capabilities are more important than weight…

Brompton Brake Lever

Brompton's own brake design is being launched on the 'P' and 'S' type bikes, but will probably become universal. Note the reach adjuster.

Cheapest is the P3L, exactly the same as the M3L, but with the new handlebars for an extra £35. Next up is the P6R-PLUS, at £807. This bike comes loaded with the sorts of accessories a serious user might specify – six gears, Schwalbe Marathon tyres, dynamo lighting, better saddle, plus the titanium seat pillar and folding pedal axle to keep the weight under control. Disappointingly, the gear range is no wider than the current bike, although this variant is clearly aimed at cycle tourists and others.We’d guess that many owners would want to upgrade to either the Mountain Drive gear system or wide ratio sprockets (see page 27).

Top of the range, and most expensive by a fair margin, is the P6R-XDL, at £1,225.This comes with a full complement of bits, including a neat and effective SON hub- dynamo and all the titanium, bringing the weight back down to a respectable, but not very exciting, 12.1kg. All the same, it’s technically in the superlight category, so the XDL is available only in the three special colours, unless, of course, you specify something else.

Other Changes

Brompton Folding Bike Hermanns Battery Light

The Hermanns battery light option - quite powerful and weighing only 100g

Got all that? The first figure (C, M, P or S) depicts the model type (generally identifiable by the handlebars); the second (2, 3 or 6) the number of gears; and third is the version – E for Economy, L for Lightweight (ie no rack), and R for Rack. But the ten ‘standard’ models are just the tip of the option iceberg, because just about any parts can be specified on just about any bike, and there are a number of other choices.

As we’ve seen, most of the standard bikes now have a black mainframe, although any of last year’s colours can be specified for a surcharge.This sounds a bit unfair, but prices have generally risen by less than inflation, which softens the blow.

Aqua Blue has been dropped and replaced by the post-apocalyptic Raw Lacquer, which like the Lloyd the Building, puts all its structural innards on display. This is a more expensive option, mainly because the parts will be hand-picked to show off the neatest brazes… The exposed tubes might well compliment the natural titanium on the pricier models, but then they might not. Do let us know.

…the exposed tubes might well compliment the natural titanium…

An option requested by some regular users is taller, thinner  ‘rollerblade’ rear rollers. Brompton has responded with rubber-tyred, ball bearing ‘Eazy-wheels’. A pair of these slightly taller wheels can be fitted to any bike, but the company says they work best as a set of four on the R-type. Apparently they are not narrow enough to please those whose ankles hit the standard rollers.

Lighting has seen a lot of development.The Basta rear LED is unchanged, but the former rather feeble battery front light has been replaced with a 3-LED Herrman unit. This is similar to the Jos Star Tube, but more rugged and with greater light output, says Brompton. Weight, complete with 3 x AAA batteries, is a minimalist 80g, plus 20g for the mounting bracket. The light has a quick-release, so you’re supposed to stick it in your pocket when folding the bike, but an alternative game plan is to swing the bracket around on the bars, leaving the light in place.

LED front lights are not strictly legal as a primary lighting source in the UK, but the wheels of official favour appear to be grinding in the right direction, so they soon will be. The Herrman produces an unusually tightly focussed beam – smaller and less bright than the bigger and heavier Cateye EL500, but twice as powerful as ‘first generation’ lights, such as the Cateye EL200. It’s adequate as a sole light source on all but the most demanding country roads, but must be carefully aimed to put the narrow beam in the right place, and (very common this) the reflector throws back stray light, which can be annoying in dark conditions.

Those with a preference for dynamos can choose between the current AXA HR bottle dynamo, or the newly developed narrow SON hub unit. Not cheap, but the ultimate for those who want simple, reliable and effective lighting.

…the developments seem to have put the bike back at the cutting edge…

Brompton Easy Wheels

The Easy-wheel rollers make the folded package easier to roll, but despite appearances, are no narrower.

Gear options remain the same, but any bike can be specified with the new 2-speed (or a basic 1-speed variant), and the larger 54- tooth chainring from the two speed can be specified on hub- geared bikes, giving an 8% higher gear option. Elsewhere, the handlebar clip has finally (and, we hope, permanently) been strengthened with a spring steel hairpin affair, to be fitted to all models – not before time. The Vitesse Eazy-wheel rollers make fi’zi:k saddle (standard the folded package easier to on the pricier roll, but despite appearances, are no narrower models), certainly looks sporty, and feels comfortable. If you think it’s any old fi’zi:k, think again, because this being Brompton, the saddle rails have been extensively re-engineered. Brompton has also developed the Pentaclip micro-adjust saddle clamp, initially for the optional saddles, but no doubt this will become universal at a later stage.


Good news for those who want to upgrade an older Brompton, is that many of the parts will be available separately, and most new parts will fit most older Bromptons. The titanium seat pillar, Pentaclip clamp and Vitesse saddle are a straight swap, taking only a few minutes and saving 380g at a stroke.The relocated and strengthened saddle rails help to produce the smallest possible folded size, but add some weight, so you can knock another 80g off fairly easily with a less exacting design.The Pentaclip is excellent for anyone fitting a railed saddle to a Brompton, or indeed any bike with a 22.2mm seat pillar.Weighing only 90g, this little masterpiece of engineering gives hassle-free adjustment.

Brompton Pentaclip Saddle Adaptor Clamp

The Pentaclip doesn't sound very exciting, but it is a great advance - no Brompton should be without one

Current owners might also consider fitting the titanium folding pedal axle (saving 26g), or mudguard stays (unspecified weight saving, but instant one-upmanship). Changing either the rear frame, front forks or handlebar stem is probably more trouble than it’s worth, but these can all be done at a price. More realistically, the new battery front light is a useful option, as are the Eazy-wheel rollers and the new lower S-Bag.


These are obviously enormous changes, and Pentaclip doesn’t sound it’s hard to judge just how successful the very exciting, but it is a great different models will be. Our money is on the P6R-PLUS. advance – no Brompton should At £807, this seems to offer most of the equipment be without one serious users have been asking for, although we’d probably specify the SON dynamo to complete a tough and reasonably light package. At the lighter end of the spectrum, the M2L-X comes with most of the weight-reducing elements fitted to the more expensive bikes, but at £873, it’s a little cheaper, and it looks more conventional – important to some people.

We’ve heard rumours that Dahon’s 16- and 20-inch extra lightweight bikes have been selling slowly, which we can’t confirm because the company has gone strangely quiet. If it’s true, how will the heavier, but more practical Brompton lightweights fare? We have no idea, but the next few months will no doubt reveal a great deal.

Whatever the winners and losers, the developments at Brompton certainly seem to have put the bike back at the technological cutting edge, after many years of sensible, if rather uninspired development. Congratulations to Andrew Ritchie, chief engineer William Butler-Adams, and marketing manager Edward Donald on a remarkable achievement.

The new Brompton range will be available from May. Brochures and full details from Brompton Bicycle
tel 020 8232 8484

A to B 47 – Apr 2005