Folders and electrics

Those of you who know me will know that I have been an advocate of folding bikes for some time. I get the train to work, but at each end of the journey the folder cuts out a tedious walk or a claustrophobic trip on the tube. Getting from the West End to the City is pretty straightforward. It’s particularly handy when there is a tube strike on. For about four years now I have had a Dahon. “A da-what?” I hear you say. Dahon are one of those brands of folding bikes that are reasonably good and reasonably priced. When I got it, I wasn’t sure how much I would use it and therefore didn’t want to pay top dollar. Turns out I used it a lot. Four out of five work days, I would say, all year round. It’s not much fun in the pissing rain, but then what bike is?

So I decided that it was time for an upgrade. It had been on my mind for a while. About four years in fact. The Dahon is fine but it is quite heavy, doesn’t fold up very neatly and is frankly horrible to ride. Standing up on the pedals is like riding something made of rubber, it squirms around all over the place in a very unsettling way. It just doesn’t feel like a “real” bike. Which is perhaps to be expected. It’s not a real bike, after all. But I wanted to get decent value from my purchase so I persevered with it. Eventually however, I just got fed up with putting up with it. It was time to move on.

For about a month or so I have therefore been the very proud owner of a shiny new Brompton, in alluring lipstick red. The folding mechanism is a brilliantly economical piece of engineering. And it was love at first ride. Like a real bike, even though it isn’t and even though it has smaller wheels than the Dahon. I can stand on the pedals, accelerate from lights! And let’s face it, there is a bit of kudos from owning a Brompton, whereas there is none at all from owning a Dahon. It’s a joy and I should have got one earlier, despite the fact it was nearly double the price.

Anybody want a Dahon, one careful owner…?

Still on the broad topic of non-standard two-wheeled propulsion, I saw one of these parked near the office recently:


It’s a “Smug”, it would seem. Their website,, says:

“British design sophistication and US retro beach-styling blend to create an e-bike that you’re proud to be seen on. Indisputably aspirational, the cool, clean aesthetic with its intelligently-designed battery concealment ensures the most relaxed, graceful, exhilarating yet effortlessly simple, stress-free riding with assistance from a power source only you know is there.”

If the battery is concealed, what’s in that big pouch attached to the down tube, I wonder? Not convinced it has a “clean aesthetic” either, it reminds me slightly of a Second World War motorbike.   But setting aside the marketing guff, it does look like fun. Fat tyres, front shocks, Harley handlebars, disc brakes. They don’t come cheap, though, with the website showing prices from £1,900 to £3,200.

I have to say I am all in favour of electric bikes. Stuck-in-the-muds like me who consider themselves “real cyclists” probably won’t ride them, so they are not detracting from that world. Rather they will be ridden by people who otherwise wouldn’t get on a bike, which has to be a good thing. I recall meeting a couple in their 50s, I would guess, at the top of a monstrous Alpine climb (the Croix de Fer? I forget). He was sinewy and fit as a fiddle, a very keen cyclist. She was not, but had accompanied her beloved in his sport of choice on an electric bike. Why the devil not? If electric bikes can promote marital harmony (not something bicycles are necessarily renowned for – ask Mrs 40SC – actually please don’t), then more’s the good.


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