A-Bike folding bicycle review

Video of me folding & unfolding A-Bike

At the moment, the A-Bike designed by Sir Clive Sinclair is the lightest and smallest folding bicycle in the world. Weighing 12.6 lbs (5.6kg) and claiming to fold down in under 10 seconds, the A-Bike bike could be a great bike for certain people.

The celebrated British entrepreneur, Sir Clive is an accomplished inventor who has been interested in electronics and miniaturization since an early age. Breaking out of the electronics field, Sinclair Research has now produced the A-Bike folding bicycle.

With only one pedaling gear and 6 inch diameter pneumatic tires, the A-Bike is not designed for long or hilly travels. In fact, riding this bike on anything but perfectly flat ground is extremely difficult. The small wheels make the bike feel extremely "twitchy", making it difficult to pedal in a straight line. The length of the cranks is around 135mm, whereas most bikes are between 170-175mm (25-30% longer). In addition, the center of revolution of the crank arms is nearly directly below the saddle. Conventional bikes have this center position in front of the saddle. The combination of short cranks and position make it difficult to pedal with high force (what is needed to climb any sort of hill). It feels a lot like you are riding a small childs bicycle. The brakes seem quite spongey but adequate to bring you to a stop, on level ground, from any speed. The brake levers are setup reverse to most USA bikes. The left lever controls the rear brake and the right controls the front. Made from Aluminum and a reinforced plastic, the bike feels surprisingly sturdy for the 187 lbs (85 kgs) weight limit.

The greatest feature of this bike is the speed of folding and unfolding. Sir Clive claims that the bike can be folded and unfolded in under 10 seconds. After some practice, I can consistently fold the bike down in 30 seconds. It takes an additional 20-30 seconds to unfold. For a commuter getting off a bus or a train, you can be off and riding in under a minute. It is just as easy to fold and stuff the bike in a small closet or bag for storage. The bike does come with a bag to hold the folded bike, but it's kind of ugly and I would only use it for storing in a closet. For out and about use, I would just carry it up in its folded state.

Overall, this is a very interesting product but has very limited use. If the distance between your local store, subway, or bus stop is very flat and only 1-2 miles, then I think this bike could work for you.

Specifications

Weight: 12.6 lbs (5.6 kg)
Folded Size: 26" x 12" x 6" (67cm x 30cm x 16cm)
Unfolded Size: 39" x 28" x 17" (100cm x 70cm x 43cm)
Frame Materials: Aluminum and Plastic
Tire Size: 6" diameter x 1.25", Shraeder valve up to 90 psi
Rider Weight Limit: 187 lbs (85 kgs)

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31 comments

vic profile image

vic 10 years ago

It sure would be great to see a travel bike that would use standard 700C wheels and offers quick fold/unfold and fits in an airline legal case.


livelonger profile image

livelonger 10 years ago from San Francisco

This is great! I have a simple Dahon that I like to use to get around, but the A-Bike is really portable. I'm glad you reported on its (limited) utility though.

How does it compare to a Dahon or a Brompton? (if you've tried those)


Alessandro Belli 9 years ago

Our solution to the same problem.

I think that Sir Clive's work is trying to address one of the most puzzling problems of modern engineering: why is the bicycle one of the few products that's remained failry unchanged through at least three technology revolutions? And why in the world shouldn't, in the age of miniaturization and "personal"-ization, the bicycle be grafted upon the public/private transportation means as a tool for "fine distribution" intermediate between the car or the bus or the tube and mere walking?

I am a product designer, and as many others (including design superstar Richard Sapper) I have tried to contribute a solution. The first concern of our study group was, true, to make sure that our project "didn't invent anything" in terms of ergonomics. That is we have tried to stay as close as possible near the standard biking parameters, in order to avoid the "circus monkey" image that some were mentioning.

Our work was supported by the European Commission's program "LIFE" and by engineering polymer concern Ticona-Celanese: http://www.ticona.com/index/news/newsletters/ticon...

It may be interesting to compare our project with Sir Clive's:

- HALF the volume and more compact when folded: 48x36x12 cm vs. 70x30x20 (as declared by the Sinclair website).

- Twice larger wheels with Pirelli tubeless tyres.

- Super-stiff pre-tensioned space-frame frame, as stiff as a "normal" bike (or more).

- Larger size, 100% regular ergonomics and handling (relationship between seat, handlebars, pedals and wheelbase) for people up to 1,92 cm (US male 99th percentile).

- Totally automated, pushbotton, "landing-gear style", folding/unfolding

- Belt traction (no chains), normal gearing, 3 speeds, normal 170-mm cranks.

- Much lighter than the A-Bike, all plastics, engineered by Ticona-Celanese: 4.0 kg.

- Electric kit that brings the total to a mere 6.0 kg.

I believe that our solution is a more advanced one, more realistic and industrially sound. But my respect to the fact is that Sir. Clive had the ability to bring his to the market while we still are not there.

Best regards,

Alessandro Belli


vic profile image

vic 9 years ago

I have tested the A-Bike and found it very difficult to ride. It is very unstable. It is more of a toy than a daily commuter.

The Ticona-Celanese concept seems very interesting. Is there any more information on this bike? Any larger and more detailed photos? Any test ride data? I feel that there is a great market for a light folding bike that rides well.


Shay 9 years ago

I have tried the A-bike, the design and idea is great. From a practical point of view, its not a runner. We have syndicated a BBC reviewof the A-bike on http://www.bikesthatfold.com

Best,

Shay


Don 9 years ago

It's great! I wish more people knew that!


larry lagarde 9 years ago

Yes, when riding on surfaces that are not smooth and flat, the A-bike is twitchy. Yes, the A-bike is uncomfortable over long distances. Yes, the A-bike has a weight capacity of 187 lbs... but that's not the point.

The A-bike folding bike was designed for "last mile" inner city riding on smooth pavement. The bike folds/unfolds quickly and is light enough for the average person to tote around with ease. It brings mass transit within reach of users that otherwise live or work so far from transit stops that the distance is too great to walk.

The real limits on the A-bike are it's carry capacity, handling and availability. If you want to carry anything, it will have to be on your back because the bike has no carry rack. If your body weight is 187 lbs, you can forget about carrying stuff anyhow because you've already maxed the bike's carry capacity. As to handling, real world streets are rarely perfectly flat so the ride will inevitably be twitchy at least part of the way. The bike sells online for about $360 US but ships from the UK, raising questions of customs duties & possible customer service issues.

Given the variety of other folding bikes on the market, if the A-bike does not perfectly fit your need, there are other choices that could be much better choices. Here are some examples:

- $129 <a href="http://ridethisbike.com/2007/03/nice-1-spd-129-fol... folding bike</a>Single spd bike designed for portability & riding short distances. Rolls when folded; carry rack, carry bag & free shipping incl.

- $169 <a href="http://ridethisbike.com/products/23lb_folding_bike... Ultralite folding bike</a>6 spd/23 lb folding bike w/carry handle. Made of rustfree magnesium. Carry rack, folding pedals & shipping incl.

- $299 <a href="http://ridethisbike.com/2007/03/folding-bike-sale-... B folding bike</a>3 spd/24 lb folding bike made of welded magnesium tubing. Smooth shifting Shimano Nexus internal hub, 300 lb carry capacity and very nice ride. Carry rack, folding pedals, kickstand & shipping incl.

- $699 <a href="http://ridethisbike.com/products/Mobiky_Genius-fol... Genius folding bike</a>3 spd folding bike with eyecatching good looks. Sturmey Archer internal hub and very nice ride. Folds in 3 seconds & rolls when folded; kickstand, carry bag & free shipping incl.


Terry 9 years ago

I WANT A BUKE LIKE THAT! %)


larry 9 years ago

Following are working links for the folding bikes listed in my prior comment: - $129 Gekko folding bike Single spd bike designed for portability & riding short distances. Rolls when folded; carry rack, carry bag & free shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/2007/03/nice-1-spd-129-fol... - $169 Kent Ultralite folding bike 6 spd/23 lb folding bike w/carry handle. Made of rustfree magnesium. Carry rack, folding pedals & shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/products/23lb_folding_bike... - $299 Aerlite B folding bike 3 spd/24 lb folding bike made of welded magnesium tubing. Smooth shifting Shimano Nexus internal hub, 300 lb carry capacity and very nice ride. Carry rack, folding pedals, kickstand & shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/2007/03/folding-bike-sale-... - $699 Mobiky Genius folding bike 3 spd folding bike with eyecatching good looks. Sturmey Archer internal hub and very nice ride. Folds in 3 seconds & rolls when folded; kickstand, carry bag & free shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/products/Mobiky_Genius-fol...


larry 9 years ago

The links in my prior comment got messed up so here's a 2nd try at listing them: - $129 Gekko folding bike Single spd bike designed for portability & riding short distances. Rolls when folded; carry rack, carry bag & free shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/2007/03/nice-1-spd-129-fol... - $169 Kent Ultralite folding bike 6 spd/23 lb folding bike w/carry handle. Made of rustfree magnesium. Carry rack, folding pedals & shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/products/23lb_folding_bike... - $299 Aerlite B folding bike 3 spd/24 lb folding bike made of welded magnesium tubing. Smooth shifting Shimano Nexus internal hub, 300 lb carry capacity and very nice ride. Carry rack, folding pedals, kickstand & shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/2007/03/folding-bike-sale-... - $699 Mobiky Genius folding bike 3 spd folding bike with eyecatching good looks. Sturmey Archer internal hub and very nice ride. Folds in 3 seconds & rolls when folded; kickstand, carry bag & free shipping incl. http://ridethisbike.com/products/Mobiky_Genius-fol...


Fitter profile image

Fitter 9 years ago

Damn! I can't ride this bike because of my weight :(

Why don't they construct them stronger?


user 9 years ago

There is a problem with the locking mechanism on the seat column. It can loosen bewteen rides and in transit. The allen key head tightening screw which can loosen with the seat in folded/unlocked position even comes undone and out altogether (no end-stop!) I have experienced spotaneous collapse of the seat column - which at even moderate speed could be extremely dangerous. The problem is that the seat may seem very firmly locked even to extreme hand pressure, but when carrying full weight could have much less resistance at the locking point. Surprising design fault which is also a primary safety feature.


robert 9 years ago

The A-bike is not strong at all. Ater a 3 miles ride, the crank crase broke under my weight (90 kgs). So it can have been tested at 85 kgs., but that certainly is the maximum weight it can bear. If the bike already collapses after a couple of minutes with a 5% overload, I am in serious doubt about her resistance to material fatigue.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Sir Clive has a history of bringing out inventions underdeveloped and underspec'd. It started in the 60's with the micromatic (or some name like that) miniature transistor radio, progressed through the 'black watch' LED timepiece, then LED calculators, programmable calculators, unstable 'hi-fi' systems, Z81 and 'spectrum' computers, to the wholly impractical C5 electric car, and so on. All were good enough ideas but none was developed to a truly marketable state. He has always rated gimmickry above functionality, and this latest offering would seem to follow the trend.

Or perhaps, being kinder, he has always been underfunded and has had to launch early to try to recover some of the investment. That is why the micromatic was on 6 weeks delivery - you order one and we'll make it! The pattern, once established, was never abandoned.

I don't question the gentleman's undoubted ingenuity, but the buying public has surely suffered enough by now. Bicycles need wheels, not castors. This has been well understood for 120 years. Don't buy this bike!


Anne Connolly 8 years ago

No, do not buy this bike.  After six 3-mile rides, a problem developed where the seat would not drop down so it would not fold properly.  Subsequently the plastic collar at the bottom of the seat post cracked.I'm well within the weight limit, I rode on flat, dry pavement.  Yes this bike is light, but it's also a terrible ride.  And after three outings, a piece of junk.


Lillian 8 years ago

Hard to Repair - Awesome Portability! I rode the bike out of the box and damaged the wheel because it was shipped deflated. I was not aware of that. Two bike shops had a very difficult time removing parts. I had to order a new wheel from London, and after several hours, the bike shop repaired it. They said it was very difficult, they had to disassemble the entire bike, and the website was not helpful because it showed how to replace a tyre that was already removed. However, they did it and I have a working A-Bike.

So today I finally rode it the right way (with inflated tyres) for a few feet, and I LOVE it!!! I can't wait to ride it for a longer distance on the smooth jogging trail in my area. But I worry a wee bit now reading about it breaking after a few rides. At $150, I will not put more money ito it if it does break. I will consider it a disposable toy.

I also own a Dahon, and I want to sell it because it is NOT portable. Folding does not mean portable. It's a bike, and it is not allowed indoors at places that are strict about it like my gym. And it simply folds in half. It is still huge. The A-Bike is a get from point A to B quick form of transportation. It is not meant to be in the same class as the Dahon, but if it'll get me there and I can carry it on to my locker without a fuss, it bets the Dahon for MY purpose.


Recumbent 8 years ago

I think I'll stick to my exercise bike!


KH 7 years ago

zap all that!

a-bike sits in the market where people want some sort of transpotation one is abit too far to walk but too short to take a bus.

it slots into the journey the daily normal commun between major transportion.

it idea is to replace the 'on foot' journey

otherwise, buy a proper bike


Oily 7 years ago

Typical Sinclair product; designed by someone who has never ridden a bike before, and never rode the design once it was built. The priority was that the bike folds to umbrella size, and to achieve that, all pretence of being a usable bicycle went out the window. No ergonomics, no handling, no durability. A bicycle engineering laughing stock, that can only replace the 'on foot' journey for a hundred yards.


Chris 7 years ago

Small and cute. Very easy and quick to fold and unfold.

Only good on perfectly smooth, flat services. When buying mine I test rode it around inside an empty shopping mall - perfect surface. In the real world with lumps, bumps and gutters it sucks. Bit wobbly to ride. Spongy brakes. Felt a bit like an accident waiting to happen.

Mine broke on 2nd ride.


Mike 7 years ago

The main problem with this bike, apart from an inherent brittleness, is that those tiny wheels will never negotiate a pothole. This inability will usually lead to an accident, rendering the bike unsuitable for road use, and, being pedantic, not legal for pavement(sidewalk) use.


stevbike profile image

stevbike 6 years ago from Newbury, Ontario, Canada

I bought a A-bike copy version with the 8" wheels. After changing the seat to a regular bike seat, the bike became far more user friendly. I read the commemts about the bike and it's design set-up. Given how the bike designed to fold the way it does, the geometry of the bike is not ideal but it does work. I have ridden this bike for 4.5 miles with not great problems. As to the speed you get, I managed to pass to cyclists on the bike path in London, Ontario, Canada when I was out on a ride. I was pedalling quick but making the best use of the 42 gear inches I had. If an owner of the A-bike type design just changes the original seat with a normal bike seat, the bike becomes a far better machine to ride.


folding bike 6 years ago


folding electric bicycle 6 years ago


catcompare 5 years ago

Clive seems to do some pretty cool things, that's a pretty small bike. Not sure if he and his products get all the love they deserve or not :S


fari 5 years ago

i like very i


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dika 5 years ago

folding bike always really impressed, i know another article about unique folding bike, this is new type of folding bike i think..here i will share you http://bicycle.animediadesign.com/gocycle-folding-...


bilboburgler profile image

bilboburgler 5 years ago from Europe

I think the Brompton is the only really worthwhile folder with small wheels, the SInclair and a few other tiny wheel models just don't work as the size is too small.

The Dahon is not bad but lacks the Brompton stiffness

There are also bikes like the Animal with almost full size wheels and use the tube coupling that breaks to allow a fold. Not bad but they really don't fold down small enough.

I think another failure from Sinclair


bilboburgler profile image

bilboburgler 5 years ago from Europe

While a lot of engineer's time has gone to all the folding bike designs I don't think they have gone far enough. Why do we want to fold a bike? Because we want to take bikes averywhere, so they need to be light enough and small enough. On an aircraft??

dika, looks good and may sell to the wealthy but still not a true solution, I'll keep looking.


James 2 years ago

The most negative reviews online failed to prepare me for what a terrible experience it is to try to ride one of these bikes.

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