The Folding Society

Issue 52 - 16 May 2000


Many thanks to those of you who replied to my request for feedback regarding The Folding Society, FSN, and its future. A few examples are included in the "Letters" section of this issue - the general conclusion seems to be to keep the format as it is, and that in view of the fact that this is a free, volunteer operation, you are prepared to put up with occasional variations in the production schedule.

This issue majors on the Weymouth event last weekend - a brief summary and a few pictures are included here, but if you want the full report, and a more extensive set of pictures, you can find them on the web site at .

Here in the UK, summer seems to be coming, so I hope that you will be able to take advantage of it, whether by cycling for its own sake, or using a folder in conjunction with other forms of transport or other interests. Regular readers will know that my other interests include photography and computers  - I enjoy walking, bird watching (I expect Sir Benjamin will have something to say about that) and a number of other activities as well - there might be a theme here for some future articles from members - how does a folder enhance the enjoyment of your other interests?

Next weekend (20th May), I am supposed to be riding a Brevet Populaire at Meriden; at present I feel very lacking in energy, but assuming I am recovered in time to take part, there will be a report on how the separable I shall be using performs..


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

Please remember that the Folding Society web pages are now at All new material is being put at that new address, and the old site now only consists of a link to the new one. If you haven't yet changed the address in your 'favourites' list, please do so now.

Weymouth 2000

Despite its very informal nature, and the minimal advance publicity, this year's Weymouth event from 12 to 14 May attracted around 20 folder enthusiasts, including one from Germany. The great majority were riding Bromptons of one kind or another - three were full SP versions, and several others sported at least some SP modifications. 

Graham McDermott is giving deep thought to his next folding acquisition - might it be a Bickerton??

SP fixed frame The most novel machine was Steve Parry's latest creation, Brompton-based as usual, but with the centre hinge removed, making a rigid frame, and the handlebar stem unplugging like a Bike Friday, rather than folding. Features include hub brakes front and rear and derailleur gears.  

SP folded in profile The idea behind the modified folding is that it results in a remarkably thin package, which can take advantage of unused spaces such as the luggage racks on trains, though you need to be fairly tall and strong to stow it there comfortably.

Superb weather over the weekend allowed us to get some very enjoyable rides, destinations including Abbotsbury and Portland. In fact the weather was so good that several riders were showing very visible evidence of an excess of sun.

A much more complete report, with photographs, can be found on the web site at .

Thanks are due to Gary, Ray and Steve for putting the event in the diary.


Brompton now have a new catalogue. The design of this is very stylish - lots of good quality colour pictures of Bromptons in action. There is  an introductory page by Andrew Ritchie, and lots of information about the different models, accessories etc, and very detailed technical specifications. There is also a full price list (printed separately to make updates easier and less costly), and we understand that the dealer list is also being brought up to date. The picture at the foot of page 4 of the catalogue is quite extraordinarily similar to a picture by Graham McDermott which can be found in our Gallery page, which showed a Birdy on the bridge to Skye - the photographer must have found the marks left by Graham's tripod legs!

Len Rubin's "Ultimate Brompton"

Readers of A to B and the Brompton mailing list, and those who have visited Folder Forums in the past, will be aware that Len Rubin has been working on a weight reduction program for the Brompton. It uses very expensive titanium parts, and although this limits its relevance to most mere mortals, it has nevertheless created a good deal of interest. Not much has been heard of the project of late, but Len recently posted an update on the Brompton mailing list. For those of you who don't receive that list, but are interested in the subject, the gist of the message was that Len is still working on getting the bike to the market. The wording of the message suggests that the current project may have moved away from simply modifying an existing Brompton, as it contains the following "Nearly $150,000 has been burned through in the attempt to achieve my goal of manufacturing a bike that folds as small (a bit smaller, actually) and quickly as the Brompton, but weighs about 50% less and has really wide range gearing, fantastic brakes and is more comfortable to ride long distances." The bike is still apparently at least some weeks from production, but Len reports that he "plans/hopes to have something to show on the May 20 folder ride in S.F.".


Steve Parry's latest creation features drum brakes front and rear, derailleur, and elimination of the central and handlebar hinges of the Brompton. When 'folded' it forms a remarkably thin package, though a bit longer than a normal folded Brompton. See our Weymouth report for more details and pictures.

Gearing up for the new Millenium

Introducing the new “PRINGLE *” system
By John L. Prince

Imagine the scene; it is the year 2000 and cycling is 125 years old at least. But how unified have we become? Do we all speak the same cycling language? Just spare a thought for the Englishman cycling up a hill with a German (or Frenchman for that matter).

Brit “I am not a fit as I was. Not long ago I could easily climb a one in six hill on my last but one lowest ratio of 24 inches”.

German (who is not one of these annoyingly superior Europeans who speak six languages better than I speak English) “Not quiet understanding…please what means one in six and 24 inch?”

Brit. “Well, one in six is the steepness of the hill; you say incline %, so very steep is 45 degrees and 100% and for us one in one, meaning we climb one unit for every one travelled. So one in six is less, and the gear means the size of the wheel used if I had a penny farthing with no gears : direct drive”.

The explanation is so long and involved our Brit runs out of puff and hardly hears the plaintive cry..

German. “Please what means penny farthing?”

Brit. “Well I should say ‘ordinary’ really, but I’ve got a friend who sells a bike called a ‘Bob Florin’ which is sort of allowing for inflation ...”

I am sure we can think ahead how such a conversation might continue, and how each side would wonder at the other’s strangeness. The German would explain how they use “development” meaning one turn of the cranks resulting in a certain distance travelled down the road, expressed, of course, so that every Englishman can immediately grasp it, in meters and cms. It needs mental gymnastics to go from English inches (convert to meters, multiply by pi, multiply by the gear ratio) and you’ve done it. But what have we got? Whether 24 inches or 1.93 meters, the resulting figure gives no idea, without further mental references made by the rider, whether this is good or bad, fast or slow, high or low or as noticed on the latest cycles imported here marked “HARD EASY” referring to the pedal effort I assume. So can’t we have something better, fresher, able to transcend language barriers?

A fit cyclist will revel in spinning the cranks on his bike at 120 rpm; the rest of use will try for 80 and settle for 60rpm…something to do with our heart rhythm or the pace at which we walk depending on which expert you believe. Accepting this as one of our corner stones means that if we base our system on 60 rpm, we are serving the average, and the superior beings among us will have to modestly multiply everything by two whilst explaining why ... (good for Brownie points). Now, the net result of our pedalling is forward progress, measured in mph (a system having its roots in the length of 3 grains of corn = 1 inch) or km/hr (based happily on a 10 millionth part of the distance from the pole to equator on planet Earth, which they unfortunately were unable to measure accurately, so it has been re-defined as something even more obscure).

So why don’t we say that, when in a certain gear, and pedalling at a cadence of 60 rpm the result is X mph? Ah! But what about the Germans I hear you say….they will be lost in a forest of kilometers. Well there’s a bit of a rub, but only if you take sides, because accepting that ANY system will have it’s shortcomings, I will say to you that those not privileged to have been born on this green and sceptred isle will merely multiply the speed by a factor of two to obtain an approximately correct answer in kilometers. O.K., I hear your protests, but at the speeds we ride at does it really matter converting 10 mph to 20 km/hr instead of the mathematically correct figure of 16?? And besides, gears or really only of interest at the lower end (what can I climb?) and the higher end (how fast can I go?) and the spacing which can be judged from the closeness or otherwise of the speeds attained. Alright, as a last resort I hope that an onboard computer will crack the slight error in an otherwise perfect system. Look at the advantages: at a stroke (where have I heard that before?): wheel size, tyre size, primary ratio, number of teeth on chain wheel, teeth on sprockets, internal planet gearing are all old hat (Germans please read “Schnee von Gestern”). Yes, applying the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) results in a simple-to-understand system: when I pedal normally, in THIS gear I go THAT fast

For your delectation I give you an example using my modified Brompton 3 speed with a 36 tooth chain wheel driving a 13 tooth sprocket

Gear Inches Development (m) Speed mph @600rpm Speed mph @ 120rpm
1, Bottom, -33.3% 30 2.41 5 10
2, Direct 45 3.62 16
3, Top, +50% 67 5.43 12 24

I saw recently in a cycle magazine that a rider claimed to have reached a speed of 54 mph downhill.

His cycle fitted with a chain wheel with 53 teeth driving a 11 tooth sprocket (1:4.82) driving thro 26” wheels and 1.3” tyres means that he was pedalling at about 130 rpm ... believable. In the “Pringle” system the machine has (at 60rpm) a gear of 25mph giving @ x 2 a 50 mph gear @ 120 rpm. That this speed requires a strong pilot is clear ... with strong nerves too!!

With a bit of good will, this new system could sweep the board WORLDWIDE and another brilliant British idea could lead from the front: what do you think? Gentlemen, recalibrate your brains from ‘my seven speeds go from 20” to 80”’ to, (at 60 rpm) ‘my seven speed gives 3mph to 23 mph’ Instantly a clear picture emerges of the climbing effort and speed and, having reached the top the expected speed on the downhill swoop.

The PRINGLE* (Prince Recalibrated Ingenious New Gearing Less Elaborate) system has such obvious merits that I modestly expect it to be in everyday use by the next “Cyclefest 2000” with just the odd foreigner or stuck-in-the-mud traditionalist complaining and steadfastly clinging to inches/development.

Anyway, who ever saw an ordinary with a 16” wheel, or better, one with 120”?


Seamus King writes in response to our request in teh last issue of FSN for your opinions regarding our future direction:
" As you're the person doing ALL the work on producing FSN, and the web site, I really don't think anyone except yourself has any business in saying how it should be run. Toadying over. Keep it informal and internet based. Were it to become paper based, it'd cost us and you'd be in competition with 'A to B'."

James Greig writes:
" You asked a general question about what people wanted of the Folding Society email magazine. Here is a comment:

More of the same, please, but please don't let it become a burden to you. Skip a week if you don't feel like doing it, or make it shorter to suit the time you have available. I have found it interesting, and I am especially grateful to you for having taken the trouble to test tyres' rolling resistance so thoroughly. On the basis of your test I rushed out to Peddlars on a cheap day return and bought a set of Brompton tyres, which have transformed the performance of the bike.

The great thing about FSN is that one can read all the things that are of particular interest, but skip anything of lesser interest, without the problem of Cycling Plus which is now approaching 90% skippable yet I have bought a subscription so am still paying quite a lot for it for several more months. FSN also bridges the gap between issues of A to B with up to the minute news, and the events listing is useful (although having a job and a family I don't have time to go to many events, but I feel if there was an absolutely un-missable one, I would spot it in time to apply.

It might be worth mentioning the CTC York Rally on 23rd/25th June as having a folding element. York is easily reached by train [although few cyclists seem to use it], and advance purchase tickets such as Virgin Value are quite reasonable. There is camping on site as well as a huge range of accommodation in York. There is a great variety of led rides which has included one for folders. There is also a sales bonanza with most firms adopting the pile it high sell it cheap philosophy, and a cycle auction - I usually stock up with "seconds". And York is one of the loveliest and most cycle- friendly of cities to explore if 50,000 other cyclists in clashing shades of Lycra get a bit much at times, with a good Brompton dealer. Well, you know Mike, after having spent many a patient hour on the Moulton Club stand. See you there?"

I'm not planning to go to the CTC Rally - well worth a visit, but the agony of working on a stand there in the past has destroyed my enjoyment of the event, and finances dictate careful choice of which events to attend. Thee will be a special ride for folders at the event though, organised by Bill Houlder, so if you are going, please support this.

Erwin de Vries has responded to several topics raised in the last issue of FSN:
"It would indeed be very convenient if FSN would contain links to reference parts of the site, because this gives an excellent overview with all manner of links to technical details. As a matter of fact I myself first came across the Brompton FAQ site and found this very interesting reading (I immediately used some of the technical tips provided there). Only afterwards I subscribed to Brompton Talk and the FSN. I did then read all the previous issues of FSN, and even though it was pleasant enough reading, the difference between USING FSN and the FAQ is enormous. Especially someone like me, who quickly wants an overview of all tips and tricks, and who is a novice Brompton owner, can access all "old tips" through the FAQ much more quickly than through reading FSN (which is a bit like reading an old fashioned magazine - very nice one, though ;-)  )

Concerning The great cover up uncovered: Before my Brompton I used to have a Gazelle Kwikvouw (Quickfold) folder, on which I made a closed doped-linen chain cover (seen a lot here in Holland, I modified one made for a children's bike). This indeed ensured that the chain stayed clean and lubricated, and because the chain is on the outside of the folded bike, it also kept the greasy chain away from other people's clothes on the train. Both bike shop and manufacturer claimed that no closed chain cover was made or could be made for the Gazelle. The bike itself, though very pleasant to ride (max speed ever was 26mph on flat cyclepath) was rusting at such a horrible rate that I got  fed up with it, took a hacksaw and sawed it in two; then bought the B., and wished I'd done that years before..."

Robert McCann writes about modifying a Micro: 
"I've had great success with my Micro upgrading - thanks to your advice/guide. I raised the saddle (used a machined down old Bickerton seat post) and the same arrangement as you for the bars etc. Problem was that in raising the seat and bars they went further away from each other! I found the reach too great. I bent the remaining part of the old handlebar stem (the tube) slightly back towards the saddle. This had the additional advantage of stiffening the front end and the flex was greatly reduced. Added bonus!"

John Phillips of Jupiter, Florida, USA, writes with a query:
"I was led to your site via a long and winding surf route, while searching for info on a folding bicycle made perhaps during the 1970's in Yugoslavia called the 'Pony'. Have you or any of your members heard of it? Could you direct me to another source of possible information?  I have a modes first-folder, a Dahon which has been on the road about 6 times so far. It is fun, and has whetted my interest in the genre!"

András Tóth of the Hungarian Cyclists' Federation is carrying out a survey on folders, and would like the assistance of as many members as possible:
"Are you a folding bicycle user? Would you be interested in contributing to a world wide Internet survey of how people use their folding bicycles? Then visit my Questionnaire on folding bicycle usage at Maybe your friends would be interested. Please tell them about the questionnaire."

John Agner tells us of an alternative form of carrying bag for the Brompton: 
"I have never seen anybody advertising carrying bags for the Brompton so I thought you might be interested to hear that there is a lady who makes a range of them. She operates under the name 'its in the bag' (see They are proper cases, with or without padding and made from light or heavyweight material of the buyers choice. Prices are reasonable from about £50.  I spoke to today to Jim McGurn and he said he has one which may be reviewed in Bycycle or another publication. The lady who makes them seems willing to accommodate buyers needs and makes or will make cases for any type of bicycle for different ways of carrying. That is lightweight covers to fully padded for air transport. I think an important feature of these cases/bags is that they do not appear to give any indication of their contents. This is most useful if you want to carry a bike on transport such as Eurolines who will not take cycles."

Sales and Wants

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. Take all normal precautions when buying and selling goods - the Folding Society and its officers are not responsible for the descriptions and products and services contained in the Sales & Wants list.


The events listed below are a combination of those organised by Folding Society members or of potential interest to members.

Remember that cycling can be dangerous (so is travelling by car, bus, train, air or water, breathing and living!); anyone participating in any way in any event does so at their own risk.

Saturday 20th May - San Francisco Bay Area Spring 2000 Folding Bike Ride
Meet at 10:30am at the Sausalito Ferry Terminal (Blue & Gold Ferry leaves at 10:40am from Pier 41 in S.F., arrives Sausalito 11:05am).  Ride will leave at 11:15a and proceed along the Mill Valley bike trail, through the wetlands, around Tiburon, and back to Sausalito. Lunch in Tiburon. As always, bring your non-folding friends - we'll convert them during them the ride.  The next ride will be 21st October 2000. Organiser Tom Vogt ( ).

Sunday 21st May Sussex Coastal Plain Ride
30 miles approx Meet Chichester Railway Station 10.00 for 10.30 start. Further details from Eric Jones, Tel 01903 782631

Saturday 3rd June Leominster, Herefordshire Ride
Meet at Etnam Street free car park at 10am for 10.30 start for an easy 20 mile ride along very pleasant country lanes with cafe stops. Further details from Alan Mason Tel 01568 612905

Saturday 3rd June - Mud Dock
As usual, meet from about 10.30 at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol. Contact Gary Lovell, Tel: 0117 932 2026.

Saturday 10th June - Origami Ride
The June Origami Ride will be at its usual location, the Tearooms at Meriden; arrive from 10.30 for an 11.00 start. For more information, contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685, email, or look at his web site at

Thursday 22 June - The Smugglers Run 
Meet at 5.45pm at Leeds Station at the barrier  with a £4 Day Rover' ticket. Folding bikes travel unrestricted.15 miles of easy riding on the Spen Valley trail. More information will be found on

23rd - 25th June - CTC York Rally
Although there are some who take a warped pleasure in sneering at the CTC, they do a useful job, and many of our members are also CTC members, and proud of it. The York Rally is their main event of the year, and attracts a massive attendance. Bill Houlder is organising a ride for small wheelers/folders, and assures us that it is a properly recce'd ride this time. Please support this ride if you are going to the event. Bill has also offered to organise/lead rides in that area on Sundays if anyone is interested. If you live in that area and would be interested in such rides, please let us know, and we will provide Bill with some feedback.

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.

July 28-31 2000, Spokesfest 2000, Leicester. Spokesfest will have a large display area in The Shires shopping centre from Saturday 22nd July to Sunday July  30th. and has the use of Humberstone Gate event arena for both the Saturday and Sunday of Spokesfest (29th and 30th July).

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 some great speakers  are already 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.

Note: The views expressed by contributors and correspondents are those of the writers, and are not necessarily those of The Folding Society or its organisers.

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 JPEG 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.

If for some reason you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send a message to this effect to the same email address.

All information given here is provided in good faith, but no responsibility can be taken for errors or for any consequences arising from the publication of this information.

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Last updated: 16 May 2000