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12-pound folding bicycle
October 1, 2006 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Revolutionary twelve pound folding bicycle designed by Clive Sinclair (who previously brought the world calculators--including a wrist calculator--, computers, and an electric vehicle, the C5. Sinclair has had successes and failures, but this new bicycle may change the way thousands of people commute to work. Until now, "folding bicycles" have been little more than conventional bikes with hinging mechanisms and smaller wheels. The well known Brompton and Bike Friday bikes typically use 16" wheels, while Montague makes full-size bikes that fold, and Dahon makes both. Yes, they might fit in your car's trunk. Or you can check them as baggage with the airlines and have your own bike with you on vacation. But they all weigh 25 to 30 pounds, so while the size was a bit more convenient, they were not the breakthrough their makers claimed. The unconventional Strida showed a glimpse of what was possible, but at 22 pounds, still was overweight for easy schlepping. Finally, with the A-Bike it seems that for the many folks that live a mile or two from a train or subway station, it will be practical to ride the A-Bike to the station, then fold it up (26"x12"x6") and carry it along. Short video here, download "A-Bike Teaser Trailer." I want one!
posted by centerpunch (159 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Do you bring your car with you when you travel over seas? Then why would you bring your bicycle. Ya rent them just like everyone else does. And as far as folding and portability goes, there are millions upon millions of bicycles in the world that have worked just fine without the need for folding. What the world needs is more bike racks, and better integrated locking systems. This is just a gimmick, plain and simple, and fills nothing more than a niche market.
posted by furtive at 3:20 PM on October 1, 2006


Next time read the post before commenting.
posted by centerpunch at 3:22 PM on October 1, 2006


I bike a good deal, and that thing scares me. It looks dangerous. Bike wheels are big for a reason.
posted by alexei at 3:26 PM on October 1, 2006


193 pounds maximum suggested weight?

Bloody skinny bloody English bloody bollixing everything up...


posted by Samizdata at 3:33 PM on October 1, 2006


Yes, but for what reason? Does the rotation of the wheels add to the stability of the bike by giroscopic effect?
Indeed they are tiny.

And the riders max weight is 85 kg. They say they are aiming for 90% of the population but this leaves out a lot of men.
posted by jouke at 3:34 PM on October 1, 2006


Yes, but for what reason? Does the rotation of the wheels add to the stability of the bike by giroscopic effect?
Indeed they are tiny.


Compare the size of a rock or rut to the size of those wheels, ethen to the size of a typical 26" mountain bike or 700cm road bike wheel. Greater size = greater ability to overcome obstacles without doing a face plant.
posted by mosk at 3:37 PM on October 1, 2006


er..."ethen" should be "then"...
posted by mosk at 3:38 PM on October 1, 2006


That looks like a bicycle designed by someone who doesn't ride bicycles. A 12lb dud.
posted by stirfry at 3:41 PM on October 1, 2006


with those tiny wheels, i would not want to ride over a bump taller than a flea. i bet riding that bike would vibrate my fillings loose, no matter how revolutionary it is.
posted by the painkiller at 3:42 PM on October 1, 2006


On the other hand the wheels on a skateboard are much smaller and skaters have no problem navigating most urban areas. They do get the advantage of four wheels but this bike has pneumatic tires.
posted by Mitheral at 3:44 PM on October 1, 2006


Yea, the 193# limit rules me right out. I'd crush the thing like a paper clip the first time that I hit a bump. I'd say that half the men that I know weigh more than that so I doubt that they mean 90% of the US population.
posted by octothorpe at 3:44 PM on October 1, 2006


And the riders max weight is 85 kg. They say they are aiming for 90% of the population but this leaves out a lot of men.
posted by jouke at 5:34 PM CST on October 1 [+] [!]


Leaves out a lot of western men. 85kgs in Beijing would be a large specimen indeed.

Also, I would EXPECT that bike to be very unstable at anything below its maximum speed. But of course, I've not ridden one, and I am not Clive Sinclair.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:46 PM on October 1, 2006


Too small for me. Guess I'll have to stick with my old bikes.
posted by moonbiter at 3:47 PM on October 1, 2006


I don't bike much anymore, but I think it's a pretty nifty idea. I was going to agree about the tires being too small, but the images are deceptive, they are actually 6" across which is considerably bigger than a skateboard. That is about the size that are on my lawnmower and it goes over rocks and crevices pretty well.

If I lived in a more urban area where biking was a feasible form of transportation and I was worried about my bike getting stolen, I could see picking one of these up.
posted by quin at 3:52 PM on October 1, 2006


Yeah, my 6' 4", 280lb ass ain't riding that thing, even if it would hold me. Maybe if I had a fez on...
posted by stenseng at 3:53 PM on October 1, 2006


That looks utterly rubbish.

Now, I've not actually ridden one or seen oen in person, and you might argue that it's in some ways useful or practical, but if it's like every other Clive Sinclair prodcut the fact that it looks utterly rubbish will prove more important than any of that, because people will look at it, say "that looks utterly rubbish" and shun it like the plague.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2006


Obviously none of you are New York Citians, where vigorous commuting keeps us fit and tiny apartments keep us in love with the small bike. (And, furtive, I'm betting you keep your CAR handy to your JOB, so it'd be the same with me. Except that I'd be nice and slim and not paying any gas to get there.)
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2006


I am literally stunned by the astounding bunch of closed-minded responses!

It is NOT a mountain bike.

It is NOT to replace your current bike.

It is a new kind of bike to use when the trip or commute is too far to walk, and too short to justify driving.

It weighs HALF as much as any other bike.

That is amazing, whether you guys choose to acknowledge it or not.
posted by centerpunch at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2006


Prediction: Law suits.
posted by tkchrist at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2006


I also note that this seems to be competing with the kick scooter market more than anything else. This bike, with it's single-gear transmission, is not something that's looking to replace a mountain, road, or hybrid bike. It's simply a way to get you a short distance in an urban area faster than you would by walking.

It's not exactly revolutionary when you put it in those terms, though.
posted by moonbiter at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2006


The site needs a testimonial like this:

"As a popular kid's clown on the go, this looks like perfect product! I can zip over from the tube to your backyard birthday party faster than mum can eat the spotted dick!"
- BozoTheCommutingClown.com
posted by mathowie at 4:10 PM on October 1, 2006


Perhaps it might be useful to ride from the family room to the kitchen for a snack, or from the bedroom to the bathroom.

I guess it all depends on how many levels your house has.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:11 PM on October 1, 2006


Wheelbase is just too small. How fast could you really go with that thing. Moonbiter has it. Its just a really light folding bike that can't go fast and isn't good for any type of commute over a few blocks.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:14 PM on October 1, 2006


centerpunch: "It weighs HALF as much as any other bike."

Well, no. There are a lot of bikes that weigh close to 12 pounds, and, although I haven't seen one that's actually 12 pounds, I'm sure somebody's done it.

They just haven't made it fold. What you're paying for is folding. Given the existence of bicycle locks, and their effectiveness in most areas, you've narrowed the market down to pretty much those who only want to bike one way (a tiny, tiny market, I imagine) and those who want to take this bike travelling.

Which brings us to the kicker: this bike looks ridiculous. I'm sorry. Folding bikes have always looked ridiculous, and this one looks even more silly than earlier models. It looks like one side of a shopping cart. Now, it's a nice idea, bringing a bike travelling to different places, but packing this bike for your trip to Spain or something would be worse than packing a different flourescent-colored fanny-pack (bum-bag, if yer engrish) for every day of the week. You may as well walk around screaming "I'm not from around here, and I am very amusing!" at the top of your lungs.

centerpunch: "I am literally stunned by the astounding bunch of closed-minded responses!"

Ah... you're not from around here, I take it.
posted by koeselitz at 4:20 PM on October 1, 2006


I am literally stunned by the astounding bunch of closed-minded responses!

Wanna buy a segway?
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on October 1, 2006


Ginger? Is that you?

I'm a lifelong cyclist who has never had a car - I'm not getting on that fucking thing. Well, I'll give it a shot, but I'm going to wear a cup and some shinguards. It looks hungry for human flesh.

That thing has the same problem that Razor style scooters has - dinky wheels.

Which means navigating common sidewalk bumps and cracks while remaining upright and propelling yourself is likely to be more work and energy than simply walking.

Also, rolling resistance is going to increase, and efficiency will decrease.


On the other hand the wheels on a skateboard are much smaller and skaters have no problem navigating most urban areas. They do get the advantage of four wheels but this bike has pneumatic tires.


I also skateboard. The only way you can navigate a skateboard as transport in nearly any urban environment is with a great deal of skill and concentration.

Not only is the rider shifting between balancing and kicking all the time, but they're also doing those tasks while scanning the ground ahead of them for any rocks or cracks as large as a BB or anything pea-sized or larger, and either avoiding it or riding over it by way of a weight-shift, "bump-ollie" or a complete "ollie" over the obstacle.

Note: You don't always see everything, so you learn to either fall/roll easily and often, or you keep your stance shifted back that you can react to the instant-stop scenario and try to "run it out" off the board.

In this sense skateboards may be safer than kick scooters or minibikes. If the board stops you don't get handlebars in your groin. You can keep going forward off the board and run-stop, or you can tuck right into a roll and bail.
posted by loquacious at 4:27 PM on October 1, 2006


Reminds me of a Razor scooter, but for longer distances. I want to see video of someone using one.
posted by d-no at 4:28 PM on October 1, 2006


The A-bike has a single gear transmission optimised for short journeys...

What? Does it heat up on longer trips?
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:29 PM on October 1, 2006


Thanks to the good people at Sinclair Research, I have been riding an A-bike for almost a month now. (Some pictures here and here.)

I will have a much more detailed review on v-2.org in a few days, but in the interim I can tell you the following. Like I say, this is all based on a few weeks' consistent riding around Manhattan and the nearer reaches of Brooklyn.

The A-bike's geometry shares a certain generic resemblance to the heavier, simpler Strida. But there the similarity ends, for however unconventional the Strida is in appearance, in ride and road behavior it's really much closer to other classic folders like the venerable Brompton, the Dahon, and (my own favorite and the one I've been riding for the last five years) the Riese und Muller Birdy. By contrast, the A-bike is something entirely new.

I wonder if Sinclair hasn't made a strategic mistake in even positioning this as a bike. As has been pointed out here, the A-bike is nothing less than a marvel of canny engineering. But it neither rides like a bicycle nor lets you do most of the things a bicycle will.

So what, if anything, does this odd chimera get right?

- The steering isn't as squirrely as you might assume, and in fact the bike is so light that even without gears you can handle surprisingly steep gradients - effectively, all you're pushing uphill is your body weight.

- Managing the folding procedure is hassle-free compared to the Birdy and the Brompton.

- Where the A-bike succeeds brilliantly is in walkshed extension. (Where "walkshed" has generally being defined as that area within a one-mile radius of your home reachable on foot, and in which the services you generally patronize are located, I think of it as a more volatile quantity that varies with weather, energy, mood, and time of day.)

And this begins to approach what Sir Clive must have had in mind. You jump on the A-bike, ride it to a subway station, take fifteen seconds folding it (if you even need to), and ride the train with it as far as you like; once you've reached your destination, you unfold it and find that your perimeter of local operations has been pushed outward by a decent amount.

Given that the fear of theft is - as a recent Abstract Dynamics post correctly points out - a primary inhibitor of fully-integrated daily bike use in most big cities, anything that acts to mitigate that fear has a direct influence on when, how often, and under what circumstances you set out from the house on the saddle. I've had no fewer than four bikes stolen from me over the course of my life, and it certainly does place some constraints on my choice of transportation.

Unlike every other bike I've ever had or can easily imagine, with the A-bike theft is simply not an issue, because in its folded and bagged configuration the thing presents a negligible burden.

Restaurants, stores, and theaters present no obstacle; you take the bike in with you, an operation which is considerably eased by the fact that its long axis measures 67 centimeters folded. I wouldn't necessarily want to try it opening night at the Metropolitan Opera, but toting the A-bike around New York for a few days' worth of ordinary activities has proved to my satisfaction that full-time bicycle portage needn't be awkward, physically or socially.

On the downside, and significantly:

- The small-diameter wheels disappear into even moderate NYC potholes. Even the ones they'll negotiate, you'll feel.

- You will look like a complete d0rk. This is something that the A-bike mysteriously has in common with other Sinclair inventions like the ZX-80 and the C-5 electric car: it's an engineering marvel that spends no effort whatsoever on the affective/aspirational dimension of use. I have no way of explaining this other than to note that a great many people choose their conveyances because of what those conveyances ostensibly say about them. Nobody will ever look sexy or glamorous or even particularly competent on an A-bike.

Like I say, the full review is coming.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:32 PM on October 1, 2006 [10 favorites]


Just take the concept one step further:

AirCoaster sneaker roller skates is shod with large poly-urethane wheels that can be easily and completely removed from the shoe when you want to quit skating, so that you can use your sneaker as a comfortable shoe for running, whilst pocketing the wheels away unhindered.
Also note the "coming soon" image [bottom of page] for electric-powered AirCoasters.
posted by cenoxo at 4:34 PM on October 1, 2006


when camera tripods start having sex with bicycles...news footage at 11. Sorry, can't help but snark - the idea is an ok one, although honestly, the problem is with car culture and a lack of bike racks, not particularily with the folding.

Metafilter: a cup and some shinguards, and hungry for human flesh
posted by rmm at 4:35 PM on October 1, 2006


I'm condsidering switching from a Brompton (too heavy) to a Strida, but there's absolutely no way I'd ride something with wheels that wee. You could die running over a small pebble.
posted by jack_mo at 4:37 PM on October 1, 2006


The real question is whether the wheels can generate enough gyroscopic stabilization to make the rider feel secure, or whether you're forced to use steering constantly to remain balanced. If it's the latter, then the riding experience will be much more fatiguing, and there's a greater chance that you'll eventually fall while riding it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:38 PM on October 1, 2006


Useless Trivia fact #34124:

Lister's Space Bike (as seen in the first two Series of Red Dwarf) was constructed from a C5. The white plastic was removed and a more traditional set of handlebars were added.
posted by bruzie at 4:40 PM on October 1, 2006


YouTube vid from Stuff magazine
posted by centerpunch at 4:47 PM on October 1, 2006


d-no writes "I want to see video of someone using one"

Yeap second that ! Would like to appreciate the stability.

furtive writes "What the world needs is more bike racks, and better integrated locking systems."

Yet they are not that useful when you still have to move in traffic. Ok it's not just me, but I can't tolerate biking in traffic and I mean metropolitan traffic, where the short distances , the rather flat scenario, the frequent traffic jam help bike shine. The tought that a distracted driver is going to squash me is enough to prevent me from jumping right now on a bike or work-tricycle on an almost daily basis. Combine with car sharing and we got an enormous traffic reduction and fixed cost reduction.

ON the preview: feh the parking lot hardly is a normal biking environment !
posted by elpapacito at 4:49 PM on October 1, 2006


If people can ride those fucking micro-scooters without falling off every twenty feet, then this should be eminently stable and steerable.

Also, it's a British product from a British company. In my experience British city streets are generally in much better and flatter condition than their American equivalents.
posted by Hogshead at 4:52 PM on October 1, 2006


I wonder if Sinclair hasn't made a strategic mistake in even positioning this as a bike.

That's an interesting point - if it's more like an alternative to walking a short distance than an alternative to cycling, it starts to make more sense. (But going by this video of how long it takes to fold, it looks like popping to the shops would involve saving a bit of time on the way, then wasting it again before you could nip in and do your shopping.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:56 PM on October 1, 2006


I wouldn't go by the video, honestly - that was the second day I had it. I've gotten a lot more fluent with it since.

Truth be told, though, I mostly still bring it into a store or restaurant with me rather than folding and unfolding it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:00 PM on October 1, 2006


But going by this video of how long it takes to fold

47 seconds? How much less than that does it take you to identify a secure place to lock your bike, remove the lock, release the wheels, put everything into position and lock it up? I think if you timed yourself you'd typically, in any randomly selected urban situation, have a hard time even matching that speed let alone improving on it. Assuming there's even a good place to lock it at all.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:02 PM on October 1, 2006


The real question is whether the wheels can generate enough gyroscopic stabilization to make the rider feel secure, or whether you're forced to use steering constantly to remain balanced.

Actually, and really surprisingly, gyroscopic stabilization has little to do with the stability of bikes. See D.E.H. Jones, Phys. Today 23 (4), 34-40 (1970). He built a bike that was supposed to be unrideable (he put a counter-rotating wheel on it, switched around the front fork, etc.), but didn't notice any huge difference in stability.
posted by dsword at 5:02 PM on October 1, 2006


A bike's stability is all about trail, the geometry of the front fork. Gyroscopic forces have nothing to do with it---in fact they tend to make the bike less stable. The gyrosopic effect on bikes is tiny. On a regular bike, you can only feel it if you ride no-hands as a slight tendancy to turn right. It's very easy to correct for.
posted by bonehead at 5:11 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think it's success would hinge on how fast it was to fold and unfold in practice. We have a very cool light and "ultra portable' baby stroller that I have yet to figure out.

It certainly has a small market in the Americas with most men being extremely overweight and unwilling to ride to the store in anything other than a lincoln.
posted by cmacleod at 5:15 PM on October 1, 2006


In my experience with scooters (the foot propelled kind) you get a pretty big return on investment for a slightly bigger wheel. The bike certainly has bigger wheels than the tiny micro scooters, which are practically unrideable in bumpy conditions (see loquacious's post about skateboards), but I can't help but think that if the wheels were just a few more inches wider in diameter it would work much better in a city environment.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:28 PM on October 1, 2006


My concern would be how harsh that ride would be. No wheel flex (26" or 700c wheels can flex radialy fair bit), small high-pressure tires add up to one rough ride. Plus the frame is aluminum. If they'd have made it of steel, it would be waaaaay more compliant.
posted by bonehead at 5:45 PM on October 1, 2006


I've got to say if this bike works well I would love it. My commute consists of a five minute walk to a the metro, a ten minute train ride switiching lines, a thirty minute train ride, waiting 15 minutes for the bus, and a 10 minute bus ride.

If this worked well, I could take a 6 minute bike ride to the most direct line, take the thirty minute train ride, and then take a 10 minute bike ride to work. It would almost cut my ride in commute in half. I'd save an hour and a half every work day. Which would totally be worth looking like a huge dork. I've even entertained the notion of keeping a bike at the train station and a bike at home, but I think I would go through bikes far to fast doing that. And I can't take a bike on the train during rush hour.
posted by I Foody at 5:46 PM on October 1, 2006


Will we have to transform our cities because of it like we did with the Segway?
posted by Tube at 5:53 PM on October 1, 2006


Hmm, 200 quid ... bet it's made of bendy crap. I also hope (but doubt) that Clive has learnt something about customer service. It also looks very similar to the Flea bike reviewed years ago in Encycleopedia.

bonehead, I may be remembering this wrongly, but didn't Mike Burrows completely demolish the traditional idea of trail in his cycle engineering books?

(s., who has ridden a Strida MkI and a Bickerton, so he knows from wobbly folding bikes.)
posted by scruss at 6:03 PM on October 1, 2006


Autodorks! Transform and roll out!
posted by loquacious at 6:04 PM on October 1, 2006


Cities in the UK must be especially flat. Try biking with that around San Francisco, Wellington, or Calgary. Or even Cobh.
posted by watsondog at 6:06 PM on October 1, 2006


It basically boils down to

Q: Would any self respecting human be seen pedaling that thing down the street?

A: No.
posted by fire&wings at 6:10 PM on October 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


fire&wings writes "Q: Would any self respecting human be seen pedaling that thing down the street?"

I don't know about self respecting, but I know about whogivesaflyingfuck ones.
posted by elpapacito at 6:12 PM on October 1, 2006


These kinds of small-wheelbase folding bikes have been around forever in Japan, so I'm not quite sure what Mr. Sinclair did except fold the bike in half again.

And, unless you weigh under 50 kg and live in Asia, these things are uncomfortable and aren't that great to get around on. Still, I suppose it could be good for that "last mile from the station to the office" portion of the commute in some cities...
posted by armage at 6:24 PM on October 1, 2006


This video shows the bike folding in about 12 seconds.
posted by unmake at 6:28 PM on October 1, 2006


scruss, on the contrary: the A-bike feels extremely solid. I have no question that its tubing is sufficient to the task.

armage, one of the ways the A-bike improves on those machines is by concealing the drive. No chain, or even belt, for pants legs etc. to get caught in or greased by.

Don't get me wrong - I do agree that the A-bike suffers from some serious, fundamental limitations, and that those limitations make it unlikely that it will ever find widespread adoption. But it should be considered on its actual merits, or lack of same, and not dismissed out-of-hand in ignorance of its strengths.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:38 PM on October 1, 2006


Two aspects of the design -- the small wheel diameter and (apparently) low bottom bracket clearance -- suggest the safe speed of this bike will be significantly lower than more conventional models. The plus of the low clearance is that if things go horribly wrong, the rider can easily put a foot down to keep from dropping the bike. This again would be most effective at relatively low speeds.

Not that there's anything wrong with going slowly, if, as adamgreenfield suggests, you think of this not as a conventional bike but more as a pair of urban seven-league boots. Even if it cuts the time spent walking by no more than one-half, that might be good enough.

Another plus -- this looks like a basically maintenance-free ride. And it seems like it might be light and small enough for kids to use for trick riding.

There are two major tests for this concept I think -- First, there's the obvious looking-like-a-dork thing. That never stopped me before, but I might not be the target consumer.

The second, maybe bigger test -- are there are enough potential customers willing to master riding a short-wheelbase, small-wheeled bike on sketchy city streets?

I ride into and over potholes and debris all the time with my heavy street bikes -- adopting a similar strategy with this ride would probably result in many, many trips to the dentist. So, even at low speeds it'll probably require quite a bit of attention to keep the thing reasonably upright in potholed and littered areas. Of course, I haven't ridden the thing and maybe this isn't as much a real concern as it is a perceived one -- still, I suspect the bike's unstable appearance may be enough for many folks to say "No thanks" without taking it for a ride.
posted by Opposite George at 6:53 PM on October 1, 2006


adamgreenfield: Quite true, the A-Bike is an improvement on other designs. And you seem to enjoy it, both from the photos I've seen and your own statements. Actually, I would love to try it myself, and find out the limits of the design (and my posterior).

I look forward to reading your review.
posted by armage at 6:59 PM on October 1, 2006


I'd like to see those Jackass guys have some fun with this.
posted by jefbla at 7:05 PM on October 1, 2006


Tube: Will we have to transform our cities because of it like we did with the Segway?

Don't be silly! The A-Bike was designed to be compatible with the vast Segway infrastructure already in place.
posted by The Deej at 7:14 PM on October 1, 2006 [2 favorites]


How well does it coast?
posted by smackfu at 7:18 PM on October 1, 2006


About as well as you'd expect.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:22 PM on October 1, 2006


How about downhill? It looks like it might be inclined to pitch forward a bit, esp. in a quick stop. Did you find yourself using the rear brake more than on a conventional ride?
posted by Opposite George at 7:29 PM on October 1, 2006


It looks about as sturdy as my camera tripod, and you wouldn't see me riding that down the street, either.
posted by crunchland at 7:41 PM on October 1, 2006


PUMA makes a very cool folding one-gear bike (skip the intro).

It has a bult-in locking system that is a structural part of the frame. Nice site.
posted by wfc123 at 7:51 PM on October 1, 2006


George, no. I haven't noticed any particular tendency to pitch forward, although I will say it seems disproportionately easy to deweight the *front* wheel.

The Puma/Biomega bike relies, for its antitheft strategy, on the potential thief understanding that the locking cable is an integral structural member of the bike (in fact, a "tensegrity" member) and that snipping it renders the bike permanently unrideable. I simply don't trust them all to get this - not all of them, after all, can be counted upon to be Vexed Generation fans.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:19 PM on October 1, 2006


The only thing it would be any good for would be extremely short distances (~2 km or less). The extra energy consumed by the total concentration required to avoid every crack, pothole and dog turd to avoid a harsh reminder of the inevitable winner of the face-meets-bitumen argument would make this far from a leisurely ride to work. Really, if you have a distance to travel that is within the reasonable range of this thing, it would be easier, cheaper and much, much safer to just walk. That's what we have legs for, after all.

I've ridden lots of dangerous things and that looks dangerous.
posted by dg at 8:27 PM on October 1, 2006


If, as I'm lead to believe is the case, it's true that tire size has a huge affect on speed, wouldn't these things be slow as hell?
posted by drezdn at 8:29 PM on October 1, 2006


I have a fetish for small vehicles, so of course I want one. However, I can see how people who are not me would not like it.
posted by delmoi at 8:30 PM on October 1, 2006


If, as I'm lead to believe is the case, it's true that tire size has a huge affect on speed, wouldn't these things be slow as hell?

That's not the case.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 PM on October 1, 2006


You say 12 pounds, but the link puts it just one pence short of 200 pounds. :)
posted by LeisureGuy at 8:32 PM on October 1, 2006


I haven't noticed any particular tendency to pitch forward

Yeah, that makes sense now -- after looking at this picture on your flickr stream, it seems the bike/rider center of mass is almost directly on top of the rear wheel -- maybe even behind it for a light rider with a heavy bag and an upright posture. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a design call to decrease rear-wheel unweighting.

it seems disproportionately easy to deweight the *front* wheel.
Yeah, I was wondering about that on climbs. Hopefully it isn't bad enough to make understeer a problem on curves (ouch!)

So, and maybe you told us already and I missed it -- was this thing fun to ride? I'm looking forward to reading your full review.
posted by Opposite George at 8:49 PM on October 1, 2006


Busy traffic, or crowded sidewalk?
posted by longsleeves at 9:21 PM on October 1, 2006


wouldn't these things be slow as hell?

Yes, but not directly due to the wheel size because the designers can make up for a lot of that with a good gearing choice. If I'm reading the tech specs and doing the math right, this bike appears to be geared fairly low at about 41 gear-inches.

So, a 60 rpm cadence (probably typical, maybe even a little fast, for a casual rider) should keep you moving at about 7.3 mph. A quicker pace of 80-90 rpm (regular rider, maybe with some training but not burning things up) would get you from 9.7 to about 11 mph. Anyway, this is probably a speed drop of 40 to 60% versus what I see recreational riders doing on multi-use paths. Of course, the low gearing makes climbing hills easier, and would be a big help in hopping up curbs (for two reasons: it makes unweighting the front wheel easier as well as giving you more of a push to get the back wheel over.)

One thing that a smaller wheel gives you is a lower moment of inertia, which means the wheels' speed is easier to change. So in theory you'd accelerate faster but also it'd be harder to use the bike to "plow through" rough road conditions and maybe easier to lock up the wheels. I suspect this would contribute to the jarring ride.
posted by Opposite George at 9:24 PM on October 1, 2006


So, what about strapping one of these to each leg, sort of like big skates?
posted by hank at 10:01 PM on October 1, 2006


Roller Skis
posted by Mitheral at 10:31 PM on October 1, 2006


Where the A-bike succeeds brilliantly is in walkshed extension. (Where "walkshed" has generally being defined as that area within a one-mile radius of your home reachable on foot, and in which the services you generally patronize are located, I think of it as a more volatile quantity that varies with weather, energy, mood, and time of day.)

If it's within a mile, why wouldn't you just walk?
posted by c13 at 10:40 PM on October 1, 2006


c13: "extension". You might also want to pay attention to the part where adam puts forth his definition.
posted by kenko at 10:42 PM on October 1, 2006


That's one pretty complicated and, I suppose, expensive extension. Here's the thing: will anyone actually be stupid enough to ride that contraption on a city street blocking the whole lane? What about the sidewalk, with all the people around?
posted by c13 at 10:51 PM on October 1, 2006


Ugh, there's one reason why the Brompton has rubber shock absorbers. In a bike, the wheels are the shock absorbers: the smaller the wheels, the less they can deform, the harsher the ride. I used to have a Dahon and it really did split my b*tt after a couple of miles. This thing has dinky, solid wheels and no apparent means of absorbing shocks.
posted by Skeptic at 11:44 PM on October 1, 2006


Tha's just stupid looking.
posted by Muirwylde at 12:01 AM on October 2, 2006


...still.... 200 euro......
posted by Kudos at 12:57 AM on October 2, 2006


I think adamgreenfield's right about the maketing being off-base. When they pose it as a "revolutionary" concept that will "change the way you see bikes", they open themselves up to a lot of "that's not a bike, this is a bike ..." ridicule and I got the impression that that really isn't their target market at all.

As a "walkshed" extension (nice term) in an area with good roads or bikeways and not so many hills, I could definitely see where something like this would be useful. Maybe not so much in sprawling suburban cities like you have in the Midwest where you have to go 10 miles to get to the grocery, but in urban places like NYC, London, and Cologne.

Of course that does bring up a point -- one of the nice things about my commuting bike is that it has a basket mounted on it to carry things in, which is of course impossible on something like this. So trips to the grocery will be limited to what you can carry in a backpack. Even commuting to work and back would be a challenge for me, since I have to carry a laptop and various books.
posted by moonbiter at 1:44 AM on October 2, 2006


I had one of these for a day trial a couple of weeks ago, they do fold / unfold very easy. Also it is stupidly light, no problem chucking in a backpack and walking around with it at all.

Riding around, you do not want to hit any, and I mean any bumps. Apart from that the ride is suprisingly easy once you get used to it. You wouldn't want to be riding it for longer than about 5 mins though. Am actually thinking of getting one for the short journey I have between the tube and work, but holding me back is the fact you look like a complete idiot riding one.
posted by lloyder at 3:38 AM on October 2, 2006


I don't think Clive is as smart as he makes out. Isn't learning from your mistakes a true sign of intelligence?

ps. how do people post images on here? Not that I'd want to - just curious.
posted by jiroczech at 3:57 AM on October 2, 2006


I think whoever came up with that website is doing a disservice to the device by making it seem small enough to hold in your hand.
posted by crunchland at 5:10 AM on October 2, 2006


It is a new kind of bike to use when the trip or commute is too far to walk, and too short to justify driving.

Which makes it no different than almost any other bicycle in existence.

P.S. I did read the damn articles, and I stand by my previous comment.
posted by furtive at 5:14 AM on October 2, 2006


furtive: which standard bicycle can you take on the tube or a commuter train in the rush hour? The key here is portability so you can use it at both ends of your mass transit journey.
posted by patricio at 5:35 AM on October 2, 2006


jiroczech, you use the normal HTML image tag, with a src set to the place where you are hosting your image. For example: <img src="http://path/to/your/image.png" title="my image title" />
posted by moonbiter at 6:02 AM on October 2, 2006


Caster-wheeled foldy bikes will never go. The only bike system that will ever get commuters out of their cars would be one that offers absolutely safe (guarded) lockups at every train/tube/tram station combined with rental of good full-sized bikes at all these stations plus an easy way to take bikes on public transport. If people had that, they'd find a way to deal with the bicycles (theirs or rented) at the work end of their trip. You might ride your nice bike from home to the train, lock it up, take the train into town, and then get a basic rental bike for around town. You might take your bike all the way to work, but with help from the train so you don't get there sweaty and filthy from a long hilly bike ride into town, but then ride your bike all the way home. But no one is going to ride a two-dimensional shopping cart around town.
posted by pracowity at 6:05 AM on October 2, 2006


This bike is not for everyone, but for some people it's OK. If you like it, great! If not, also great!. It's not going to "revolutionize" anything obviously. The speed limit on this thing is a real issue for me - at 90 RPM on a road bike, I do about 16-17 MPH. So it's not for me, really. I think it's kind of neat, but I would rather stick with my 1948 Rudge for now.

Also: How long are the crankarms on that thing?
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 AM on October 2, 2006


But no one is going to ride a two-dimensional shopping cart around town.
posted by pracowity at 8:05 AM CST on October 2 [+] [!]


Wow, scathing.

I agree with you about your outlook on bringing cycling into the mainstream.

John Q. Public could, perhaps, be talked into biking short distances, especially if it became a culturally popular phenomenon. That would be easy to instill via television and celebrities. But, it will NEVER be adopted if there is a 50% chance every day when you get off the train your bike is gone and a hacksawed (or BIC penned) lock is laying on the ground.

Guarded bike racks, along with easy and plentiful rentals at the downtown hubs, are mandatory first steps before it could even be FEASIBLE much less popular.

I don't know how likely biking is to ever become popular in suburban cities where you are several miles from everything. I think there the best solution is electric or very high mpg gasoline scooters/motorcycles with ample storage. This summer I had more people than ever ask me how many MPG my motorcycle got. My 1300cc bike gets 40-44mpg depending on how aggressive I ride, and my wife's 600cc bike gets 50mpg, and on scooters 70-90mpg is attainable with surprising performance.

In fact, I think that for 95% of the country (geographically) scooters would be an excellent choice.

Of course, neither of these solutions offer much in the way of winter functionality.

What do you daily bikers do in the rain/cold/snow?
posted by Ynoxas at 7:44 AM on October 2, 2006


Here's another video I just found:
http://www.bsn.org.uk/view_all.php?id=11894
posted by centerpunch at 7:44 AM on October 2, 2006


Definitely cool concept. But adamgreenfield is right. It doesn't look like it's being marketed quite right.
(BTW, adam - give us a MeTa heads-up when your review is finished.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:00 AM on October 2, 2006


a vespa is cool because you can imagin someone much better looking thatn you getting on one and still being cool. a tiny phone is cool because likewise, someone mcuh better looking thatn you can have it and it would still look "cool"

no matter what though you could be the hottest person on the planet and you'd look ridiculous on this thing....so its a flop. you cant look cool on a bike with 6 inch wheels; its like looking cool with a booger on your nose.

everyone will laugh.
posted by duality at 8:09 AM on October 2, 2006


Yay! A riding stroller!

That said, my primary transportation to work is a bike. Way too hilly and rutted around here to use that thing, though. Not for suburbia.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:19 AM on October 2, 2006


Twelve pounds? That's a joke. I'm getting this 7 lb 6 oz bike.


posted by fixedgear at 8:28 AM on October 2, 2006


As to the comments that "you'd look like a dork," that doesn't seem to bother all the uber-dorks with Bluetooth headsets clipped to their ears walking around talking to themselves!

I suspect for a lot of people, this little bike (or non-bike, if you insist), will improve their daily commute enough they'll instantly get over the possible dork factor.
posted by centerpunch at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2006


I'm getting this 7 lb 6 oz bike.

It looks like it's humping that fern.
posted by smackfu at 8:33 AM on October 2, 2006


I'm getting this 7 lb 6 oz bike.

Dude, I am so stealing your new ride.
posted by Opposite George at 8:48 AM on October 2, 2006


I expect that the contraption the in-thread americans are slagging off isn't just aimed at the US market.

Cycling in parts of northern europe is totally pervasive. There are huge bike racks at all the stations. There are underground cycle parks. There are aboveground cycle parks. There are paths everywhere. This is true of the Netherlands, northern Germany and Belgium, also Sweden. Maybe other places, these are just the ones I've seen firsthand. Folding bikes are commonplace, cheap bikes are commonplace, I expect many train commuters do the two-bikes thing.
posted by handee at 8:59 AM on October 2, 2006


I'd like to add my voice to the chorus and say that it looks FUCKING dangerous for all the reasons stated.

Conceptually it is interesting. Dedicated cyclists often end up riding bicycles which look well-nigh unrideable to casual cyclists (clipless pedals, high seatposts, funny gearing, and in turn sneer at the so-called 'comfort bike' market. However, people like my mother (who used to bike a lot because we couldn't afford a car) basically want a comfortable, easy-to-ride bike that is simple to get on and off, and store.

She used a Raleigh Shopper, which was Raleigh's cut-price version of the Moulton, and a great bike it was too (I know because I used it as my dirt bike).

Of course it has no street cred these days but conceptually it got everything right, and most of all it was affordable. Moreover, it looked ride-able to a middle aged woman. Obviously comfy saddle, unthreatening stand-over, lights, basket... great.

Clive's new bike gets a lot of things right but those shopping trolley wheels are a deal-breaker. Contrary to what another poster said, gyroscopic stability IS important for bicycle balance above a certain speed threshold. Low speed steering and high speed steering on a bike are quite different. The A-bike basically corners like a low-speed bike at all speeds. That could be very dangerous, especially with those tiny wheels. Most wheels will be stopped dead by an obstacle a bit less than one radius high, so a 6" wheel will be stumped by anything more than a 2" obstacle, I think, and probably less.
posted by unSane at 10:17 AM on October 2, 2006


Handee, I think that's an interesting point. I'd have thought that real bikes would be more popular in countries with a better developed cycling infrastructure -- these mini/folding bikes are only a poor substitute for the real thing, to be used where a full-size bike is impractical to transport.

In the UK I think the importance to many commuters is that the folding bike will fit in the car boot so you can drive (be driven) to the station and then only use it at the other end.
posted by patricio at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2006


UnSane: is stopping power of an obstacle the same if the front wheel hitting it is, as others have mentioned, effectively unweighted?
posted by patricio at 10:24 AM on October 2, 2006


Ynoxas writes "Guarded bike racks, along with easy and plentiful rentals at the downtown hubs, are mandatory first steps before it could even be FEASIBLE much less popular."

I loved the lockers one former workplace had. Not only was your bike secure it was protected from petty vandlism at the same time.

Ynoxas writes "What do you daily bikers do in the rain/cold/snow?"

Suck it up. Seriously rain isn't much of a problem and cold is only bothersome when it drops below freezing.

fixedgear writes "Twelve pounds? That's a joke. I'm getting this 7 lb 6 oz bike"

That looks like a lot of CF, how many kidneys do you need to sell to buy one?
posted by Mitheral at 10:27 AM on October 2, 2006


Looks pretty stable in this video and this video (both from Korean enthusiast site).
posted by centerpunch at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2006


patricio: unweighting the front wheel doesn't make a lot of difference unless you are actually lifting the wheel off the ground. You can try this yourself on a 26" wheeled mountain bike. If you hit a foot-high log, or even a 9" kerb, it doesn't really matter if you have your weight forward or back, if the tire is still on the ground. Even if you hoist the front wheel a bit, it isn't until you are actually getting it over the obstacle and onto the back side that it feels safe.

In general having an unweighted front wheel is good for getting over rough ground though, which may be why they designed it this way. But it is bad for steering, which gets vague, and the handling will change a lot once you brake and your weight gets thrown forward onto the front wheel.

I'd like to ride one of these though to see what it feels like.

The shopping cart comparison is not totally unfair as the wheels are indeed about the same size. You know what they feel to push around a potholed parking lot.

I liked the comment of whoever said that the point of the bike is to increase your 'walkshed'... I can totally get behind that. Personally I think all public transport should have bike carriers, legislated if necessary.
posted by unSane at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2006


Mitheral
Seriously rain isn't much of a problem and cold is only bothersome when it drops below freezing.


It depends on your climate. Cold isn't much of a problem here in Toronto, even though it gets down to -15C or lower on the morning commute. Biking is an aerobic activity and it is easy to keep warm. Rain isn't a problem if you have bike clothes: mostly I just ignore it, or put on a waterproof layer. If you bike in work clothes it is more of an issue, but the answer is simple enough: take transit that day.

Great thread on cold-weather biking here:
http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=230818

And check out this amazing tracked bike from last week's Interbike in Las Vegas:


posted by unSane at 10:41 AM on October 2, 2006


unSane writes "Cold isn't much of a problem here in Toronto, even though it gets down to -15C or lower on the morning commute"

Oh ya, the below freezing is just a problem when it causes ice. Even a few inches of snow is doable. I used to chain my bike up but it was still a little dicey on ice.
posted by Mitheral at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2006


Right. The ice freaks me out. I'm thinking of studded tires this year. The Nokians are supposed to be fantastic. If you have the clearance, the 700c x 45mm ones are very desirable...
posted by unSane at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2006


"What do you daily bikers do in the rain/cold/snow?" [Followed by lots of good stuff from unSane]
Icebike.org is pretty hardcore, too.
posted by Opposite George at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2006


In general having an unweighted front wheel is good for getting over rough ground though, which may be why they designed it this way. But it is bad for steering, which gets vague, and the handling will change a lot once you brake and your weight gets thrown forward onto the front wheel.

My thought was they may be trying to prevent pitchpoling in panic stops or basically any time the front wheel hits anything larger than a bottle cap. The moment arm of the c/g over the front wheel is so big relative to the wheelbase that they have to either move the weight back or decrease the seat height to the point where it would look like Homer Simpson's clown bike. This, no doubt, helps keep the lawyers happy. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of riders would be scared to use the front brake regardless. adamgreenfield's observation notwithstanding, I could totally see myself using the rear as a drag brake on downhills until I got comfortable with the bike.

And yeah, an added benefit is it should be pretty easy to wheelie the thing -- definitely a big plus given the tiny wheel size.

Or maybe I'm just overthinking this and it's a design accident. It wouldn't be the first time... Anyway, until I get to ride one of these things (which I, too, would like to do) I'm basically talking out of my ass. Again, not the first time...

I liked the comment of whoever said that the point of the bike is to increase your 'walkshed'... I can totally get behind that.

Me too. What I especially like about the concept is if things get too rough it looks really simple to just scoot the bike out from under you and roll the thing, and if you have to carry it, well, it's really light. I think a paved cyclocross event for these bikes would be a blast -- you'd set up the course in a public park or campus with lots of stairs, maybe route it through a few buildings or something -- hell, maybe even throw in some rock climbing. This bike is totally screaming for something like that.

Personally I think all public transport should have bike carriers, legislated if necessary.

Amen, brother. Had my first experience using buses with bike carriers at Acadia National Park this year. Didn't need the car the whole time I was there (and it's a BIG island.) I am so frickin' spoiled now that last week when I was in NYC and noticed the buses don't have bike carriers I almost cried (Yes, I am a wuss.)
posted by Opposite George at 4:09 PM on October 2, 2006


... a 6" wheel will be stumped by anything more than a 2" obstacle, I think, and probably less.
If the wheels are solid (as these are), they will be stopped by an object as small as 1/4". You know, like a small pebble.
posted by dg at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2006


dg: A few people upthread have made that same claim, but it appears they are actually very small inflated tires.

From the site:

The high performance 90psi pneumatic tyres allow for a smooth and comfortable ride on most hard surfaces.The size of the wheels is of course a key factors in making the bike so lightweight and compact.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:06 PM on October 2, 2006


Good point, Ynoxas. The point is still valid that anything with such small wheels is not suitable for most roads, but not to the extent I first thought.
posted by dg at 5:38 PM on October 2, 2006


The whole "foldup" push is obviously retarded for one reason, besides the obvious, which is that it always sucks mechanically.

Why fold up a bike? To park it? No. To carry it? Maybe. But a bicycle is supposed to carry you. When you get done riding it, lock the shit up, dont take it upstairs and put it in a closet. And if you are flying somewhere, rent a bike. No big deal.
posted by mano at 5:43 PM on October 2, 2006


The most extreme cold weather rider/bike I know of is Mike Curiak ('MikeSee' on the mtbr.com forums). This is his bike. The frame is used to store white spirit for a camping stove. He used it to compete in the terrifying invitation-only Iditabike race, which he won in 2002.



Details about the bike are here.

An even more amazing Curiak voyage is detailed here.

Maybe an ice-biking FPP? What do you think.
posted by unSane at 5:54 PM on October 2, 2006


Maybe an ice-biking FPP? What do you think.
Me likey.
posted by Opposite George at 6:11 PM on October 2, 2006


they are actually very small inflated tires.

At only 90 psi, they'll be deforming a lot to support the rider's weight. The good news is that the bike will be more forgiving of small obstacles, but at the cost of increased likelihood of snakebite flats [scroll down to "8. Check tyre."] or rim damage.

Hopefully this won't be much of a problem at the design speed, as it looks like pulling the wheels is a bit of a pain.
posted by Opposite George at 6:20 PM on October 2, 2006


95 psi, actually, and they don't deform a'tall.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:34 PM on October 2, 2006


Also, and FWIW, those of you interested in the concept of walkshed extension may want to keep an eye out for the section called "Adventures Close To Home" in my forthcoming book. Just sayin'.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:36 PM on October 2, 2006


95 psi, actually, and they don't deform a'tall

Maybe "deform" isn't the right word (IANAEngineer) but a loaded pneumatic tire's profile has to change a little to keep the rim off the ground. The sidewalls bulge out and the tread-to-rim distance decreases when you put weight on the tire, even if it's too small to notice at a casual glance.

Jobst Brandt explains better than I can.

Anyway, your comment got me thinking so I did a little math. It turns out that, at least to a probably-shitty first approximation, the tread-to-sidewall delta for an A-bike tire at 6" diameter, 1.25" width, 95 psi inflation pressure* and carrying about 90 lbs should be a little bigger compared to a similarly-loaded 26" x 1.25" tire at a typical inflation pressure of 50-60 lbs., but by "a little bigger" we're talking a difference maybe a hair over 10%. That puts it in "lost in the noise" land, I think.

So the snakebite thing? I've gotta reverse my initial feeling and say it's probably not an issue at all. In fact, assuming rides at low speeds and on smooth surfaces, snakebites are probably less likely than on a more conventional ride. The bad news -- this doesn't help the ride comfort at all but it also means that you could probably run the tires at pressures well below spec and get a softer ride while still keeping the risk of snakebites reasonably low.

Of course, this is more pulling-stuff-out-of-my-ass, so I remain eager to see your road test review. And let us know when your book comes out. Your "walkshed extension" concept? -- I'm totally grooving on that and want to read more.

*The bike's website says 90, but it's not the best-proofread thing in the world.
posted by Opposite George at 12:21 AM on October 3, 2006


Truly this is the ZX-80 of bicycles.
posted by flabdablet at 7:50 AM on October 3, 2006


Why fold up a bike? To park it? No. To carry it? Maybe. But a bicycle is supposed to carry you. When you get done riding it, lock the shit up, dont take it upstairs and put it in a closet. And if you are flying somewhere, rent a bike. No big deal.

mano, ever heard of public transport? Here in Northern Europe quite a lot of people use folding bikes to supplement it in their daily commutes. You are not allowed to bring a normal bike into a train, subway, bus or tramway, certainly not during rush hour, but a folded-up bike is allowed and can be quite practical if your point of departure and/or destination is not close enough to a bus stop.

This said, I must reiterate: this folding bike is the stupidest vehicle since, well, the Sinclair C5...
posted by Skeptic at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2006


Hey, you guys remind me of Dana Carvey's "Grumpy Old Man" sketches!

In my day, we didn't have little bicycles that you could fold up and take with you anywhere. Out bicycles were big and fast, with top bars that would strike our private parts if we stepped on the ground. And they were heavy, so when we weren't exercising by riding them, we'd be exercising by just lifting them. Our bicycles could roll over anything in their way, and jump through the air, and we loved it! We had skinny tires or fat tires, but always tall tires, and that's the way it was and we liked it. We loved it! If somebody had a little bike that you could fold up and carry in a backpack, we would have called them little girls, becase that what they were. And we would have taken those little bikes and torn them to pieces and then used the parts to beat on our chests and chant, and we that's the way it was and we liked it! Progress?! Flobble-de-flee!
posted by centerpunch at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2006


yes ive heard of public transport. here in lovely northern california, public transport mostly allows you to transport bicycles as well.

moreover there are plenty of ways to manage your commute, so dont feign stupidity. you can use your bike for one leg of your trip, lock it AT the train station or wherever, and take the train into the city and then public transit. the variations are endless. the folding bike is a retarded pipe dream for people that dont put serious thought into how they get around, and want their bike to basically live in their pocket next to their cellphone. e.g. if you watch that silly sinclair movie, the guy takes like 8 forms of public transit to go see his girl. what a dumbass.

i stand by my point: the folding bike and its variants exist to solve a non-problem which should be the last design consideration for the engineering of a bicycle: its ability to be stowed as carryon luggage.

PS: im looking forward to the person who invents the fold up car.
posted by mano at 12:43 PM on October 4, 2006


Sorry, mano, but I'm going to have to disagree pretty strongly. For one thing, not all of us have the luxuries you're obviously so very used to - situationally, infrastructurally, or otherwise.

For many of us, some manner of folding bicycle is a cogent response to the constraints imposed on us by the exigencies of daily life, very much including the risk of serious vandalism or outright theft. It's certainly not a matter of somehow lacking the nous to organize our lives in such a way as to evade these constraints.

The question certainly remains as to whether any folding bicycle is really any good qua bicycle. But I don't think you're going to get very far insulting folks for wanting to take their bikes with them...or for not being smart enough to live in Amsterdam or Berkeley. There's an obvious ecological niche here, and just as obviously a reasonable amount of popular demand for something to fill it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:00 PM on October 4, 2006


disagree all you want. a bicycle is a vehicle, as such, its primary purpose is to move you, not to be moved by another vehicle. im not looking to win the hearts and minds of the people that would rather carry their bicycle with them into the bus than lock it up, but you know, somehow i doubt that anyone on this forum advocating the utility of the folding bike actually uses one on a regular basis for serious riding.

there are a lot of things that are nice "in theory" but then you look around and you see not a lot of folks are using them and you realize that maybe there is a good reason for that: its because they suck, and the tradeoff isnt worth solving the "problem" they are designed to solve.

also, noone is being insulted for not living in berkeley. if you live somewhere where the transit systems dont fulfill the legitimate needs of bicyclists, then get off your ass and do something about it. be politically active about this stuff. its a better use of your time and energy than trying to figure out how to cope with a basket-case of a folding bike (and it will benefit society as a whole).

PS: this is a general problem in the modern capitalist world, the formulation of solutions to problems in the form of janky new gadgetry rather than the more organic/political restructuring of society.
posted by mano at 5:21 PM on October 4, 2006


Adam, thank you for posting your thoughtful comments, especially since you are probably the only poster with any experience with the A-Bike. (I have ordered one, but have not received it yet).

When I started this post, I assumed that bicycle enthusiasts would be very supportive of this product (or indeed, would be supportive of any transportation helper that didn't use gasoline).

However, it seems that the responses are just the opposite. The bike enthusiasts who responded seem to be not only disinterested in the device, they are mostly actively against it! Even when the argument is made that this is not even intended to replace a conventional bike, they hate it and even ridicule those of us who find it an interesting idea.

Very surprising to me, and I'm sure this means something significant (but I'm not sure exactly what.....) for those charged with marketing the A-Bike.
posted by centerpunch at 6:35 PM on October 4, 2006


The folding bike is a retarded pipe dream for people that dont put serious thought into how they get around, and want their bike to basically live in their pocket next to their cellphone. If you watch that silly sinclair movie, the guy takes like 8 forms of public transit to go see his girl. what a dumbass.

Well, I think that video could be better, but clearly they are primarily trying to demonstrate how easily the bike folds, so commuters who might use a train, a bus, or a cab could identify with the usefulness of the A-Bike for their personal situation.

i stand by my point: the folding bike and its variants exist to solve a non-problem which should be the last design consideration for the engineering of a bicycle: its ability to be stowed as carryon luggage.

The A-Bike clearly doesn't solve any problems for you. But why would you assume that everyone is like you, and suggest we are idiots if we are not?

disagree all you want. a bicycle is a vehicle, as such, its primary purpose is to move you.

Exactly. And this bike (or non-bike, if you insist) WILL provide logical transportation in SOME circumstances for SOME people who are not you.

There are a lot of things that are nice "in theory" but then you look around and you see not a lot of folks are using them and you realize that maybe there is a good reason for that: its because they suck, and the tradeoff isn't worth solving the "problem" they are designed to solve.

For you the A-Bike is a tradeoff, apparently not helpful in your situation. For some others, it will be a solution. I've already heard from one Metafilter reader in London who found out about the A-Bike from this posting and has already purchased one. Specifically, he said: "Well I'm glad that was posted to MetaFilter, because otherwise I wouldn't have read it, and I wouldn't have a shiny new A-Bike sitting in my room right now. It is exactly what I was looking for to get to work and back without having to worry about storage. Cheers!"

To me, this is the bottom line, impervious to your opinions or mine: The A-Bike IS a useful transportation device, for SOME people, SOME of the time. All for the price of an iPod.

Remarkable.
posted by centerpunch at 6:56 PM on October 4, 2006


centerpunch, you shouldn't be surprised by this reaction from avid cyclists. It's the same reaction you'd get from a bunch of muscle car fanatics if you told them "Hey guys, look at this cool Smart microcar!" Some nods from those who can see the utility of the vehicle, but mostly ridicule.

It's simply not the market for this device.
posted by moonbiter at 10:04 PM on October 4, 2006


its amazing that this is so hard for you people to get.

the a bike, fwiw, looks like crap. meaning, it looks like a cheap gimmick, handles like crap, and is clearly unsafe to boot. i can tell this with a minimal knowledge of physics and a rudimentary appreciation of cycle design. so can anyone else. if you want transportation solutions, they wont be delivered courtesy of a huckster pawning janky infomercial-quality merchandise on the internet.

im seriously curious how many of you avidly use a folding bike? ok, its the internet, so im not suprised that there are people out there who want to engage in sophistry, and take the other side of the argument just to demonstrate skills honed on some high-school debate team. but how many of you advocates actually own an unstable, unsafe folding bike with tiny tires? eh? use it regularly? in traffic?

im also not surprised that someone here had to run out and order it, for the price of a nice ipod (which, incidentally, is also the price of a cheap city bike you could lock up somewhere). this isnt the first folding bike invented, and its sad that this sinclair idiot can convince otherwise intelligent people that this is really a fantastic **NEW*** product, but i guess thats how it goes with every folding bike that comes out.

i hope Adam will be honest and keep us posted on how he really makes out with the thing, and how much he really ends up using it. i have to say, unfortunately, its kinda ad hominem, but i have to question adams credentials as far as wheeled transportation goes, especially since his primary concerns (theft and vandalism) strike me as indicative of not being particularly knowledgable or street smart on the two wheeled front. 4 bikes? you cant figure out how to lock your shit up? what?

good luck with this thing, you are going to need it, especially in nyc.
posted by mano at 12:02 AM on October 5, 2006


mano says: im seriously curious how many of you avidly use a folding bike? ok, its the internet, so im not suprised that there are people out there who want to engage in sophistry, and take the other side of the argument just to demonstrate skills honed on some high-school debate team. but how many of you advocates actually own an unstable, unsafe folding bike with tiny tires? eh? use it regularly? in traffic?

I don't own a folding bike (but I'd like to). I've several friends with Bromptons though, who use them daily for short rides along with a train or tube commute. In London, you're not allowed to take bikes on peak time trains but you are allowed to take folders. Same is true in the Netherlands (actually, you can take bikes on trains there, but you have to buy the bike a ticket, and folders are free). If you're 20 mins walk from the train station at either end of your journey, a folding bike takes an hour off your daily commute. OK, you might look like a twat riding it, but some of us are more concerned about time wasted than appearances. I can't understand why this idea is so antagonistic to some people.
posted by handee at 1:49 AM on October 5, 2006


mano, dude, ease off on the ad hominems and wild-ass assumptions.

Not that my two-wheel credentials are in any way the issue, but I was a San Francisco bike messenger (Aero Special Delivery, '91), and up until the point I bought a Suzuki SV my only form of transport in the years I lived in Tokyo was, guess what, a R&M Birdy folder. I assure you it saw significant mileage, both on a twice-daily commute and on longer leisure rides. It continues to serve honrably here in NYC.

Three of the four bikes I've had stolen - one in Philadelphia, two in SF -were secured with the heaviest-duty Kryptonite locks commercially available at the time; admittedly, one was purely my own fault (the one I left unlocked in the hallway of a Stanford co-op while visiting a friend).

So I hope we can dispense with the patronizing nonsense. You can be sure that I will *not* apply the same criteria to my review of the A-bike that I would in reviewing a Birdy or a Capo or a Stumpjumper, because as has by now been pointed out rather exhaustively that's not the appropriate register of consideration. (I do park a lot of the poorly thought-out positioning at Sinclair's door, alongside a hammering for a cheesy and misleading website, but we're all capable of coming to our own independent conclusions regarding that. Right?)

For my perspective, any tool that allows its user to extend the ambit of their operations in the city has at least that going for it, and that's not at all insignificant. For some group of users, the A-bike is such a tool, and for a far, far larger cohort one of the many varieties of commercially available folders fill the role.

For myself, no, it is not particularly likely that I will use the A-bike on a regular basis - but then, I live in crudely-paved, rutted Manhattan, I'm comfortable with a standard single-speed bike, I have safe storage at at least one pole of my daily travels, and I genuinely enjoy the gladiatorial challenges of being out in traffic. All that said, though, I continue to think of it as a useful addition to the spectrum of personal mobility systems, and cannot conceive of what point there is in dismissing and, yes, insulting those who would benefit from it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:14 AM on October 5, 2006


I continue to think of it as a useful addition to the spectrum of personal mobility systems

useful? just not for you or me, right? i think thats the point, we disagree on whether this a bike makes any sense, even for its supposed purpose, even for its supposed target audience (which is apparently not us). i think its USELESS. you think its USEFUL.

perhaps, though, this boils down to semantics. you know those kids shoes will little rollers in em? those will extend the ambit of ones operations in most cities. USEFUL, in theory. but you dont see a bunch of urban adults rolling around on them. USELESS, in practice. ditto for the segway. ditto for the scooter, roller skates, big wheel, and so on down the line. so of course, the final judge of this will be the market, if this thing makes any sense, a bunch of people will be riding it soon enough.

also, regarding folders: its clear that those of you who use folding bikes do it to get around public transit prohibitions on bikes. you are the minority. most people who ride bikes adjust their commute rather than incorporate a folder. that should tell you something about folders, in general. the fact that folding bikes dont get stolen from under your desk at work is a marketing afterthought with folding bikes, so claiming that folders addresses this problem for people like us, is disingenuous. and bikes get ripped all the time in nyc, so by adams own logic this should make him more likely to ride your a bike, but you know it wont....

(theres also other factors on the theft front - you can lock up a folder outside and noone will want to steal it). how nice your ride is / how you lock it / where you lock it are all independent variables in the equation that determines whether it gets ripped.)

anyway, so it seems at least one of my wild assumptions are correct: adam wont be using the a bike as much more than a curiosity. its probably not worth our time, but i would like to find at least one person to recommend this sinclair crapola who does or will ride it regularly (after all, it wasnt built to sit in your closet, although it sure fits well). in the absense of that, the only place the a bike seems to be ridden is in theory on metafilter.
posted by mano at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2006


However, it seems that the responses are just the opposite. The bike enthusiasts who responded seem to be not only disinterested in the device, they are mostly actively against it! Even when the argument is made that this is not even intended to replace a conventional bike, they hate it and even ridicule those of us who find it an interesting idea.

Well, you misread a bunch of the posts, it seems.

The bike enthusiasts (like me) are interested but skeptical. The small wheels of the A-bike present serious safety concerns. You know, we ride bikes and some of us build them. It's just possible we know what we're talking about, no?

Hitting any kind of small object in the road while you are riding one is likely to pitch you off the bike. I think you can imagine how disastrous that could be in traffic. I've had the same thing happen to me on a 27" wheel bike. I hit a small, fist-sized, rock in traffic and woke up several seconds later in the middle of the road with cars and trucks swerving around me. Now scale that down from 27" to 8" or so and you can see that a very small obstacle could present a very large problem.

I salute the concept. I'd love to see a safe, foldable, light bike. I don't think this is it.
posted by unSane at 9:17 AM on October 5, 2006


Well, I'm a bike enthusiast, too, but with a very broad interest in the category. This interest includes the very innovative A-Bike, which makes intentional and large compromises in many bike qualities (wheel diameter, wheelbase, gearing), to allow a design that provides an indisputable breakthrough in other bike qualities (size and weight).

As another example, although I'm a car fanatic who has a 550 horsepower street car, I'm also very interested in and enthusiastic about vehicles like the newest Toyota Camry Hybrid, a remarkable full size sedan which gets about 40 mpg in city driving.

I'm always surprised how narrow most people's interests, perspectives, and enthusiasm are, but this post will serve as an excellent reminder.
posted by centerpunch at 11:17 AM on October 5, 2006


mano: adam actually has one of these bikes currently, with pictures and video of him riding it. You have your assumptions.

Wisdom would suggest that you defer to him on some of these issues. Unless you're just participating in some kind of abrasive performance art.

centerpunch is dead on: this will be helpful to SOME people. Is that not enough?
posted by Ynoxas at 9:37 AM on October 6, 2006


Ynoxas: basic literacy would suggest that adam somewhat agrees with me.

if you get some help and reread adam's post, you may notice that he says the A bike will be of little use to him. In other words, it *might be* useful in theory, but its mostly useless to him (which begs the question, whyd he dump 400$ into it?)

i dont know why its is so important to you to defend the utility of sinclairs senile tripity tripe, even "in theory", but if it makes you feel better, in THEORY, i agree, the sinclair retardo-bike may prove reilably useful to SOME people.

its quite interesting (and the sophistry of it all constitutes "performance art" more than anything i am doing) how the internet seem to be all about wanking off about theoretical people, people who are not you, who you dont know, and whose needs and wants and opinions are theoretical conjecture. it doesnt seem to bother anybody that the people being discussed dont seem to exist in the real world.

PS: i will say that adam, unlike many of the posters in this thread, seems like a cool enough person, so dont take this all personally. ill say hi if i run into you in ny.
posted by mano at 2:20 PM on October 6, 2006


This is a great example of how a single person can make a conversation (online or otherwise) so unpleasant everyone else rushes to leave the room.

OK mano, you win. it's just you and the other "cool enough" people.

Oh, wait, it's just you and a mirror. (Your kind of folks!)

Enjoy.
posted by centerpunch at 3:20 PM on October 6, 2006


mano: boy, you're a charmer

If you give your basic literacy a try, you'll note in adam's first comment he mentions he has one to do a review from the "good people at Sinclair". Think about what that means and then start again.

And as far as "somewhat agrees" with you, if you mean almost completely, and more affably, disputes everything you said, then yes, you'd be right.

Adam has one, you don't. He writes clearly and intelligenltly, you don't. He knows what he's talking about, you don't.

Also, it is not important at all to me personally whether this is a good product or not. I do not live in an urban area, and God willing I never will. And frankly I think it looks like a ridiculous toy. A cellphone also looks like a ridiculous toy, yet somehow some people have found a valid use for them. Amazingly, some people have no use for them and therefore do not purchase them.

So even though something has less than 100% adoption, it has some value to some segment of the population. Specifically, this will have value to people who would like a folding bike that is light enough to carry with them.

So, actually read the thread, or shut up. Actually, read the thread AND shut up.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:08 PM on October 6, 2006


Almost worth buying one, just to ride it past mano every day.
posted by flabdablet at 7:34 PM on October 6, 2006


Ynoxas, 0% adoption is "something less than" 100% adoption, yes.

Like I said, noone on this forum, and almost noone in the real world, has the need or desire to use one of these things even semi regularly.
posted by mano at 9:31 PM on October 7, 2006


Almost worth another reply, just so mano doesn't get the last word.
posted by flabdablet at 4:27 AM on October 8, 2006


mano: There is already one account on this small thread of someone purchasing one, so you were already wrong about 0% adoption when you typed that sentence. Yet another example of how you're not even reading the thread.

You've been wrong about everything you've tried to posit in this thread. It is a niche product, noone would dispute that, but saying there is no place in the giant world economy for niche products is simply ignorant.

Your entire argument is one based on incredible presumption and arrogance: that since you don't need one, then noone else could possibly need one either.

How can you possibly understand the needs of every other person in your own town, much less the rest of the country, even much less the rest of the world?

There will be people who buy this, and use it, and are quite pleased. There will be people who buy this, are disappointed, and shove it in the closet (or sell it on EBAY). There will be people who look at it and decide it's not for them.

Note that this is not any different from any other product on the market.

You might ask yourself (don't bother answering here because I don't care) why it is so important to you that this product fail. Why do you care so much that this be deemed useless? Do you own a competing folding bicycle company or something?
posted by Ynoxas at 11:46 AM on October 8, 2006


Also, for whatever it may be worth, mano, I would prefer that you keep your praise. Given your other sentiments expressed here, "relatively cool" in your book is probably not something that I'd care to be.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:49 PM on October 8, 2006


ok adam, the praise is withdrawn.

ynoxious: i guess i just dont understand why otherwise (supposedly) intelligent people rush to the defense of something that is clear a really really stupid idea.

yeah, sure the a-bike might make a great closet stuffer or centerpiece for the dinner table. and 5 or 10 wingnuts might buy one and think its the best thing since the crack pipe. but the debate here, was, last time i checked, if the a bike is anything CLOSE to a useful transportation device / portable bicycle. as far as i can tell, the answer is NO. even adam, who has one, cant see himself using it, and apparently, doesnt consider it appropriate for the gladiatorial challenges of city street traffic. so what you have is a glorified scooter, a toy for the sidewalk - maybe, on the whole it is certainly useless - especially when it is supposedly most needed - rush hour, when the sidewalks are packed.

but please, go buy one, just to prove me wrong. and quick someone post something so i dont get the last word.
posted by mano at 5:05 PM on October 8, 2006


Last time I had a conversation this inane and repetitious, it was with a five year old.

What's your excuse, mano?

Sweetie, it's not nice to call somebody a wingnut just because you think your toys are nicer. Oh, did we have a little dribble again? Here's a face wiper.
posted by flabdablet at 5:17 PM on October 8, 2006


by the way, ive looked at the reviews... seems like im not the only hater. even the polite press couldnt resist a few jabs. also, i wonder how things are going for the a-bike. didnt they release it months ago? anyone know how many have sold?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5173612.stm
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,173-2267444,00.html
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=195965&highlight=sinclair
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=210564&highlight=sinclair
http://digg.com/design/A_Bike_The_Revolutionary_12_Pound_Folding_Bicycle#c3306812
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=233907&highlight=sinclair
http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/Mike/cycleshow2006report.html#A-bike
posted by mano at 5:48 PM on October 8, 2006


Perhaps the A-Bike is not suitable (therefore, neither useful nor cool) for those without enough brain cells to manage balancing on a bike in the first place? For an unknown portion (obviously greater than 0%) of the rest of the world's population, it may just fill the bill.

This is not just to avoid mano getting the last word - that's just an added bonus)
posted by dg at 4:10 PM on October 9, 2006


Here's a post from someone who rode one 30 miles.
posted by centerpunch at 4:59 PM on October 9, 2006


Let us roll, indeed!
posted by mano at 2:48 PM on October 10, 2006


whoops, wrong thread. anyway, since im here...

the A bike is not invented as a balancing challenge for acrobats or circus clowns. it wasnt invented to replace the touring bike. its highly dangerous to ride in traffic and on city streets, which is what its designed for, regardless of who is riding it.

also, centerpunch, sure, some freak and his wife rode 50km on quiet backroads, right? along the lines of that logic, heres a guy who likes to drink urine. i guess that makes piss a radical new idea in beverages that will surely be useful for some... lets all defend piss drinking... and herald it as the answer to water shortages the world over. yay, piss!
posted by mano at 2:58 PM on October 10, 2006


mano: I'm glad you don't run the universe, otherwise there'd be no sportscars, motorcycles, miniskirts and high heeled sandals, or glow-in-the-dark condoms, all of which I consider to be indispensible in today's society.

Everyone would drive cargo vans, wear canvas overalls and work boots, and thereby have no need for the condoms, glowing or otherwise.

There can be reasons for something to exist other than providing maximum performance in all situations. Niche products can and do exist successfully. Some knives are swiss army knives. Some knives are melon ballers.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2006


you keep twisting my argument into what you want to hear. motorcycles, miniskirts, fancy shoes, etc, all these "niche" products you describe, they dont suck. thats the difference.

the tension lies in the question of niche products that suck vs. niche products that dont suck. the miniskirt vs say, the bathing suit "borat" is wearing. get the difference? have a look:


the world is full of failed, stupid, ill conceived, and at times dangerous products. thats not the problem, it goes along with invention and so forth, and im glad there are all sorts of fun things out there.

what i dont understand is why some people find the need to go to bat for failed, stupid ideas, of which the A-bike is yet another in a long line of sinclair brain farts. the product is shit, theres no reason for you to sit here on the internet trying to twist out a logic that gives some credence to sinclairs claims of having invented something useful and revolutionary.

its like people running around insisting that borats bathing suit is, or deserves to be the next fashion craze. most of us think cheesy borat bathing suits suck, when we see one, we will cringe, point, and laugh. and you arent going to change our minds by arguing about it and telling us we are closed minded.
posted by mano at 12:09 PM on October 11, 2006


mano, Nobody's saying it's going to be the next big thing. They're saying that in some situations for some people it will be useful. Why do you have such difficulty seeing that?
posted by handee at 1:04 PM on October 11, 2006


mano, Nobody's saying it's going to be the next big thing. They're saying that in some situations for some people it will be useful. Why do you have such difficulty seeing that?
posted by handee at 1:04 PM on October 11, 2006


arg. you wieners must be moral relativists or something. apparently, once cannot discuss whether an idea or a product is good or bad, one cannot say that anything sucks, or that anything rocks, because surely, in some situations, for some people, anything will be useful, or whatever.

i give up. last post from me...
posted by mano at 3:17 PM on October 11, 2006


Oooh, I want me one of those yellow swimsuits!

The miniskirt and tie look, on the other hand, is not my cup of tea. Or urine.
posted by flabdablet at 5:23 PM on October 11, 2006


Wow, it really smells in here. Has somebody been drinking urine?

Oh, hi Mano.
posted by centerpunch at 9:04 AM on October 12, 2006


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