An AM5 with YAGS (yet another gearing system)

AM5’s are excellent town bikes, but their limited gear range makes them only marginally useful as touring bikes. After exploring several of the more obvious options for adding gears, I hit upon a scheme for converting my AM5 to use a dual chainwheel and a front shifter, giving 10 speeds and a gear range of 29-88 ins. This was fitted without any modifications to the frame and without taking the bike off the road at any time during the adaptation.

Transmission system showing the chain tensioning device from Fix-Free Drives

Several more obvious options were ruled out by the dimensions of the AM5’s rear forks – they aren’t wide enough to take any of the recently-announced 7 speed hubs, and an earlier attempt to fit a Dacon converter with 3 derailleur sprockets on the existing 5-speed Sprinter hub failed for similar reasons – the additional sprockets caused the chain to foul the rear triangle.

With a tour of the Scottish highlands and islands in prospect, I was determined to fit more gears without replacing the whole bike. I started by installing a Stronglight 950 triple chainset (52,38,28). This was a good choice because it has offset cranks that enable a short bottom bracket axle to be used. In practice, the inner ring isn’t used in my setup, so I would probably have been better off with the double-ring version of the Stronglight 950.

I had heard via the Moulton Internet mailing list of a « car exhaust bracket » method for mounting a front gear mechanism on AMs. This turned out to be a surprisingly effective scheme. As the above photograph shows, a standard 1.5 in (38 mm) exhaust bracket, available from any car accessory shop, is an almost perfect fit on the AM seat tube, requiring no packing and clamping firmly on the seat tube with no evidence of any damage to the tube.

I fitted a Shimano 600 band-on mechanism of unknown vintage on the exhaust bracket. The mechanism is perfectly positioned relative to the chainwheels. By discarding the 600’s mounting band and cutting away some of the alloy I was able to bolt the mechanism directly to the exhaust bracket using the rear end of the u-bolt to secure it. A Suntour thumb shifter was mounted on the handlebars. Fortunately, my AM5 has some extra cable stops designed for use with the old dual-cable Sturmey Archer hub gears, and I was able to exploit the spare ones to run the gear cable.

A chain tensioning device is made specifically for use in hybrid gearing systems with rear hub gears and front derailleurs by Fix Free Drives (Tel. 01453 873541). I obtained one of these with some aluminium shims to adapt its clamp-on fitting to the straight tubing of the AM rear triangle. When correctly mounted the tensioner does its job well, with little or no tendency to throw the chain. Note also that when the hybrid system is not required, the chain tensioner can be easily removed and a short chain fitted, restoring the AM5 to its standard setup.

The resulting system has been very successful, retaining the convenience of hub gear shifting for town use while making the AM5 a really general-purpose bike, suitable for touring as well as commuting.


John Woodburn is a most remarkable rider. His Cardiff-London record is well covered in Tony Hadland’s book The Moulton Bicycle. Less well known to many Moultoneers will be his later successes on conventional bicycles, notably the End-to-End record (Land’s End to John O’Groats) which he broke in 1982 at the age of 45. He slashed 96 minutes from the previous record and at the same time, pushed the 24-hour record to 494.3 miles. In a nice touch, at the start of that epic ride, former Moulton marketing manager David Duffield, who for many years held the End-to-End tricycle record, waved off John Woodburn.l

Today, aged 65 and having retired from his day job with Parcelforce, Woodburn is still winning races. For example, in August he won the Leo Road Club’s 30- mile time trial, averaging 28.62mph – a performance many younger riders would envy.

John Woodburn was the subject of John Pinkerton’s last in-depth cycling history biographical interview. The result is a 49-minute video in which John Woodburn:

  • tells how he became interested in cycling,
  • talks about his record successes, including the End-to-End,
  • reminisces about his record-breaking on the small-wheeled Moulton bicycle,
  • discusses the problems of balancing his sporting career with the ‘day job’,
  • gives his views on use of performance- enhancing drugs,
  • talks about cycling club life,
  • and looks back on his toughest rides.

The video provides a fascinating insight into one of British cycle sport’s most enduring heroes. And yes, John Pinkerton did ask him about the suspension on the Cardiff-London bike! Is there any basis to the various myths cherished by cynical old-school diamond-frame racers? To hear John Woodburn’s reply you will need to buy the video from Hadland Books – £12 in the UK and Europe, £14 in the rest of the world. Contact details as for other Hadland Books products


All place names indicate the stage starting place. The finishing place is the same as the following stage starting place, e.g. Stage 3 is Langstone to Chepstow, distance 12 miles.

Note that arrival times relate to that stage starting place, i.e. for Stage 5, the estimated arrival time at Lydney will be 9:15am. These times are a schedule guide for group riders who will not stop at the stage changeover. The Woodburn bike rider will catch them up and cycle ahead to give time for the change of relay rider.

Although we hope that the ride will be able to adhere to this schedule, it is fairly fast. Relay riders should be at their joining points a half an hour before the ride is due to approach. Messages of progress will be sent to waiting relay riders via mobile phone.

The Seven Bridge

mThe 1962 ride preceded the opening of the Seven Bridge (which shortened the distance) and therefore follows the A48 from Cardiff, through Newport to join the A40 near Gloucester. Then following the A40 through Cheltenham, Whitney, passing to the north of Oxford, up and over the Chiltern Hills through High Wycombe and down into central London. A distance of 162 miles.

Work is in progress to research the exact original route and to assess what is safe and practical to follow on the commemorative ride. The maps illustrated here do not necessarily indicate the definitive route we will follow, more of an overview to help Moultoneers who intend to ride all or part of the ride, which section is best suited to them.l

Coordinator Issy Whitford reports

The MBC has decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Cardiff to London record set by John Woodburn in 1962 by staging a re-run of his historic ride. A bounty of ideas and opinions was aired at the 2002 BOA meeting and it is likely that there is currently much speculation surrounding the event. It is always the case that one cannot please everyone, but I have listened to what I believe to be the majority vote where appropriate, and I would like to take this opportunity to share preliminary plans with club members.

The ride will take place on Sunday 11th May 2003, in the spring, which is an appropriate season for a Moulton event! It may be argued that, by having the event in May and not December, we will miss the actual anniversary of the ride. It will mean, however, that the ride can be completed in one day. Also, we will have more hours of daylight than in December and are likely to enjoy more element weather

There was an enthusiastic response to the appeal for volunteers to ride the original Moulton ‘Speed’, and a list of relay riders is currently being drawn up. There will also be a handful of strong cyclists/madmen who will be accompanying the relay riders on their own Moulton bicycles, riding the full distance. Volunteers are also needed for manning rider changeover stations. This will involve way marking, handing out drinks to the riders and suchlike. Please e-mail me if you would like to ride in, or help with, this event. Your participation will be welcomed and appreciated.

The general plan for the ‘Speed’ record celebration ride is for a succession of cyclists to ride John Woodburn’s original Moulton ‘Speed’ in relay from Cardiff to London via the same route (wherever practical) used in 1962. Others riding their own Moultons will accompany the relay team, and all will have en route vehicular back up. If you wish to book a stint riding the « Speed » please contact us by 31st December 2002.

In the early evening of the 11th May all Moultoneers are invited to join the last 25 mile leg of the ride from Gerards Cross for the journey into London. By some method or another, we will transport all riders, stewards and back up crew to London in time for this grand finale. This flotilla of Moultons with John Woodburn riding the celebrated black and white ‘Speed’ at the helm, will eventually arrive at an as yet unconfirmed venue for photographs, drinks, press interest and a minor celebratory reception.

The final point I would like to make is that this is an event that is intended to involve as many Moultoneers as can be mustered, from all corners of the globe. Please try to think of yourself as someone who is going to be there to ride alongside John Woodburn himself, riding the last leg into London at the end of the day, not someone who is only going to read about it afterwards.

Getting Back
We have been made aware that the issue of getting back to wherever folk have joined the ride, and left their cars, or got off the train etc., needs to be addressed. In response to this there will be van transport for bicycles from the après-ride reception in London, to Gerrards Cross for the grand price of £3.00. Cycle transport will also be offered from the reception to Oxford, or places in between these two points, for £5.00. At the moment there is no transport offered for people but this may change at a later date. Bikes will not be left unattended if their owners are delayed on the rail network. Anyone living in London wishing to offer their services as a van owner/driver will be very welcome.

40th Anniversary Cardiff-London Woodburn Ride

Forty years ago John Woodburn set a new speed record on the challenging Cardiff to London route riding a three speed F-framed Moulton Speed. On the 11th May 2003, the MBC will celebrate John Woodburn’s achievement with a commemorative ride from Cardiff to London. The route to be taken will follow that of the original record-breaking run as closely as possible. Dr. Alex Moulton has agreed to allow the club to borrow the actual bike Woodburn rode as a centrepiece to the run.

It is hoped that for much of the journey this will be flanked by members bikes representing four decades of Moulton design, a fitting focal point to celebrate a historic cycling achievement. We are particularly pleased that the ride will be joined by John Woodburn for the final section, which ends at London’s Marble Arch.

It is hoped that the 2003 Cardiff-London Commemorative Ride will secure coverage on regional television and local radio stations along the route, helping the MBC to promote cycling in general and Moulton ownership in particular. However this – and indeed the whole event – will only be possible with the wholehearted support and involvement of MBC members.

The detail of the original ride

Record-breaking achievements are an important part of the Moulton story. None more so than John Woodburn ‘s Cardiff to London record that was set in December 1962.

The story is well documented in Tony Hadland’s excellent book, « the Moulton bicycle », which is indispensable reading for any Moulton enthusiast, For Moultoneers bereft of the book, here are some of the salient points:

John Woodburn was a cyclist of considerable ability (and still is, by the way – he is a keen veteran). At the time, Woodburn was the National Indoor Pursuit Champion.

Ride preparations were led by the well known sports commentator, David Duffield, who in his youth was also a record breaking cyclist.

The machine Woodburn rode was a Moulton Speed with a 68 tooth chainwheel driving a Sturmey-Archer AC close-ratio 3 speed hib gesr. The rear wheel was fitted with an 11 tooth sprocket designed and made at the Moulton factory, giving gears of 94, 101 and 107 inches.

The first attempt was made on 15th November 1962, but it was abandoned after 83 miles, when it was clear the team was already ten minutes behind C.M. Caton’s 1957 record. Technical difficulties with the hub gear, rush hour traffic and a knee injury, caused by a fall negotiating some road works, were conspiring against the team.

On December. 9th 1962, everything was set fair for a second attempt, including the weather. This time, the team succeeded. His timings were.,

Wandering Winchester Way, 6th August 2005

A group of over 20 riders found their way to the start point of the ride at the home of Linda and Zeffy Maayan in central Winchester. A good selection of bikes were turned out, including a mix of NS, AMs, APB, fx8, four Bromptons and a Dahon Speed D7. Most interesting was yet another handcrafted, different, Arthur Smith creation in the form of a most elegant painted Moulton F Frame Mark 3, but reconfigured with AM front and back ends. Arthur had cleverly built this one up from an old AM that had been bought with a crushed frame, which he used for spares, and the Mark 3 frame. The end result, finished in what was almost the polychromatic blue of 1960s F -Frames (but actually a Renault current paint colour), was a fabulous looking bike, combining the best of old and new technology.

The first part of the ride was around Winchester city area, passing through what was formerly the inaccessible-to-the-public Victorian Peninsula Barracks, now quit by the Army for service use, and converted to housing and a military museum. It has very imposing restored architecture, and worth a look if in this one time capital of England. Riding out of the southern end of the former barracks site, we came to ancient Winchester College and the impressive Winchester Cathedral, construction of which first started in 1079, and now reputed to be the second longest cathedral in Europe.

Our coffee stop was in the Cathedral restaurant building, where we settled in the attached marquee used for functions to consume our drinks and pastries.

Leaving bustling Winchester, it was immediately out into the quiet narrow country lanes of the upper Itchen valley, where the patchwork of rolling downland fields were either being harvested, or were already cleared of crops and dark brown from recent ploughing. It was more a case of looking out for massive tractors and harvesters than cars.

The road took us through the small village of Avington with its pretty cottages and a drink stop was made outside the very fine 18th century church. This lies on the route formerly used by pilgrims traveling between Winchester and Canterbury, and an inscribed stone outside the church shows the names of the two destinations.


Onward alongside the river Itchen then involved a turn north, passing through a couple of lightly flowing fords before reaching the road to New Alresford. Pedalling along the  B road, a small roadside shop in a hut was selling fresh water cress plucked from the water cress surrounding it. At New Alresford, we parked and enjoyed our pub lunch time stopover and chat before continuing out of the village north west towards East Stratton. A long incline, which split the group between those with the lightest bikes and lowest gearing and those who were on heavier bikes, or were slightly less strong riders, led to the top of a ridge. Here,  a look back south east commanded a fine view for many miles.

kThe return to Winchester was uneventful, and we were pleased to reach the home of Bob and Sue West, our ride leaders, who were to provide tea with some delicious cakes. After a relaxing time in their lovely sunny garden, it was time to head for home, and those who arrived by car returned to the nearby Maayan’s house to load up their bikes and depart.


Ownership of an APB allows you membership of one of the most active bike clubs in the world, the Moulton Bicycle Club »

Membership of the Moulton Bicycle Club brings you the following benefits:

  • Our magazine The Moultoneer, which is normally published four times a year, and contains around 60 pages of A5 articles on Moulton history, renovation, touring and competition articles etc.
  • Technical advice through the magazine, other members, or the Club’s Technical Adviser.
  • Access to parts for original Moultons through Moulton Preservation, or items from members of the Club.
  • Access to the Sales and Wants list, which is available to members for a small fee, and which is regularly updated.
  • The opportunity to attend events organised by members throughout the UK during the year, and also some events which are organised on a less regular basis overseas.
  • The opportunity to attend the annual meeting and ride, held at Bradford on Avon, home of Moulton Bicycles and Dr Alex Moulton, in September each year. There is also an annual dinner on the Saturday evening of the weekend meeting, open to members subject to booking beforehand and paying the appropriate charge.
  • Those with an interest in computers, and access to the Internet, will also be able to subscribe to our electronic mailing list on the Internet, and access our World Wide Web pages

First impressions of 9 separable or folding bicycles


This very brief report contains my first impressions of 9 separable or folding bicycles which I had the opportunity of riding at the Origami Ride at Meriden on 10th January 1998. The bicycles were provided by Hilary Stone, and a full report will be appearing in a cycling magazine in the near future. For a much more complete report and more technical details, look out for Hilary’s article and make sure you buy the mag.

Any test can be influenced by the circumstances under which it is conducted, and who is conducting the test. Apart from myself, there were about 8 other experienced cyclists taking part, but this report only deals with my impressions. By using so many testers, the final published report should reduce any bias. The Origami Ride on which the tests took place is a monthly ride for any cyclists, although it was originally organised for, and is still mainly attended by, owners of folding and separable bicycles. At this event normally the majority of those present are owners of Moultons and/or Bromptons. On this occasion there were also some riders who do not currently own folding bicycles, but with a wealth of cycling experience (most of these were members of the Veteran-Cycle Club).

The weather was beautiful and very mild for the time of year, although recent heavy rain meant roads were damp, and in places quite muddy. The total ride length was about 16 miles (a few hills, but nothing very steep, and no off-road sections), and this meant that the time any one rider spent on a bike was only about 2 miles – not really adequate for a detailed assessment to be made. Personally I would have preferred to be able to ride each bike at least ten miles, ideally in two sessions, to be able to make a proper judgement. Also of course this was a short day ride, so no one was carrying any sort of luggage, and the ride and test did not involve any folding of the bicycles. Incidentally, those points are only made since they are relevant to the comments that follow, and are not a criticism of the overall test session itself, which was very well organised and the most effective form of test possible in the time available.

Although this report deals with 9 bicycles, only 7 were part of the test proper – Bike Friday, Birdy, Brompton, Classic, Cresswell Micro, Dahon, Moulton APB S7. The other two bicycles included here are my own Alex Moulton AM7 (used to ride to the event) and a 1960’s Moulton Stowaway, owned by Malcolm Lyon, which I rode for a short distance during the test. Also, I did not ride the Brompton during the event, but I do own a Brompton myself.

The summary below lists the bicycles in the order in which I rode them, which I think can have had an influence on my reaction to them.

It is important to add that it is entirely pointless to try to identify which is the ‘best’ bike, since the choice of a folding bike always represents a compromise on weight, size, ease of folding, luggage carrying capacity, ride quality, price, and probably other factors too. Which bike suits you depends on how you will use it – the Moultons have a superb ride, but don’t fold/separate easily, so if you want to commute daily on a train service where the bike must be folded, they would be a poor choice, but if you wanted to take them by car (or train) to the start of a week tour in hilly terrain, they would be superb. Exactly the opposite situation would apply in the case of the Cresswell Micro or Brompton. Choice of a folding bicycle can also be influenced by the physique of the rider – for example, the Micro would prbably be less appealing to aa very large or heavy rider. Hence I will add the fact that I’m commenting on the bikes from my own point of view, and I’m short (about 5ft 6in) and quite light (just under 9 stone, or 128lbs). On most of these bikes the bar height and reach cannot be adjusted (and they do not permit the fitting of alternative standard extensions), although several (generally the more expensive ones) can have different patterns of bars, extensions etc fitted at time of supply.

Alex Moulton AM7

This was my own bicycle, which I used to ride to the station before catching a train to Birmingham International, and then cycling from there to Meriden (total distance 7 miles). The AM7 is a 1984 model, but now fitted with 8-speed indexed Shimano gears, as in current AM8s. For the past few weeks I had been using a Bike Friday, with 20 inch wheels). The AM felt very comfortable, although the dropped bars and small wheels compared with the Friday made the handling feel a bit quick initially. Gear changing on this bike is now very easy with the indexed gears, and the overall range and spacing is generally good, apart from an uncomfortably large jump just in the middle of the range. The Shimano 105 brakes I now have fitted have transformed the braking, which is now powerful and light (almost too light for my taste). As this was my own bike, the riding position is just how I like it. The bike can readily be adjusted to suit different riders. It is a reasonably light and responsive bike, with very good luggage carrying capability. Separation of the frame for putting into a car boot is very straightforward, but to carry it on public transport is likely to involve putting it in a bag, and this is a time consuming and fiddly process – 5 to 10 minutes. Happily trains in the Centro area carry bikes free and without reservations, so I didn’t need to split and bag the bike – if that had been necessary I would have used one of my other bikes.

Moulton APB S7

I was particularly looking forward to riding this bike, which has the relatively new Sturmey-Archer 7-speed hub gear; I’d had a very short ride on it at the Moulton weekend at Bradford-on-Avon in September 1997, and was very favourably impressed. Sadly, the example I rode this time was very disappointing – perhaps it was simply my high expectations. Lifting the bike, it felt very heavy, and on the road it felt the same, very comfortable, but stodgy. The riding position felt very upright and open, and this contributed to a sedate mode of travel. The twist grip gear change was unacceptably stiff, to the point of discouraging gear changing, with a very long travel. The S-A gears themselves were very nice, and the range and spacing is good, although sometimes they seemed a bit reluctant to change unless you quite perceptibly relaxed pedalling pressure during the change. It was subsequently noted that the frame of this particular bike was not running true, which may have affected the ride. It’s worth adding that my own APB, a very early APB12 which now has Sachs 3×7 gearing, feels far more responsive and pleasant to ride, and with flatter bars and bar end extensions gives (for me) a more pleasant riding position – and subjectively it feels lighter as well. My APB has Schwalbe City Jet tyres, which also contribute to a more lively performance. The V brakes on the test bike were powerful and reasonably progressive – better overall than the older cantilevers on my own APB, although the latter are more to my taste at least in terms of more progressive operation.

Folding and separating were not part of the tests, but it’s worth commenting that this is the area in which the APB would be weakest against the other bikes, the process being similar to the AM described above. It is not really a problem for transporting by car, but for use on trains where ‘folding’ and bagging is necessary it is a tedious process, and not something to be done every day. Luggage carrying potential of the APB is excellent, in terms of total capacity and options to suit all types of ride.

The difference between my own APB and the test bike not only indicates that it may not be fair to judge the APB on the test sample, but also suggests that judgement of any other bike on test can be substantially influenced by the individual sample and the components fitted.

Although this particular APB was disappointing, it was still one of the more enjoyable bikes to ride, and provided the most comfortable and stable ride (a combination of the front and rear suspension and 20 inch wheels) over all, at least for me.


I’ve never ridden a Birdy before, but I was very keen to try one out. Frankly I approached the bike in a rather negative way – the front suspension design looks wrong, I don’t particularly like aluminium as a material for bicycle frames and the lack of luggage capacity on a bike of this type seemed a drawback. However, the bike was very lively and positively encouraged one to enjoy riding. The aluminium frame contributes to the light weight, and in practice on the road the ride felt well suspended front and rear. The 7-speed derailleur gears were rather closely spaced, which meant the overall range was rather less than I would consider ideal, but there are no gaps in the range (contrast with the AM8, which has a wider overall range, slightly wider spaced, but with an unfortunately large jump at one point just in the middle of the range). The twist grip changer was a joy to use, even though I don’t normally like this type of changer. The V brakes were powerful and reasonably progressive. The bar height and reach cannot be adjusted, but suited me perfectly.

Luggage carrying capability is limited to a small rack at the back (not suitable for normal panniers) and I believe a bag can also be slung under the frame. This seems to me inadequate for a bike of this class, and would make it a poor choice for touring and some other uses. I intensely dislike carrying a bag on my back – the load should be carried on the bike, and as low as possible.

The front of the bike felt unexpectedly light and over-responsive – more so that some of the bikes with smaller wheels. The lack of choice of tyres is also a potential drawback with this bike. Twice when pulling in to a gateway by the side of the road, with some loose, small pebbles, the front of the bike felt very light, and prompted me to dismount immediately. On this brief acquaintance I would be rather concerned about using the bike of road based on this experience.

While not in the Brompton class for folding, the bike is supposed to be good in this respect. All I can say is that at the end of the ride the combined efforts of John Pinkerton and myself completely failed to work out how to fold it properly. I am assured that once you know how, it’s easy and quick, and in fairness the same is probably true of the others – I suppose I’m just used to my own Brompton.

Overall I enjoyed this bike very much on this short day ride, and when I had a second chance to ride it I jumped at it, and liked it just as much the second time. However, the lack of luggage capacity for a bike of this price and class, plus a niggling doubt over the front suspension performance, would dissuade me from buying one (given all the other bikes I already own!).

Cresswell Micro

(Cresswell have just been taken over by Pashley)

This was the third bike I particularly wanted to try, not so much in terms of thinking of buying one, but to see how well it worked as a light, relatively cheap, bike which might be an alternative to a Brompton for people not needing to travel far, and with limited luggage.

This bike was fun to ride. Despite a fairly short wheelbase, the handling was good – quick, but quite easy to get used to, and at no time while I was riding it was there any tendency for the front wheel to lift, or for any other handling problem. This was a 3-speed model (S-A hub), with a well positioned gear range which seemed to suit the bike, and the old, very positive, metal and plastic change system. Braking was perfectly satisfactory – in fact it felt more positive than my Brompton. The bike is very light, and the folding mechanism is very simple, obvious, easy and quick – I had no difficulty at all, though I had never folded one before, had no instructions, and had never seen anyone folding one.. You can lift the bike quite easily when folded, without needing to bag it. There seems no provision for carrying luggage – you would presumably have to carry it in a bag on your back. To me that is a real drawback, even for light, short distance rail/cycle commuting. From the point of view of riding, the main complaint would be the relatively flexible high-rise steering tube – if Pashley can stiffen this without increasing the weight significantly, and if they could find a way of mounting a bag easily on the bike, with fast removal, I think this bike would take quite a lot of beating, and for shorter journeys would represent a real – lighter and cheaper – alternative to the Brompton.

Bike Friday

Back to the more serious and more expensive bikes. I rode the test Friday (the Llama model), although I have one myself (mine is the New World Tourist version). The test bike was one of the custom built models (as is mine), but was built for UK distributor Vince Mackenzie, who is about 8 inches taller than me – so it wasn’t a very good fit, leaving me much too stretched out. The design of the Friday is such that bar height and reach cannot be adjusted, and you can’t fit a different length standard stem. Ironically, my own Friday, though custom built, is if anything a bit too short for me, which exaggerated the over-long reach on this example. The Friday is billed as being as good as your best touring bike, but it folds. Certainly the ride is good – responsive, but stable, and it encourages you to enjoy your riding. The lack of suspension means that it is not nearly as comfortable to ride as the Moultons or Birdy. The bike can be fitted with racks to take conventional panniers (although on mine fitting the front rack means it won’t fold, and the rack is not designed for easy removal, unlike Moultons), so luggage potential is good. Both the test bike and my own have Sachs 3×7 gearing, giving an excellent range, closely and evenly spaced ratios, easy changes, and the ability to change gear on the hub when stationary. The test bike had twist grip changers – I much prefer the rapid fire levers on my own bike, which are easier, faster and more positive. The test bike had V-brakes which were positive, responsive and powerful, a huge improvement over the abysmal Dia Compe Big Dog callipers on my own bike.

Folding of this bike is not particularly quick or easy, and the the bars have to be removed via a quick release. The bike can’t easily be carried unless bagged, which substantially increases the packing time. It’s certainly quite practical at the start an end of a tour, even doing it each day, but not something I would consider if it were a daily commuting chore. As well as the soft carry bag there is a hard case, primarily for transporting by air etc, but substantial dismantling is required to get it in that case, and you need over 20 minutes to do the job, some tools, and you are likely to get greasy in the process.

The Friday does it’s job pretty well, and is quite enjoyable to ride, although it doesn’t for me create the same enthusiasm as one of the AM Moultons, and the folding/bagging process is less convenient and easy than I would like. But it’s a very competent machine.


This sample had what was very aptly described as ‘indexed steering’, stiff and sticky. While that may just be down to adjustment, the bike gives the definite impression of being built to a price, and the quality of components, and avoidance of instability, could mean that this stiffness is common to these bikes. After the other bikes it was a definite step backwards, and there was a lot more flex in the bike itself. The fat tyres soaked up quite a lot of energy, and overall it felt over geared (I hardly used the top of the three gears). Personally I’d rather spend more and have a decent bike like the Micro, although I could probably live with this bike if I had to. Apart from being too high overall, the gears were OK, and the brakes were about adequate, but no more. This isn’t the sort of bike you would be likely to choose to carry luggage. I didn’t fold the bike, so I can’t really comment on that side of the design, but it is supposed to be fairly simple , although I would guess both the Brompton and Micro are better.


Oh dear! If the Dahon felt built to a price, what can I say about this device. Flexible, creaky, fat tyres soaking up the energy and a single, very low gear (which I suppose was a mercy given the tyres etc). I honestly would rather walk. Although clearly it succeeds in the sense that it is quite cheap (which must have been the major factor in the design and manufacture) I wouldn’t regard it as good value – a Micro is well worth the extra, or try and find decent a used bike instead if money is the most important factor in choosing the bike. Sadly cheap, not very good bikes do sell in quite large quantities, giving their owners a permanent dislike of cycling!

Moulton Stowaway

Malcolm Lyon was riding his own Moulton Stowaway (2-speed back-pedal brake/gear change, Mark 1 front forks, Mark 2 rear forks) at the event, and kindly allowed me to try it – doubly kindly, as I was on the Classic at the time! This bike has been very nicely restored to fairly original condition, although with very non-standard bars, which gave a very upright sit-up-and-beg riding position, which was interesting, but not quite to my taste. Malcolm’s choice of gearing was also a little higher than suits me ideally, and with only 2 gears the choice of chainwheel/sprocket needs to be considered careful. The 2-speed Fichtel and Sachs back pedal gear change takes a little getting used to, and after stopping or slowing down using the back pedal brake you need to think about what gear you will be in. I have an older single speed Stowaway myself, although it’s not used nowadays. Early Moultons are heavy by today’s standards, but this was an enjoyable bike to ride – comfortable, capable of soaking up the miles and with good luggage carrying capacity. The frame of this 1960’s bike splits at a joint on the main frame, the idea being to allow it to be put in the boot of a car. It’s not really suitable for use on public transport – no carry bag was ever made, although one could make something oneself if so inclined.


This is the one that got away – I didn’t ride the test bike, but I have one myself. I think the test bike was a 3-speed (S-A hub gear) lightweight model, whereas mine is a seven year old T5. Comments are based on my own bike, and remembering how different the test APB S7 was from my own APB, this is perhaps unfair.

Bromptons really set the standard for folding bikes which can easily be taken on public transport. The folding mechanism is brilliant – quick, very easy (when you know how), and the overall package is very compact and rarely even needs to be put in a bag. In my experience, the Brompton is the only folding bike whose owners fold it even when there is no need to – not (just) to show off, but because it is so easy, and I think that is a good measure of how effective it is. It’s a bit heavier than some of the other bikes, but the folding system means you can easily roll the whole bike on its wheels, or partly fold it and roll it on the auxiliary wheels, without needing to pick it up very often. When you do pick it up, the saddle makes a convenient handle, and the whole job can be done without too much risk of getting dirty. Luggage carrying is another very strong point – the (optional) front bag, although horribly un-aerodynamic, clips on and off the bike in seconds (or even a second), an important asset in a folding bike. Although the riding position is a little cramped, the bike instills great confidence, and although it might not be your first choice for a 50 mile ride, you could undertake such a journey with confidence – indeed many people use them for much longer journeys. Bromptons are a bit heavy and not cheap, and the brakes are not impressive, but they still set the standard by which other designs are measured. They don’t compare in ride quality with the Moultons, Birdy and Friday, but they are much stronger contenders where folding for commuting is necessary, and as already mentioned they are quite capable of being used on much longer rides. The riding position and quality of ride (rolling resistance) is hugely improved by fitting short bar end extensions (they need to be short or they interfere with folding) and the superb Primo high pressure tyres – my comments assume this has been done, as without these modifications they aren’t nearly as enjoyable to ride. Bar height is not adjustable (very small adjustment of reach is possible without interfering with the folding). Because they are so versatile, and capable of longer rides, I would go for the 5-speed gear option, although some people prefer the 3-speed as it is a shade lighter (and of course cheaper). The standard gearing on Bromptons is too high for almost all users, and the optional low gears (smaller chainwheel and larger sprocket) should probably be specified unless you are a very strong rider or live in a flat area. Although I have a T model with rear carrier and dynamo, there is a lot to be said for going for the cheaper and ligher L model and fitting battery lights if you need them. The main virtue of the rear carrier seems to be not so much for carrying things (the front bag is better, and a rear bag has to be removed before starting to fold) as for standing the bike on and wheeling it a bit more easily on the auxiliary wheels when folded.

Folding and carrying

We did not have time to do any folding and carrying tests on the bikes, but I think some comment is worthwhile, based on experience of some of the bikes and observation when the bikes we being packed away at the end of the ride. Of the four smaller bikes where folding is the priority, the Brompton is the most ingenious and effective. The final package is compact and easy to carry without bothering to bag it – even on trains where in theory the folded bike should be bagged it is not usually necessary to do so. The folding process is very easy once you know the simple sequence to follow. Although not the lightest bike, it is easy to carry, and anyway can be wheeled most of the time. The Micro is very straightforward and obvious to fold and is compact and light when folded. Because of the size and weight it should be fairly easy to carry, although it remains more obviously a bike, and bagging might sometimes be necessary on a train. The Dahon and Classic are bikes I haven’t folded, but both appear fairly straightforward when you know how to do it, but I would put the Brompton, Micro and Birdy (when you know how) ahead of them.

Moultons don’t fold, but they are straighforward and quick to split and stow in the boot of a car (a Metro/Rover 100 with the rear seat in place, but parcel shelf removed, will easily accommodate an AM or APB when split). They can be split and bagged for carrying on a train, but I cannot imagine any normal person doing this on a daily basis, and most owners would avoid doing this wherever possible. Birdys are alleged to be quick and easy to fold, but unless you know how to do this, they represent a real puzzle (I couldn’t solve it). Of the bikes where ride quality is the priority (Moultons – AM and APB, Birdy and Friday) they should be the best for folding, and also the lightest and most compact for carrying in the bag, although falling well short of Brompton standards. You would almost certainly need to bag it to put it on a train. The chain adopts a most alarming angle while folding, and is only held in place be two gurads on either side of the chainwheel. The Friday needs to have the derailleur in top gear before folding – something you need to remember when stopping. Folding is not complicated, but neither is it particularly quick, and apart from some new models which are just being introduced, the handlebar assembly needs to be lifted off and placed rather awkwardly between the frame and wheel. Avoid the drop handlebar option on the bikes, which make this more awkward. The overall package is bulky and fairly heavy (I find it extremely difficult to carry the bike the length of a station platform, even with several stops). As the folded assembly doesn’t lock together, and the bars are loose, bagging is almost essential, which adds substantially to the packing time. Hilary Stone commented at the end of the ride that he hated folding the Friday, so I did it! I always manage to get greasy doing the job into the bargain. Most people would avoid folding and bagging the Friday unless it is necessary, but the whole process can be complete in under 2 minutes, it is fairly straightforward, and I may have over emphasised the drawbacks. For carrying in a car boot, I would actually rate the Moulton system as better, but if you need to carry the bike on a train where splitting/folding is required, the Friday easily beats the Moulton, and while I would not want to have to do so, daily folding and bagging of the Friday would be tolerable. The Birdy is the clear winner in this respect among the more expensive bikes where ride quality is the priority.


All these bikes had small (ie sub 26 inch) wheels, and the type of tyre fitted makes even more difference to ride quality with small wheels than with larger wheels. I didn’t look closely at exactly what tyres were fitted, but as it can affect the ride quality (particularly rolling resistance), some comment is justified. The Dahon and Classic both use fat 16 inch wheels/tyres to give a reasonable ride – I’m not sure if alternative tyres could be fitted, but to be honest I doubt whether they would substantially improve the enjoyment (or lack of it) of riding these bikes. The Brompton (and, I would imagine, Micro) can be fitted with a limited number of 16 inch tyres, of which the high pressure Primo is outstanding. Neither test bike was fitted with these, but my own Brompton has them, and they make a big difference. Given that the Micro was already fun to ride, fitting these tyres should make it even better (assuming they will fit), although it might make the ride rather harsh. The Primo can also be used on old (1960’s type) Moultons, and the improvement to rolling resistance on tehse bikes is reported to be very marked – as these bikes have full suspension, there is no significant effect on comfort.

The Moulton APB and Friday both use 20 inch wheels, and consequently there is a very good choice of tyres. Neither test bike had the Schwalbe City Jets which I have on my own APB, and for road use I would rate these as better than the ones fitted to either test bike – low rolling resistance, light weight and improved responsiveness. As the Friday has no suspension, they are likely to make the ride rather harsh – not a problem on Moultons with their front and rear suspension.

Both the Birdy and AM Moultons have potential problems with tyres, most importantly the lack of choice. The 17 inch Moulton wheel tyre is unique, but the tyres have low rolling resistance and suit the bike very well – they were specifically designed for them. Some people claim poor life and rather more punctures with these tyres, but personally my own experience over 14 years would suggest that this is a myth – I get no more punctures with these tyres, and mileage per set is around 2000 for my type of riding. The Birdy is in a worse position, as only one (or possibly two) tyres for the 18 inch wheels are available, and these are generally rated as not very good. Some people have experimented with fitting 16 inch wheels and Primo tyres, and report good results, although overall gearing will be lowered slightly in the process (not as much as you might expect, due to the peculiarities of the notional naming of the various wheel and tyre sizes).

The bikes which can take 16 inch wheels with Primo tyres, or 20 inch wheels with City Jet tyres (for road use) seem likely to give advantages in rolling resistance and responsiveness

Comments and conclusions

As I said at the start of the article, it is meaningless to pick a single ‘best’ bike, since the choice depends on the type of use. Broadly, though, these bikes can be split into two categories – those in which the priority is folding, and those in which the priority is ride quality. Generally the first group are not as suitable for longer rides, and are also cheaper. The old Moulton Stowaway was included in the report for reference – you can still find used examples, but I’m not going to consider it in the comments and comparisons below.

Of the first group, those in which folding is the priority, I would immediately rule out the Classic – it may be cheap, but I really couldn’t recommend it to anyone, whatever the price. If your budget is that limited, look for a decent used bike instead. The Dahon, although better, still compares unfavourably with the Micro and Brompton, even allowing for the price. The Micro has two advantages over the Brompton – it’s lighter and it’s cheaper. For shorter rides (it’s difficult to put a figure on it, but say 5 miles or less) the Micro is quite adequate, and for this type of riding the 3-speed version should be enough (there is a 5-speed version, or if there are no hills you could consider the lighter and cheaper single speed version). The two problems are luggage capacity – if you carry a portable computer on your commuting journey, you have a problem unless you can carry it in a back pack – and the rather flexible steering tube (bearable for short journeys). If the steering tube were more rigid, and I didn’t need any luggage at all, I would rate this a very good choice and one on which I would be quite prepared to tackle longer journeys if the need arose. The Brompton has to be the best of the bikes overall in this group though – excellent folding, good luggage carrying, and a remarkably good ride, capable of long distances when the need arises. If you don’t need the luggage, though, and you will only cover shorter distances, do seriously consider the Micro. At the price (prior to the recent takeover by Pashley) it was extraordinarily good value – I suspect the price will have to rise soon.

The second, ‘serious cycling’, group had three contenders in the test, plus the more expensive AM Moulton which I own (and which is still in production). From the riding point of view the AM Moulton wins for me (AM7 or 8 equivalent used in the test), and if the portability requirement is for putting it in the back of a car, then the only problem is price (around 1800 pounds for an AM8, rising to nearly 3000 for the top of the range GT). However, the bike doesn’t fold (the frame splits) and bagging it to carry on public transport is time consuming and tedious, and if you plan to commute on the bike plus train as well, and you need to split the bike, it’s not the one to choose. The Birdy (7 speed derailleur version tested) was fun, and gave a good ride on the road, and are reported to fold reasonably easily and quickly. However, I still have some lingering reservations about the front suspension because at least to me, on a short test based on a single sample, it felt just a little too sensitive, and capable of being deflected – although Birdy owners I have spoken to seem delighted with them, and the price is not unreasonable. Also for a bike in this specification range I would expect to be able to carry a reasonable amount of luggage, and the Birdy doesn’t really provide for this. The Moulton APBs are potentially a good solid choice – good ride, very stable, excellent luggage capacity, reasonably priced (for a bike of this kind) – but the test sample was disappointing. The down side is that they are relatively heavy (it depends on specification, but probably just over 30 lbs), and they aren’t good for splitting/bagging on public transport (basically just the same as the AM series in this respect). So I think I would settle for the Bike Friday in this group – I do need to be able to fold the bike reasonably easily and quickly, and to carry luggage. The two models mentioned here, the New World Touriost and Llama, are quite a lot more expensive than the Bridy though, but check on the price of some of the new models which are just appearing.

Will the new Moulton, when it arrives (later in 1998?) change the situation? It’s likely to be expensive and very unlikely to fold, but it is reported to fit in the boot of a Mini, which implies it is more compact when split than the current models. We shall have to wait and see.