‘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.
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!
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 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 www.r-m.de mail firstname.lastname@example.org . UK distributor None, but a limited number of specialist stockists.
A to B 53 – April 2006