The Folding Society

Issue 43 - 19 December 1999


As I explained in the last issue of FSN, I have a large number of other urgent work projects on at present, amounting to at least six weeks of work to be done between now and the third week in January, so I'm very pressed for time. For that reason, this is again a rather short issue of FSN, and the next two issues are also likely to be concise. Please accept my apologies for this, and the fact that a number of articles I had been planning are going to be further delayed, but I hope to get back to normal at the end of January/beginning of February.

The amount of work to be done has meant that there has been no time to do much cycling other than basic commuting/shopping and other utility trips, but the freezing conditions would probably have reduced my cycling anyway - I don't like riding on slippery roads, and my bad circulation causes the hands and feet to freeze up completely within a very short period of time - in fact my right foot is frozen at the moment, and I have spent the whole day indoors near a fire.

One non-work thing that I have managed to fit in is reading the excellent latest issue of A to B, which arrived yesterday. As usual, I opened it as soon as it came, skimmed through it once and then read it again in more detail. When time permits, it will get read again, which makes it the best value publication that I receive. Incidentally, A to B has made a proposal for going all metric (something we tried at Government House during the Portmeirion event this year) - I'm casting my vote in favour by switching FSN to metric units now.

This is the last issue of FSN which will appear this year/century/millennium, so it should be an occasion for reviewing the past and looking forward to the future. I am saving my main review of my cycling in 1999 until there is more time to deal with it, but a few topical items have crept into this issue of FSN. My own plans for seeing in the New Millennium involve the rather modest target of riding a bike round the block at the crucial time - but I haven't yet decided which bike will have this honour.

Folders of the Century

Given that cycles have been in use for less than two centuries, and folders were very rare in the 19th century (well, they aren't all that common now either), it seems rather unnecessary to head this 'cycles of the Millennium'. Anyway, I think the award has to go to the Brompton - it's difficult to see that there is any other serious contender (although Graham McDermott has suggested it should be the Bike Friday). Although there are other folders which do some jobs better - particularly if you don't actually fold very often, but ride long distances - it has to be the most versatile folder of all - ideal for commuting, but very capable of longer distances when the need arises, and easy to fold, compact when folded, with excellent luggage capability.

I think, however, that it is worth nominating two other bikes as having made a particularly significant contribution to the folding world. The first is the Moulton Stowaway - a separable rather than a folder, but it showed what could be achieved with small wheels and suspension, and it certainly made people aware of the possibilities for portable bicycles. The Moulton also radically changed perceptions of the bicycle, and gave it a new image, as a fashion and recreation product as well as being a very practical means of travel. The second nomination is the Bickerton, which was the first really compact folder, and, through its use of aluminium, also very light; it wasn't a pleasant bike to ride, and I'm not sorry to have got rid of mine, but it was undoubtedly a significant development.

And what of the next century? I Think cycles will continue to evolve fairly steadily, rather than there being some sudden major innovation. Weight reduction through the use of 'new' materials can be anticipated, and improvements in battery technology and motors could well make electric power for cycles, including folders, a more attractive proposition than at present. I don't think I want to get into predicting the social and political impact of cycles, or the impact of these factors on cycles.

Project Y

Pressure of work means that project Y, mentioned in our last issue, has not progressed very much since it started a couple of weeks ago, but I'll give you a preliminary report. First of all I should explain that project Y is something that I am doing for my own amusement - it may be of interest to some others, but it's not a new folder design which will go into production. Project Y was sparked by the opportunity to try the Panasonic Traincle at Portmeirion, as described in the last issue of FSN; my impressions of the Traincle seem very similar to those in the report in A to B. As a compact, light folder for short journeys, the Traincle has some attractions, but it does seem to be unnecessarily complicated and expensive as a result of the use of titanium, and the 12 inch wheels (I'll retain that terminology in this instance) and some other features seem to offer little benefit but some serious drawbacks. That set me thinking about producing a very simple, compact folder with better riding characteristics, and a much lower price, light by the standards of most folders, though heavier than a Traincle. Like the Traincle, the bike would not really be well suited to larger and heavier riders in its standard form, although it would be possible to design something similar with a slightly larger frame. 

Happily there is a production folder available already which is potentially suitable for this project - the Micro. It's already cheap and quite light, with a simple but effective folding method which produces quite a compact package. It also uses 349 (16 inch) wheels, so that Primos - very light and free running - can easily be fitted. Although the basic bike is quite light already, there is scope for further weight reduction, and a target of less than 9 kg for a single speed model, or less than 11 Kg for one with a 3 or 5 speed hub, looks very practical. Two versions are envisaged - the very light single speed, with no mudguards or any non-essential items, intended strictly for zooming to and from a station, and a multi-speed version (3-speed would probably be appropriate), with mudguards, better components and performance, intended for slightly more extended use. With the basic bike costing less than 300, a budget of 100 for modifications to each version still leaves the machine looking very reasonably priced, and much less than half the price of a Traincle. Neither version would be as sophisticated and versatile as the Brompton, for example, but as a cheap and cheerful solution to commuting requirements they would be quite effective.

So far a few quite simple modifications have been made to one Micro, involving the fitting of Primos, Presta-valved tubes, a lighter and better quality micro-adjust seat pillar, a light Flite Titanium saddle, and a few other detailed changes. This bike currently has the 5-speed Sturmey hub, which is about 0.2 Kg heavier than a 3-speed, and it will be developed into the higher specification, but heavier, project Y. It certainly isn't yet down to the target weight of under 11Kg, but it is not too far off, despite fitting some additional items like a cycle computer, and the higher specification Alhonga brakes, which actually increase the weight compared with the original Saccons.

First impressions are that it is great fun to ride, and it certainly feels light when you pick it up. Folding is quite easy, if not quite up to Brompton standards (tough better, I think, than anything else I have tried), and it is so compact even when not folded that it is quite easy to carry it into places where a larger machine would be difficult to get through corridors and doorways, and would be rejected by the authorities (I tried this at the university on its first outing!). With the Primos fitted, it rolls very freely, and the Alhongas give it good stopping power - they are a set I bought for a Brompton, but did not use, and they are very simple to fit, not involving any of the problems involved in fitting them to the Brompton. The original brake levers have been retained, as these are light and very stiff, unlike the standard Brompton levers. The new seat post and thin saddle mean that the saddle will just go up high enough for me, which would mean that for most people it would be a bit on the low side in this form. The standard crankset is as light as any of the alternatives I had available, so it is being retained at present, but improvements in the bottom bracket, headset and front hub would probably make for better performance and some weight saving. There is, however, one really bad area, and that is the handlebar stem. This is very high and unadjustable, and, partly due to the length, it flexes even in quite normal riding. Much worse, though, is the fact that it rocks about, due to the fact that the pivot bolt is a loose fit in the hinge joint - something that affects other Micros judging by my brief test of Philippa Wheeleer's bike at Portmeirion, the second Micro which will form the ultra-light single speed, and the comments of a correspondent in the latest issue of A to B. I'm amazed that nothing has been done about this, as it is so obviously wrong, and a solution in design and manufacture would be relatively easy and cheap to effect. We'll be looking at a means of overcoming this problem in the existing bikes, as in its present form this greatly detracts from the pleasure of using the bike, and speaking for myself I'd regard the performance as verging on unacceptable without some improvement in this area.

From the limited amount of work done so far, the target weights look quite achievable, and the bike should be very well suited to quick, short rides to and from the station, and a bit more. On its first outing to the university, it was going sweetly and the weather was good, so I cycled not to the nearest station, but to Marston Green, 22 Km away, and the total distance for the day was about 33 Km. The next day I did a further 30 Km, and again this was thoroughly enjoyable. Even with some lightweight components fitted, the bikes should be quite cheap - less than a Brompton. However, they certainly won't be either as versatile or as robust as the Brompton, which still sets the standard against which all other folders have to be judged.

December Origami Ride - last of the year

The combination of very wet weather, work and other seasonal commitments, meant that the Origami Ride on 11th January only drew 4 participants - John Pinkerton, Tony Hadland, Phil Wray and myself, the bicycles being (not in the same order as the riders!) two Bromptons, a Moulton APB and a Micro. Our quiz question is, can you fit the bikes to the riders? The weather conditions meant that this was quite a short ride, just over to Balsall Common for lunch (liquid plus mince pies!) . Tony went straight home after lunch, and I dropped out at Berkswell station to catch the train, so only John and Phil completed the course on this, our last group ride of the year.

For the third year running, Central Trains entered into the seasonal spirit by issuing free mince pies and sweets on the train in the way into Birmingham in the morning - a welcome gesture, which also enabled me to get a photographic subject for this year's Christmas card.

Sales and Wants

The S&W list is still quite active - if you have a folder, separable, or accessories to dispose of, or you want to buy, you can use the Sales and Wants page ( If you want to have something put on the list, just email us the details ( - there is no charge, but please let us know when it is sold so that we can take it off the list. 


You will have seen in the latest issue of A to B that there is some possibility that the Isle of Wight will host an event for folders this year. It won't be organised by The Folding Society and/or A to B, though no doubt they will have some input. It's still not certain whether this event will materialise, but we'll keep you informed of developments. Whether or not this does go ahead, this is a Cyclefest year, and this well established and excellently organised event is very much in harmony with folders, although of course it does attract all sorts of other interesting unconventional cycles. We're hoping as many of you as possible will try to get to Cyclefest, and we hope to have a number of things in the program which will be of particular interest to folder enthusiasts.

No Mud Dock January 2000
Mud Dock rides are normally on the first Saturday of the month, but as this coincides with January 1st, it has now been confirmed that there will not be a ride this month

Saturday 8th January 2000  - Origami Ride
The January Origami Ride will  be at its usual location, the Tearooms at Meriden; arrive from 10.30 for an 11.00 start. For more information please see the web pages at, or contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685, email . I hope to be able to move the Origami web page to John's site soon, but the existing site will provide a link to there - we'll keep you posted on developments.

Sunday 30th January 2000 - 4th 'Bikes 'N' Bits' Cycle fair, Manchester Velodrome, Stuart Street, Manchester
This event will be open from 12 noon until 4pm, and will include retail, club and individual stalls. The admission price is 1 per person, and track tasters will be available - half an hour for 3. There is nothing specifically scheduled for folders, but those in the area may find it worth a visit - you could take the opportunity to look at some of the Pinkerton Collection which has now been relocated at the Velodrome.

Mud Dock 5th February 2000
The first Mud Dock of the year, as there is no event in January. As usual, meet from about 10.30 at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol. Contact Gary Lovell, Tel: 0117 932 4633.

10 - 12 March 2000 - Australian Bike Friday Club (ABFC), Bright
For more information on this event, contact Margaret Day, email

June, 2000 - Vondelpark Amsterdam
Enno Roosink,, tells us that the party is going to be like a fair with lots of activities and exhibitors of special bicycles, recumbents, folders and the like. Please have a look at for details. All participants of our annual Bike Friday Meeting will be attending the Bicycle Party/Fair; the general idea is to ride mixed with the Moultons and the Bike Fridays. The BF meeting will be stretched over the weekends 17-18 June and 24 - 25 June.

CycleFest 2000 - Lancaster, 2nd  – 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. There will be announcements in Folding Society News, The Moultoneer and other publications in due course. The Cyclefest web pages are now available (, and will be regularly updated as the event approaches. We hope there will be a major folder/separable presence at Cyclefest 2000. If you have any queries concerning CycleFest, contact: John Bradshaw, Tel/Fax: 01524 384474 (day) or Tel: 01524 66658 (eve)

A to B Magazine

A to B Magazine remains the ultimate source of authoritative information on folding cycles. In the unlikely event that you aren't aware of A to B and/or don't  read this magazine, then we would urge you to take out a subscription without delay. A to B can be found on the web pages at,  or you can email them at, or they can be reached by telephone or fax on 01963 351649, address 19 West Park, Castle Cary, Somerset BA7 7DB, England. A subscription to A to B is only 10 per year in the UK, or $24, and the magazine is published ever two months and is packed with news, reviews and other interesting information on effective integrated transport systems in general, and folding cycles in particular.

Back Numbers

Back numbers of all issues of Folding Society News are available on our web site - go to for the full list.

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
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Copyright (C)1999 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 19 December 1999