The Folding Society

Issue 46 - 13 February 2000


This issue of FSN contains rather more pictures than usual - we will revert to our normal practice of using 4 pictures of less in future issues, as this reduces the time taken to transfer the web pages, or to download formatted emailed copies.

Riding has again been restricted during the last couple of weeks due to work pressures - mainly a case of catching up on things neglected over the last couple of months. The latest issue of The Half Framer, the magazine of the Half Frame (camera) group has taken a fair bit of time, and had become rather urgent as it carried the cover date January -April 2000, but was not posed until well into February!

With the roads still being coated in salt, with plenty of mud and water around, I have been generally sticking to using the Brompton T5 and Birdy, though the New Series Moulton did also have a very short outing one day. The Brompton got a very overdue wash, which only made more visible the corroded state of the mudguard stays mudguards. Bromptons are generally very robust and trouble free machines, but the mudguards, stays and associated fixings seem to show their age very rapidly - the relatively new (less than 2 years old) rear mudguard and fixings is even worse than the 10 year old front one. On the SP I have lacquered the edges of the mudguards to try to prevent water ingress affecting their appearance, and time will show if this will help. After the winter I will fit a complete new rear mudguard and fixings on the old T5 and I'll lacquer everything and see if this helps.

Although I'm probably notorious for my less than enthusiastic views on my Birdy, I must say that in terms of resistance to wear and tear, mine seems to perform quite well, The components generally show little sign of wear or corrosion brought on by salt etc, and apart from where the paint has rubbed away due to cables, mudguards etc rubbing, the paintwork looks smart. Being aluminium, even where the paint has worn away, there is no corrosion.

My lack of enthusiasm for the new tyres on the Birdy has kept me from riding it much recently, but I decided to give it another chance today, Sunday 13th February.  After riding the old Brompton T5 with new Schwalbe tyres on yesterday's Origami ride, the Birdy felt decidedly sluggish, and I decided the time had come to determine whether this is just an unsupported feeling I have, or whether there really is a problem, so after today's ride I did some rolling tests. The tests were carried out in the road where I live, which has a gentle slope at one end, leading to a flat stretch. The surface is reasonably good, and the road is straight. I wasn't feeling like spending a lot of time and effort on the tests today (I still had FSN to produce, amongst other things), so the tests were limited to one run down the slop and as far as possible along the flat section. I tested 4 bikes/tyres, all within a 20 minute period. There was little wind to affect results, and if anything it seemed to be behind me for the tests. The Birdy went first, on its latest tyres, followed by the Brompton T5 on the Schwalbes, the Micro (Project Y) on Primos, and the Brompton SP on Primos. The Birdy tyres were slightly below their maximum rated pressure - one blew off at the rated pressure when they were originally fitted, so I now run them at just under 5.5 bar (80psi). The Schwalbes on the T5 were at about 6 bar (90psi), again a bit less than maximum. The Micro is still quite new, and I expected the bearings to become freer with a bit more use, and its Primos were running at only a shade over 4 bar (65 psi) as the bike had not been used for a couple of weeks, and they needed a bit more air. The SP had its Primos inflated to 5.5 bar (80psi), and I have always regarded this as a very free running bike.  The run for all the bikes was around 200 metres, with the SP just going furthest, about 1 metre further than the T5, which was about 1.5 metres ahead of the Micro. The Birdy was well behind, covering 25 metres less than any of the others. Now this was not a very scientific test, and a metre or so one way or the other is well within the limits of experimental error. I'll probably conduct some more detailed tests later, but it does seem to confirm very clearly my subjective impressions that the new Birdy tyre is relatively poor in terms of rolling resistance, and the new Schwalbe is very close to the performance of the Primo.

The diary for 2000 seems to be filling up nicely with cycling activities already. Apart from the regular monthly meetings and rides at Mud Dock and Meriden, we have CycleFest in Lancaster to look forward to in August, and Moultoneers have the annual Bradford on Avon weekend in September. The arrival of the Audax UK handbook and magazine have helped me fill a few more dates in my own diary - I hope to do at least 2 Brevet Populaires this year on the New Series Moulton, and if possible at least one more on a Brompton or perhaps even the Project Y Micro - but only I can sort out its unacceptable handlebar stem. Unfortunately the Redditch Ramble, a ride I enjoyed very much last year, is scheduled for a Sunday rather than a Saturday this year, which means that I can't get to it due to lack of public transport. It is one real drawback of dispensing with a car that events on Sundays generally are ruled out by the lack of trains.

Saturday 12th - pouring with rain when I got up, so I was very doubtful about going to the Origami ride, as I thought it highly unlikely anyone else would be there. However, the weather improved a bit later, so I decided I had better go - just as well, as we had a very respectable turnout of 13 riders on a remarkable variety of bikes. By the time we left the Tearooms at Meriden it  was bright and mild, if a little windy, and so we agreed to do the 20 mile round trip to Kingsbury Water Park. This is a reasonably flat route, and fortunately we were sheltered from the wind, so it made (I hope) a pleasant ride. My ride back to Hampton in Arden station proved just how lucky we had been to be sheltered from the wind earlier- it was distinctly hard going, and took about 5 minutes longer than usual! 

Coming soon: I still have a number of articles from members which I will be including in the next few issues of FSN - many thanks to those of you who have written in, and my apologies that recent pressure of work has delayed use of the articles - please keep sending in material.

Format: If you receive this issue of FSN in a plain text form, please remember that a formatted version is available on our web pages at, and you can receive the formatted version (suitable for reading with a web browser) just be emailing us to let us know you prefer this version.

Internet/web update

The Folding Society web pages have now been moved to the new web site, All new material is being put at that new address, but the old address still holds the old material, just in case of any problems. If all goes well, the old site will be modified in a couple of weeks time so that it just provides a link to the new location. The most likely areas in which you may have problems are if you go out to one of the special interest groups - Moulton, Birdy or Bike Friday - as it is quite possible that links on those pages which are intended to take you back to the Folding Society pages may not do that. You can of course always use the BACK button of your browser to recover. Please email me if you find any links of this kind that I have not changed, so that I can fix them.

Tyres for folders and other small wheelers

Here at last is the long delayed report on tyres for small wheeled cycles. This part of the report deals in fairly general terms with what is available. If you read the editorial to this issue of FSN, you will have seen there are some more specific performance comparisons there for a few of the tyres mentioned here. We hope to produce a second part to this report soon which extends the quantitative measurement of performance of different tyres.

Nearly all folders and separables use small wheels, primarily because it means that the bicycle can be smaller when folded. Unfortunately this means that our choice of tyres is very limited compared with the standard mountain bike (26in) and road (700C) sizes. Recently a number of new tyres to suit folders have been announced, or have already become available, so this seems a good time to review the situation.

First of all we should make some general comments about tyres and choosing the right one. Most obviously, the tyre to suit your bike must be the right size for the wheel, and this is best expressed by the bead diameter of the wheel tyre, where the tyre mounts. Usually the wheels/tyres are described by a nominal rolling diameter, eg 16 inches, but in some cases there is more than one bead diameter associated with the nominal size, and you can only fit the tyres with the right bead diameter. The second size factor is the width, usually given in inches (eg 1 3/8) or millimeters (eg 28). Generally narrow tyres run at higher pressures and have lower rolling resistance than wider (generally lower pressure) ones, but the wider ones give better grip (particularly off road) and also a more comfortable ride (partly at least due to the lower pressures). Views differ on the desirability of greater width - some claim that everything else being equal, wider tyres roll better, but as everything else is not usually equal, and most wide tyres run at lower pressures, I do not propose to get drawn into this debate either now or later. Usually narrower tyres have a smoother tread pattern than wider ones. For off-road riding wider tyres with a more pronounced tread pattern are generally better, though reasonable canal towpaths and bridleways can be negotiated with almost anything. It has to be said that for serious rough off-road riding larger diameter wheels and tyres are an advantage. When selecting tyre width, remember that on some bikes the brakes and mudguards may limit the largest tyres that can be fitted (wider tyres typically are slightly larger diameter than their narrower equivalents). Wider tyres with heavy tread patterns may also be more puncture resistance, though this is not inevitable. Many riders prefer the higher pressure narrower tyres for general use despite their disadvantages, due to the improved rolling resistance and more responsive ride and handling.

Suspension is more necessary with smaller wheels, to give a more acceptable quality of ride. Once fitted, it usually results in a better ride than a larger wheeled bike without suspension. It also means that using high pressures in the tyres to minimize rolling resistance does not have as much effect on ride quality as might otherwise be the case.

It is often suggested that most tyres are capable of being run at higher pressures than the rating on the side wall suggests. If you do this, then you do it at your own risk. Raleigh Records and AM Moulton Wolber tyres are both widely used at pressures of 50% or more above their rating, apparently without ill effect, but, on the other hand, some riders report the latest Birdy tyre blowing off its rim at the rated pressure, and are running them at below the maximum rating. A tyre blowing off the rim, or failing in some other way, could be fatal when riding, and indeed an explosion occurring during inflation could cause serious injury, so for obvious reasons we cannot suggest that you do it, or even experiment.

The scope for changing wheel and hence tyre size is limited on most folders and other bikes. 349 (16 inch) wheels have been successfully fitted to AM Moultons and to Birdys which normally use rather larger tyres, and this has been relatively simple (do not attempt this without a full understanding of the implications though). AM Moulton wheels and tyres have also been successfully fitted to a Birdy. Fitting larger wheels and tyres is, though, usually much more difficult, as it involves extending the fork dropouts, brake changes etc, and is complex, quite costly, and only to be undertaken by those who are brave and have both the knowledge and equipment required to carry out the modifications properly and safely.

For most owners, the choice of tyre will be determined by the original wheel size, but that still leaves many folder owners with some choice of tyre. The rolling resistance and ride quality of the tyre makes such a difference to the performance and feel of the bike that it is well worth taking into account when choosing a folder - some prospective owners might also wish to take into account how readily replacement tyres can be obtained, and for high mileage riders the tyre life and cost may also be considerations.

349 (16 inch) - used on the Brompton, Micro, 1960's and 70's Moultons etc

For a number of years the only tyre available was the Raleigh Record, quite a respectable tyre with reasonable life and puncture resistance. However, the construction and low pressure mean that it does not roll very freely. The appearance of the Primo greatly improved the situation for users of this tyre size, as it is a high pressure 6 bar (85psi) tyre, with a fairly narrow cross section (1 3/8"), a light herringbone tread pattern and very supple construction. The Primo has a low rolling resistance and good handling characteristics. It is not an ideal off-road tyre, although reasonable towpaths and bridleways can be negotiated without difficulty, and it is probably more puncture prone than the Record, though not excessively so for a tyre of this type. Some riders have experienced sidewall failure after extended mileages, this preceding the tyre tread becoming worn out, and the tyre is certainly susceptible to cutting from glass. Those who have fitted Primos in place of Records have almost all been very pleased with the result – indeed, it is usually regarded as the biggest single improvement that can be made to a Brompton.

A new Schwalbe Marathon is now available in this size, and has pronounced tread, runs at a high pressure (up to 100psi) and has a Kevlar belt to protect against punctures. Those who have tried it have generally been impressed - good rolling resistance and good grip, and quite robust looking. It looks a good choice for those wanting better performance than the Raleigh Record, but also wanting something more robust than the Primo.

Rumour has it that a new, more robust, Primo is in the offing, and a new Brompton tyre of similar specification is also being talked about - these may actually be one and the same tyre.

Overall, the position is already quite good, and getting better, for owners of machines using this tyre size.

369 (17 inch)

This size is exclusive to the AM Moultons (and a few belt-drive New Series Moultons). There is a very expensive (£50) racing slick, but this is hardly relevant to most owners, and the only other tyre is the standard AM-Wolber, which is rated at 5 bar (80psi) and has a width of 1¼ inches. This is quite an old tyre design, and by today’s standards it has quite a pronounced tread pattern, running around the tyre. Some owners complain that the life is not particularly good, and that they get punctures, but the majority of users find it is no worse in either respect than any other smaller tyres, and indeed it is better than most. In 15 years of Moulton AM use I have found the life is well over 1000 miles on the back, and much longer on the front, and punctures have been if anything less frequent than on my other small wheeled bikes. The rolling resistance of the tyre is good – surpassed, in my experience, only to the Continental Grand Prix 406 (20 inch), IRC 451 (20 inch x 1¼ ), and perhaps the 349 (16 inch) Primo. Off road performance, with the fairly substantial tread, is quite acceptable on better towpaths and bridleways, but not surprisingly it is not very happy on rougher and muddier surfaces. Although there is effectively only the one tyre in this size, I rate it as one of the best small wheel tyres – complaints by some owners are largely a feature of the fact that Moultoneers are inclined to whinge (at least some are). The one obvious problem with this unique size is availability of replacement tyres, though price is on a par with other high quality, high performance tyres.

(355) 18 inch

This size is currently only used by the Riese & Muller Birdy. However, it is a moderately standard size for children’s bicycles, but the tyres intended for that market are of poor riding quality – they are generally rather wide, low pressure and with very poor rolling resistance and indifferent life. Therefore, except in emergencies, the only tyres likely to be considered for use on the Birdy are those specifically developed for it. The original tyre ran at low pressure, and had a high rolling resistance, and was the source of much criticism. Later a higher pressure tyre was introduced, with a fairly pronounced tread pattern not unlike that of the 349 (16 inch) Raleigh Record. Although rolling resistance was improved, it was still considered inferior to that of tyres like the Primo, AM-Wolber, and most of the good road tyres in the 20 inch size. Significant numbers of people reported very poor life as well, though my own experience has been quite good – over 1200 miles on the back, with a fair amount of tread still left, and over 1500 miles on the front and many hundreds of miles still to go. Puncture resistance seems reasonable. In addition to these tyres there is a low pressure wide, knobbly tyre for off road use, though its rolling resistance is poor on road. As the standard tyres perform reasonably well off road except in more extreme conditions, the knobbly is probably only worth considering if most of your riding is off road, and you look for muddy and/or very rough tracks. A new high pressure tyre has recently become available for the Birdy, running at 6 bar (90psi), and with a Kevlar strip to improve puncture resistance. I have been disappointed in the performance of this tyre - it is heavier than its predecessor, the rolling resistance seems higher, and one blew off the rim soon after fitting and inflating to no more than the recommended pressure.

The rather poor quality of Birdy tyres in the past has prompted a number of owners to fit different sized wheels, so that they have access to other tyres. The most common choice has been 349 (16 inch) wheels, with Primo tyres. This is a relatively simple change to make, although new wheels and tyres, particularly if new hubs, gears etc are required, is not a cheap solution. One person has fitted 17 inch AM Moulton wheels and tyres, and another managed to fit 20 inch 406 wheels and tyres, although this required drastic modifications.

406 (20 inch)

The 406 bead diameter is by far the more common version of the tyres referred to as 20 inch, and is used by the Moulton APB and New Series (NS), most Bike Fridays (not the Rockets and other sporting versions though), and several other manufacturers. The greatest advantage of this size is that there are many tyres available, as this is the standard BMX size. Although many of the tyres are wide, knobbly low pressure tyres which are not good for road use, at least something can usually be obtained in an emergency, and there are also some excellent road tyres in this size. Note that some of the tyres are so large that there may be insufficient space to fit them on some folders and separables.

The highest performance road tyre in this size is the Continental Grand Prix, which is rated at 120psi, is 1 1/8 inches wide and has only the lightest of treads. This is the only tyre which can (officially) be fitted on the New Series Moultons due to clearance limitations. For very fast road riding it may be a good choice, but most users of this size tyre rate it as a bit too specialised and perhaps fragile for their purposes. After testing this tyre on some limited off road riding (varying quality cycle paths) I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by its performance under these conditions.

Very close behind it in terms of performance are the Schwalbe City Jet and the 20 inch version of the Primo Comet. Both have achieved a very high reputation with users, and offer very good rolling resistance, satisfactory puncture resistance, good life, and responsive handling. Both have rather limited tread, and in the case of the Schwalbe the cross section is rather triangular, with a rapid roll off from the centre section. Neither is very suitable for serious rough road riding involving heavy mud and very rough surfaces, but they perform perfectly adequately on canal towpaths and reasonable bridleways. The City Jet was reputedly being withdrawn, but there seems to be sufficient demand to have ensured that they remain available, at least through some outlets. An interesting point for New Series Moulton owners is that the City Jet has been successfully fitted to one of these bikes, although the mudguard mountings required modification, and clearance between the mudguard and rear wheel is very small.

The later Schwalbe City Marathon is also rated as a god performer, though rolling resistance seems significantly higher than on the City Jet. Those seeking a rather more substantial road tyre for touring and gentle off road use would probably do best to consider the Continental Top Touring 2000, although there are some good (and not good) alternatives. The choice of wider, more knobbly tyres, is wider still, and I will not attempt to make any recommendations in this category.

As an aside, my personal view is that most bikes fitted with wheels of this size handle much more like conventional large-wheeled bikes than those with the smaller sizes, which have noticeably more sensitive handling.

451 (20 inch)

This size is currently mainly used on the more sporting Bike Fridays, which currently include ‘451’ in the model name. It is significantly larger than the 406 size, at least in the case of road going tyres. The size has also been used in the past for some utility bikes. The current choice of tyre in this size is much more limited than the 406 size, although not bad by the standards of other small wheel sizes. The best performing road tyre for general use is undoubtedly the IRC Roadlite, which runs exceptionally freely and gives very responsive, but not over-sensitive, handling. It also seems to have good puncture resistance, and good life. This is not a tyre for serious off road use, though it will cope adequately with good towpaths and bridleways - rather like the 406-size Continental Grand Prix. I would rate this the best road performer of all the tyres that I have used myself. The other main options in this size are Primos, and I believe there may be one or two tyres more intended for off-road use. However, the Pocket Rocket and other sporting Bike Fridays are intended as fast road bikes, and clearances are somewhat limited, so the IRC is probably the best choice, with the Primo worth considering if you need something a bit wider and providing a softer ride – the unsuspended Pocket Rocket with high pressure IRCs does give a rather harsh ride. Recently Bike Friday listed a tyre under their own brand name in this size, though the description sounded remarkably like the normal IRC tyre.


For many years tyres were a problem for the owners of small wheeled folders - the choice was limited, and availability was a problem. Our choice is now much improved, and in the 406 (20 inch) size all tastes should be catered for. In the 349 (16 inch) size there has been a huge improvement in choice and quality of tyre, and this seems likely to get even better, and for general road use owners should be able to find something to satisfy their needs. The other three sizes are also reasonably well served - a limited choice in the 451 (20 inch size) includes some excellent tyres, and though Moulton AM owners are effectively limited to the single AM Wolber tyre, this is a good performer. Birdy owners may still feel slightly neglected - plenty of poor quality tyres for children's bikes, plus the better Birdy tyres, but still falling short of the best standards of road tyre.

Some additional comments from members:

James Greig writes:

Two comments about tyres for folders which you are going to review in a future FSN.

1. Rapid tyre failure and the heavier rider. I have a Fold-It with 20" wheels, and the original set of Schwalbe tyres were scarcely worn at all when they failed at the side walls - bulges appeared as the cords forming the sidewall gave way, letting the rubber start to balloon out. I got some Raleigh Record tyres [like the Brompton's, only bigger] thinking they would be as trouble-free as on the Brompton. Not so; the rear one soon started to split at the sidewall, and finally this allowed the inner tube to puncture [in the middle of Wensleyale, on a Sunday - fortunately I had a spare and still caught the train at Garsdale]. I think this problem may be due to tyre/rim factors to explain why the Raleigh tyres on the Brompton are fine [no failures of this sort], but not on the Fold-It. The other factor seems to be weight; I am 12 1/2 stone, and the rear tyre usually fails, not the front, in fact I have used a Raleigh Record on the front of the Fold-It for a long while. I have also had this kind of tyre failure with the original far eastern mountain bike tyres on the Montague folder, and a rear tyre split once with a Top Touring [the only such lapse with this tyre, which I use on a number of cumbersome bicycles]. I consider Continental Top Touring 2000 and Vredestein Monte Carlo the best tyres in 20" (and other sizes such as 32 x 622) for general toughness and long life, although they usually finally succumb to death by 1000 cuts on the glass-strewn streets of Birmingham. I mention this as you may be too light to notice this problem, but there may be other heavy riders out there.

2. Sizing. You may well know this one, but here it is, in case it is relevant. Some tyre makers stick to the nominal size, so a 32mm Vredestein or Michelin will be 32 mm thick. Others, such as Continental and the Far East makers, make tyres that are smaller, so a "37 x 406" tyre is something like 34 mm thick (Continental) and a "47 x 406" proves nearer 41 mm (Raleigh Record). This can cause problems if one wants to choose a tyre to suit limited clearances, or alternatively a tyre of a particular size.

J Lusby writes:

I have just fitted a pair Michelin 20x1.75 road tyres on my Falcon-Elswick Harrier folder, they have made a great improvement over the cheap SE Asian tyres I was using, they are actually circular and fit on the rims properly when given a reasonable poundage (70psi ish) the profile is reasonable, we roll along a treat.


In the continuing absence of the Moulton Bicycle Club's magazine The Moultoneer, I am trying to provide more information here which may be of interest to Moultoneers. This will probably appear in every second issue of FSN - in the last issue we had a number of Moulton related items, and I hope that Moultoneers will find something of interest in the article on tyres above in this issue. 

In the article on the New Series (NS) Moulton in the last issue I expressed slight disappointment in the durability of the paint used on my ex-demonstrator. I'm told that the paint specification has now been changed, and is substantially better, and I hope to be able to comment on the improved paint in the near future.

As mentioned in the editorial section of this issue, I hope to be using the NS Moulton on a couple of Brevet Populaires during the coming year, and reports on these rides will appear in due course. It was pleasing to see that the latest issue of Arrivee, the Audax UK magazine, shows one (unnamed)rider on a Moulton on page 27.

Le Petit Bi

By Tony Hadland

If you've read the book It's in the bag!, you'll know that folding and separable bicycles are by no means a new phenomenon. Although we tend to think of them as a post 1960s development, in some form or another they've been around since the early days of cycling. But it was in France in the late 1930s that one of the first modern-looking small-wheeled portable cycles came on the market. Invented by A. J. Marcelin of Paris, this was Le Petit Bi, The Little Bike (as contrasted with Le Grand Bi, the late 19th century Big Bike, which was what English speakers know as the Ordinary, High Bicycle or - say it not - the Penny Farthing.)

In its original form, Le Petit Bi had a squat triangulated frame that did not fold. The reduction in size for stowing away was achieved by telescoping down the long vertical seat post and folding down the beautifully-made "high rise" handlebars. (The same approach was used more recently in a less sophisticated way in the Daewoo Shuttle.) The bike sold for about £9 in France when launched, approximately £275 in today's money.

Le Petit Bi had a rectangular rear pannier carrier with small rubber buffers on the back. This enabled the bike to be parked on its tail in the corner of a hallway or in a cupboard. For extra tidiness and to keep oily and dusty parts contained, the bike went into a zip-up cloth bag.

The wheels were 400mm with semi-balloon tyres, close in size to those used by the later Moulton Stowaway and today's Brompton. For the home market the bike had a Pelissier derailleur but promotional samples brought into England just before the second world war had Sturmey-Archer hub gears. Production commenced in France in 1938 and, in addition to the standard steel-framed product, there was a light alloy version and a tandem. The patents also covered a moped interpretation. After the war, Le Petit Bi was sold with a modified frame incorporating a hinged main beam between the seat tube and head tube. This made it easier to stow the bike in the boot of a car.

The war put paid to importation into the UK, although the bike was reviewed in Cycling (now Cycling Weekly) in 1942. The samples were brought into the country by Louis Armandias, aeronautical engineer, helicopter test pilot and intelligence officer, on behalf of his French father. In the 1980s I contacted Mr. Armandias who thought the bikes had been lost when his office at GCHQ, the UK government's intelligence centre at Cheltenham, was cleared after the war.

Although incorrectly identified by Cycling as Le Petit Bi's inventor, Louis Armandias had little interest in the bike and initially could not even remember it. Strangely enough, his aeronautical exploits took him to Bristol Aeroplane during the war, where he met the young Alex Moulton. It's ironic that neither was interested in bicycles at the time and Moulton did not become aware of Le Petit Bi until I showed him photos in the 1980s.

There's a lot more about Le Petit Bi, including illustrations, on my website - You can also find details there about It's in the bag!, a must if you are interested in the history of portable cycles.

A Folder Down the Colo

By Bill Munro

I first became interested in folding bicycles about November 1998 when I purchased an inflatable kayak and worked out I could expand my horizons by including a cycle leg in the trip. I purchased a twenty year old Raleigh Stowaway and with a little work it was ready to go.

The first trip was to be part of the Colo River north west of Sydney. I was able to drive my car to the end of the Colo where it joins the Hawkesbury River. I then set up my old Raleigh with the boat on the rack and cycled 11km to the Colo river bridge where I would fold the bike, pump up the boat and load it and paddle the 10km back to the car. Since my first trip I have purchased a Bike Friday New World Tourist which I use for commuting to and from work with a train ride. The Bike Friday is my first choice when I need a folder but I opt for the old Raleigh for my kayak trips as it has a sturdy low mount steel legged rack and if things go wrong and it ends up in the river it would not be the end of the world.

This time I decided to paddle from the Upper Colo bridge back down to the Colo River bridge on the Putty road. I drove my car to the Upper Colo bridge and proceeded to pump up my kayak and load it up with my bike and water, camera and safety gear.

I started the paddle at 6.15am under a very overcast sky with fog hanging in the valleys. The Upper Colo is very shallow with a sandy bottom so I had not paddled more then 60 metres before I was back out of the kayak and pulling it over the shallows. Fortunately these shallows were not long so it did not slow the trip down unduly and I was able to take a few photos without stopping paddling and ending up pointing the wrong way.

The stop-start trip continued for about five kilometres until the water depth increased and I was able to paddle the last seven kilometres with only an occasional stop for water or to photograph the scenery.

The next one and half hours went quickly and soon the Putty Road bridge was in sight. I was able to stop under the bridge at the park and proceeded to unload the kayak. Once the kayak was out of the water and deflated everything was packed into a large purple backpack. I unfolded the bike and lay a plank of pine across the rear rack and zip tied it in place. This plank is to support the backpack which weights about forty two pounds when packed. I put my camera and phone in a small pack on my back to save it from the worst of the road vibrations.

I put on my helmet and wheeled the bike to the edge of the road. The bike felt quite ungainly with such a wide heavy load on the rack but once underway it all balanced and ran smoothly. The road was tar to start but turned to dirt for most of the thirteen kilometres back to the Upper Colo bridge and the car. The old Raleigh folder has twenty two inch wheels and a Shimano three speed hub gears so only the steepest hills have to be walked. The riding position is a bit upright for my liking but is comfortable. The ride took about forty minuets and I was back to my car.

This was the second time I have taken the folding bike with me in the kayak and it is a very effective way of being self supportive for transport and a lot of fun.


John Prince has emailed us from his tropical island paradise on a number of subjects, including my Project Y (Micro) ...

I think you have hit on a thought on the fun factor in cycling. Many times I have searched for an explanation why one cycle is so rewarding when another similar machine is not. I suggest a factor which is common to your choices is wheel size and the resultant nervous handling we all have to get used to when changing to swc. Perhaps like modern fighter planes, the secret is to design in instability which generates that fun factor. 

That's an interesting thought. I'd certainly go along with the idea that the bike needs a degree of sensitivity and responsiveness, though it can be taken so far - I can certainly think of bikes which are too twitchy for comfort. 

John also mentions in another email the need to give oneself time to get used to the characteristics of a different bike, another thought which I would go along with. Some people who take a short ride on a small wheeler complain about the handling, and yet after a few hours of riding a small wheeler, it is the more conventional bike which feels strange and lacking in response. When I took the Brompton SP up the road for its tyre rolling test earlier today, I was amazed at how different it felt from the T5 I had ridden less than 5 minutes earlier, and yet within a couple of hundred metres I had adapted to the differences in handling without any trouble.

My enthusiasm for the new Schwalbe 349 (16 inch) Marathon tyre seems to be shared by Jeremy Taylor, who writes:

I have just fitted the new Schwalbe tyres, from Mike Hullis at Phoenix Cycles, to my Brompton L5 and with only a small mileage I can confirm that they are performing well.  I rode over 50 miles on Tuesday of last week on them in London, Putney to St Pancras and return and then in and around Nottingham for a research project.  Plenty of really bad road conditions including being forced into broken glass by traffic flow.

They have not cut up like my Primos and they are not quite as fast as the Primos, but they are far more rugged. For most Brompton owners puncture resistance, particularly rear wheel puncture resistance is a very important asset. They are definitely more agile than the originally supplied Record tyres which were both sluggish and inclined to puncture too often. So experience, so far, bodes well.

Also a bit of news from across the Atlantic. My brother, Charles Taylor, has just taken delivery of a new L5 from C M Wasson, complete with a Samsonite travelling case for the busy international executive. He was so excited when it arrived at his home in Washington DC that he had to ride it round the living room since heavy snow prevented him for testing it out on the road. He expects to take it with him around the world on economic missions and use it in many cities as a way of getting exercise and seeing the places that he so often only views from hotel rooms and offices. So the Brompton will play a vital part in liberating him from the occasional pressures of executive life.

Member Mike Sherwood has been experimenting with modifications to the bars of his Brompton. After first fitting drops, he has now taken the project further:

I've continued to work on the great Brompton bar problem: the first attempt with shortened drops helped a lot, but I still wasn't getting enough reach - Herewith the next installment - thanks to your regular SP features for convincing to try the Post Moderne at the front:-). Thanks also to KG bikes of Glossop for safely chopping the Brompton stem. I've managed to shorten the Post Moderne by about an inch (by cutting down the damper as well the post itself to almost it's limit, this making for a stiffer suspension), and thereafter am using a quick-release to hold what are now fully reversed (and chopped!) drop bars. The reach is by far the most comfortable yet - maybe this would be of interest to other FSN members?

This is a very interesting modification as it is the closeness of the normal bars and rather upright riding position which most often concerns those who want to use the Brompton for longer rides. However, I'm a bit concerned about one thing - the quick release fitting (visible in the second photograph) suggests that you use this to slacken the bar fitting, and then rotate the bars for folding. I am quite worried about the fact that this is likely to result in scoring the bars as they are rotated, which will result in creating a stress raiser, which in turn could result in the bars fracturing, which would be VERY unpleasant.

Recumbent owners take an interest in folders as well: firstly, from Leander Branham:

This is the most lucid and helpful summary of different brands of folding bicycles which I have found to date, though I do disagree with one item you mentioned several times. You stated that there is little interest in recumbent folding bikes...while that may have been true once, it is true no longer.

As recumbents become more popular, a parallel interest in folding recumbents will also grow, and is doing so now. Bike Friday is having good success with its Bike Sat R Day folding recumbent. It is a very comfortable ride, but as you note of their other models, does not fold down quickly, as say the Brompton models. Brompton has a kit to convert to a recumbent, which is fine for those who own a Brompton, but first-time buyers want to buy the bike the envision, not one bike then a kit then rebuild their new bike...and the kit costs more than the bike; for that total price, I would want the bike complete at purchase.

Those are the only two I know of, but the market is in its infancy. I can say from experience, that once you ride a recumbent for awhile, you never want to go back...with the possible exception for mountain bike trails, but even that truism is beginning to change with one of the Bike E 5.0 models, according to the review done by a mountain biker.

The point is, there are increasing numbers of us who would love to see a good folding recumbent. If Brompton or one of the others who make truely quick-fold, compact, well-made bikes does not offer a recumbent model, then Bike Friday will have that market to itself, despite the limitations of their less-foldable mechanism. They still make a good bike. Heck, if Dahon came up with a recumbent folder, they would clean up, as no one else is doing it. Brompton only went half way, but to be successful, they have to actually make the bike and sell it completed.

I'm not an enthusiast for recumbents myself, but I wasn't aware of having been particularly critical in the web pages. Perhaps I'd better look more seriously at them at CycleFest this year. You mention the kit to convert a Brompton - it's an add-on from a third party, rather than a Brompton product. I feel that it is unlikely we shall see many folding recumbents in the near future; both folders and recumbents are fairly small markets, and companies producing new products need to sell reasonable numbers to recover development and marketing costs, not to mention possibly even making a profit!

More on recumbents from Seamus King:

Out on the Peer Gynt on Sunday, a very pleasant ride beside the follys of South Yorkshire; Hoober Stand and Keppel's Column before returning home through the outskirts of Rotherham. Recumbent riding relaxing as always, in spite of several serious up-hills, though to be honest, after two and a half years of recumberumbling, I find up-hills to be easier while I am inclined.

Anyway... Whilst pedalling slowly up the last hill of the day there was a distinctive crack and as I put my feet down I noticed my chain lying in the road. Somehow even before I'd searched my panniers three times I knew my chain link rivet extractor (catchy name) wasn't there and exactly where it was.

Faced with a six mile walk I found myself thinking along the lines of Brompton, Birdy, Fold-It etc, or even my bulky, but I still think I could get it on a bus, APB.

Another disadvantage of recumbents is that it's remarkably difficult to scoot along up to the 2-3mph necessary to balance to freewheel downhill.

Chris Newport writes reporting some unhappy experiences with the Bernds Faltrad:

Recently I bought a Bernds Faltrad. It's been a sorry tale, so I thought you might be interested in my experiences for FSN.

I already own a Brompton L5. I was looking for a folder that would be more suitable for heavy commuting use (on average 24 miles per day), as well as folding adequately. I don't find the standard Brompton entirely suitable for long term commuting. The Bernds won me over with its big bike rigidity, well-engineered appearance and excellent performance. It was ordered from Germany and arrived at the end of September 1999. The Bernds has already been reviewed in A to B so I won't bore you with the details. Sufficient to say that overall performance is excellent, with good load-carrying ability. It offers the comfort of a full size bike, yet it folds really quite well. The rear wheel tucks under just like the Brompton. After that it's a bit less elegant - you do risk getting your hands dirty - but it ends up as a fairly compact package.

I had had the bike for just a few weeks when, cycling home one evening, the steering suddenly became very woolly. I stopped to check and found that a large crack had developed in the right hand chain stay. The bike was duly returned to Bikefix, who kindly lent me their demonstrator Bernds. Well, perhaps you can guess the rest. I rode this for a couple of weeks until, cycling home one evening, the steering suddenly became very woolly! Yes, there was an almost identical crack in the right hand chain stay!

Back it went to Bikefix, who to their credit gave me a full no- questions-asked refund, despite the fact that they've probably lost money on it. I shall certainly go back to them. The cause seems to be that Bernds have reinforced the chain stay, but in doing so have reduced the amount it can flex under load. So far Bikefix know of 3 machines that have failed in exactly the same way - which suggests that there may well be others.

With a little further sorting out the Bernds could be a really excellent machine. It will be interesting to see if, and how soon, they modify it to remove this obvious - and potentially dangerous - design flaw.

I wrote quite recently on the subject of breakages etc, and this is always a tricky subject. Let's face it, any breakage on a bike can be very unpleasant, to say the least, but at the same time none of us want to ride a vastly over-engineered bike which weighs 3kg more than it might need to. This gives designers/manufacturers a real problem. I don't know of ANY manufacturer of cycles (folders or otherwise) who could claim a perfect record in this respect, so it is inappropriate to indulge in finger pointing. Even the most experienced and highly qualified designers have had to make changes to their design (not just of cycles) when the product reaches the marketplace. I try to avoid new products until they have been on the market for an absolute minimum of 6 months (12 months is better), and I use my judgment based on experience etc (I am a mechanical engineer by original education) to assess the design and judge the designer/manufacturer as to competence and responsiveness to the need to modify the product. Even then, that is no guarantee that no one would ever have a problem, so, given today's bizarre legal situation, I'm not prepared to make specific recommendations or condemnations, though you may well be able to guess at these from the tone of my various reports!

Sales and Wants

The S&W list is still quite active - if you have a folder, separable, or accessories to dispose of, or you want to buy, you can use the Sales and Wants page ( If you want to have something put on the list, just email us the details ( - there is no charge, but please let us know when it is sold so that we can take it off the list. As I strongly suspect that I am not being told when items are sold, I intend to introduce some changes to the Sales and Wants section. In future all entries will be dated, and will be deleted after 3 months unless a request is received to retain the entry on the list. However, please do still tell us as soon as anything is sold, so that we can remove it and avoid creating annoyance to those using the list.


Saturday 4th March - Mud Dock
As usual, meet from about 10.30 at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol. Contact Gary Lovell, Tel: 0117 932 4633.

10 - 12 March 2000 - Australian Bike Friday Club (ABFC), Bright
For more information on this event, contact Margaret Day, email

Saturday 11th March - Origami Ride
The March Origami Ride will be at its usual location, the Tearooms at Meriden; arrive from 10.30 for an 11.00 start. For more information please see the web pages at, or contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685, email We still hope to be able to move the Origami web page to John's site soon, but the existing site will provide a link to there - we'll keep you posted on developments, which have been delayed by pressure of work.

Saturday 11th March - Devon Folders meeting at Mud Dock EXETER
Tim Pestridge is organising the first event of the millennium for  DEVON FOLDERS, meeting at the Mud Dock, Exeter on Saturday March 11th. Mud Dock is only a 5 minute cycle ride from the main station. Starting at 11am with plenty of 'future transport' banter, the day will be much the same format as the Bristol meet, with a pleasant ride out around Exeter and a hearty lunch somewhere select. Call Tim for details on 01626 873800 or email at 

June, 2000 - Vondelpark Amsterdam
Enno Roosink,, tells us that the party is going to be like a fair with lots of activities and exhibitors of special bicycles, recumbents, folders and the like. Please have a look at for details. All participants of our annual Bike Friday Meeting will be attending the Bicycle Party/Fair; the general idea is to ride mixed with the Moultons and the Bike Fridays. The BF meeting will be stretched over the weekends 17-18 June and 24 - 25 June.

CycleFest 2000 - Lancaster, 2nd  –  8th August 2000
The bi-annual cycling feast will soon be coming around again, and it'll all be up and running from Wednesday 2nd to Tuesday 8th August at St Martins College, Lancaster, UK. Quite a bit has been planned already of course, and as usual there's a theme for the sessions - this year it's "Transmissions", and we already have some great speakers booked for this (Tony Hadland, Florian Schlumfp, Izzi Ureili et al) and some interesting new activities planned (50m sprints, midnight torchlight parade and BBQ etc). However, further ideas are always welcome. There will be announcements in Folding Society News, The Moultoneer and other publications in due course. The Cyclefest web pages are currently available at, but will move to a new and more memorable address soon, and will be regularly updated as the event approaches. We hope there will be a major folder/separable presence at Cyclefest 2000 - the very provisional program already includes one event specifically for folders. We also understand that Alex Moulton will have a stand there this year. If you have any queries concerning CycleFest, contact: John Bradshaw, Tel/Fax: 01524 384474 (day) or Tel: 01524 66658 (eve)

9-10 September - Moulton Bicycle Club Bradford-on-Avon Weekend
The annual Moulton Bicycle Club weekend is scheduled for 9-10th September this year, and preliminary information suggests that it should be better than ever this year.

A to B Magazine

A to B Magazine remains the ultimate source of authoritative information on folding cycles. In the unlikely event that you aren't aware of A to B and/or don't  read this magazine, then we would urge you to take out a subscription without delay. A to B can be found on the web pages at,  or you can email them at, or they can be reached by telephone or fax on 01963 351649, address 19 West Park, Castle Cary, Somerset BA7 7DB, England. A subscription to A to B is only £10 per year in the UK, or $24, and the magazine is published ever two months and is packed with news, reviews and other interesting information on effective integrated transport systems in general, and folding cycles in particular.

Back Numbers

Back numbers of all issues of Folding Society News are available on our web site - go to for the full list.

Contributing material for FSN

We would very much welcome articles, photographs or any other material for inclusion in future issues of FSN, or on our web pages. Please send any material to The Folding Society at the address given below. However, if you are planning to send pictures by email, please send them at an appropriate resolution to avoid high telephone bills - a picture of 50K or less is ample for use in FSN or on the web pages.

The Folding Society
If you have any news or other information of interest to other members of the Folding Society, please email us at the above address.

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Last updated: 13 February 2000