The Folding Society

Issue 44 - 9 January 2000


I hope you all enjoyed the festivities over Christmas and the New Year. Although I must apologise for the longer than usual gap between issues of FSN, there has not been much news to report during the holiday. I am extremely busy still, and likely to remain so until the end of the month, so this will be a short issue, and unless anything particularly significant happens, the next issue will be in 3 weeks time, when things should be back to normal.

We are still intending to use metric units in future issues of FSN, but there are problems in some cases since expressing gears in inches, tyre pressures in psi and wheel sizes in inches, do not seem to have particularly convenient alternatives. In this issue we have retained the old measurements for these, but we may change to metres (not just a straight conversion), bar (or perhaps Newtons per square metre?), and bead diameter later. 

Coming 'Real Soon Now': Our overview report on tyres for small wheelers and a delayed report on riding the New Series Moulton in Scotland in September and October 1999.

Internet/web update

It will be a few weeks before we can transfer everything, but we're happy to report that we should soon have a new and more memorable web site address - We will let you know through FSN when we make the change - work pressures at the moment make it impossible to do more than set up a link there. We also have an email address to match - and you can use that now if you wish to get in touch, although all the old addresses continue to work.

Riding into the New Millennium

As planned, I went out just before midnight on 31st December to ride in the New Millennium with a quick (sorry, that should read short) trip round the block. In view of the noisy fireworks, I wore ear protectors, and must have looked even more strange than usual! My first choice bike for this special outing was the New Series Moulton, but as I couldn't be bothered to unchain it and carry it down from the spare bedroom where its currently located, the Micro/Project Y had the honour of being chosen - it was already right by the front door and ready to go. I haven't completed my analysis of last year's cycling, but I know I have fallen short of the minor target I set myself. At least I got this year off to a good start.

Is your cycling fun?

I don't own any cycles which aren't pleasant to ride (I wouldn't keep them if they were unpleasant), and I enjoy my cycling, but I'm not sure that I always get a real sense of fun when riding, however much more sober pleasure I get. Out of my stable of  bikes, I think that really only three of them really make the rides fun. Top of the list at the moment, and the bike which sparked this train of thought, comes the Micro, which is the basis of 'project Y'. It's far from perfect (I'm working on that though!), and it's never going to be a bike for long distance day rides or touring, but there's definitely something about it on shorter rides which most of the other bikes don't have. I've commented before that the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket is the most exhilarating bike to ride that I own, and that probably remains true for longer rides - it's an uncomplicated bike that rides superbly, and seems to encourage the rider to work a bit harder, and then gives back more than the extra you put in. Third there is the NS Moulton - again, not perfect, at least in terms of my own requirements, but a superb bike to ride, and it too seems to give back more than you put into it, and seems to enjoy being ridden far and fast, as well as being very comfortable and relaxing. The other bikes all have their merits, and are better in some respects than these three, but they lack that extra sparkle - though perhaps I should move the Brompton SP from this second group to the first. If you regard a bike as just a means of getting from one place to another (perfectly justifiable!), this may not matter, but I wonder if other members find that some bikes (not necessarily folders) have that extra something? If so, are you any nearer than me to identifying what the magic ingredient is? The main thing that I can see that these three bikes seem to have in common is that they are the lightest ones that I own, and all have particularly free-rolling tyres (Primo, IRC and Continental GP).

Traincle update

Paul Stobbs has written with some additional information on his Panasonic Traincle, which we reviewed in issue 42 of FSN.

There are now some important revisions to the earlier information, which was all we had at that time.

Inner tube repair can in fact be done with conventional patches, although we thought otherwise at the time of your report. I now have two on one tube, your glueless and the other, and both have maintained within a PSI [pound per square inch - sorry, imperial units here - Ed] or two of 60psi for a day or longer. I'm inclined to think the loss of pressure attributed to the glueless patch at Portmeirion might well have been due to one of the other very small punctures. D**** thorns!

Tyre size - the rolling diameter, measured several times in terms of the rolling circumference which is 960 - is 12.03, which equates to a gear size in inches [still our normal way of measuring gears although FSN is now metricated?!] is 45.8 inches. The substitute conventional inner tubes which have been used (the special plastic tubes are not currently readily available) are 14 x 1.75, with a Schraeder valve, which will fit the rims.

Folding/unfolding: With a left hand pedal without a toe clip/strap, the process can be quite quick, even on a par with a Brompton. However, if it doesn't go right, it's fiddly and slow. Also, there isn't the accurate location docking of folding parts, as on the Brompton.

I've yet to do further mods on it - eg longer seat post, raising the gearing etc.

Birdy tyres etc

By Frank van Ruitenbeek

As a Birdy owner living in Amsterdam, the Birdy Blue has been the only bike I have used during the last 21 months. It was my city bike, folded from 2 to say 16 or 20 times a day and ridden through all kinds of heavy traffic and road and weather conditions. I took it everywhere I went, and took it everywhere inside. My principle was, and is, simple: if the bike cannot go in, I won't. I've had too many bike stolen in this city. This one will stay by my side.

Next to city use, I tried the Blue twice as an off roader - which gave good results and a lot of pleasure - and used it as a touring bike. You may have seen me at FF3 with a large backpack at the rear and a small one on the handlebars. The last wasn't a very elegant or safe solution, but I regarded it as a test - and I don't understand the idea that it's difficult to carry luggage on a Birdy. With the two packs fitted (together about 120 litres) as I'm used to do, you certainly have to hold a firm grip to the bars, because the small pack pulls it aside. I didn't try to fit something to diminish this effect, but it seems well possible. With the heavy load, the bike becomes something like a small wheeled tank. Once you go, (and the gearing is very useful here) you feel like you're unstoppable, and ready to crash and crush anything that comes in your way. Still the brakes work very effectively.

I'm not interested in technique or possessing a stable. What I want is one (or maybe two) bike(s) that fulfil(s) all my cycling needs, that look something like:

There may be more, but this comes to my mind at this moment.

The Blue seems to come quite close to all that, although to me it's still in the test phase. You will understand that the tyres grew into a main concern, because they don't last long enough. The original 35 psi Birdy tyre did rather better than the later 80 psi, but I wanted something better. The Birdy off-road tyre is quite sticky on the road, and seems to wear fast too, but that's no problem to me since off road cycling is only a occasional pastime.

My Birdy dealer here only could (or wanted) to sell me the 80 psi tyre and the off road one. I find them too poor and too expensive. Therefore I went to another cycle shop closer to my home, who started to sell Birdys about a year ago, but ceased to do so after maybe 8 months. They have specialized in all kinds of transport bikes. At first they didn't have any tyre for the Birdy. After I told them I would buy a couple of any tyre they could find that would fit my rims, they started looking and came up with some (for less then half the price of the dealer). Here are some specifications, which may be of interest to Birdy owners:

Terratrax, 47-355 (18x1.75) 45 psi, black
This is a semi off road tyre, with about 2.5 mm hollow knobbles on it. I haven't tried them yet, but suppose they are of child bike quality, although they may be better: I'm no expert on bikes or parts, only on varied, quite heavy everyday use in different conditions.

Vredestein San Marino, 47-355 (18x1.75), 40 psi
These I took to England and Ireland last summer (Gary Lovell, David and Jane Henshaw and AVC saw them). After three weeks, I damaged the Blue severely and sent it home by post, so I wasn't really able to test the Vredesteins fully. First impression was good: I like a bit wider tyre on the bike, as it gives me a more solid feeling. With any kind of tyre, the Birdy is the nicest and smoothest riding bike I've ever ridden. For this reason, I think all considerations about low, lower, lowest rolling resistance are details. Except with the off road tyres on the road, my Birdy rolls very well anyway and pushing it is very easy and gives fun. I ran the tyre at up to 60psi. With the heavy load on the back, I could see some wear at the rear tyre already, after I guess less than 400 miles.

Swallow 47-355 18x1.75 35 to 40 psi
This tyre was the first one the shop showed up with. I got it for free because it's a bit old. The (orange) sides of it wrinkle when you fold it. They had only one. It was found somewhere in a corner of the shop. I've only used it for about two weeks, shortly before I went touring. The tread seems the best, most solid of all the tyres mentioned. The part in contact with the road is not wrinkling yet, but still seems safe and sound. Opposite to my expectations, the colours of the tyre looked very good on the Blue. I feared that with anything but a black tyre, the Birdy would start to look like a toy bike: not at all. Since the orange and the blue are more or less opposites in the spectrum, bike and tyre brighten each other up. It looked very good. I think this is the tyre I want on my Birdy. Despite repeated requests from me, they haven't got a new pair for me yet. I fear it may be an old type that's not in production anymore.


My Birdy has just returned from repair. I'm quite displeased (although not surprised) by the price of a new front fork (including swing arm, spring system etc. although only the fork had broken. It seems that the suspended trapezium is only sold as a whole, not in parts). The price was dfl 395,- excluding dfl 65 for labour. That must be over 140 pounds together. But well, when I bought such an expensive bike I knew repairs and maintenance would cost some too, so I won't moan. (But I won't say I like it. For things I don't need the dealer for, I may try a different bicycle repairman. I'm far from a man of unlimited resources).

Next to the tyre, the Birdy tube was a point of concern to me too. I had some bad experiences with the air-tightness of the original tubes. Two of them had started to leak air between one trip and the next, without any obvious cause. In both cases the weak spot turned out to be the place where the valve is fitted in the rubber. That's a place where I'm not able to repair it. The tubes were the 7 Stars 18x1.50, with Presta valves. The same bike shop that delivered me the different tyres came up with the next two tube options, and I've fitted one of each to my Birdy.

Continental 18x1 3/8 18 x 1.75x2 Hermetic 
S. Schwalbe DV5 28/47 - 355/406. The box in which these came also reads: "47-355 - 18x1.75/1.90 28/37-390 - 450 A 32/37-400 - 18x1 1/4, 1 3/8 32-406 20x1.25" and: "Met Hollands ventiel/With Woods valve Extremely airtight, Now with pressure gauge".

I wasn't sure if the tubes fitted perfectly, but to my eyes and fingers they seemed much thicker and stronger then the 7 Stars, and up to now they've not given any trouble. I'm not even sure anymore, but I may have had one puncture in Ireland. While writing, I remember that at FF3 Richard and Gary from AVC changed my back tyre and tube. They sold me the 35 psi Birdy tyre, and I think I remember that they fitted a Brompton tube to the 18" rim. May that be true? I don't know where to find that tube. I'm in doubt. They may as well have fitted a 7 Star.

The Editor adds:
A few comments on Frank's article seem appropriate:

  1. Carrying luggage. You must decide for yourself your priorities, and after all, for the majority of us the bike is a means of transport and a means of enjoying ourselves. If you are happy yourself with the Birdy and carrying luggage on it, that's fine. I would just say though that I find carrying luggage on my back very uncomfortable, and that systems of mounting luggage that have a negative effect on the stability of the bike are not satisfactory to me in view of the fact that other bikes can do the job without the negative effects. But of course that's just how I feel about it, and why I regard the Birdy as poor in this respect.
  2. There seems a good deal of latitude in fitting tubes in tyres - within reason, one that is slightly too small seems to be preferable to one that is too large. Therefore from personal experience I myself would not be unhappy to fit either 16 inch or AM Wolber 17 inch tubes in Birdy tyres - the difference in diameter is actually quite small. I am not recommending that anyone else do this, and if you do it, it is at your own risk - I'm just letting you know what I do.
  3. After more use, I'm rather disappointed in the new Birdy tyre. Somehow the bike seems to feel more stodgy than it used to - the opposite of the fun factor mentioned earlier. Although it is only a subjective impression, and may not be a real change, it does seem to be related to the fitting of the new tyres. A to B's tests also seem to suggest rolling resistance is not as good on the new tyre as on its predecessor. For my own use, I seem to have 3 options - sell the Birdy (I really have far too many bikes), lay in a stock of the older tyre if I can (it appears from the catalogue that the new one replaces the old, rather than being another option), or convert to 16 inch wheels. The last of these is quite an expensive solution, but with the improvement in availability of excellent 16 inch tyres (the new Schwalbe as well as the Primo, and probably a Brompton tyre later this year, as well as the rather utilitarian Raleigh Record) this looks an increasingly attractive option.

January Origami Ride - first organised of the year

Today (Saturday 8th January) saw the first of the organised folder rides this year - the Origami Ride from Meriden. It was a perfect day weather-wise for a ride - sunny, dry and mild. 10 Riders took part, with Bromptons and Moultons being the most numerous .The only disruption was caused by a puncture on one of the Bromptons, and as it was the rear tyre it was rather tiresome to repair. We stopped for lunch in the Catherine de Barnes area, after which John Pinkerton and I rode back to his house to investigate a computer problem, while the other riders returned to the start point at Meriden. By the time I got home I had clocked up a reasonably respectable 48 km -  a good start to the year's Folder rides. Many thanks to John for organising the ride, and to all those who attended. The next Origami Ride will be on Saturday 12th February - you can find this and other rides listed in the Events section below.

Folder of the (last) Century?

A second member, Mike Smithson, has emailed me taking exception to my awarding of the title of Folder of the Century (20th) to the Brompton, and putting forward the counter claims of the Bike Friday. Mike puts forward some very persuasive arguments, and regular readers will know that I like Bike Fridays, own two, and have frequently said that if I could only have one bike, the Bike Friday New World Tourist would be the one that would suit me best. Of course it is all back to horses for courses; Mike's main objections to the Brompton, as compared with the Bike Friday, are in terms of ride quality; he questions whether many owners really fold all that much, and whether the Brompton really is that convenient when folded. Now the Fridays are superb bikes to ride, and they can be folded, but I and many others, including other Bike Friday owners, really would not want to have to fold them on a regular basis for commuting etc. A case could probably be made for giving the award to other makes of folder, but I still feel that on balance the Brompton fully deserves the award. 

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 (still at for the moment). 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. 


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
The first Mud Dock of the year, as there was 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.

Saturday 12th February - Origami Ride
The February 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, which are currently delayed by pressure of work.

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
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: 9 January 2000