all folders (the Airnimal range included) have a single oversize
downtube connecting the front and back of the bike. In most
instances, the designers have marked a vertical line on this
downtube at the exact midpoint of the bike… and
then reached for their hacksaws!
In these bikes – those that are neither
Airnimals nor Birdys – a hinge
inserted at the cut in the downtube allows the back and front
wheels to swing around – much
like bifold patio doors – so
that front and rear axles kiss together. Simple, effective,
inelegant. It works but is devoid of any scrap of engineering
Airnimal revels in challenges and hinges
bikes in the opposite plane so that the rear wheel swings
underneath (not around) the bike. Riese & Müller's
Birdys fold this way, too.
The Airnimal difference: dismantle
- In the first fold – the quick everyday fold – the
rear wheel swings underneath the bike and up into the
- Note: into the front forks; not next to the front forks. Clearly, you must remove the front wheel before folding.
- With an Airnimal, you dismantle before each fold.
- Offsetting the increasing compactness of the folded bike you will have a mounting pile of loose bits (photo centre top).
In the first fold position this is how my Black Rhino stands
apart from other folders (including Birdys):
- handlebar remains in riding position – not folded
down or turned 90º to the side;
- front wheel + saddle & saddle post have been separated
The first fold for the Black Rhino requires undoing
four quick releases
– front wheel, saddle post, rear shock and pylon. The
quick release skewer for the pylon (the short tube running
at around 45º between saddle post and downtube – in
top left photo look for the tube with "Rhino" written on it)
has to be unscrewed completely and removed.
With this done, you are
able to swing the rear triangle under the bike so that the
rear wheel fits into the now-empty front forks. No provision
is made for securing the wheel there (it will fall out immediately!)
or for stopping the forks from being horribly scratched – an
horrendous blunder by Airnimal Designs! Before folding your
expensive bike for the first time, get some padding for tubes
and forks, plus a roll of velcro strapping – essential
items not included in your Rhino's hefty price tag.
The triangular Carradice shoulder bag keeps the dismembered
Airnimal under control. There is plenty of room for helmet
and bags (Carradice 16 litre SQR saddle bag plus Topeak 5 litre
TourGuide shown in bottom centre photo).
60-second fold: forget it!
If you are considering making an Airnimal part of your
life, this is where you must pause. If you intend folding/unfolding
your bike twice a day – commuting by bike and train,
for example – choose an Airnimal Joey rather than the
Rhino or Chameleon. Recently (early 2011), Airnimal has been working on a commuter kit for the Joey which addresses the issue of what to do with the pile of loose bits (especially handlebar and front wheel). You can see it on Flickr Airnimal Home.
Rhinos and their folding road bike siblings, the Chameleons,
are not fast-folding bikes. They are, most definitely, fast
folding bikes. What a difference a little hyphen makes!