The Folding Society

Folding Recumbent Contest 2004

By Peter de Leuw, Rainer Zenz, Hanno Hirsch

Two years ago, the first folding recumbent contest took place at the Spezialradmesse (Spezi) in Germersheim, Germany. This year we planned a contest again. While the first contest was arranged by the German Human Powered Vehicles Association (HPV), now the HPV was supported by the two German Folding Bike platforms, "Die Bromptonauten" an "birdy-freunde". Participants, jurors, spectators and the organizers agreed that the contest was a great success.

Mainly, the second edition of the contest differed in the judging criteria. We wanted to see bikes for commuting, light weight, having a short folding time and giving a small package. Subscription was possible until beginning of the contest, at least there were 17 participants. Not only the count was somewhat amazing, but the origin of the participants, too. Not only from Germany, but from the Netherlands, Danmark, USA and Australia they came to Germersheim for the contest and the Spezi. Interesting was the mixture of hobby design engineers, building bicycles for their own requirements only and the professional bicycle builders, making there products for everyone. They showed two and three wheelers.

The organizers had to find judging criteria which made it possible to compare these different bicycles. Manly we were interested at the folding concept and how it was put into action. Things like lightning, mudguards, kickstand and carrier did not matter. This weight of those components was subtracted from the measured weight. The table shows the "adjusted" weight. Trikes had a bonus at the disciplines weight and folded package - otherwise they would not be able to compete with two wheelers. At the least we had to judge folding time, weight, folded package and how comfortable the package was to carry. This was rated with features like a handle for carrying, one or more pieces, covered chain and protected delicate parts. Details can be found at

At the end the winner was - surprisingly for the jurors and the winner himself - Hanno Hirsch and his Twist. He participated at the first folding recumbent contest 2002 already and had improved some details. Nevertheless there are many details remained for more improvements. The Twist is a Flevo like centre-pivot bike. The front-wheel drive has a 3-gear internal hub with back pedal brake - a good compromise between performance and weight. The chain is short an remains on it's place while folding the bike. The bike is separated at the pivot and needs no additional hinge. All parts are stowed away into a backpack, so both hands are free for luggage. The well-padded seat contacts the back, the bike is comfortable to carry. Some sharp edges and the packing need some improvement, yet.

All the other bikes cannot be introduced here, this will be done at Here we will mention some interesting features only.

Heiko Stebbe built a foldable crank for his folding recumbent bike. The "carrier" made from some old jeans trousers is very nice, too. The folded package was the smallest of all bikes. On the first sight you do not believe it. The package is long, but very flat. Because of the length the chain remains on it's place while folding.

Like Hanno Hirsch Jürgen Høiberg had a centre-pivot bike, too. Dieter Baumann came with his "ATL-Falter", the winner of the first contest 2002. The bike has full suspension and an optional foldable fairing. Unfortunately, the chain has to be removed while folding.

Frank Hertstein's front-wheel driven bike had an interesting folding handlebar. A nice detail were the cables running inside the tubes. They do not bother while folding. This feature was found at Michael Pohl's bike, too.

Frank Lienhard participated with his carbon bike. Not really a folding bike, just the rear wheel has to be stuck into another place. The resulting package is small enough for commuting by train. This front-wheel driven bike was the only bike weighing less than 10 kg.

Stefan Daniel's "Langschiff" had a direct drive without chain. It might be the optimal clean solution - if the handle for carrying the package was not the wheel.

Ian Sims came with the new Greenspeed GT3. It was the only trike in the contest.

The Bike Friday Sat'R'Day was presented by the German distributor Velodoctor. You can get it with an above seat steering or under seat steering as a choice. Unfortunately, the folded package contains of four pieces.

Richard Sadler's bike attracted with fine details. The bikes from American and Australian competitors were built for their local conditions. Commuting by train is not usual, folding bikes are meant for transporting in the boot of a car. The placement of these bikes in our contest might mislead about the great engineering.

Here now the results in detail. For the criteria ranking lists were made (in Brackets, from 1 to 17). The average gives the final result. The folding time (sum from folding and unfolding) is given in seconds, the folded package size in liter and the weight in kilograms.

                                       folding    folded     weight       carrying

                                       time       package                 comfort


 1. Hanno Hirsch: Twist                130 (11)   190  (5)   10,8  (3)    4

 2. Heiko Stebbe                        70  (6)   136  (1)   20,4 (16)    1

 3. Jürgen Høiberg                     130 (11)   175  (2)   13,3  (4)    9

 4. Dieter Baumann                      65  (5)   197  (6)   15,5 (10)    6

 4. Frank Hertstein                     93  (9)   260 (10)   13,7  (6)    2

 5. Frank Lienhard                       7  (1)   425 (16)    9,7  (1)   11

 6. Ingo Kollibay                       74  (7)   201  (7)   15,2  (9)    7

 7. Richard Sadler                     135 (12)   255  (9)   13,5  (5)    5

 8. Stefan Daniel: Langschiff           12  (2)   777 (17)   10,8  (3)   10

 8. Martin Schleich                    104 (10)   243  (8)   16,2 (11)    3

 9. Greenspeed/Ian Sims: GT3            60  (4)   337 (13)   10,2  (2)   15

10. Junik/Juliane Neuß: Brekki         137 (13)   181  (3)   16,7 (12)    7

11. Bram Smit                           50  (3)   396 (15)   14,0  (8)   14

12. Bike Friday/Velodoctor: Sat'R'Day   84  (8)   343 (14)   13,8  (7)   13

13. Michael Pohl                       165 (14)   273 (11)   18,9 (15)    8

14. Steven Nurse                       960 (16)   187  (4)   17,5 (13)   16

15. Aiolos: Aiolos                     180 (15)   303 (12)   18,0 (14)   12

The sympathy vote of the audience was measured by applause. Winner of the sympathy vote was Dieter Baumann right before Heiko Stebbe. No further ranks were determined.

The organizers would like to thank all participants, the jurors and not at least Hardy Siebecke, who founded and organizes the Spezi for the very good conditions for the contest.

Copyright (C) 2004 Peter de Leuw, Rainer Zenz, Hanno Hirsch
Last updated: 20 May 2004