The Folding Society

Choosing a Birdy

By Paul Worden, Portland, Victoria Australia

After comparing Brompton, Giant Halfway, Dahon Boardwalk and KHS Westwood we purchased two Birdy Greens for travelling.

We rejected the Brompton because of it's cramped riding position, limited gears, tiny wheels and dumb 'dropping' rear suspension pivot. The Dahon was too heavy and had no adjustments for rider size. The Giant, had no suspension or adjustments (but had 21 gears) and similarly we rejected the KHS which was both heavy and non adjusting.

For our purposes we ranked the bikes as follows:
Giant Halfway
KHS Westwood

The Birdys have full suspension, but no weight penalty because the suspension and folding pivots are the same. I am over 6 feet tall and can adjust the Birdy for a comfortable ride. The first time you get on a Birdy it feels 'twitchy.' This lasts for maybe fifty feet - then you realise that the Birdy is totally controllable and very nimble. At no time riding the Birdy do I feel out of control or that I'm riding a bike with small wheels.

We rode our 'normal' training ride today, which is 25 km (15 miles) over hilly country. The average speed was approximately 1 kph less than riding the same route on our full sized road bikes. I usually ride a recumbent, but I found the ergonomic saddle more comfortable than I was expecting. The brakes are excellent and I felt no fear in using them aggressively. The front suspension pivots are designed to give an anti-dive effect and maybe this contributes to the stable feel of the bike under braking. There is some 'bouncing' from the suspension if you pedal aggressively at high cadence. We fitted the Kevlar tyres and ran them at 80 psi. You can hear the tyre on rough chipseal tarmac and the tyre gives the impression of harshness. This is typical of other Kevlar tyres that I've ridden. There are 8 gears only. You can hear the chain misalignment in the lowest gear. This is caused by the very large chainwheel being close to the rear axle and the angle is less than optimal. The noise is not severe but it encourages you to stay off gear number one! The range is well chosen and the SRAM front twist shifter a delight to use. We could pedal at 35 kph (22 mph) on the flat in no-wind conditions. Downhill rolling speed was maybe 3 kph slower than on the road bikes. I reached 58 kph (36 mph) on one hill and felt totally in control.

We bought the combination bike bag and rucksack because we want to keep the bike free of racks and ourselves free from multiple bags to carry. The rucksack has a narrow zipped pocket that hides the straps. This is ideal for a hydrapack for drinks. I would say it's impossible to fit permanent bidons to the Birdy and still retain the folding. You could fit a handlebar bottle unit, but the bottles will be inverted when the bike is folded, so you'd need to empty them. We're aiming on putting 10kg of personal effects, clothing etc in each bag to keep our luggage within the 22 kg maximum allowed to us travelling from Australia to the UK or Europe.

In conclusion we are delighted with the bikes and surprised at their ability to cover the ground. They ride smoothly and quickly and give away nothing in functionality because of their folding. I cannot fault them. But do fit the best tyres you can get and run them at high pressure. There are Schwalbe tyres available and we'll be trying to get a set as soon as possible. I fitted bike computers. I had to lengthen the leads and fiddle around with the sensor clamps, but once fitted they work well and don't interfere with the fold.

Specific criticisms raised in other reviews:

S: Critical Statement

R: Our reply

S: They rattle

R: Ours don't yet. All of the pivots are adjustable so if it rattles, adjust it.

S: Undergeared

R: Compared to what? The Brompton has only 3 gears. We find the gearing well chosen to get us up steep grades and still long legged enough to ride at 30 kph plus on the flat.

S: Poor tyres

R: Maybe the standard road tyres are. The Kevlars roll very well. They do feel a little harsh but that's the price for puncture resistance. I've ridden Maxxis Hookworms and they're harsh too. I think it's a function of the Kevlar.

S: Nowhere to put luggage

R: You can fit front bags and a rear rack. There is a folding suspension rack for the rear. The nature of the folding mechanism means you'll have to remove any bags when you fold. We're avoiding the problems by using the rucksack bags which will hold the bikes in a suitcase sized lump, or can be converted into a back pack. There is room in the rucksacks for personal luggage. Riding with a backpack may not be ideal, but in our opinion, it's better than trying to carry a bike and two or four panniers.

S: They're slower to fold than a Brompton

R: Only a Brompton owner would make that a criticism. You can fold them in less than 10 seconds and unfold them in 6. (I've seen it done.)

S: They're expensive

R: They are! You get what you pay for. You're buying a lightweight, full suspension, full ride sized bike that effectively fits into a suitcase.

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Copyright (C)2002 Paul Worden
Last updated: 28 March 2002