The Folding Society

Issue 49 - 27 March 2000


I have been working away from home for most of the last week, so there has not been much time for writing FSN, or indeed for cycling. I had hoped to do some writing on the train on the return journey, but the SP and I ended up sitting together on the floor in the coach lobby- not only uncomfortable and noisy, but too rough a ride to write or type. Of course, after being away, even if only for 4 days, there is a lot to catch up with at home, not to mention shopping, cleaning the bike, exercise and other work. The net result is that this is a shorter issue of FSN than recently.

Format: If you receive this issue of FSN in a plain text form, please remember that a formatted version is available on our web pages at, and you can receive the formatted version (suitable for reading with a web browser) just be emailing us to let us know you prefer this version.

Internet/web update

The Folding Society web pages are now at All new material is being put at that new address, and the old site now only consists of a link to the new one.

Riding comfortably - Part 1

"Severn Bore's" article in the last issue of FSN reminded me of a series I once started (only the first part was actually written) on the 'user interface' between the cycle and rider. Being comfortable on the bike makes a big difference to one's enjoyment of cycling, and that involves not only the saddle, but also the overall riding position, hands and feet.

As far as the saddle goes, it's not uncommon to see letters on the internet or in magazines asking for advice. I can't help feeling this is often rather a waste of time, as different saddles suit different people - we are not all shaped the same. I also think that the rider needs to get broken in to the saddle - it's not just a case of the saddle needing to be broken in. This has two significant implications - keeping changing saddle in the hope of finding a more comfortable one can be counter productive, and using different types of saddle on different cycles, if you have more than one, can make them all seem uncomfortable.

Personally, I have found the old faithful Brooks B17 the most comfortable saddle, but it is very heavy, and with a folder this is a drawback not only when riding, but also when carrying the bike. I therefore use a very light Flite Titanium saddle on almost all my bikes - the exceptions are the Brompton and SP, on which, due to the rather upright riding position, I find the slightly wider Brooks Swift more suitable. However. the two Swift's are very different in performance, the one on the T5 being quite flexible and comfortable, while the one on the SP is much less flexible (note the deliberate choice of word) and less comfortable (Michelle Whitworth and Derek Carpenter were very unimpressed [perhaps that should read impressed!] by it when they tried the SP at Portmeirion).

Anyway, the intention of this article was not to cover old ground, but to look at another aspect of comfort - riding position. As with all aspects of comfort, this is very much a personal thing. Some people like an upright riding position, others prefer the bars further away and lower, giving a flatter riding position, at the same time lowering wind resistance. Then there are those, like myself, who use different positions depending on the type of bicycle and riding - the flatter position for faster solo day rides, more upright when riding in groups. commuting, shopping, viewing the scenery.

Whichever position you favour, you want to be able to set the bike up to suit your preference. The main factors here are top tube length, handlebar extension, handlebar and saddle height. On most bikes, the only one of these that can be readily adjusted after purchase is the saddle height (and limited adjustment fore and aft of the saddle), and there may be limits on this for short and tall riders - the former is less a problem with small wheeled folders, but the latter can be significant on such machines for larger riders. Top tube length and the ability to alter handlebar extension (reach) can also present problems on small wheeled folders. Owners of AM and New Series Moultons fitted with the wishbone stem are most fortunate in their ability to adjust the reach and height of the bars - although the fantastic range of adjustment can make finding the correct setting quite difficult!

A strange feature of trying to set up the bike is that different positions seem to work better on different bikes. Of course there are many other features of the geometry of the bike which contribute to this, notably the position of the saddle relative to the bottom bracket, but measuring how a number of bikes are set up, all of which feel about right, can lead to surprises. I recently checked some of my bikes, and although the height of the saddle was almost identical in each case, as one would expect, the height of the handlebars and their distance from the saddle varied considerably more than I expected. Below are some measurements - note that I deliberately measured reach from bars to the centre of the seatpost, NOT the saddle, as this gave a better indication of the bike size; moving the saddle fore and aft means that the actual reach can be adjusted to reduce differences, but also moves the position relative to the bottom bracket.

Cycle Handlebar height (mm) Reach (front of bars to centre of seat post (mm))
Bike Friday New World Tourist 910 650
Birdy 940 700
Brompton/SP 970 600
Brompton T5 1030 630
Project Y (modified Micro) 930 680
Moulton APB 890 670
Thorn Audax (dropped bars) 890 660

Before taking these measurements, I had thought that the set up of all the bikes was reasonably comfortable, but the results have given a better insight into why some feel more comfortable than others, and as a result I'll be adjusting the riding position of some, where it is possible to do so easily, to bring them closer to what seems my personal optimum, which is about 900mm bar height, 660mm reach. Preliminary tests with the New Series Moulton, which offers very easy adjustment of most settings via its wishbone stem, has already resulted in me achieving an even more comfortable position on that bike.

In the next issue we will continue the discussion, and look more specifically at the adjustment options on some of the more popular folders and separables.


My recent travels took me through Bath, so I stopped off briefly at Avon Valley Cyclery to take a look at the new Bromptons. The Companion looked quite smart, and the new cheap chainset looks very reasonable. It must certainly help to have a lower priced base model in the range, but taking into account items which most owners would want to add, like mudguards, the L3 looks better value, and one suspects that although the Companion may well attract more people to look at the range, many of these new customers will actually finally settle for the L3.

The new Alhonga brakes carry a Brompton logo, and are not identical to those from St John St Cycles which some people have managed to fit to existing Bromptons- they have appropriate cable fixings for the Brompton, and only the front one is a dual pivot. I have to say that the new brake levers are a bit disappointing, at least in appearance. They include an adjuster (no adjustment on the brake itself), and are certainly of more rigid construction than their predecessors, but they still look rather primitive. Brompton's brake upgrade kit for existing bikes will, I understand, include brakes and levers - a pity as many people might prefer to have the brakes and substitute a better lever. Avon Valley indicated that they have in mind offering just such a package. The new handlebar grips feel both comfortable and give a secure hand grip. The rear mud flap is quite small, but looks as though it should be effective it eliminating the wet back which Brompton riders regularly suffered in the past in damp conditions. It's not really appropriate to comment on the Brompton tyres without trying them. I would have been very interested to see - and perhaps even buy - the new touring bag, but unfortunately Avon Valley had not yet received any when I made my visit.

Brompton SP

I have now received additional pictures of the SP models, but a shortage of time means that I have not had rime to put these and the earlier data onto the web pages yet. I hope to be able to complete the web page formatting in the next few days.

Cycling and the fun factor - searching for the explanation

By John Prince

I come from a cycling family; my father rode a cycle all over the United Kingdom as a boy and young man, and his father actually made (in a manner of speaking) cycles.

My grandfather left to make his fortune in America, and after various adventures, which included being robbed of all his possessions in New York (an event which marked him for life), he ended up in North Dakota and, according to family legend, traded in furs with one hand whilst shooting the odd Red Indian with a six gun held in the other. The climate was too severe for his liking, so after a number of years he gathered his marbles and headed back to his homeland. On the way he met and married a lady in London, and had a not class typical Society wedding when he was about 33 years of age just in the closing years of the 1800’s.

Settling in Gloucester, he put his money into property, finally building a whole street of two up and two down houses in a working class area and, being a practical man, looked around for a way of making an honest (more or less) buck. Cycles were high fashion at the time (expect corrections from Pinky if I am wrong - all this is based on childhood memories), but the average man in the street had trouble affording one. My grandfather hit on several novel ideas to solve these problems and to make money: buy up old cycles, especially from those temporally fallen on hard times (lost a job or ill perhaps). These cycles, stripped, provided the basic stock. The potential customer, nearly always a tenant of one the houses, then visited granddad to discuss the specification required. My father particularly remembers references to an E.D. freewheel, and I suppose the wheels were build by hand. Frames were stripped to the metal and resprayed and hung in the scullery to dry. The cycle was then hand built to the customer’s specification, i.e. a proper custom job to be proud of.

Finance was a central pivot for success, and Grandfather spread a simple message; you could borrow a pound (£1) from him in the days of 240 pence to the pound for a mere 1d (one penny) interest charge. Have you spotted the catch? The penny charge was weekly; with 52 weeks in the year, my generous ancestor was cashing in 21.67% annual return … makes me wonder what he charged for the reconditioned cycles!

My father told me how revolutionary it all was for the average man in the street, when, whenever he wanted, he could jump on his cycle and roam far and wide. Freedom, compared with the previous limit of a far as one could walk in a day. It is a sobering thought that for centuries it was normal not to have travelled further than the next town! He needed no urging, and, starting with day trips out to neighbouring towns, he progressed to weekend trips to the seaside and finally holiday trips of several weeks all over the kingdom (due to my father’s job he got much longer holidays than was usual in those days). He cycled to Lands End and John O’Groats before progressing to a Douglas 350ccs flat twin motorcycle. After meeting my mother, my birth and the outbreak of war put a temporary end to his travelling, but in common with thousands of working class men at the time, he still cycled to work every day. He had a "rubbish" cycle for everyday use and a posh one for special occasions!

So, fun factor one is FREEDOM. Factor two is TRAVEL. Factor three is EXERCISE AND FRESH AIR.

Now, just as pets are said to grow to resemble their owners, I believe there is an affinity between the cycles a person likes and his character traits. So, no wonder were all have our own likes and dislikes!

A plodding, run-of –the-mill type may well look for these traits in his transport. So perhaps a standard roadster, sit-up-and-beg with no nonsense rod brakes, full chaincase and "sensible" three speed hub gear? Sporty types will crouch over drop handlebars watching the never ending view of the front tyre spinning; object - to cover a certain distance as quickly as possible and, whilst posing, talk knowingly of his special creation … titanium frame ...hand filed welds etc.

Others, with a sort of inverted snobbism, will let drop to the admiring crowds that his mount cost merely £5,000 (well only the best is good enough) and a fellow in the group is sure to get his kicks by explaining how his cycle was reclaimed from a skip and cost nothing.

So, further fun factors are

So, if we accept that our character traits may be reflected in our cycle choice, would it be reasonable to think that perhaps we get bored with the way we are, and use our cycles to experience something different, even foreign to our normal make-up? This would explain why some types seem to go out of their way to have exotic mounts – perhaps the only bit of colour in their lives. Others (and I belong to this group) are not satisfied with one mount, and using all sorts of "reasonable" excuses, accumulate a stable of many cycles. My excuse is that, according to my mood, I may chose a suitable cycle, and of course there is always the old favour of "horses for courses" to fall back on. Unfortunately, my wife does not believe a word of this, and demands regular weeding out and selling of surplus kit!

Now, the cycles themselves feed back fun in the way they respond. These responses are hard to define, and much is at best subjective, but as an opening suggestion how about:

  1. General overall feeling - lively, or dead?
  2. Frame and forks - .nice stiff feeling, or whippy?
  3. Handling road shocks -. absorbent, or rough ride?
  4. High speed stability - runs solid-as-a-rock, or about to shimmy?
  5. Ability to change direction - responds to a touch or heave and wait?
  6. Sum of the parts - greater than expected, or worse than expected?

Ask anyone who has tried to design and/or make a cycle - many of these design requirements are merely opposite ends of the same factor, and a compromise will have to be struck somewhere. This compromise may well result in an ideal solution for one particular person, but the slightest change to enable another different person to enjoy the cycle, may change characteristics beyond recognition; many of the above being inter-related.

Many methods of evaluation are, at best hit-and-miss, at worst merely personal bias expressed in words. So, I willingly accept the cycling scene as multifaceted, full of individuals, not to say individualists, who will proudly point to their mount as being the best possible solution - they have then proudly pointed to:

May cycling long remain the place where people of widely differing backgrounds, talents and ideals gather together to enjoy the wide spectrum, prepared to accept others who have different ideas.


Historian of cycling, John Pinkerton, writes on several topics:

Drew Devereux's folder is very reminiscent of the Dai Lloyd design (see "It's in The Bag!" by Tony Hadland. £9.45 incl P & P from Dorothy Pinkerton, 522 Holly Lane, Erdington B24 9LY, money with order) and also an unknown French demountable with detachable wheels, which indecently were only supported from one side a la Mike Burrows Windcheetah Olympic monocoque.

I have some usable photos which could be reproduced in FSN, but do readers want to know about portable cycle history? From sales of "It's in the Bag!", NOT. During a recent visit to Philadelphia I visited a cycle shop which specialised in British upright rod-brake tourers. There I was introduced to "Folding Bob" who I was told was THE collector, expert etc on folders. I had a copy of Tony's book with me and showed it to him. After he had studied it for some time, I told him that it was for sale, and was he interested in buying a copy. To my amazement and also that of the shop owner and my companion who had taken me there, he blandly replied "No"! This was the reaction from the collector/Guru in the whole of the USA. It is at time like that when you want to go quietly outside and blow your head off for being so stupid in thinking that people want to know about cycle history.

Tyre Fitting. At the risk of causing world-wide unrest, I will remind all those that the only way to fit the second bead of a tyre is to FINISH at the valve. So many people including some who make a living from bicycle repair ignore the principle of tyre fitting. The well in the centre of the rim is to enable the tyre bead to go into opposite the point where it is finally pushed over the rim. If you have filled this well with valve, tube and associated gubbings you are defeating the object. Now before you all fire up your computers, get hot under the collar, grab the telephone or commit suicide, I can tell you that the major and original tyre manufacturers all recommend tyre fitting in this manner. Think about it ! It does make sense. The valve can be properly seated AFTER the tyre has been fitted.

"Severn Bore" has obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to overcome the common problem of saddle soreness. This was raised in A to B last year by John Prince who is imprisoned on a Pacific Island for much of the year. Here the road is almost totally flat and he complained of saddle discomfort. I would suggest that both problems are caused by riders sitting still on the saddle. When riding on undulating roads the rider moves forward when climbing and midway for level and sometimes back for descending on the saddle. This prevents the body weight 'pinching' the flesh between bone and saddle (the top makes little difference) and restricting blood flow. The consequence it that the flesh begins to die and our wonderful built-in preservation mechanism causes a pain. We reach for the painful area and rub, this creates circulation and the flesh lives again.

Having studied Dursley Pedersen saddles since about 1965, and worked on a great number, I have to dispel the myth that they were woven from silk. There may have been some small element of silk with in the twisted cord, but that is all. Similarly I can find no manufacturers' evidence that leather covers were fitted to the woven saddles at the factory. I would welcome any real proof. It must be remembered that cycles in general, and D Ps in particular, were for the rich and well off, and owners could have had leather covers made by the local saddler. Cycles were not available to the working man until Hercules of Birmingham broke the price ring in 1930 and offered single speeds for under £4. That may sound cheap, but it must be remembered that if you had a job - the depression was not over then - you might be lucky enough to be earning £1.50 a week, which had to cover all of your expenditure.

See Bicycle History on  - yes the 'o' should be missed out !

Chris Dent has an interesting observation to make on  removing and fitting tyres on small-wheelers. Chris has mentioned this to me before, and I must apologise for forgetting this point when the subject came up in the last issue.

When I bought my Bike Friday Air Glide from Graham McDermott, it came with two sets of wheels (one 3x7 Sachs hubs and the other 2x8 Shimano hubs, but with identical Sun CR18 rims) and some spare tyres. I had been using it for several weeks with the 2x8 wheels when I decided to try the Primo Comet tyres instead of the Schwalbe City Jets. I had an incredible struggle to even start to get them off, bending tyre levers etc. It was equally almost impossible to get the Primos on. So I tried putting the tyres on the 3x7 wheels - no problems. The only difference I could discern was the rim tape: that on the 2x was a thickish plastic type, whereas on the other wheels (the original Bike Friday 3x7s) was more like thin adhesive cloth tape. So I took a length of reinforced adhesive tape and cut it to the correct width and fitted it to the 2x8 rims. To my surprise I could now get the tyres on without using levers, and off with levers without excessive force.
These Sun CR18 rims are a box section (like the Birdy), and consequently do not have a proper well like Brompton rims. I have always used quality Velox cloth rim tapes (10mm wide) on Brompton rims, and never had any problems with Record or Primo tyres.

Phil Weber writes regarding trailers:

We recently took delivery of a Brompton L5 after some investigation, specifically for use locally and/or combination with public transport, with
our Burley D'Lite.

When folded, the L5 (and also the T5) fits in the 'boot' of the Burley. Our L5 has folding left-hand pedal to keep the width down.  It does have attached the Burley hitch to connect the trailer to the solid axle, which sticks out about as far as the folded pedal.  The fit in the 'boot' is quite tight, almost as if they were designed to work together.

We also have the Burley 'stroller kit' fitted to the trailer, so the whole set-up will convert from bike towing child trailer, to double pushchair containing all luggage, with child in situ throughout.  The Burley is quite large as a pushchair, but is probably more manoeverable than most single pushchairs.  We only have one child, but originally bought the D'Lite (for two children) for its extra space and therefore extra versatility, as it is not much larger overall than the Burley Solo.

We're very pleased with the setup so far - the Brompton is great for the purposes to which we put it, allowing for the limitations that everyone knows about and likes to discuss at great length! - maybe we'll be in the market for some better brakes etc. as the child (currently 15 months) grows bigger.  I guess the whole setup is quite expensive (bike plus trailer plus alternative hitch).

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. As I strongly suspect that I am not being told when items are sold, I intend to introduce some changes to the Sales and Wants section. In future all entries will be dated, and will be deleted after 3 months unless a request is received to retain the entry on the list. However, please do still tell us as soon as anything is sold, so that we can remove it and avoid creating annoyance to those using the list. Take all normal precautions when buying and selling goods - the Folding Society and its officers are not responsible for the descriptions and products and services contained in the Sales & Wants list.


The events listed below are a combination of those organised by Folding Society members or of potential interest to members.

Remember that cycling can be dangerous (so is travelling by car, bus, train, air or water, breathing and living!); anyone participating in any way in any event does so at their own risk.

Saturday 1st April - Mud Dock
As usual, meet from about 10.30 at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol. Contact Gary Lovell, Tel: 0117 932 4633.

Saturday 8th April - Origami Ride
The April Origami Ride will be at its usual location, the Tearooms at Meriden; arrive from 10.30 for an 11.00 start. For more information, contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685, email, or look at his web site at

12-14 May 2000 - Mystery Brompton Riders meet, Weymouth Pavilion. "Strictly no organisation, other folders welcome". This notice appeared under "Events" in issue 16 of A to B. Previous events in Weymouth have been very enjoyable, and even if this is a strictly unofficial gathering, I hope a good number of members will be able to get them.  Several leading members of The Folding Society are known to have already booked their accommodation!

Sunday 21st May Sussex Coastal Plain Ride
30 miles approx Meet Chichester Railway Station 10.00 for 10.30 start. Further details from Eric Jones, Tel 01903 782631

Saturday 3rd June Leominster, Herefordshire Ride
Meet at Etnam Street free car park at 10am for 10.30 start for an easy 20 mile ride along very pleasant country lanes with cafe stops. Further details from Alan Mason Tel 01568 612905

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.

July 28-31 2000, Spokesfest 2000, Leicester. Spokesfest will have a large display area in The Shires shopping centre from Saturday 22nd July to Sunday July  30th. and has the use of Humberstone Gate event arena for both the Saturday and Sunday of Spokesfest (29th and 30th July).

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 currently available at, but will move to a new and more memorable address soon, and will be regularly updated as the event approaches. We hope there will be a major folder/separable presence at Cyclefest 2000 - the very provisional program already includes one event specifically for folders. We also understand that Alex Moulton will have a stand there this year. If you have any queries concerning CycleFest, contact: John Bradshaw, Tel/Fax: 01524 384474 (day) or Tel: 01524 66658 (eve)

9-10 September - Moulton Bicycle Club Bradford-on-Avon Weekend
The annual Moulton Bicycle Club weekend is scheduled for 9-10th September this year, and preliminary information suggests that it should be better than ever this year.

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.

Note: The views expressed by contributors and correspondents are those of the writers, and are not necessarily those of The Folding Society or its organisers.

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. However, if you are planning to send pictures by email, please send them at an appropriate resolution to avoid high telephone bills - a picture of 50K or less is ample for use in FSN or on the web pages.

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.

If for some reason you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send a message to this effect to the same email address.

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.

Return to FSN index | Folding Society home page

Copyright (C)2000 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 27 March 2000