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.
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Copyright (C)1999 Richard Mathews
Last updated: 8 September 1999