The Folding Society

Issue 34 - 7 September 1999


Please accept my apologies for the fact that this issue of FSN is a day later than normal - the delay was caused by attending the annual Moulton Bicycle Club Weekend, and then preparing the report on that event for the web pages.

My Lands End to Broadstairs ride has been postponed at rather short notice (two days before we were due to set out) due to work commitments (not mine). There had been a question mark over it for a few days before that, which had resulted in me delaying booking my rail ticket and booking a place on the train for the bike. But why, with a folder or separable, would I be booking a place for it on the train? The reason is that when the bike is heavily loaded with panniers or other luggage, and I shall be away for at least a week with train travel only at the start and end, I consider it worth the £3 not to have to go through the hassle of unloading it and having to struggle with all the luggage as well as the folded bike. I had decided to use the Moulton AM7, as the most comfortable and versatile bike for the ride, and certainly it would have been a nuisance to have to separate it and bag it, not to mention having to carry the bags on the ride. After the booking had to be delayed because of the uncertainty of whether we would be going, and which day, I had the Bike Friday NWT in reserve in case I could not get a cycle place and had to use a true folder. In some respects the NWT, with its 20 inch wheels, rather more robust tyres, conventional rack and adequate foldability might have been a better choice anyway, but the harsh ride and the fact that Bike Friday is out of favour at the moment meant that it was not the first choice. The Brompton SP was the third serious candidate, but the fact that the new bag is not yet available meant that I would have been short of luggage capacity, and I was also a bit doubtful about the Primo tyres for this type of ride - if I had used it I would probably have left them on, but taken one or possibly two Raleigh records as spares. In fact with any of these three bikes I would have taken a spare tyre, since it is not always easy to get any of these sizes, even the 20 inch 406, as we proved earlier this year on the Blaenau to Wolverhampton ride (see the web page As the ride has now been postponed I shall probably go through the whole decision process again when a new date has been set.

The Which? report on folders

The latest issue of the magazine Which? contains a report on using cycles with trains, and on folding cycles, namely the Bike Friday Metro, Brompton T5, Micro Luxe, Ridgeback Tailwind, Birdy Red, Strida 2 and XM. I am not a great fan of Which? (actually that's an understatement), and as usual I found the report very superficial, and not particularly accurate. There were also some oddities, such as the fact that the brakes of all these bikes received the same rating! We provided copies of our own test reports and various other general advice when they contacted us at the early planning stages, but we never heard from them again after they initially acknowledged receiving the material, and although they list various useful contacts, including A to B, they do not include The Folding Society in the list, which does not make us feel any more kindly disposed to them!! They rated the Brompton T5 the 'best folding bike on test' and the Ridgeback Tailwind a reasonable and cheaper alternative - they don't seem to have taken much notice of the fact that in choosing a folder it is very much a case of horses for courses. 


As mentioned above, it was the annual Moulton Bicycle Club weekend on 4th and 5th September, and it was as usual very successful, with exceptionally fine and settled weather this year. At last year's event the first New Series Moultons were handed over to their proud owners, and this year there was an impressive number of NS's and their owners present. Dr Moulton was in good form as usual, and in addition to describing a lot of the detailed work that went into the design of the NS, he went out of his way to say some nice things about Andrew Ritchie and the Brompton. Two new Pashley models were also receiving a public viewing and were available for testing - the fx8 and fx4, the former with an 8-speed derailleur and the latter with the automatic Shimano hub (photographed and described in FSN some six months ago, to the dismay of Pashley!). The new models are significantly lighter than previous APBs, but sacrifice the separability of the frame. They have Reynolds forks and a 531 seat tube. The fx8 is apparently now available, but we understand that some development is still taking place on the fx4. An interesting feature of the fx8 is that Pashley recognise that many owners customise their machines to suit their own needs, and to make this easier a full set of braze-ons is fitted as standard to allow subsequent fitting of a multiple chainwheel or Sachs 3x7 if the owner should so choose. You can find a full report on the Bradford on Avon Weekend on the web pages at

Old cyclists never die - their chain rings just get smaller

It's a well established saying, and while the 'never die' is sadly untrue, the chain rings certainly do tend to get smaller. I've been finding that the top gear (just over 90 inches) of my AM7 has been getting relatively little use, while the bottom gear has been getting some use. Now I like to always have one gear in reserve on hills, so I prefer not to use the bottom gear on a regular basis, even if it leaves me a bit under geared at the top, and wastes a gear in normal use. As the AM was the most likely bike to be chosen for the now postponed Lands End to Broadstairs ride, for which lower rather than higher gearing would be an advantage. Therefore I decided to reduce the chain ring from 48 to 46 teeth. This is rather easier said than done, as my early AM7 has the suspension bolt protruding, which means some of the commoner chain wheels foul it. The original type of Stronglight fitted is no longer made, and chain rings are not readily available. Therefore I took the opportunity to fit a new chainset, using up a Campag Mirage which I had used for a time on the Pocket Rocket. A 46 tooth ring is not a standard Campag item (it's only suitable for wimps, not racers), but a TA ring in this fitting is quite easy to get hold of. Fitting presented no problems, except that the chain line was not very good with the ring fitted to the outer position of the double spider, so I used the inner position, which does not look as nice. The new gearing certainly suits me better in normal use.

Chain keeper progress report

I fitted the AM chain keeper on my AM7 several weeks ago, as described on the web pages and in FSN, and I can now report that since it was fitted the chain has not come off. Based on previous experience I would certainly have expected it to have done so in this time without the keeper. During most upward gear changes you can hear the chain hit the keeper, and indeed you can see it as well, as the chain whips about quite a lot. The keeper is quite expensive, being individually made rather than mass produced, but it certainly works, and is worth it. It would not be difficult for many owners to fabricate something similar themselves if they have the necessary skills, material and equipment (do not attempt any work on a bicycle unless you have the ability to do it safely). If you have any other make of cycle with a single chainwheel and the chain tends to come off the chainwheel during upward changes, you might like to consider fitting something similar. You can find details and pictures on our web pages at

PBP on an AM Jubilee

The Moulton emailing list contained a report recently that 63 year old Jim Weisbecker from Philadelphia, USA,  has successfully completed this year's Paris-Brest-Paris ride on an AM Jubilee. The PBP is a 1200km ride, and it has to be completed in 90 hours, so it's a significant achievement for anyone, although Moultons have successfully completed the ride in the past. Having found 100km Brevet Populaires quite arduous (as reported in our recent test series on longer, faster rides on folders and separables, see I have great admiration for anyone who can complete the PBP. The Moulton performed flawlessly, and the ride was completed just within the time limit.

Bike Friday

There have been some interesting developments at Bike Friday, and although they aren't listed yet in their main product pages on their web site (, they have been reported on the Yak emailing list. I mislaid my copy of the item in the Yak, so I'm grateful to Martin Schneider for sending me a copy, extracts of which appear below. The main feature is the introduction of an Air Llama model, but its suspension forks will apparently be available for retrofitting to AirGlide and some tandem models.

An Air Llama is a cross between an Air Glide (406 wheels) and a head-tube-mounted suspension fork, equipped with large mountain. bike type tires. It is being formally introduced to the BF world in the Foldable Flyer which should mail on 27 August. The front suspension is done using an Action Tech suspension cartridge which is like Cannondale's "Headshock" - i.e. it goes in the head tube. The Air Llama is available with the 3x7 Sachs setups which we all know, and it is also available with triple chainring setups and it is also available with the new Rohloff 14-speed rear hub for about an extra $700. Prices range from about $2295 at the low end up to $3800 or so for the full tilt Rohloff-equipped extra-light version. 

UPDATES AVAILABLE: Any Air Glide, or any Tandem with a 1-1/4" headset can have the suspension fork added as an upgrade. Pricing for this is expected to be about $600. Upgrades will be done ONLY during the fall and winter on a first come first served basis for delivery slots.

If you are interested in these developments, take a look at the Bike Friday web pages, or if you are in the UK, try contacting Valley Cycles on 01933 271030, Incidentally, The Ferret requests that if any of our readers receive any relevant Bike Friday news for inclusion here, please send us a copy. The Ferret seems to have been sent to Coventry as far as Vince is concerned, so he is currently relying on browsing the web pages from time to time, and something relevant might get missed.

Although we do not have many Australian members at present, we'll also mention now that there will be an Australian Bike Friday Gathering in the small town of Bright in Victoria from 9-11 March 2000. For further information contact Margaret Day at

Brompton and SP (Steve Parry modified Brompton)

A new tyre to fit Bromptons

Roland Elsenberg of Germany reported recently on the Brompton-Talk emailing list  that Schwalbe have developed a new tyre which will fit Bromptons (and therefore other bikes, such as early Moultons, which use the 37x349 tyre). He has been testing some prototypes, with encouraging results. Early prototypes rolled better than the Raleigh Record, though not as well as the Primo, and puncture resistance (they have a Kevlar lining) was very good, and they worked well with the standard AXA dynamo. Final samples (not yet tested by Roland) have a tread pattern similar to that of the Schwalbe Marathon. The maximum pressure is 100 psi. The new tyre is expected to be available 'by the end of the year'. 

The single speed SP

I still have not seen Steve's light weight single speed Brompton SP in the flesh, but when I met Steve at the Moulton Weekend (he was using a very smart yellow Mk III Moulton this year, after making himself unpopular by arriving on another make last year), he gave me some photographs of the new model, and you can see these on our web site at

The Tactic Panache 5

By Richard Mathews

I already own a Brompton T5 and I have been considering adding a new folder to my stable, so that my son James can join me on train/bike journeys, planned for the future. James usually rides a Trice, and I don't fancy taking that on a train!

My local dealer, Apple Bikes of St.Annes, has been stocking Bromptons for some time. Recently a Tactic appeared on the scene.  An invitation to take it for a spin was enthusiastically accepted. First reactions were good, the riding position was an improvement on the Brompton, and it was certainly lighter. I found the front end very lively, even for someone who rides mostly 16" wheels (even my Vision recumbent has a 16" front wheel). I must admit I was seriously considering a purchase. However this ride was too short for a true assessment, Mathew, the owner of Apple Bikes, agreed to my request to take it for a longer ride when time permitted.

A couple of days later James and I duly took the Tactic for a test ride.

I must agree with A2B. Why such a fancy saddle (Selle Royale), which is always the first thing I change on a bike, usually to my preferred B12. It also got very hot after 3 miles is this caused by the matt finish? This saddle has built-in suspension, no doubt to make up for the Tactic's lack of it, so I suppose a B66 would be a better upgrade.

Having established a comfortable riding position I felt I was cruising on a par with my Brompton, when it's shod with Raleigh Records; in fact I was quite enjoying it. The frame is rigid, and the bike very responsive. At one point, I tried riding out of the saddle as I tend to do on the Brompton on short sharp hills; the front end now felt really strange and not at all stable, although after trying this a couple of times I got used to it, but it was still a little un-nerving.

The big question for me is, why no suspension? Dr. Moulton proved nearly forty years ago, small wheels need hard tyres to overcome rolling resistance, small wheels with hard tyres give a hard ride, and therefore suspension is advisable. Balloon tyres are not the answer, the RSW16 proved that. Suspension is all the rage at present; the streets are full of two wheeled pogo sticks!

We then had a go at folding it. Well itís quite neat, and no doubt we could get better with practice, but itís not as neat as the Brompton. The chain is on the outside, but thereís a clear plastic chain guard. I was a little concerned about this itemís life expectancy.

James was quite taken by the Tactic; however I started to compare it to a Brompton T5, which price wise is only about £40.00 more.

The Tactic's riding position is better (I have not ridden an SP yet but, from friends I have spoken to who have, its much improved. I must talk to Steve about a retro fit handle bar stem for my Brompton.)

The Tactic's a lot lighter; its also very well finished and it's nicely put together by George Longstaff, although the cables tend to foul the front light; I did not investigate if these could be re-routed.

The Brompton however does have rear suspension. It folds better, rolls better, and in my opinion is aesthetically better looking. Oh! And itís British. Having just completed the C2C on my Brompton, I asked myself if I would be prepared to ride it on a Tactic, I am afraid the answer is no.

I think if the Tactic was a couple of hundred pounds cheaper I would consider it as a second compact folder, but the advantages do not outweigh the disadvantages. I would rather spend that few pounds more, for what is a far superior bicycle. I have therefore ordered a new T5.

Editor's comment: Richard's test is very interesting, and his comments on the stability are particularly relevant given some recent reports that the latest Tactics have been modified to improve stability. I have checked with Richard since receiving his report, and he confirms that this was one of the latest Tactics. Richard mentions the riding position: the SP bars on the Brompton do make matters better in terms of giving some height adjustment (particularly allowing them to be lowered a little, although they can also be raised for those who want a higher position), but they still do not improve the situation from the point of view of reach, which is too close to the saddle for most riders.

Sales and Wants

Don't forget that we have a Sales and Wants page ( where you can advertise any folding and separable cycles which you wish to dispose of, or where you may find the folder/separable that you are looking for. Accessories can also be found here. If you want to have something put on the list, just email us the details (


Choosing a bike for the Lanstair Ride

The item about my planned ride from Lands End to Broadstairs in which I invited comment on the choice of bike only resulted in three replies, each with a different suggestion. However, the replies contained some interesting observations, so here are extracts. Although the ride has been postponed, as mentioned in the Editorial, it has not been cancelled, so the decision on which bike to use still has to be made.

Peter Evans writes in favour of the Moulton APB:

I suggest the APB. I recently fitted City Jets to my NS. I was so impressed with them I thought I would put them on my APB24 which I use for cross-country camping etc. Last Saturday I gave them an off-road test riding the Downs Link from Horsham to Steyning and then the South Downs Way to Arundel. When I used the ATB (now stripped to basics) I was a firm believer in knobblies. More recently I have been using Conti TT but wanted something that was better on the tarmac. The City Jets performed off-road far better than I expected. They gripped where it was dry and did not slide out of control on the few muddy patches. Coming down Chanctonbury Hill which is rutted, with large loose pebbles, I managed to stay on the bike rather than walk it down - even with a proper MTB I have found this descent tricky. Front wheel grip was not so good on loose sandy material and I would be very chary of going fast on the smooth chalk parts of the Downs if they were damp. In fact the whole run was very dry except for some large puddles on the Downs Link. What I particularly liked with the City Jets was that the switch to tarmac was effortless. Mixed off and on road riding can be a joy when the tarmac parts can be covered comfortably and fast.

Your observations are interesting Peter. I have City Jets on the APB and also the Bike Friday New World Tourist, but I was not sure that they would be suitable, as the rather triangular cross section can make them a bit over sensitive in some conditions. Your good experience of them under these conditions is reassuring.

Malcolm Lyon favours the Moulton AM7

I was interested to realise that if it was me riding, I was choose the AM7. I suppose my reason would be that I would see it as more of a 'bike', able to accommodate the luggage neatly - rolls well and is kind on the rear end and hands. I was really surprised by my choice. I find many of the other bikes fascinating and some fold much better - but you will be 'riding' more than 'folding' and that seems to be a big influence to me.

As indicated in the editorial, I had myself come down in favour of the AM, but now I have time to change my mind again when a new date has been set!

Leslie Everest (who is Chair of the MC, London Cycling Campaign) comes to the defence of the Birdy

I disagree about the Birdy. I have toured extensively with mine. It is convenient on the plane. I pop it into its specially designed bag, which also doubles as a rucksack; two Ortleib panniers on the back plus the bike bag, now used as a rucksack, and a front handlebar bag. Quite enough for two weeks tour. Probably not camping gear if I take my party dress and kitchen sink.

It's very interesting to hear from someone who uses the Birdy for touring. My longest expeditions was only over 3 days, with limited luggage in a saddlebag (the Blaenau to Wolverhampton ride, My primary concern with the Birdy was with the luggage capacity, which is what Leslie has not found to be a problem. This is a fair comment regarding panniers - I currently have the earlier small carrier, rather than the later folding one, and mine is not suitable for anything other than a very small pannier, which is then in real danger of being hit by the heels when pedalling. I'm not too keen on the mounting of the folding carrier though, as it does not look all that rigid, and I would fear that the weight hanging relatively unsupported at the back would cause it to flex and affect stability (a case of the tail wagging the dog). My one experiment with a bar bag on the Birdy left me very unhappy - it seemed to have even more affect on stability than with a conventional bike, and I do not really like putting additional weight on the folding handlebar system. I'm afraid that I also dislike riding with a load on my back. I only need to use the train to access the start and end points, so as Malcolm commented in the previous letter, the folding is not as important for this ride. Leslie's comments show that the Birdy could be a perfectly satisfactory bike for a medium length tour of this kind, but I'm inclined to think that it is not the most suitable of the bikes that I am fortunate enough to have available.


Saturday 11th September - Origami Ride
For September, meet as usual at the Tearooms in Meriden from 10.30 for an 11.00am start. Note that the October event will start from Milton Keynes station - see below. For more information please see the web pages at, or contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685.

Calais France: La Journee "En ville, sans ma voiture?" Wednesday 22 September 1999, 7am to 9pm
Details were given in FSN 031, or contact Sam Webb:

Saturday 2 October 1999 - Mud Dock
During the August Mud Dock meeting a proposal was apparently put forward to move the location of future meetings. However, the suggested location is usually closed in the winter months, so, pending clarification, I would suggest that anyone planning to go to the event on 2 October should go to Mud Dock in the usual way. Meet from about 10.30am. For further information contact Gary Lovell, Tel: 0117 932 4633.

Saturday 2 October 1999 - Severn Valley Ride 
Meet Kidderminster at Severn Valley Railway Museum Cafe 10am for 10.30. There is a free car park at the station. 35 mile ride with option to shorten to 24 miles and travel back on the Severn Valley Steam Railway. Further details from Sandra Evans. Tel 01562 862701 [Information provided by The Moulton Bicycle Club - event also open to folders]. This sounds like a very enjoyable event if you are far enough north to find travel to Mud Dock rather a chore, or if you are not too sure where the 'Mud Dock' meeting will be on 2 October! I shall be away at the time, otherwise this is an event I would certainly have in my diary.

Saturday 9 October - Origami Ride
Meet in front of Milton Keynes Central Station or in cafe for 11.00am for a tour round Milton Keynes, largely on traffic-free Redways including appropriate lunch and refreshment stops. Yes, we will visit the concrete cows but we will also visit the site of a medieval village (literally the 13th century Milton Keynes), site of a Roman villa plus a number of other places of interest that you might not expect to find in a town like Milton Keynes. For more information please see the web pages at, or contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685.

29 November - 3 December - Portmeirion
The very popular autumn Folding Society gathering at Portmeirion will be taking place as usual - this will the fourth year. If you have been before, then you will know what to expect, and I'm sure you will be planning to come again this year. If you haven't been before, please give it a try, it's an ideal spot for an autumn/winter break with lots of good company, and we have had excellent weather every time so far, despite it being quite late in the year. This is a fairly informal event, and the booking of houses at Portmeirion is done by individuals. As explained in a previous issue of FSN, A to B have agreed to act as a clearing house in helping those who have booked houses find people to share them, or those who want to share to find people with space, so contact them if you need help in this respect. It's important that enough people book houses in time, and the place can fill quite quickly, so don't delay in making arrangements. You can contact A to B at

CycleFest 2000 - Lancaster, 2nd  Ė 8th August 2000
The bi-annual cycling feast will soon be coming around again, and it'll all be up and running from Wednesday 2nd to Tuesday 8th August at St Martins College, Lancaster, UK. Quite a bit has been planned already of course, and as usual there's a theme for the sessions - this year it's "Transmissions", and we already have some great speakers booked for this (Tony Hadland, Florian Schlumfp, Izzi Ureili et al) and some interesting new activities planned (50m sprints, midnight torchlight parade and BBQ etc). However, further ideas are always welcome - tell us! There will be announcements in Folding Society News, The Moultoneer and other publications in due course, and these web pages will be updated as soon as additional information is available. If you have any queries concerning CycleFest, contact: John Bradshaw, Tel/Fax: 01524 384474 (day) or Tel: 01524 66658 (eve)

Contributing material for FSN

We would very much welcome articles, photographs or any other material for inclusion in future issues of FSN, or on our web pages. Please send any material to The Folding Society at the address given below.

The Folding Society
If you have any news or other information of interest to other members of the Folding Society, please email us at the above address.

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All information given here is provided in good faith, but no responsibility can be taken for errors or for any consequences arising from the publication of this information.

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Last updated: 19 September 1999