From the space component makers at Prodrive arrives the svelte new prototype which is likely to be Brompton’s closest carbon-fibre competitor, writes Alec Marsh
As most schoolboys know, carbon fibre was essentially a British invention – one of many, like the jet engine, to emerge from the last great struggle with our now much-loved Teutonic neighbours.
What most of us also know is that it’s extremely strong, very light and rather pricey. As a result it’s good for all sorts of contraptions – from aircraft and spacecraft components to tennis rackets and, of course – bikes. So, it was surely only a matter of time before carbon fibre met its sure-fire metropolitan two-wheeled destiny – the folding bicycle.
But who could have guessed quite what would have emerged from such an engineering fusion? Well now we know.
Meet the Hummingbird, the new carbon fibre folding bike, made up in Banbury in Oxfordshire at Prodrive, the racing outfit that was also responsible for some of the very clever, and super-light, components in the Mars rover.
Designed with weight in mind, the Hummingbird heaves in at just 6.9 kilos, which in bike terms is absolutely nothing. Pick it up and it barely registers on the effort-o-meter. In fact, it probably weighs less than my first mobile phone – and I’m not that old.
As a result when you ride it, it’s like you’re cycling along on a feather – an astonishingly rigid, taut, feather that corners with the elan of a Lambo and accelerates effortlessly. It really does ride well. The single-speed version I had – pared down like a greyhound – was a pocket-rocket that positively begged for faster pedalling. And it makes a super whirring noise as you freewheel along, too.
Responsive, spry, nimble: I couldn’t get it enough: the Hummingbird, you see, is a bike that doesn’t just look the part, it cycles the part, too. It’s quick off the mark, thanks to the superlight frame that doesn’t hold any of your power back; it’s the toy that every self-respecting London-user should have.
The inevitable comparison is with the venerable Brompton, the reigning champion of folding bikes in London and beyond. Well, I’ve got some tough news for the current monarchs of mobility in West London: there’s a new bird in town.
For much as I hate to say it, the svelte Hummingbird makes the Brompton look at little old and heavy. Just like the Brompton its folding mechanism is quick and highly satisfying – the engineering quality of the pivots and hinges is delicious. But the additional lightness is a boon, especially for anyone who has carried their Brompton any distance.
The good news for Brompton, is that their much-loved offering folds much more compactly (though the lack of a hinge in the mainframe also gives the Hummingbird additional rigidity, which is fun). That gives the Brompton the edge for those who will be using the bike in conjunction with rail or the Underground. The open question is how relevant this is when considered with the next crucial factor: cost. Priced from £3,495 – so more than three times the Brompton – the Hummingbird is a much more rarefied beast.
The good news from economics is that as everyone knows, there’s always room at the top. And this space is now filled by this British super-bike, the Hummingbird – the ultra-light bike for the world’s UHNWs.
Alec Marsh is the editor of Spear’s