Wednesday, November 12, 2008

23 The Gadget Show Tests For Best Folding Bike of Choice

Some 2 years back, the British TV series The Gadget Show tested the A-Bike and the Strida, two popular English folding bikes that have been bringing portable bike commuting to the masses. In the head to head test, the show's main presenter Suzy Perry really liked the Strida over the other and it wasn't hard to understand why. Lets review that video again, courtesy of Sk8erboi600 :

However, the famous Brompton was left out of the competition then.

So in a sort of a revisit of folding bikes, the show's other famous host, Jon Bentley (also former producer of BBC's Top Gear) recently tested 3 folding bikes - the Brompton M3L, Strida 5 and the Swissbike LX. However, this time he gathers the help of Beijing Olympic gold medal winning cyclist, Rebecca Romero (Individual Pursuit). The idea was that an olympic cyclist could give a more "thorough testing of the bikes" as opposed to the show presenters themselves alone.

Key design elements for the basis of the test were weight, ease of folding, portability, price, looks, robustness, sitting posture, and riding quality. "G Ratings" were then allotted to the results.

Click to view. Video Courtesy Of Five FWD

Well, this time the Strida couldn't simply cut the show's 'G-spot' and took some hard critique from both Rebecca and Jon.

The Brompton emerged winner, and interestingly there's even a whole Brompton World Championship Bike Race behind it.(Spain's Roberto Heras was 2nd in this year's race) To be considered even for racing must say something about it being a sort of a faster package.

But was the testing fair towards the Strida 5? I encourage fellow reader Mark Sanders, designer of the Strida, to give a response to this video. Bicycle Design may also be interested in pitching in since James has apparently rode on the Strida on more than a single occasion. Others are more than welcome to comment, as always.

P.S : Someone asked in the last post's comments whether disc brakes have more braking power. You may get an idea after watching the video of the brakes on the Strida (cut from the original video above).

Note how it can also be slightly unsafe sometimes, since the rear wheel now lifts off the ground and then bounces rearward, threatening to unseat you and perhaps throw your things off the bike. This could be dangerous in high traffic city conditions. However, all this depends largely on the rider's common sense, among other things.


  1. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Brompton's is a good design however its way pricier than the Strida.

  2. Anonymous12:23 PM

    You would think that the "Gadget Show" would know a basic thing or two about such a thing as bike fitting.

  3. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Ron : This show is stupid. On two separate times, they come up with conveniently different opinions on the Strida. In the earlier test, the Strida was supposedly the most comfortable ride. In Jon's test, he rated comfort as 'horrible'. I simply do not understand that.

  4. You also have to look in the context of testing. The Strida rode considerably better the A-Bike. But you're right, perhaps 'horrible' was not the right word in the other test.

  5. Anonymous5:35 PM

    The Strida is made for cities. In the city it's faster than almost any other bike. It's manoeuvrable, accelerates faster, the brakes are better than any other bike and it's the fastest folder.

    But the test was outside the city, not the best surrounding for a Strida. Especially when driving up and downhill. So when you want a good folder for in the city, I woudl recommend the Strida. But if you're planning to cycle large distances, buy a Brompton or a Dahon.

    I'm sure my Strida would have beaten the Brompton in a city test.

    By the way, the Strida with gears and 18" wheels are arriving in Europe in Febrau- April 2009.

    A Strida owner

  6. Isnt it funny that they put a bicycle that isnt made for a particular application with those that are and call it a test?

  7. Anonymous7:11 PM

    As I wrote on November 4th in my post about this Gadget Show episode...

    Basically, the review featured 2 folding bikes designed for riding
    short distances and one designed for long distance touring on or off

    For hopping on/off public transit and short, "last mile" type
    cycling in an urban environment, my choice of the 3 bikes is the Strida.

    The Strida 5.0 comes with fenders and carry rack yet weighs 7 lbs
    less than the Brompton without a carry rack. For commuters that have
    to carry their bike any significant distance (especially up stairs),this weight difference is notable. Additionally, folding/unfolding a Strida takes less time and the Strida rolls more easily when folded.

    Strida's are more twitchy and the 1 speed Strida 5.0 goes slower
    than the 3 speed Brompton. To be fair, they should have compared the
    new Strida Sport Duo 2 speed to the Brompton M3L.

    For long rides on or off road, my choice is the Montague SwissBike

    The SwissBike's solid design, gearing, larger wheel size and front suspension make it much more enjoyable for riding long distances.

    For short distance riding off pavement, the SwissBike is also
    superior. Naturally, the SwissBike does not fold as small and weighs
    more; however, it was never intended to be the perfect choice for short, multi-modal commutes.

    Brompton's do fold/unfold into a very compact package and have a
    fairly nice ride; I would not call them THE perfect bike though. And the Brompton M3L's starting price is almost $600 more than an entry
    level Montague.

    Larry Lagarde

  8. Good comments going on here.

    Looks like the general consensus that's forming is that the test wasn't really fair. But here's another interesting question. New bike commuters who're in the market for a commuter bike may rarely think of an application specific bike per se. They might just group all folding bikes as this test did and say, oh this is better because its lighter, or thats much better because it has gears. I think the shop retailer must aid in their selection or arrange the bikes in such a way that it clearly says its for CITY RIDING or Mountain Biking.

    Any thoughts?

  9. Anonymous7:43 PM

    What is not fair is the fact that Strida is still boxing itself in the single speed mech.According to me, for a simple pop and go bike like the Strida 700 dollars is still a big asking price (yet with no gears). I'd pay some more and get myself some gears to go along. Not all city commutes are flat.

  10. Anonymous7:57 PM

    while the brompton does not offer a 'rack', it comes with a carry on bag. now thats very convenient for someone like me who has to carry things with both hands sometimes on my commutes in manhattan. the lx bike is a joke. it clearly belongs in the off road territory, you wouldnt find me commuting in the city with that clunk of metal.

  11. Here's another interesting comment from Neil I stole from Bicycle Design's latest post. He talks about a design flaw with the Strida.

    "Although I have friends who love their STRiDA's, I personally think one major design flaw devalues most of the other benefits: The taller the rider, the closer they get to the handlebars. So riders with long legs and torsos cannot possibly establish a comfortable riding position.

    This is inverse to almost all other bicycle designs, and even a six-footer such as myself has to ride like a hunchback once the seat has been adjusted to anywhere near where it should be.

    It's cool, but only for people who have the proportions to maximize the design.


  12. I think what the Strida could do is to steepen the angle on the seattube member slightly to keep the legs away from touching the handlebars. Hm...but then it'll lose its striking triangle design.

  13. The Swissbike is the only one that I could stand to look at, so it gets my vote.

  14. Anonymous10:29 PM

    The test leaves out many other good folding bikes for the money like Diblasi,Mobiky,Citizen,Dahon etc. Not a good thing in my opinion.

  15. Anonymous3:48 PM

    I am still amazed after 20 years how this bike stirs passion both for and against ! Strida’s design challenges traditional bike design rules to make a focused multimodal personal transport device. This is embraced by people who understand this and appreciate it.

    There are a few ‘mythbusters’ about Strida’s ergonomics and handling on page 5 of the tips page of the Strida website:

    My aim is to introduce some lateral thinking to old problems through design and engineering. Some may prefer a more traditional approach.
    Folding bikes now offer a rich variety of choices, so everyone should be able to find something they like and enjoy.

    Bicycles, in whatever form, are all effective ‘human amplifiers’ !

  16. Thanks Mark! Appreciate you coming here to drop the comment. I too like the Strida for its simplicity which sets it apart.

    Human Amplifiers is a nice word. It, for some reason, reminds me not of bicycles but more instead, the robotic suit technology that the U.S Army has been working on. Supposedly, it'll allow them to carry heavier loads multiple times their weight out on the field, push humvees around and what not :)
    But all technology I guess could be termed as human amplifiers. Computers, bicycles..heck even a can opener is a human amplifer.

  17. Ron, I have Strida and have posted several notes about it on both my site and at CommuteByBike.

    The Brompton is indeed a "better" bike for all around riding, but that's not what the Strida is about. the Strida folks very quickly and compactly for multimodal commutes. The Strida is indeed an uncomfortable ride for anything more than about 3 miles, IMO. James is correct that it's a little awkward if you're anything taller than about 5'8", thought Mark Sanders disagrees with this (he's taller than I and I'm 5'9").

    Positives -- the Strida is very lightweight, very portable, it fits in the overhead luggage bin on a bus or train, and I can fold the bike in less than five seconds (literally).

    As for the comparison: The Brompton is, what, about 3 times the price of the Strida 5?

  18. Anonymous10:04 AM

    Thanks Ron, Yeh human_amplifier is a bit random, inspired by how Steve Jobs described computers as 'bicycles for the mind', if a better analogy comes to mind I'll take it. I know what you mean - like that machine Sigorny weaver used in Aliens. Excellent piece on Brompton BTW, it must be one of the most comprehensive on the web .. M

  19. I have to agree with that assessment. As part of my fair and balanced review, I did a head to head test between the Strida and my Specialized road bike. Sure the Strida folded MUCH faster, but it performed "horribly" at the local Sunday criterium...and don't even ask how it performed when I rolled into neutral support for a wheel change.

    Seriously though- ouch, that was a rough review. "Horrible" is certainly a bit extreme. Personally, I had no problems riding the Strida for a couple of weeks in all kinds of different conditions- including traffic. All of my rides on the Strida were short- 5 miles or less- but short trips are really what the bike is for. I have only ridden a Brompton once, so I can't really make a fair comparison. I will say that the Brompton I rode was a very nice bike and would love to spend more time riding one. To me though, they just feel like different types of bikes. I agree with Bike_Boy that the 3 bikes were tested somewhat out of context, son the results were skewed. also, I got the feeling that the host was just following her lead anyway in the harsh criticism of the Strida. Oh well, what do you expect from a show like that.

  20. Oops, I meant "so the results" not "son the results".

    I need to quit hitting that publish button so fast.

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  23. Anonymous4:37 PM

    Folding bikes are great! I recently bought a new one. It's my first bike since I was a kid and I love to go out riding and meet new friends.


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