We put four practical pendulum machines with a sporty and high-performance edge through their steps
If your daily journey is long enough to require a train ride, a folding bike is a godsend, providing a quick and easy way to travel the last few miles at either end of the journey.
But being used to riding fast and light cars on weekends, we will not settle for gas pipe clunkers for our trip to work.
So, for our test, we looked for bicycles that would not only offer the convenience of folding, but that would also be fun to drive and fast with it.
All four bikes take a different approach to solve this puzzle. Brompton’s USP is its super-compact folded size, while the carbon-framed Hummingbird makes weighting a priority.
With their drop handlebars, the Tern and Airnimal are focused on recreating the experience of driving a standard road bike. But which offers the best balance between practicality and performance? Let’s find out …
Brompton S2L Superlight
Invented by Cambridge University engineering graduate Andrew Ritchie in the mid-’70s and still hand built in West London, the Brompton remains a true icon of cycling.
With over 100,000 bicycles sold all over the world, the classic design has been very refined over the years and is now available in a wide range of different set-ups, though always with the same compact and super-compact dimensions that is the USP of the motorcycle.
Launched in 2016, the hummingbird was born from an idea of designer Petre Cranciun, who conceived it as a solution to the problem of other folding bicycles too heavy for his girlfriend to carry around.
The full carbon frame was made by Prodrive, best known for his work in motorsport building racing cars for Aston Martin, Subaru and Volkswagen.
Each bicycle uses the same carbon fiber manufacturing processes and is handcrafted in the Milton Keynes production facility for Prodrive composites.
Airnimal Joey Elite Drop
Airnimal aims to offer something different in the world of folding bicycles, being aimed at all road cyclists, rather than mere commuters, with a greater focus on the pilot’s experience, but still small enough to allow bikes to travel on vehicles public.
There are three models in its range, with the chameleon being the high-performance car and the rugged Rhino for off-road driving.
Tern Verge X18
Founded in 2011, Tern now manufactures a wide range of folding bicycles that cover the transportation needs of all types of cyclists, whether they travel around town or venture into a fully loaded tourism adventure.
The company also produces some pretty refined e-bikes for those who need a boost to get to work.
For our test, we examined Verge’s “urban performance” range, designed to be fast and efficient on the road, whether it’s a city sprint or multi-modal daily travel.
The winner: Hummingbird
Four excellent bikes, but unfortunately there could only be one winner. Even though they are so different it may have been fairer to divide the prize into four categories and make everyone a winner in their own field.
For compact dimensions, the Brompton is still the benchmark by which all folding bikes must be judged.
It is a work of design genius that has been much improved and improved over the years and the light weight of the Superlight adds a touch of sportiness to make it an excellent all-rounder. We remain great fans despite the manageability.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Joey recreates the feel of a standard road bike more closely. You could put it in a suitcase and go for a sporty Euro, and you would see around with style, speed and comfort.
However, a relatively complex bending process means that it is perhaps better as a “travel” bike than a daily commuter.
Fast and lively
Not too far behind the Airnimal for performance is the Tern Verge X18. Fast and lively to drive, the 18-speed trim offers many gears and rack mounting points add to its practicality.
Unfortunately, while it is very fast and easy to fold, its folded dimensions and shape are somewhat cumbersome, which makes it difficult to transport.
There is much to be appreciated, and we certainly enjoyed driving it, but it could prove problematic on a commuter train full of people.
But it was the hummingbird that put the biggest smile on our face. OK, yes, it’s the most expensive here, but watch it!
If we did not like riding so much, we’ll hang it on a wall and admire its elegance. Its reduced weight may be the title, but this is relevant only in the context of performance.
Coupled with the rigidity of the frame, it makes handling responsive and snappy, while the singlespeed trim is ideal for city driving, and the fold is compact enough to make it a viable alternative to the Brompton.
A superb piece of British engineering.