This page offers some very general suggestions on how to go about deciding whether you need a folding or separable cycle, and if so, which one. Some of the more popular, commonly available, models are summarised. The contents of this page are currently in rather a rough form, which I hope readers will excuse. When time and energy permit, I will try to tidy things up, but at present I'd rather be out riding my folder!
I am listing here some of the factors which I consider significant when comparing different folders. In some cases, where I think it is particularly important to do so, Ive given examples, though otherwise I havent commented on the relative strengths and weaknesses of different makes and models.
Please note that the importance of the different factors listed below will be different for different users. For anyone using the folder principally in conjunction with daily train travel for commuting, covering only a few miles a day on the bike, ride quality probably wont be as important as ease and speed of folding. I often ride longer distances; as I dispensed with a car for some years (I have one again now, but it did less than 10 000 miles in 3.5 years as I don't use it if I have a practical alternative), I use trains a lot, but the local commuter services have no restrictions or charges on cycle carriage, so I dont have to fold the bike daily. Hence for me ride quality is important, though reasonable folding ability still counts.
It is necessary to put some bikes (derailleur geared ones) in top gear before folding, which is tiresome. How easy is it to avoid getting dirty when folding, carrying and unfolding the bike? In this country most people probably use the folding with trains rather than aircraft, but air travel might be relevant in some cases. The Bike Friday, because it is American, recognises this to a greater extent than some others - see the note on bags below. From an unfolding point of view, does the saddle height and/or handlebar position need to be altered each time the bike is unfolded?
Some very artificial times are sometimes quoted. Realistically, times quoted should include the putting it in the bag (and include time to unpack the bag). But the Brompton, for example, does not usually need to be bagged as it is such a neat package, and this needs to be recognised. See the note on luggage as well, as being able to quickly fit and remove luggage can make a big difference to the real folding and unfolding times. Some covers are intended for concealing the bike, while other manufacturers supply a fully enclosed carry bag with some form of handles. Actually the former are more useful (at least for commuting), as they tend to be smaller and lighter to carry, and it may be easier to lift and carry the package by a fixed part of the bike than have it swinging on a strap. Bags also usually involve zips or other fasteners, which take time to do up and undo. Personally I much prefer the very compact and light Pertex covers which A to B magazine produce for the Brompton, Birdy and Bike Friday to the manufacturers offerings they were also cheaper, but regrettably are no longer available! The ability to put a Bike Friday in a case (or carry-on airline luggage) may sometimes be useful for overseas tours, but it is a slow process, and the comparison of folding time for the Friday should be based on the carry bag rather than the case time. 'Sophisticated' folding may well be more difficult to carry out than a simple mid-frame fold (for example, the relatively simple fold of most Dahons may not produce the most compact folded bike, but it is very easy and quick to perform).
Not just volume, or dimensions, but whether it can be fitted into particular spaces, such as luggage space at the end of railway carriages. Some 'folders' actually involve separating parts of the bike (eg removing a wheel or handlebars) - not only is there more risk of getting dirty doing this, but it is usually more difficult to carry the bike if it is in more than one piece, or additional straps have to be used to hold the parts together. Some folders lock into place when folded, while others are inclined to try to unfold themselves when being carried.
Does it latch together in some way so that it stays in one piece when carried, or is bagging essential? Is the chain on the inside, to avoid getting oil on the user, or on other things? Is there something convenient to pick it up by, and is it then well balanced, or does it keep banging against your leg? Can it be easily carried by short people not just a question of strength, and stairs can be particularly awkward with some machines if you are short. weight distribution and shape can make a folder more diffiult to carry than a full-size conventional bike, though if it can be folded quickly and easily the answer to this may be to ensure that it is not folded until the very last moment. Folders which can be wheeled along on their own main wheels (or possibly small jockey wheels, though these usually only work well on VERY smooth surfaces) are MUCH easier to move around when folded - The Strida and Airframe (and probably other 'stick' folders) are particularly good in this respect.
A heavy bike is harder work to pedal, particularly up hill, and in the case of folders the weight is also important as you will lift and carry the bike. But remember that some bikes are so easy and quick to fold that they will be wheeled as far as possible and folded at the last minute the Brompton scores here. Others which are difficult to fold and unfold, and need to be bagged, may need to be carried further (eg at the last minute it is announced that the train is arriving at a different platform!). It is important to recognise that extras can alter the relative weights quite easily adding a carrier, prop stand and mudguards to a Birdy makes the weight almost the same as a standard 3-speed L model Brompton, on which the folding method makes a prop stand unnecessary, mudguards are standard, and the front luggage bracket is extremely light (though an extra). Some folders can be pushed or pulled along when folded using the road wheels, or small jockey wheels - quite an advantage if you do need to move the machine any distance when folded.
This could be subdivided into several issues.
Comfort can be related to any suspension, the seating position (ability to get the bars the right height and distance from the rider, and position of the bottom bracket relative to the saddle fore an aft as much as vertically). I think something like the saddle should not be over stressed, as it is extremely easy to change the saddle if you dont like it Bike Friday actually list most of their bikes without a saddle or pedals, so that the owner can choose the most suitable one. When buying a bike I usually ask for the saddle to be changed to one of my choice.
Free-running capability. This is very important if you dont want to waste effort, and tests have shown big differences here. Using suitable tyres is probably the most significant point, so although a coasting test is useful, it is important to make sure that the bikes are fitted with comparable tyres see note on tyres below.
Off-road probably deserves some mention, but not usually a major factor for most buyers. See my report and also notes on tyres below. If you want to do serious off-road riding, (not just reasonably good towpaths and cycle tracks), then a 26 inch wheel really can be an advantage - but it is really only necessary in quite difficult conditions. Folders with 26 inch wheels are available - Dahon produce a number of models, for example, but they are much less portable than the smaller wheeled folders, and are more likely to attract unwelcome attention if you try to take them on a train!
A very crude generalisation is that larger wheels tend to handle seriously muddy, sandy and other difficult conditions better than smaller ones, and also are less quick to respond to small movements of the handlebars (ie they initially feel more stable, though this is partly a question of familiarity).
The important thing to recognise here is that most of the bikes have the ability to use different types of tyre, and this can make a considerable difference to how well they perform under different conditions. A Birdy (or Land Rover APB) on knobbly tyres will be hard work on the road, but excellent off road. The same bikes fitted with good road tyres will run freely on the road but wont be very good off road. To judge the whole bike based on the particular tyre fitted on a test bike would be misleading to say the least. But its worth noting that the choice of tyres is better with some sizes than others (though there is a very reasonable choice in all the common sizes nowadays) those with 20 inch wheels have the best choice for small wheelers. A very crude generalisation is that larger wheels tend to handle seriously muddy, sandy and other conditions better than smaller ones, and also are less quick to respond to small movements of the handlebars (ie they initially feel more stable, though this is partly a question of familiarity). See also the comments above.
Gears range and spacing are far more important than number. Ease of changing gear. Recognise that on many bikes it is relatively easy to raise or lower the whole gear range by using a different chainwheel. The Brompton for example is listed with a low gear options the experience of most riders incidentally is that with the Brompton it is better to go for one of the lower options than the standard. On the Birdy, however, it would not be easy to change to a smaller chainwheel, as special chain retention devices are fitted to the chainwheel, and are not available to suit other sizes; personally I find the gearing of all the Birdy models is too high overall, so the difficulty of lowering it is a real drawback for me. The ability to modify the gearing to suit your individual prefernces may be an issue for enthusiasts - very difficult with the Brompton, for example, due to the unusually narrow forks, and also difficult with the Birdy, as described earlier.
Brakes not usually one of the best features of small-wheeled folders, and although better brake shoes may help to some degree, other changes are not always easy to carry out.
Accessories are in some respects less important pumps etc are easily available in all sorts of forms, and are quite cheap. However, its worth commenting that with some folders its difficult to find anywhere to carry them. The Birdy, for example, has no obvious points for mounting a pump or a bottle cage, and personally Im not keen on the pump mounted in the seat tube, where it gets dirty, and also rattles. The Brompton has no mounting points, but the small pockets in the front bag are ideal for bottles, tools, pump etc, or these items can be put in the small saddle bag which holds the cover. I really wish that more folder manufacturers would provide bottle/pump mounting bosses - Bike Friday are generally the best in this respect, and I was very pleased to see that the modestly priced Downtube that was tested in late 2006 was also fitted with bosses.
This can be difficult to assess meaningfully based on one example, but it is an important consideration. In very general terms, Bromptons have a very good track record for reliability, availability of spares, and quality of service. Bike Friday use very few special components, and generally seem extremely reliable. Birdys use more special parts, and the experience of some owners seems to be that spares can be difficult to obtain. My own impression of the Birdy is that it is slightly less robust than, for example, the Friday or Brompton, but as yet Ive had no problems. These comments are based on what I have heard from a reasonable number of owners, although in the case of the Birdy I dont think the sample is large enough to be conclusive. Early Stridas were not very robust, and used lots of special parts - although they still use many special parts, reliability now seems much improved, and to their credit they are still supplying parts for very early machines. While improvements to models on a regular basis are generally to be welcomed, if this means that specialised spare parts become difficult to obtain, this is not good news.
Its useful to be able to carry things easily on the bike whether it is a briefcase, sandwiches and a water bottle, shopping, or touring equipment, plus of course the essential pump, puncture repair outfit and tools! Actually in some circumstances you might dispense with these tools on a folder, since you could easily hop on a bus or summon a taxi in the event of a puncture or breakdown. The Brompton front bag is exceptionally versatile, and though it and the associated mounting block are quite expensive, they are a tremendous asset. Rapid and secure loading and unloading are important on a folder. Bikes like the Micro are much more limited. If you want to tour with a folder, then the luggage options need to be examined carefully before buying, and this might also be important for shopping. Ease and speed of fitting and removing the luggage is also important when travelling regularly by train. The Carradice SQR system provides a reasonable solution for many folders when the amount to be carried is not very great, though the way that it fits does usually mean that the saddle cannot be lowered fully when folded.
There are a number of distinctly different reasons why a folding bicycle may be useful, including:
There may of course be other factors which make you interested in a folder, and it may be that several of the reasons listed are relevant. Do remember, though, that folders are generally more expensive than non-folding bicycles, and, depending on the model, when compared with the nearest equivalent non-folder they may be heavier and may not give such a good ride. Cheap folders, typically Klapprads with a simple hinge in the middle, made of steel (though sometimes aluminium), might prove so unsatisfactory in terms of ride quality and folding that they dont get used and put the owner off cycling for life. However cheap these may be, they cannot be considered good value, and they dont come within the scope of the comparisons made here, in that they are neither suited for uses such as train-assisted commuting nor longer rides for pleasure.
If the intended use of the folder is for train-assisted commuting only, it is worth checking on what regulations apply on the trains you will be using. In some enlightened areas there are in fact no restrictions at all on carrying cycles (folders or non-folders) at any time of day, and no charges (eg local trains in the Centro area). Also bear in mind that if you want to go on an extended cycle tour, with a lot of luggage, it may be much less trouble to book and pay for the bicycle to travel in the luggage van than to have to remove all the luggage and carry it and the folded bike on a train just at the start and end of a tour lasting perhaps several days. Off-road the smaller wheels used by most folders put them at some disadvantage compared with conventional mountain bikes, but in all but the most extreme conditions these small wheelers, if fitted with appropriate tyres, can cope without serious problems, although some models are better in this respect than others.
But there are lots of situations in which folders are far more useful than a conventional bicycle, and where they will give improved mobility, easier carriage of luggage or shopping, they can reduce journey times, and improve the health of the rider and the environment. And many people find real pleasure in cycling as an activity in its own right, combining exercise and travel in the countryside or elsewhere.
There are many different folders available, but although some are direct competitors, in many cases the different priorities which influence the designers mean that some are more suited to some types of use than others. So in choosing a folder, first identify how you would use a folder, and then decide the priorities of the features to match this use.
When buying a conventional, non-folding bicycle, the frame size is one of the things you have to decide. Nearly all folders lack a high cross-bar, and have a very extensive range of saddle height adjustment, so that they are unisex and unisize (some models of Bike Friday are custom made to exactly suit the rider, though they still offer a wide range of saddle adjustment). Although you may not need to specify the frame size when buying the bike, it is still important to adjust the saddle height etc to suit you the wrong riding position is not only uncomfortable, but it is inefficient and wastes energy. In particular, a lot of people ride with the saddle much too low. If you have returned to cycling after a long break, you may well feel more confident if the saddle is low enough for you to reach the ground with your feet while still seated, but in terms of efficiency it is actually better if the riders leg is almost fully extended straight when the pedal is at the bottom of its travel. With the saddle at this height, you will still be able to reach the kerb while seated, but in practice it is usual to get off the saddle anyway when dismounting, so the saddle height, particularly in the absence of a cross bar, does not present any problems in stopping safely. A slightly lower saddle position may be preferred for extensive off-road riding. Taller riders may need to specify extra long seat post options on some models.
The other crucial features in comfortable and efficient riding are handlebar height and reach (distance along the bike from saddle to handlebars). Unfortunately adjustment of the height of the bars is quite limited or non-existent on many of these folders, or you may need to specify the required height (and reach) at the time of purchasing. Some limited adjustment of reach can usually be achieved by fore and aft movement of the saddle, but this may not be enough on its own to achieve the ideal riding position.
When buying, make sure that you are comfortable on the bike, and discuss with the supplier whether there are any options of different handlebar heights and reach. If you are comfortable and able to ride efficiently, cycling is a pleasure, but riding an unsuitable, heavy bike with an uncomfortable riding position and the saddle too low will be a misery, and will probably put you off using your cycle.
Most cycle shops even the specialists do not stock any folders at all, or possibly just one make. Any advice you get form these shops is likely to be of limited value, and may be biased by what they sell or can get hold of. Caveat emptor.
There are a few dealers around the country who stock and can supply a number of different makes and models, though none of them stock all the machines available. If you want the opportunity to see and try a number of different makes, and get informed and reasonably unbiased advice, then it is worth seeking out these specialists, or reading A to B magazine and its web pages, and dare I suggest also The Folding Society and its web pages! Perusal of A to B magazine and our web pages will indicate some of the dealers who specialise in folders.
The range of folders available is changing all the time, and therefore this section represents only a general view of some of the more popular makes and models. These comments are intended to be read in conjunction with the test reports on this web site.
The A-Bike is certainly the smallest and lightest folder generally available at the time of writing, and as Sir Clive Sinclair was involved in the design it has attracted a lot of publicity. While the size and weight of the folded package are very appealing, and the price is not excessive, unfortunately the tiny wheels and 'unusual' saddle mean that most people find it unpleasant to ride. For very short riding distances on very good surfaces it may be worth considering, but it is unlikely to suit most people. There is also no provision for carrying any form of luggage on the bike.
I used a current Airframe for a few months in 2005.
A rather unusual design of folder, which folds via frame joints in a way reminiscent of an umbrella. Not especially compact when folded, though the stick format means it can easily be pushed along on the wheels when folded. The complex design and folding frame joints mean that it is fairly expensive, and the frame is rather flexible when riding, which some people do not like. The Airframe first appeared in the 1980's, but was not in production for long, reappearing only recently. Although the current models look very similar to the original ones, improved manufacturing means they are greatly superior to the originals. Rather expensive, and not to everyone's taste, so rather rare.
Comments based on experience with two Chameleons.
Airnimal are one of the newer entries on the Folder scene, although by now (2007) they have actually been around for several years. The Chameleon was their first model, and is still in production. It is a fast road bike par excellence, usually being fitted with narrow high-pressure tyres, which at 24 inches are larger than most folders. Although probably most at home on roads and with relatively light loads, a standard rear pannier can be fitted, and with slightly beefier tyres it can be used for touring as well. It would not be well-suited to daily train-assisted commuting, as the folded machine is quite large, the front wheel has to be removed, and a strap is needed to hold the bike together. Various carry bag and case options are available, and for transport by car or by air it is quite a good choice. The later Joey is a more modestly priced machine of rather similar design, but lacking the rear suspension, and also available with a slightly different wheel size which offers more choice of heavy duty tyres. Though still not a compact folder, the Joey is rather more portable than the Chameleon, and the time taken to fit it into a hard case for air travel is particularly impressive. The final Airnimal model (at the time of writing) is the Rhino - one of the few serious off-road folders. It has long-travel front and rear suspension, and the use of 20 inch (406) wheels means a good choice of tyres, though some might argue that these relatively small diameter wheels will not be ideal in the most severe off-road conditions (serious mud, sand etc). Probably the closest competitors are in the Bike Friday range. A recent addition to the range is an electric version of the Joey.
This is not a very common machine, at least here in the UK. It has been around for a number of years now (2007), but though I have seen one I have not ridden it, nor do I know any owners. The report in A to B was reasonably favourable. My initial impression looking at the bike, the specification and the price was that it has less to offer than, for example, the Birdy, but without proper experience of it I am not in a position to make a judgement.
I owned a Bickerton for a few years in the late 1980's.
The Bickerton was the first modern folder, and for many years was the only one readily available. Its novel aluminium construction produced a very light frame, but one which was very flexible, which most people found very undesirable. The Bickerton is long out of production, but due to the large number that were sold, quite a lot still survive. Probably not a good choice for anyone nowadays, unless you are interested in a piece of cycling history. If you do have one, support is available via Derek Baker, and Mark Bickerton, the son of the designer Harry Bickerton, is still actively involved in the cycle industry (Cyclemotion, who are associated with Dahon amongst others), and has made a start on recording some Bickerton history.
Comments based on personal experience of a Bike Friday since 1996 and a number of friends and acquaintances who own them.
For: A high performance bike that folds. The sales pitch is that it rides as well as your best bike (aiming it by implication at the existing cycling enthusiast who feels a need for a folder), and this is quite a fair description. Very enjoyable to ride on the road the Pocket Rocket in particular is very exhilarating to ride. Good luggage carrying capacity using standard panniers and the (optional) rack (the rack is a standard design, but comes with special mounting brackets). The folding system ensures that the saddle height and handlebar position are not altered during folding and unfolding. As a result of the use of 20 inch wheels there is a very good range of tyres available to suit different types of use (Note that the models with 451 in the model name, the Pocket Rocket and the AirFriday, actually use a different version of the nominally 20 inch wheel, which has a more limited range of tyres than the common 406 version used by the other models). The AirFriday and AirGlide are unique in that they are designed in a way that allows them to be taken as carry-on luggage on aircraft, though this means they separate rather than folding, and makes them less train compatible. The custom models (ie all except the Metro) are available in a wide range of colours, if that sort of thing interests you. Bike Friday are almost unique in offering a folding recumbent bicycle - the SatRDay. Bike Friday are unusual in offering some off-road models (eg Gnu).
Against: Folding is not as easy as some of the others, and it is rather bulky when folded (as opposed to the much longer disassembly for fitting in the carry case or, in the case of the Air models, the carry-on bags). The mudguards look rather odd but are reasonably effective, and can very quickly be removed and fitted, so that you can ride the bike stripped down on dry days to save weight. The custom built models (ie those other than the Metro) are quite expensive in the UK. The lack of suspension with small wheels results in a rather hard ride on the road, and off-road it can be very uncomfortable. The optional suspension seat post and Softride stem may improve matters, but they add weight, and technically are not very elegant I have no personal experience of their effectiveness. The models using a suspension beam (AirFriday and AirGlide) are very expensive, and though they may provide some suspension to the rider, personally I dont think they are a very elegant engineering solution.
Suggestions and comments: The A to B cover (no longer available) was better than the official carry bag if you just want to hide the fact that this is a bicycle it is much smaller and lighter to carry folded, it is easier to carry the bike by holding the frame through the bag than carrying it via the handles on the official Friday bag, and it is quicker to drop this cover over than fiddle around with the Friday bag in which it is a tightish fit, and needs to be zipped, chough of course such a drop-over cover does not provide any protection to the bike. The standard sized and specified Metro is relatively cheap, but the other (custom built to size) models are now looking rather expensive in the UK. The Sachs 3x7 gears (or later 3x8 and other similar systems), which combine a rear derailleur and a hub gear, fitted on most models are very effective and give a good range of closely spaced gears, and easy gear changing, but are a bit heavy. The Pocket Rocket models with pure derailleur gears and their light weight are particularly exhilarating to ride on the road. Bike Friday now have a folding recumbent model, though this is unlikely to be of interest to most readers. Probably the closest competitors are in the Airnimal range.
Comments based on personal experience of a Birdy since June 1998 and a number of friends and acquaintances who own them.
For: Quite light due to use of aluminium frame, which will not rust (though personally I do not like aluminium as a material for bike frames!). Very effective front and rear suspension, with easy replacement of rear suspension elastomer to suit different weights of rider and riding conditions; the suspension is maintenance free. Good off-road handling in light use - eg towpaths, bridleways etc. Folds reasonably easily and quickly. Some earlier limitations have now been overcome - latest (2006) frames are devoid of rattles and offer reasonable luggage carrying capacity, and there is now quite a good choice of tyres for the unusual 18 inch (359) wheels.
Against: Some people report problems obtaining spares, and emails I have sent to Riese & Muller in Germany have been unanswered, though the number of reports is too small to make a valid judgement about these factors. Adding mudguards, rack etc brings the weight close to that of some other folders which might on paper appear heavier.
Suggestions and comments: Some people prefer the riding position with the alternative handlebar assembly, which is slightly more upright and has a shorter reach than the standard one. Fitting 16" wheels is relatively simple and gives access to the excellent Primo tyre available in that size. However, tyre choice is limited in this size too, and the standard high pressure version of the Birdy 18" tyre does perform quite well off-road even if it is not particularly good on-road, and an 18" knobbly full off-road tyre is available (though it is reportedly hard work on the road). The carry bag (actually a cover) fitting into a small bum bag is ingenious, but almost impossible to fold away after use. Once again I would opt for an A to B cover lighter, more compact, and easy to fold and store - except that it is no longer available!. Conceptually well positioned in the market with quite good folding properties and some advantages over the Brompton in ride, but unfortunately also with a number of serious drawbacks which cancel out the theoretical benefits.
Comments based on personal experience of a Brompton since 1990 and a large number of friends and acquaintances who own them.
For: You can take a Brompton (almost) anywhere! It is the only folder that owners fold whether they need to or not, and that proves its folding qualities better than any testing method. It is fairly easy to carry, but folding is so quick and easy that you rarely need to carry it far you can leave folding it until the last minute. The folded package is so neat that you rarely need to cover it. The front luggage carrier is expensive but highly effective, and some people carry much larger bags than the standard Brompton one with no ill effects. Very well built and reliable. Though it would not be my personal choice for a long ride, it is quite capable of such a task. My longest ride in a day on one is over 60 miles, and on the longest day of 1998 I rode (on my Bike Friday) 100 miles in the company of 2 Brompton riders who were on L3s. Where folding is a higher priority, it is usually my first choice. Optional titanium parts are now available, significantly reducing the weight, though of course increasing the price.
Against: Difficult to find much to complain about in the latest form, apart from the limited range of gears. The latest models have a choice of handlebar design to suit different riders, and also a slightly longer frame than earlier ones, which suits most people better. Some people comment that the brakes are not very impressive, though the latest versions are better than earlier models. The brake levers are rather nasty.
Suggestions and comments: The standard gearing is rather too high for most people, and I would generally recommend specifying the low gearing options some find an even lower gear range is preferable. Because the front carrier is so effective, the rear carrier is not really necessary (and luggage carried there would have to be removed before the first parking movement of folding), so I would opt for the cheaper and significantly lighter models without the rear carrier. The front bag is so effective that it should be considered an essential, but it is not very aerodynamic, and the bike is certainly more responsive without it, so dont fall into the trap of carrying it even when it isnt needed! The Bromptons still sets the standard by which other folders are judged - which is not necessarily to say that it is the best solution for everyone!
Comments based on owning several Dahons since 2003.
Dahon is the largest, and one of the oldest, folder manufacturers. In the early days their machines were fairly basic, but in recent years the range has increased enormously, and design and quality has improved markedly. Although they do not offer a folding recumbent (yet?!), they cater for just about every other sector of the folder market. The model range changes almost every year, so that it is difficult to comment on individual models. Folding is via a central frame hinge on most models, and is easy and quick, and reasonably compact when folded (though not in the Brompton league in this respect). While the 20-inch wheeled (406) models are the best known, there are also models with 16 inch wheels, and several models which have 26 inch wheels. The latter are inevitably rather bulky when folded (a real concern for train travel), but the bigger wheels can be an advantage for more serious off-road riding. Some, though not all, models are weak in terms of mudguards and luggage carrying. While I favour continuous improvement, the major annual model changes go rather beyond this, and might have implications in terms of availability of spares, at least in the longer term. Dahon models are generally reasonably priced for what they offer, and are always worth looking at when considering a folder. Dahon manufacture some folders which are sold under other names, and have also designed folders for other companies.
Web: http://www.dahon.com and http://www.dahon.co.uk
I have never ridden a Fold-It, though I do know a couple of people who own them.
Manufactured by Pashley and sold under their Brilliant Bicycles name; previously made by Cresswell Engineering. The Fold-It has now been discontinued.
For: Sturdy. Fairly simple to fold. Reasonably cheap. 20" wheels means a good choice of tyres.
Against: Bulky when folded. Fairly heavy.
Suggestions and comments: Some people may like the rather upright riding position which can be achieved, though it can be adjusted to suit those who prefer the bars lower and further forward. Rather utilitarian, with rather limited folding facilities which are not well suited to daily rail-assisted commuting where folding/bagging is needed. The Fold-It has now been discontinued.
A new design which has been seen as offering some competition to Brompton. Rather more complex and not quite as easy to fold as the Brompton, and not as compact when folded. Luggage carrying is not as effective as on the Brompton, though the new quick-release system should suit many people. The gearing options are more versatile than on the Brompton, but some reviewers have commented on what seems to them an odd choice - namely rather closely spaced gears on the derailleur model, and quite low gearing overall. Already a number of minor changes have been made from the very first production models, and these represent worthwhile improvements. Worth looking at if you are considering a Brompton or one of the Dahons or others in this market sector.
Comments based on owning a Micro for a number of years.
Manufactured by Pashley and sold under their Brilliant Bicycles name; previously made by Cresswell Engineering; not to be confused with the MicroBike produced in ?Sweden?, which is now obsolete. The Micro has now been discontinued.
For: Light, quite quick and easy to fold in that it is all very obvious. Reasonably cheap. Fun to ride over short distances. The 16" wheels mean that high-performance tyres can be fitted (as for the Brompton) to give a good on-road ride, though these are not standard.
Against: Short wheelbase and small size mean that larger riders will probably not find this bike very comfortable. The short wheelbase could also cause problems with the front wheel leaving the ground (wheelies) if ridden too exuberantly. Handlebar stem flexes more than is desirable. Limited luggage capacity.
Suggestions and comments: Quite suitable for train assisted commuting unless the rider is large and/or needs to carry luggage. Not really suitable for larger riders or for longer distances. The Micro has now been discontinued.
Comments based on personal experience of a Moulton AM since 1984, and APB since 1992, and a large number of friends and acquaintances who own them.
There are four main ranges currently the AM, APB (now the TSR range), New Series and Bridgestone Moulton. Most points apply to all.
For: A very high performance bicycle with full front and rear suspension, with the ability to be separated into two main parts. Suspension requires no maintenance. Very comfortable over long distances. Very versatile luggage carrying options, and carriers can easily be removed. AM and New Series machines are quite light.
Against: Do not fold. When separated, the main parts are still bulky, and would require bagging on many rail services. This requires some further dismantling and will take 5-10 minutes so unsuitable for a daily rail-assisted commute unless the local train service will carry bicycles unfolded without restrictions. New Series and AM are expensive, though APB/TSR range is more modestly priced. APB models are heavy - the later TSR versions are lighter than the APB, though still not especially light.
Suggestions and comments: Moultons do not fold most (though not all) separate (quite easily) into two parts. This works well for easy storage at home or carriage in a car boot (an APB will fit in the back of a Metro with the rear seat still in place, but the parcel shelf removed), but is not suitable for a daily commute which involves having to separate and bag the bike. Separation can be achieved without much trouble in under 1 minute, but full bagging will take between 5 and 10 minutes. The separation facility is just a part of the overall Moulton concept, and the bikes are not designed specifically with folding and separation in mind. The latest New Series machines can be split into more and smaller parts (it will fit in the boot of a Mini), but this is fairly time consuming, and the bikes are hugely expensive. If the limited degree of portability of the Moulton is sufficient for the needs of someone looking for a folding bike, then it can be a very good choice, but this limited portability would rule it out for many applications.
Web: http://www.pashley.co.uk and http://www.alexmoulton.co.uk
The Strida was resurrected in 1998 after being out of production for some years. I have now owned one of the latest (2006) models for a while.
For: Looks great hung on a wall as a piece of art! Fairly simple and quick to fold, and can easily be wheeled along in stick form when folded, which can be very convenient. Quite light. Belt drive avoids oil and grease (but this advantage cancelled in practice by disadvantages of belt drive).
Against: Awkward riding position. Raising the saddle brings the rider closer to the bars the opposite of what is needed. Feels rather unstable understeer changing rapidly to oversteer (latest versions are better, though the comment still applies). Tyres are fairly high rolling resistance, and their small diameter results in a harsh ride. Limited luggage carrying capacity. Quite bulky when folded and may not easily fit into some storage spaces, though the shape suits other spaces very well, and it is quite easy to stand in a packed train with the folded machine vertical. Single gear with belt drive. Almost everything non-standard, so may be difficult to get spares except from the manufacturer; reliability of the original model was not good. In fairness, latest models seem much more reliable, and the support offered by the company for even the oldest models is excellent.
Suggestions and comments: Really best suited to quite short, flat rides associated with commuting with train, bus etc support. Riding position may not suit all. The 'stick' folding method is not all that compact overall, but is very convenient in some situations, and the ability to roll the folded bike along easily on its wheels is a big plus point. If you can accept the limitations, it is quite effective at what it does.
The Panache was perceived when it was introduced as a potential competitor for the Brompton. For various reasons, it never managed to live up to expectations, and is rarely encountered. Other folders are available which are generally better for most people.
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