By Gary Thompson
I have now been the proud owner of a Birdy Red for almost one year. I have to say at the outset that I have really enjoyed my years learning with my first folder and I am certainly a lifelong convert to folding bicycles to the extent that I have even converted my wife.
I have stated that I have enjoyed my year with the Birdy and this is perfectly true, however this love affair has been challenged recently by a couple of events. Firstly, the arrival of my wife's new custom built 'Bike Friday New World Tourist' and secondly the announcement of the new Birdy Grey recently.
The dreadful weather over the last couple of months (we live near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands) has kept us off the road more than normal at this time of year, however the few times we have been out together the NEWT seems to out perform the Birdy in every department with the possible exception of folding. I have been hugely impressed by the customer friendly attitude displayed by the Green Gear staff and their attention to detail.
I am sure that you are wondering how the recent announcement of the Birdy Grey can be a challenge to my commitment to Birdy. Well, while I think that the new Grey sounds like a superb machine and perhaps getting close to a perfect folder, it strikes me that the developments and improvements are 'hard luck' on existing Birdy owners. The obvious example is the new rear carrier, not retro fit to existing Birdy's, tough luck guys! There are some weaknesses with the Birdy Red, gearing, adequate rear carrier, flapping front mud guard etc. and I cannot help but think that some of the customer friendly approach taken by Green Gear could be effectively adopted by R & M. towards existing Birdy owners. On the subject of their web site, commercial web sites are now considered to be a vital marketing tool, the R.&.M. site is tired and poorly maintained. Sorry R.&.M. but it's an honest opinion.
I hope these views are of interest to other members and will watch with interest for reaction or comment.
I think the Folding Society site is excellent and am fully aware of the amount of work that goes into maintaining it, all thanks Mike.
The Bike Friday guys certainly set an exceptionally high standard in terms of customer relations, and they make some great machines. Of course I have a New World Tourist 9Newt) myself, and although it wasn't used a great deal last year, when the Birdy was the bike on which I did the most distance, this year the Newt is far and away the most travelled of my bikes - 4 times the total distance it did last year already! Nevertheless, I think you are perhaps not altogether fair to the Birdy. First, as I've said many times before, 'best' is not a very meaningful expression for folders - it depends entirely on what you want to use them for. For longer rides I think the Newt is one of the best. If folding is less important - at the beginning and end of a longer duration trip, for example, or when using a car to transport it, rather than public transport, then the Bike Fridays, along with Airnimals and Moultons are superb, and every bit as good as any conventional non-folding big wheeler. But they aren't very train friendly - I did actually use the Newt last week for a day commute to the university on which I had to fold to use a Virgin train, but this is something I would usually try to avoid; it can be folded, but for commuting it is far from ideal. That's where the Brompton scores most highly, but if you want something that is a compromise between the two, the Birdy is great - it folds fairly easily and is compact, but the ride is good. I'd rate the Birdy much higher than the Friday in terms of folding, and also for its suspension - I really notice that (or its absence) riding along Charter Avenue in Coventry on the way to and from the university! I think the problem with the new rear carrier is that its fixing involves changes to the frame and/or forks, and it isn't that the Birdy boys are being awkward, it's just that the new one won't fit old frames; they do, after all, already offer two forms of rear carrier for the existing models, although I would be the first to say that I don't much like either! For a small, light load, I find the Carradice SQR bag is ideal on the back of the Birdy, and if more load needs to be carried, then I'd use the front rack and panniers. However, it certainly isn't the machine I would choose for a long, heavily loaded tour, which would probably involve less folding - I'd go for the Bike Friday, Airnimal or Moulton.
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Last updated: 24 February 2002