The Folding Society

The 2007 Birdy Light

By Marc Obrowski

First published June 2007

New 2007 Birdy light with optional “Expeditionsgepäckträger” (rack + rollers) and mudguards.

The Birdy Light is, with its 10.8 kg and a price of €1349 (without rack and mudguards), one of the best Riese Müller deals (which doesn’t mean that it’s inexpensive of course). It has an 8-Speed Shimano Capreo gear and narrow 40-355 tyres. Note that the English version of the Riese and Müller website does not feature it yet (as of June 2007) - switch to German to see it.

1. Folding and unfolding

Exec summary: Good mechanism, folds quickly, but takes some practice, front wheel does not have a good resting position.

The first time folding and unfolding feels a bit awkward. It’s not the folding mechanism itself, which is good enough, it’s more a question of which hand to use when, when to set it down, where to stand and so on. Once figured out (it took me some 7 folds and unfolds to be fluent) it folds easily and comfortably in well under a minute (I’d say 30 to 40 seconds without rushing). Some say they do it in 10 seconds and even that sounds plausible.
The mechanism is ingenious, especially how the front and aft suspension is integrated in it.

The “Expedition” rack folds very well with the bike as if it weren’t there.

The bike stands at every stage of the folding on its own.

Everything is well thought through except for the front-end. When folded, the front wheel rests with a spoke or two on the rear derailleur. There is no proper resting point or catch for it. You can turn the quick release hub levers in a different position (either front or rear) and then the lever rests on part of the frame, which is better for the derailleur but not good for the paintwork.

The expedition rack comes with a Velcro strap to tie the front wheel to the frame so it does not bang against it all the time when pulling the folded bike on its rollers (the rollers being part of the expedition rack now). A "Velcro tape" solution!

The manual says to switch the bike into the highest gear (i.e. the 8th) before folding. In fact it folds better in the 7th gear. The derailleur sticks out less.

2. Riding

Exec summary: Rides very well with very little penalty over a full size bike. Long tours are possible.

I have never ridden a folding bike before and I do normally tours of over 100km per day on good bikes. So my standards are high but I was pleasantly surprised. The Birdy Light rides very well. One feels very little disadvantage over a full size bike, and next to none over a mountain bike. One reason is that it compensates for its smaller wheels (18 inch compared to 26 for a mountain bike) with narrow low resistance Schwalbe tyres. You can pump them up to the max, the suspension absorbs the small bumps well enough.

But what's more, this bicycle is fun to ride it. A small anecdote illustrates this. On a 24km long tour a girl who normally never rides (she does not like cycling) not only kept up with the rest of us (all on full-size bikes), she even pulled ahead of us on some inclines. No doubt propelled by fun and the lighter weight of the Birdy Light.

As a mountain bike rider I did not expect much from the suspension, but I was wrong. It actually works well and smoothes small bumps and cobble stone roads nicely. Stability is also good, the frame is absolutely stiff. But when pushing the pedals hard the handle bar assembly shows some softness, although I doubt that any other foldable bike can be better here.

The brakes are only average.

It is not good off-road (but probably no foldable bicycle is).

I would do a tour of 100km on it (on-road only), although my preferred limit is more like 60km to 70km per day.

3. Rack

The expedition rack comes now with rollers to pull the bike behind you. But if you want to install the rollers you also need to buy the mudguards because one of the rollers is installed on the rear mudguard support.

The rack is rated to 15kg, it is stiff and the adjustable strap holds loads well. As mentioned it folds perfectly with the bike.

4. Pulling the folded bike on the rollers.

Exec summary: Very good, but watch that your dealer installs the rollers properly.

To wheel the bike on its rollers you leave the handle bar unfolded and then pull it behind you. It wheels perpendicular to its normal direction of travel, which makes for very comfortable pulling without the risk of it tipping to one side. But it will be difficult to wheel through narrow spaces like a tube turnstile.

The rear mudguard and the rollers must be installed properly though. When I got my bike the rollers where not parallel, resulting in an oddly wobbly wheeling. The dealer had messed up the installation. It took me some time to adjust the rollers. So when taking delivery of a Birdy thus equipped make a test pull as well as a test ride and check if the rollers are parallel.

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Copyright ©2007 Marc Obrowski
Last updated 26 June 2007