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16 THELIST 8 22 2006

Summer Cycle Special

Top gear

[in the opposite page. we pick out bikes to suit all pockets and a selection of chic bike gear. while below we discover that folding bikes might not be the coolest fashion accessory. but they sure beat a Swiss army knife when it comes to adaptabilty. Words: Tim Dawson

For all the innovation in racing and mountain bikes, today’s smart research money is devoted to creating a ride-about-town bike that

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Where do you like to ride?

Glentress forest, definitely, It’s right on my doorstep, between Peebles and lnnerleitlien, sol can go there quite a lot. I also love the West Highland

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That's what I asked . . . At the moment a Trek With lightweight wheels, it's not full suspension actually. It’s got a suspension seat post, but it's a hardtail frame With front suspension

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will change the way we get about cities.

But there is already a cycle available that promises to takes this kind of pedal-powered travel though such a paradigm shift: the Brompton folding bike. I test rode one of the newest models for a week, to see if it lives up to its billing.

Its design is deliciously ingenious; a Swiss army knife has nothing on a Brompton. It can be adapted for almost any height or weight of rider (I am six foot one) but collapses into a two-foot square bundle of bike bits in under thirty seconds. And for all its apparent complexity, I could create this origami of steel tubing in half a minute at my second or third attempt.

It is also pretty impressive to ride. Small wheels allow for quick acceleration, and only really suffer as you descend steeply-cobbled hills. Its five-speed hub gears got me up even the meanest of Edinburgh's hills, and gave fair scope for galloping down the other sides. And the riding position feels both comfortable and natural. There is flex in the frame, but nothing that you can’t live with.

The Brompton’s real advantage, however, is that once it has got you from A to B, it reduces almost instantly into a hand carryable bundle. Clamber aboard a train, bus or taxi and no one gives you a second glance. Or stick it in the boot of you car in case an opportunity for a recreational ride crops up unexpectedly. This flexibility really does change they way you think of a bike; who cares if the first bus does not go quite where you want? You will be speeding to your destination as soon as you get off. And if it is raining when you set off home from work, you can accept a lift home with a colleague without a worry for where your bike will go.

The Brompton's only drawback is its image. Ten minutes in to my test, and I had already attracted some helpfully shouted comments

Fold a Brompton in under 30 seconds

about 'riding a proper bike'. And if you are going to ride it to meetings for example you will probably need to arrive with it under your arm. It's fine if you don't mind endlessly explaining why you have a bike that has apparently been through a crusher under your arm, but a pain if you prefer to keep private your transport preferences.

By the end of a week, however, I was persuaded that if a Vespa can be cool, so can a Brompton. I will join the army of eccentrics on their ‘folders' as soon as resources allow.

Bromptons are priced between £353 to £613 and are available from Kinetics (0141 942 2552) in Glasgow and Bike Trax in Edinburgh (0131 228 6633). Bike Trax website, www.biketrax.co.uk is packed with useful information about folding


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