The Folding Society

Test Report: Birdy – Brompton – Bike Friday

By Andreas Rusch

First published 20 August 2009

Editor's preface: It is several years since we published our own comparison reports covering these folders, so an alternative view, covering more recent models is very welcome. This is the first of three articles by Andreas Rusch, and as will become clearer in the later articles, Andreas is a strong rider, who races and undertakes some quite tough rides, and some of his comments on the relative merits of these three folders reflect this - for example, his wish for higher gearing (personally I and some others usually want lower gearing, but in my case that can be put down to age and lack of fitness!).

Since I have quite an extensive stable of bicycles and also folding bicycles I would like to share my experiences with three different types of folding bicycles. I guess I am one of the very few persons who acquired three different folders and cycled many kilometers on them.

The first folding bike I bought was the Birdy Red in 2000. It gave faithful service on many training rides and excursions. I also did the Trondheim-Oslo race with it. Then I got a Brompton, because I simply could not resist a special offer from Voss Spezialrad. Lastly my wife convinced me that a high performance folding bike is a must for vacations. Therefore both of us got made-to-measure Bike Fridays. However this also meant that I had to sell my Birdy. There simply was not any need between an excellent folder (Brompton) and a high performance bike (Bike Friday). The Birdy is good in all aspect but does not excel in any. We were also somewhat running out of storage space, since ten bicycles for two persons might be considered a little bit excessive.



Bike Friday


Birdy Red

RD3, black

Pocket Gnu, yellow

Model year








Front suspension

Rubber block


White Brothers

Rear suspension

Rubber block

Rubber block





Disc (V-brakes might be preferable for a folding bike that gets kicked around)


9 speed

3 speed hub

14 speed Rohloff


About 10% slower than a real racing bike, however the fixed handlebar set up does not allow a perfect aerodynamic position.

Well maintained gravel paths are possible.

After all it is a commuter’s bike, but astonishingly fast. I miss the front suspension on bad roads e.g. cobblestones.

The brakes are somewhat weak.

This is a fast machine. With appropriate tyres it is really fast on the road. Knobbly tyres make it suitable for medium off-road use.

How does it fold?

You will not fold it, if not necessary. Quite often the chain fell off (also before changing the derailleur).

Folding is a pleasure. The resulting package is extremely small.

You will not fold it unless necessary.

However it can be disassembled to fit into a standard sized suitcase.


Training camps, touring, commuting, Trondheim-Oslo

Commuting, business trips, training, 1 day tours up to 200km

Training, annoying guys on racing bikes, Trondheim-Oslo, across the Alps

Anything I would do differently next time?

Maybe Rohloff

Go for the Titanium version and dynamohub directly

Somewhat undecided on disc brakes vs. V-brakes (superior braking performance vs. bent discs)

Here is an attempt to show the merits of each bicycle with in the form of a graph:


Some comments on wear

I have not observed any special wear out on any of the folders above. However it is typical for folders that some parts must be replaced earlier than for standard bicycles:

Extras and modifications

I would also like to share my experiences with the extras and modifications of the different folders.





Bike Friday

Bike Friday

Editor's comments

The front forks and mudguard mountings have changed (more than once I think), which probably explains the problems with mounting mudguards. I am on my third Birdy, and the mudguards I bought at the same time as the bike in each case have always fitted, though the early one which mounted only at the top wobbled about alarmingly.

The Pocket Gnu is one of the Bike Friday models more aimed at off-road riding. For fast road riding and even light/medium touring, the Pocket Rocket models might well be more appropriate - much lighter, and the larger wheels (451 in place of 406) raise the overall gearing, if that is what you want. Reflecting their intended use, they are available with 'pure' derailleur gearing rather than the Rohloff or a hybrid derailleur/hub ('3x8') system. The Airnimal Chameleon is an alternative folder for this type of use.

Strong riders and particularly those who race, like Andreas, prefer higher gearing, but of course some riders prefer lower gearing. I've generally preferred to lower the gearing, even for the 100Km Brevet Populaires I have ridden (for which I found the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket, Bike Friday New World Tourist and Airnimal Chameleon the most suitable, though none of these fold very easily; my SP Brompton [7-speed derailleur gears and V-brakes] also works well for me on such rides, and is as portable as a standard Brompton).

Test reports | Folding Society home page

Copyright ©2009 Andreas Rusch
Last modified 23/9/2008