Folding bikes are cool in the way that new versions of FileMaker are cool: They’ll enhance your life but not necessarily your social status. Cyclists whose needs demand a compact, portable solution are by definition willing to compromise performance in the name of a tidy package that can fit next to their desk at work, and, bike makers, knowing this, haven’t set the bar too high. It’s as if they say, hey, it folds, what more do you want?
“Folding bikes come with their own set of compromises,” writes Peter Boutakis, creator of the new, folding Helix. “They ride funny because they have small wheels and compromised geometry; they’re heavy; they’re awkward to use; and worst of all, they don’t actually fold that small.”
He’s right. Although I had an amazing steel mountain bike from folding-bike leader Dahon, it was designed to be travel friendly, not compact; most folders leave you woefully aware of the compromises.
Boutakis’s design tackles these head-on. It uses 24-inch wheels, which will handle better, provide more comfort, and maintain their momentum better than the sub-compacts you typically find in folders. Its main triangle is one-piece, promising better rigidity (and safety). The front and rear portions of the bike — the fork and rear triangle — pivot on helical hinges and swing into place to be tucked against the main triangle. The pedals don’t have to be removed or pivoted out of place. Frame material is titanium, delivering a total weight of just 21 pounds. And here’s what might be the most delightful surprise: When folded, the bike rolls on its tires and has a stand to keep it from falling over.
Helix claims it’s the lightest, most compact folding bike in the world. I haven’t updated my folding bike database in a while, so I can’t verify or refute these claims, but, really, superlatives are less important than the idea that this bike will please you when you’re riding it and make life easier when you aren’t.
The Toronto-made frames are expected to go into production this summer, after a capital-raising campaign via Kickstarter.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
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Read more from Steve Casimiro at his blog, Adventure Journal.