Issue 65 - 26th November 2000


Portemeirion 2000This issue has two main topics - our outing to Portmeirion, and the acquisition of an Airnimal. 

Regular readers will know that there has been a semi-official visit to Portmeirion in each of the last four years, but this year it was a more informal affair, with just a few of us agreeing to go down for the week of  20th - 24th November. We go there at this time of year both because we avoid holiday crowds and because prices are very reasonable at this time. In each of the previous years we have been extraordinarily lucky with the weather. Given the time of year and the weather we have been having recently, we can't complain too much this time either, but it was certainly the worst weather we have had on one of these visits so far. You can read a more complete report on the outing in the article "A week in the wilds of Wales with an Airnimal" later in this newsletter. 
Photograph: Traincle and Brompton at Portmeirion.

If you read my rather enthusiastic report on the Airnimal Chameleon in the last issue of FSN, you won't be too surprised that I succumbed to temptation and bought one. I took a week to think about it, so I was lucky to get it in time for the visit to Portmeirion.  You can find more details of my first week with it in the Airnimal section below and in "A week in the wilds of Wales with an Airnimal"

Next issue

The next issue of FSN should appear around 10th December; expect more news on the Airnimal, but otherwise nothing definite is planned. Between now and then, we hope to do some more work on the Portable Paraphernalia pages on the web site - the report on the Handspring Visor is in partial draft form, and we should have a report on the iPaQ as well soon. 


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.


Sadly we have to report that not only has the magazine "Bycycle" ceased, but the whole Open Road organisation has gone into liquidation. On a slightly more cheerful note, we have had notification that Peter Eland is planning a new magazine, "Velo Vision", to be published quarterly. The first issue is due on 5 March 2001, and anyone taking out a subscription before the first issue appears will get a special price of £20 UK, £24 Europe and £30 for the rest of the world for four issues. After that the price rises to £24, £28 and £35. Peter says that the editorial content will carry on the tradition of his work at BCQ, with all sorts of cycle culture inside, and coverage of recumbents, HPVs, folders and workbikes. A web site is due to go live on 17th December at It seems extraordinary that the market will not support more real cycling magazines. Those that do exist need our support, as do component companies like Brooks, mentioned in the last issue - if we don't support them, we will be the ones who lose out in the end.


After a good deal of soul searching following my test of the Airnimal three weeks ago, I decided to treat myself to one for my birthday. By the time the details had been sorted out, it worked out that I could just get it in time for the holiday in Portmeirion - I went down to Cambridge on 18th to collect it. I had opted for a standard specification apart from 12-27 sprockets, and with the optional mudguards and rear carrier. Unfortunately the replacement block had not arrived in time, so I took the bike with the standard 12-23 set, and will fit the wider range 12-27 one later. Naturally, being rather short, I also chose the smaller frame. By going to collect the bike I was also able to experiment a bit with the stem size to ensure the best possible fit - something it is difficult to do without trying the bike over at least a short distance, and ideally over a longer period of at least some days. As standard the Airnimal is apparently set up with the back brake on the right, and rather than delay things getting that changed over, I took the bike like that and altered the cabling on my return home.

I chose to fit a Flite Titanium saddle (sorry, Brooks, but this seems more in keeping with a light bike like the Airnimal) and Shimano SPD pedals (pedals are not included, as it is felt to be a personal thing for the user to pick, though this seems even more true of the saddle, which is usually included). Other extras I needed to fit before returning home were a bell (I hate the things and consider they are quite useless, as I can shout louder and more quickly than I can use the bell if the need arises, or make gentler noises if this is more appropriate, but there are some sad people who seem to have a fetish about bicycles and bells, and fitting one can save pointless arguments from such people) and front and rear lights - a Knightlite at the back and a Cateye LED at the front for being seen by.

Both the local to Birmingham and the service to Cambridge had run on time, but unfortunately on the way back things did not go as smoothly. I was aiming to catch the 13.58 to Birmingham (on its way to Liverpool), but after it was overdue by 10 minutes (but the screens still showed it as on time), it was cancelled. Naturally no station announcements were made as to what alternative services were available, and when. A late-running train to Stansted was then terminated at Cambridge, decanting its passengers to make their way to another local train, while the terminated train became the 15.05 to Birmingham - which served me reasonably well, but would be less help to those originally planning to go on to stations further North. After the hour's wait, the train left on time.

I folded the Airnimal for the first time in no great hurry on the platform at Cambridge - as it turned out I had not merely 20 minutes available to complete the task, but one hour and 20 minutes. The process is quite straightforward, and though the 'first fold' produces quite a bulky package, it is all very straightforward and hassle free - more so than on a Bike Friday, where removing the stem and stowing it in amongst the rest of the bike is always tricky, and retrieving it again afterwards is much more fraught. I also managed to get the bike folded and carry it on the train without getting my hands dirty - though had it been wet and/or the front wheel had been dirty I would not have been so fortunate unless I used a glove. With all the confusion at Cambridge regarding when the train would run and from what platform it would leave, I ended up carrying the folded bike around the station considerably more than I had planned. Although quite bulky, it feels quite light and well balanced, and it is easy to find something to grip. I had draped my A to B drop-over cover for the Bike Friday over the folded bike - the shape isn't really right, and as a result there was rather more of the bike showing than I would like, so I awaited the visit of the conductor checking tickets with some trepidation. Rather surprisingly this was the same conductor who had been on the train coming down, and I had asked him then about bike space on the 170's. He recognised me so, there was no hope he would not spot the bike, but he was quite happy about it, and did not even comment until I mentioned it. This was a class 170 train, as on the way down and my return from Cambridge two weeks ago. These seem to be even less well equipped with bike space than their predecessors, class 158 I think. They seem to rely mainly on the lobby areas for luggage of any description, but as most seem to be only two-coach units, there aren't as many of these as on our local electric 3-coach 323's. At its first stage fold, the Airnimal did look a bit bulky and obvious, as had the Rocket two weeks ago. At least this time I was an hour earlier (it should have been two hours of course), so the train was less full than two weeks ago. At the end of journey back to Birmingham I carried the folded bike to the platform for the local train and then unfolded it while waiting for the local - a very straightforward operation. 

The final ride home from Tipton station was uneventful, but as soon as I got back I had to start work preparing the bike for its journey to Portmeirion on Monday. The main job was to alter the cabling on the brakes to give normal UK right front brake/left rear brake; the cabling itself is fairly straightforward, but of course the dropped bars have to be re-taped afterwards, which I always find an awkward business. Once that was done, additional lights were fitted front and rear (the rear one was partially obscured by the saddlebag when this was fitted, and for Portmeirion I wanted a front light to see by on the lanes in the dark), and a new Carradice SQR saddlebag quick release was fitted to the seat post. Fitting of mudguards, speedometer and a bottle cage was postponed to Sunday, as by then midnight was approaching.

Being rather short, I have the saddle low and do not have as much seat post available as most people, so I was unable to effect a satisfactory mounting of all of the rear lights, saddlebag, pump and bottle cage at this stage, so the bottle cage was abandoned until I had more time to investigate alternative ways of mounting all these accessories. Fitting of the rear mudguard proved simple enough, apart from the absence of bolts to attach it to the frame (bolts should be supplied with future production bikes) and the front fixing bolt being just a fraction too short. With carbon fibre forks, there are no stay mountings for the front mudguards, but cable ties can be used effectively. The fixing at the bridge of the forks is behind the front brakes. Unfortunately, I discovered that you can't fold with the front mudguard in place, and as removal of the brakes and cable ties is not something that can be done quickly, the mudguard had to come off again. Airnimal Designs are investigating a quick release mounting for the front mudguard, but in the meantime if you plan to fold, then you will have to leave the front mudguard off. In view of the wet weather of late, this filled me with considerable dismay for a week away in Portmeirion, and even lead me to consider switching to one of the Bike Fridays for this trip. However, as the report on the trip will explain, the front wheel seems to throw up almost no mud and spray. I can only put this down to the narrow tyre and the very large frame member, but I was actually cleaner and dryer with no mudguard on the Airnimal during this quite wet week than I am with many other bikes which are fitted with mudguards. The back mudguard proved effective at preventing water being thrown on my back, though it does take rather a battering when folding the bike, and this may have an effect on its life - only time will tell.

The speedometer fitted was a Sigma cordless. In the past I have found them less than satisfactory - very erratic - but the fork mounting will allow for fitting on the carbon fibre forms, and some other makes are not suitable for fitting to anything other than very conventionally shaped forks. Fitting and calibration were easy enough, and the unit seemed to be performing satisfactorily when tested on  a ride around the block.

To find out how the bike performed over the next week at Portmeirion, read the report "A week in the wilds of Wales with an Airnimal" later in this newsletter. 

Train note: At least the two class 170's on this journey did not suffer the dreadful vibration of the one two weeks ago - the tables of that one suffered a high-frequency vibration which made it unpleasant to touch them, and potential damaging to any delicate electronic equipment, such as a computer, which might be placed on them.

PDA note: I spent nearly as much time on my visit to Richard discussing and looking at PDAs, handheld and laptop computers as on talking bikes - it turns out he has as many, or possibly more, the I have. I had a first chance to see the Hewlett Packard 545 in the flesh. It is certainly a vast improvement over its predecessor, the 430se, which I own - much smaller, a more convenient shape, and with a convenient flip lid. It is marginally bigger than the Compaq iPaQ, but the Compaq does not have a CF card facility as standard, and with the sleeve to take the CF card, the Compaq becomes distinctly larger. If you intend to use the machine as an MP3 player on a regular basis, and I do, the HP starts to look a very strong competitor for the Compaq, although the Compaq does still win on speed and screen clarity. I did not give the HP very serious consideration when considering an upgrade, having been very disappointed in the 430se - see the forthcoming report on the 430se in the Portable Paraphernalia section of the web pages for an explanation of why I found it wanting.


On my return from Portmeirion I found amongst my post a copy of the Japanese Bridgestone Moulton catalogue. As it is all in Japanese, I'm not a lot the wiser in terms of information. What is evident from the photographs is the strong emphasis placed on the Moulton connection, not only the history of the cycles but also Dr Moulton's achievements in other fields. The Bridgestone site is at, and of course you can also find some pictures of the bike taken at The Hall during the Bradford on Avon weekend in September on our own site - some of the same pictures are now in the Bridgestone catalogue (no, they aren't unauthorised copies from the catalogue - I took those particular pictures for them).

It's pleasing to see that the new issue of The Moultoneer, number 60, which also arrived while I was at Portmeirion, includes in the Editorial  a plea for readers to increase their cycle use and reduce their car use. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the ability of a folder to help you do this is not mentioned! In one respect though the magazine does seem to be coming under Brompton influence - no credits for any of the photographers!


The annual visit to Portmeirion may have been a low-key event this year, but it's been in the diary for a long time, and I've had plenty of time to plan for it. The choice of bike was not going to be particularly difficult, though it changed late in the day due to the last minute acquisition of the Airnimal.

For luggage carrying for Portmeirion, I spent a long time analysing the options, comparing the weight and capacity and convenience, both while travelling fully loaded to and from Portmeirion and for day rides while I was there. Some of this investigation was carried out before I decided on the Airnimal, so was based on a Bike Friday, although the move to the Airnimal had little effect on the options and choice. I even went as far as putting all the data into a spreadsheet! My preference was for a saddlebag, using an old Karrimor made of Silvaguard - exceptionally light and with reasonable capacity. Capacity was nevertheless the real question with this solution, as for a week away I find it a bit limited - more because I invariably carry a lot of Portable Paraphernalia with me (for my trip to Cambridge to collect the Airnimal, for example, I had a Handspring Visor, folding keyboard, mobile phone and camera apart from the essentials). Carradice make some nice saddlebags, but they are generally a bit heavy, and certainly the current large models would weigh much more than the old (now obsolete) Karrimor one. Mounting a saddlebag can be a problem nowadays, as the old Brooks B17 is about the only saddle with built-in loops. You can buy bolt on loops for other types. However, without some form of support a saddlebag tends to hang at an awkward angle, and swing about inconveniently. The old Carradice quick release system is a bit of a pig to fit, and quite heavy, but they have just launched a new SQR model intended for mounting on a seat post instead of onto the saddle itself, so I decided to try one of these. Incidentally, although this can be used with existing designs of saddlebag, Carradice are also going to launch a new range of bags designed specifically for this new quick release system.

The dreadful weather we have had recently made me quite concerned about keeping dry on the Portmeirion trip, so as well as ordering bits for the bike I also ordered a new rainproof jacket and trousers. Regrettably, the performance of suppliers fell short of my expectations - see the summary below:

So the various cycle bits arrived, but unfortunately the new wet weather gear did not - a cause for concern, and something I was to regret even more later..

After a big struggle I finally worked out what to take and squeeze into my luggage - I could always have used the rack and a couple of small panniers, but I was keen to keep the weight down. Apart from a minimum of clothes, additional Rohan Bags for off cycle wear and in case of getting wet, change of socks and underwear and a shirt for off cycle wear and in case of cold weather, I took the Coolpix 990 digital camera, a Pentax ME Super and pancake 40mm lens, film, a Compaq iPaQ PDA, mobile phone (this proved to be a waste of time, as it developed a fault), PC card modem, batteries and chargers, plus of course a small toolkit. Apart from the saddlebag, I had a medium sized waist bag to hold the things I might need quick access to on the way to and from Portmeirion.

In the past a group of us will travel down together, and I would get on the train at Wolverhampton mid-morning to join them. This year, however, the others decided to take a slightly later train (to avoid them having to make such an early start from Bristol and other points south), so I decided to be unsociable rather than 'waste' the morning doing nothing, and catch an early train from Wolverhampton to Machynlleth. From there I could 'change' (actually the train splits) to a train to Barmouth (that particular one terminates there, rather than going on to Porthmadog and Pwhelli), and cycle from there via Harlech, or be more ambitious and cycle from Machynlleth. The choice was to depend on the weather - really wet and horrible, and I would wait for the later train and travel down with the others, uncertain, and poor when I got to Machynlleth, and I would train to Barmouth and ride from there, and reasonably good and (assuming I felt fit enough) I would cycle from Machynlleth.

Airnimal in 158On the day (Monday 20th) the weather was reasonable when I cycled down to Tipton to catch a local train to Wolverhampton, and I had plenty of time there to fold and 'bag' (cover) the Airnimal. The train from Wolverhampton arrived just a couple of minutes late, and it proved easy to load the bike on the train (class 158) and stow it in the narrow luggage space at the end of one of the carriages (these trains actually have a much larger luggage space at the end of some of the other coaches). The bars would not quite fit into the gap, but did not project into the corridor; although I stowed the front wheel and saddlebag above the bike, they would have fitted into the lower space alongside it.

The journey went according to plan, but the weather looked far from settled, so when we reached Machynlleth I decided to stay on the train through to Barmouth - as the heavens opened shortly afterwards I was glad I made that decision! At Barmouth it was dry again, so I reassembled the bike and refitted the luggage - not perhaps as easy as with a Brompton, but quite straightforward. As it was still not 12.00, I decided to extend my ride by going back towards Dolgellau via the A496, then a toll road (where I had to pay 25p even with a bicycle), the A493 and then the A470 past Trawsfynydd, turning left to Maentwrog before reaching Ffestiniog. From there it was downhill to Penrhyndeudraeth and on to Portmeirion. These may have been 'A' roads, but in this area and at this time of year there was very little traffic. I expected to be the first to arrive, but it turned out that most of the others had caught an earlier train than originally intended, due to uncertainties of rail travel, and they were there before me. There had been some rain during the ride, but not too much, and the bike behaved faultlessly - very comfortable, ample gears even without the wider range sprocket set, and confidence inspiring brakes. The only problem I had was with luggage - I had rather over filled the large bum bag, and it was causing me some discomfort, but I did not really want to stop in the damp conditions and try to redistribute the load. I had been worried that with no front mudguard I would get very wet and dirty, but surprisingly this was not the case - the combination of a very narrow front tyre and the very substantial frame tube seem to prevent much reaching the rider - better than on some of my bikes which do have a front mudguard.

Not much was planned for Tuesday, so I cycled out through Porthmadog to Criccieth, and from there on to Llanystumdwy, where the large amount of rain recently made the River Dwyfor quite spectacular, and then further on towards Pwllheli, before turning onto the B4354 through Chwilog. I then followed some lanes over the hills before coming back into Criccieth - a fairly similar route to one of my rides on the SP last year with Derek and Michelle, and as on that occasion I got lost despite having a map. The roads were very wet, though no rain fell during the ride, and once again the rear mudguard and the narrow tyre/substantial frame tube prevented any significant amount of dirt or water reaching the rider. At one point the road was decidedly slippery, and although I was going quite slowly I thought I was going to come off. The Kenda tyres are quite narrow (25x520) and have only a very light tread, and after that experience I rode the wet roads with even more care than before.

Jane and AlexanderWednesday was one of the two week days on which the Ffestiniog Railway was running, so we caught the train at Minffordd. The Airnimal folded easily enough, but the narrow doorways of the carriages made it a bit awkward to load and unload, due to the width of the handlebars, which were left in the normal riding position. The others got off at Tan y Bwlch, but I opted to go on up to Blaenau Ffestiniog, with the prospect of the exhilarating descent. This proved to be a mistake - torrential rain started just after we got to Blaenau, and the combination of rain, a lot of diesel fuel on the road and a strong, gusty wind made the descent extremely unpleasant. I slightly extended my route back to go via Maentwrog and the toll road back into Penrhyndeudraeth, but the conditions were pretty unpleasant, and I really did not feel like going any further - only about 20Km in the day. Happily the conditions improved in the afternoon, and we were able to go onto the beach walking and taking photographs.

Photograph: Jane and Alexander surrounded by folded bicycles and trailer at Minffordd station on the Ffestiniog Railway.

Thursday was the day when some of us went a rather longer ride towards Caernarfon on the A4085, to see how far the Welsh Highland Railway had got. Fortunately the weather was quite reasonable, and we got to Waunfawr, which is where the line currently finishes, although construction work is going on further along the proposed route. The road climbs fairly steadily for most of the way there, but with some sharp ascents on the stretch out of Penrhyndeudraeth, which reduced me at one stage to the lowest gear. The last stage to Waunfawr seemed to involve several descents on the way out, but perhaps it is a measure of the performance of the Airnimal that they seemed only very gentle climbs on the way back. Once over those, there was a long, enjoyable descent back to Porthmadog before tackling the last stage back to Portmeirion. 

All too soon it was Friday, and time to return. Most of the others were catching the early (08:27) train from Minffordd, but David Edge and I decided to cycle to Barmouth and catch the next train from there. This seemed a good idea at the time, but about 20 minutes into the ride torrential rain started, and showed little prospect of clearing. By the time we reached Harlech we were absolutely soaked, and riding into a head wind (though not a very strong one), and we decided to stop and catch the train there - even though it would mean a wait of over an hour. Soon after that, of course, the rain stopped, and it went a bit brighter. We therefore decided to resume our ride, and although the rain started again, it was relatively gentle. Even so, it wasn't a particularly enjoyable ride, and I again had to resort to bottom gear at one stage - the climb out of Harlech. We got to Barmouth with just over 5 minutes to spare, at which point the train was just about on time. Regrettably it lost time steadily from then on, and by the time it got to Wolverhampton it was almost an hour late. Folding and unfolding the Airnimal again proved no problem, but I seemed on the way back to have lost the knack of carrying it, the wheel and my luggage, and had a considerable struggle getting on and off the train with it - I obviously need more practice.

Impressions of the Airnimal

Over the 5 days I covered just over 250Km - a reasonable but not outstanding distance. If the weather had been a bit better, I might well have done more, but anyway this is not intended as a purely cycling holiday, it's a time for socialising and relaxing as well. I probably intended to, and actually did, cycle more than the others, and with this in mind I'm very happy with the choice of bike I made this time. 5 days away, and only needing to travel by train to and from the Portmeirion, and once on the Ffestiniog Railway, with a moderate amount of cycling in between, a machine like the Airnimal which can be folded but is a really superb bike to ride seems the best choice for me. For journeys involving more folding and less riding, a Brompton certainly can be better, but would have either restricted my cycling on this holiday, or would have made it less enjoyable. When I was planning what to take a few weeks ago, before I had any thought of getting the Airnimal, I originally thought I would take the SP, like last year, and I still think this would have been a very suitable machine. However, as the time got closer I started having more ambitious cycling plans for the week (they did not come to fruition due to the weather), and I decided on a Bike Friday, probably the Rocket as it had not been to Portmeirion before. The Airnimal was the final choice as much because it was new as for any other reason. I generally don't like to use such a new bike for an extended outing - not so much that I am worried about any major problem, but simply that I haven't had a chance to set it up just how I want it - although I took the New Series Moulton to Scotland last year with just as little time to prepare it.

So what's the verdict on the Airnimal now, after 250Km, but bearing in mind that I still haven't had a chance to experiment with setting it up exactly as I want it? As I said above, I think that for my purposes it was as good a choice as any for this particular event. Ride comfort was good - the combination of larger wheels, rear suspension and carbon fibre forks work very well - not as much road insulation as a Moulton or Birdy, but more than adequate for most purposes. The riding position is pretty much as I would choose for a road bike with dropped bars, even for semi-touring use as opposed to riding fast with no load. I would not want the bars any further away or any lower, though, and even allowing for my small stature, I would think that some riders would prefer a stem with a shorter reach but higher. The range of gears proved adequate in this moderately hilly area, and carrying a light load at some times, even for a not very strong rider like myself, though I will be happier when I have changed from the original 12-23 to a 12-27 sprocket set. The Shimano 105 STI system works as well as we have come to expect, though I must say I prefer the Campag Ergo levers (but not their very limited gear ranges!). The brakes are powerful and very progressive. Once on a slippery lane I nearly came off at low speed, and when I failed to steer round a metal cover on one occasion the bike squirmed uncomfortably - the narrow Kenda tyres need to be treated with some caution, but without riding something else on the same roads I'm not sure they are any more 'nervous' than, for example, Primos on a Brompton, City Jets on a Moulton APB or NWT, or IRC Roadlites on a Pocket Rocket. The choice of tyres in this size seems quite good, but for some reason errs on the side of fast road tyres with apparently not so much choice of more robust touring tyres; the semi-knobbly Specialised tyre is something I ought to give a try, but what I'd really like to try would be a 28 or 32 width with a moderate tread. The Kendas certainly seem to run very freely though. The rear mudguard proved very effective at keeping me clean on dirty, wet roads, and more surprisingly, the absence of a front mudguard (which interfered with folding) didn't cause me any discomfort as the narrow tyre and large frame tube seemed to result is little spray being thrown up onto the rider. It's certainly a pity the front mudguard can't readily be used if you want to fold, and the back mudguard tends to take rather a bashing when you fold and stand the bike on it. I think the Bike Friday mudguards, which are flexible and held by a single allen-key bolt, are a much nicer solution, even if they are rather ugly in appearance.

As mentioned earlier, for this journey I spent a lot of time trying to work out the best combination of luggage, and finally opted for an old fashioned saddlebag (and an old bag at that, the relatively light Karrimor in the Silvaguard material), fixed to the seatpost using the new Carradice SQR mounting system. I have only used this bag for touring once before, when I fitted it via the old Carradice QR system to the saddle of the Birdy for the Ffestiniog - Bala - Llangollen ride. The new SQR fixes much more satisfactorily than the old QR, which it was difficult to clamp properly onto the saddle rails. The capacity was a bit marginal, but this particular bag is light - Carradice make nice bags, but they are generally very heavy, and Karrimor and most other manufacturers seem to have dropped out of that market. Carradice are planning some new bags specifically intended for the new SQR system, so it will be interesting to see what they are like. Although the new SQR is still quite heavy - almost the same as the old QR - it works well, providing you have enough seat post exposed to mount it. The release mechanism works well and quite easily, but on rough surfaces the bag and the section of the SQR attached to it could be heard bumping around - there seems a surprising amount of lateral movement between the two parts of the SQR. When I used the rather similar set-up on the Birdy I was not happy with the arrangement - apart from the difficulty of attaching the QR tightly to the saddle rails, it felt as though the weight was affecting the handling of the bike, and possibly inducing some twisting. The Airnimal felt quite unaffected - it looks and feels much more strongly made than the Birdy, and is if anything lighter.

Over the last 5 years I have taken a Bike Friday NWT, standard Brompton, Birdy Red, SP and the Airnimal to Portmeirion. The first year we did a lot of folding and very little riding, for which the NWT was not a great success, and this year the weather did reduce my planned riding a little, if not much. For these 1 week holidays, with a train journey at the start and end, and a modest amount of riding in between, all the machines are quite suitable, with the SP and Birdy scoring on foldability while still being good for the longer rides, and the Airnimal being the best for riding, but with a loss of foldability which was acceptable for this type of outing. 

I'm very pleased with the Airnimal so far - it may not be the right machine for a lot of people who want a folder, but for what it is intended for it is excellent. It's just a pity in a way that there are two such good bikes as the Airnimal and the Pocket Rocket for one, limited, part of the folder market, while other sectors are still rather under served.

The other bikes at Portmeirion

Paul Stobbs was using the Panasonic Traincle, like last year, although it has apparently not had a lot of use since then. It's certainly very light, but the single gear would prove a serious drawback for most people - Paul can go faster than most us uphill even with only the single gear, but that's down to Paul rather than the bike! Philippa Wheeler had travelled to and from the event by car, and so had a choice of a Brompton, which she used most of the time, and her power assisted Micro, which made the journey out towards Caernarfon on Thursday. All the others (David and Jane Henshaw, Gary Lovell, Graham McDermott and David Edge) were on Bromptons, David Henshaw's being fitted with a Mountain Drive to make towing Alexander's trailer a little easier.

This visit to Portmeirion was as enjoyable as ever - many thanks to David and Jane for organising it, and a particular thank you to Gary who undertook the cooking this year. 


By Ralf Grosser

NeckermanThe story behind the bike is that I found it chained to a drainage-pipe in a front yard, and the Landlord ask me to cut the lock because it had belonged to a former tenant who had left it there. The Landlord wanted to dispose of it, but I ended up taking it with me instead.

Except for the mudguards, stem and fenders I had to replace everything on the bike. The "Frame" is made of two tubes and two pieces of sheet metal deep drawn and welded together. The hinge was cut in after assembly. The headlight is mounted rigidly to the frame, the stem can be undone and it then folds forward.  If the frame is folded there is a pump to be found in the front tube-section and a custom fitted tool-bag in the rear. I refitted the bike with a Sachs Three-Speed hub and a Magura Hydrobrake. I installed a halogen bulb,  and equipped the bike with an improved brake-anchor made of titanium. (No reason for this but I had a piece that fitted in the shop!). The bike was sold by Neckermann, a German mail-order retailer. I believe the bike is from the early sixties. It used to be blue but I repainted it in metallic green.

The funniest thing I did with the bike was when my friend, a Bike-Dealer, had lent his Longjohn Transport cycle to a storeowner for advertisement; I went  to retrieve it when they were finished. I rode to the store on my Neckerman, and then folded it into the Longjohn's front basket to ride back to the bike shop.


Robert McCann, Sales & Wants Co-ordinator of the Moulton Bicycle Club, writes with some further thoughts on lighting:
"I very much agree with your views on the Knightlite LED lights. I have been using a front one for well over a year now and have found that it gives very good service - both in terms of reliability (a cardboard box of other manufacturers lights shows that not all can be called reliable!) and battery life. I have also started to use a Knightlite Kid - a much smaller model which uses 2 N size batteries.

Most of my riding is in and around London, where the overwhelming objective is to have lights to be seen by rather than see by. The fact the this type of front light doesnıt conform to BS standards is almost an irrelevancy in the fact that a very large number of cyclist ride with no lights at all! I regularly come across cyclists, of all ages, with no lights. In all my years of night cycling I have never been stopped by the police - and I use front and rear lights in the flashing mode. Other drivers really take notice of them.

It is worth noting the Knightlite also make a halogen front light which gives a very good light, is quite small (use 4 AA batteries) and I believe has a battery life far in excess of other halogen lights."

Also on the subject of lighting, but dynamos this time, Elaine Spencer writes:
"The original dynamo supplied with my Brompton has packed up. I would like to replace it with something better. Two types that have come to my notice are:
- the Lightspin ("sealed bearings, full power at 5 mph, 95% efficient, one third the drag of conventional dynamos, left or right hand")
- the Busch and Muller S6 sidewall dynamo ("fantastically low rolling resistance, left or right hand").

Do you know whether these types would work on a Brompton (without inhibiting folding)?

Do you know any other types that are as good or better, and where/how they can be obtained?"

If any members would like to comment on the use of dynamos with Bromptons and other small wheelers, please contact us. My own experience with dynamos has not been very satisfactory - slipping when the tyres are wet has been such a problem that I had to carry battery lights as well as the dynamo, so eventually I removed the dynamo completely.

Peter Nurkse has some additional information on the availability in the USA of the Mike Burrows book "Bicycle Design", which we reviewed in the last issue of FSN:
"I just got info about ordering Bicycle Design here in the US, that you might find useful if others ask. Turns out AlpenBooks (spelt that way,, phone no. 800.290.9898) is a wholesaler, distributes books to bookstores and other outlets. If you want to buy a copy of Bicycle Design as an individual, you have to go to their retail outlet,, phone no. 888.994.9677. But, finally, they won't have any copies to sell until beginning of December, so, if you want a copy before then, buy it from the UK."

Tom Hardy emailed me regarding folding kayaks, and mentioned that there is a newsletter on folding kayaks, and this may be of interest to those who follow other folding topics:

"I subscribe to "Folding Kayaker Newsletter" published by Ralph Diaz which you or some of the members might be interested in. Here is the contact information: Folding Kayker, PO Box 0754, New York, NY 10024 Tel: 212-724-5069 E-mail:

Dennis Duggan responds to comments about his previous letter on the subject of tyres:
"I read the last issue of FSN with great interest. Once again, thanks to Mike for taking the trouble to write it.

It looks as if I have to admit my opinions on tyres were out of order. It takes a big man to admit he might be wrong, and I accept the views of other correspondents. However, in my defence, most of the responses have been concerned with rolling resistance whereas my original remarks concerned handling characteristics, surely not the same thing. This is what I meant when I said that at the speeds reached on a push bike it is perhaps an affectation to claim that some tyres handle better than others. I realise that rolling resistance makes a tremendous difference, though I would have thought that was simply a matter of increasing the pressure, rather than changing the tyre. Plainly there is more to it than I rather naively originally thought.

Back on the subject of lighting, I have never understood why flashing LED bicycle lights are illegal.  Surely the point of lights on a bike are so that others can see the bike, rather than lighting up the road for the rider? Apart from pitch dark country lanes there is normally ample light from street lights, shop windows and the moon etc to see where one is going - otherwise pedestrians would have to carry a torch! Flashing LED's draw attention to a bike far better than the steady glow of a standard light, especially at the rear. It seems that once again the law is an ass, and I cannot believe any sane policeman would take action against a cyclist using LED lighting when the same police routinely ignore bikes with no lights at all.

Mike mentioned Brooks saddles. It is true they never seem to wear out. I have one fitted to a 1931 Silver Sunbeam, plus others which must be over 50 years old, yet they are still giving sterling service. A few months ago I went to a local car boot sale and found a brand new Brooks B73, still in its original bag, for the princely sum of £3. It is now fitted to my 1964 Moulton Standard, replacing a 'temporary' plastic one I installed in 1993 when I was given the bike minus a saddle. I may not agree that different sorts of tyre make a difference, but the same most certainly does not apply to saddles. An already comfy bike now feels as if it is floating on air.

Finally, I would like to comment on Pat Strachan's report on the Airnimal.  She mentions she averaged 16mph on a trip which included the Caton Cycle/Pedestrian path, but seemed somewhat put out that she had to slow down because of various dogs out for a walk. If her average was 16mph, it stands to reason she must have exceeded this by a considerable margin on some parts of her ride

Sorry, Pat, but I have to take you to task on that one. I have no idea where the Caton path is, but we have similar shared paths in Leicester and the problems of cyclists using them as race tracks or for what seem to be time trials is becoming a real nuisance. Speaking with my dog owner and pedestrian's hat on, I would point out these paths are for the benefit of everyone, not just bicycles. It is not only dangerous to speed past dogs and people, it is also the height of bad manners. This is the sort of behaviour that makes folk resent all bicycles, not just those ridden without consideration for others.

I hope readers find my views of interest, and trust they will stimulate some replies."

Although there are certainly people on bicycles who show little consideration for other people, I think I should comment in Pat's defence that she is a very strong rider, so on road sections of the ride she probably went quite fast enough to achieve this average without going too fast on the cycle path. When I've ridden with her she has certainly seemed a very safe and responsible cyclist. Those who went to CycleFest this year will be familiar with the Caton path, and will know that it is tarmaced, quite wide and very straight. It is also well lit in the evenings. There is little opportunity for pedestrians etc to appear without warning, and usually ample opportunity to slow down safely while passing them.


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 2nd December - Mud Dock
Although there is no official organiser, the gatherings on the first Saturday of the month at Mud Dock in Bristol are still taking place and receiving good support. Meet at Mud Dock from about 10.30am onwards.

Saturday 9th December - Origami Ride
The December Origami Ride will be at its usual location, starting from 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

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.

Return to FSN index | Folding Society home page

Copyright (C)2000 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 26 November 2000