As designs go, it’s hard to beat the Brompton. The British-designed, British-made folding bicycle is that rare thing: a modern, British manufacturing success story, now sold in countries all over the world. And rightly so. It’s a marvelous bike, rewarding to ride and able to collapse into a tiny space on a train, like a contortionist into a circus box.
But there is one problem with the Brompton, and it’s a problem I encounter every evening after work, when my train drops me on the wrong side of the tracks and I have to climb a bridge to get home. At roughly 11kg (the weight depends on the exact model), the Brompton is cumbersome to carry. Frankly, at the end of a long day, when my powers of self-pity know few bounds, it feels like I’m trying to haul a boat over a mountain.
Which is where the Prodrive Hummingbird comes in. With a carbon frame and clever folding mechanism that does away with the need for extra parts like a chain tensioner, the Hummingbird weighs in at just 6.9kg. That’s seriously impressive – game changing, even.
Generally speaking with bikes, lightness begets speed, and the Hummingbird is duly swift over the ground. Partly that’s due to the carbon, which is stiffer underfoot than steel or aluminium, and partly it’s down to the design. Unlike other folders, there’s no hinge in the middle of the Hummingbird’s frame to introduce energy-sapping flex. Put more oomph into the pedals and it responds with smile-inducing immediacy.
The worry with all this is that the bike will prioritise speed over comfort. Carbon can be too stiff; pair it with tiny wheels and there’s a danger that every nook and pothole in the road will register in the rider’s spine. It’s actually not that bad with the Hummingbird. The long seatpost does a worthy job of stopping those jolts before they reach your coccyx.
So far, so positive. But the Hummingbird does have its downsides – potentially significant ones, I think.
The first is in the fold. While the act of collapsing the bike is so easy it’s almost joyful – three moves, ten seconds tops – the end product is quite large. I found the folded Hummingbird didn’t fit snugly into the luggage compartment on a train. Fine on my reasonably empty commuter; perhaps more problematic on the 08:03 from Guilford.
The second problem is the price. At £3,495, the Hummingbird is over three times as expensive as a well specced Brompton. That’s a lot of extra cash to shell out, even if it is a delight to carry over bridges.