|The “Origami,” made by Azub in the Czech Republic.|
This pretty folding recumbent bike arrived the other week. This is an Azub Origami.
Kitted out with SON dynamo hub and full light system with Busch and Mueller Lumotec Lyt headlight and the ever-reliable Bumm Toplight Plus at the rear, fenders, shock-absorbing Schwalbe Big Apple tires, and a rear rack welded into the frame, it begins to approach a reasonable answer to the Brompton for the recumbent bike world. I’m not sure anything comes close to a Brompton in terms of sheer magic of fold, small size and ride quality, but designers keep taking swipes at the top of the pole, always getting closer. For recumbents, inherently long and heavy, it’s a worthy challenge to make a folder that is just as fun to ride as a non-folding bent. The Origami folds pretty easily, the seat can remain attached, there’s nothing too weird or complicated about it, you (I) can pick it up with one hand once it’s folded. It weighs about 36 lbs with the extras shown here which, in fact, is only about 6 lbs. heavier than my 30 lbs. Brompton with all the same accessories, so we’re well within striking range. I think a dyed-in-the-lycra weight weenie — I originally mistakenly wrote died-in-the-lycra, which is awfully friggin’ bleak but, frankly, barely registers as a slip for the cycling realist — could get it down to 30 lbs. by throwing money at the problem. This is the Shimano Alivio 8-spd drivetrain, so it’s not as if we tried to shave grams anywhere. Bike payload is 100kg (220 lbs).
Interesting note: the red paint is matte as opposed to gloss. That was a nice surprise. Matte colors are less common on bikes in the USA than gloss colors and, IMHO, lend a refined appearance. But those attached to gloss will need to be aware of this.
When you have a small-wheeled bike, you lose the stability created by the gyroscopes of larger wheels. I think stability is a matter of perception, assuming we have a professional quality bike and strong legs, and riders will only notice greater or lesser stability at extremely low speeds, like on steep hill climbs or making slow tight turns on city streets. Azub has done something interesting as concerns this quality. By stretching out the wheel base of a small wheeled bike, they have counteracted somewhat the “instability” of small wheels. Of course, when you stretch out the wheelbase, you lose something in turning radius — it gets larger — and in compactness — it gets longer — but I really like this company’s creativity, both in this solution and in other places. Since the Origami has above-seat steering and a wheel that turns backwards should you wish, you can make your extra sharp 91 degree turns. Another note about this “stability” issue. I tend to look askance at claims that a given bike is “unstable.” Instability problems may be problems of rider balance, skill and core strength in combination with the forces that create instability, like speed, payload, center of gravity, absence of wheels…. Once one masters a given machine, assuming it’s a straight frame, round wheels, and an appropriate center of gravity, instability (should) become less an issue. Is it the bike that’s unstable, or is it the rider? A unicycle is unstable, but you know what?
Azub Origami: 122 cm (48″)
HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx: 109 cm (43″)
The Grasshopper has that sporty, nimble feel for which HP Velotechnik’s are famous, but it also has a tiny bit more of a learning curve, compared to the Origami. The Origami has a touch of that long bowsprit feeling when making tight turns and navigating within buildings, but you get used to it.
The Origami’s seat can be reclined from 50 to 20(!) degrees. That is unusual. The result is a machine that can make the upright-sitting crowd happy, but also those riders who want a seriously aero machine can get that too. I can enjoy an aero bike, so I was pretty happy to discover how far I could recline the seat. Also, the above seat bars are more an aero praying mantis style than a Harley chopper style. On both points, you might (or might not) lose something in comfort to gain something in speed, but I thought it was a good move. It helps confirm Azub’s character as a manufacturer of sporty, performance-oriented bents as opposed to sofa-cycles. They’re still working in a crowded marketplace, but they are offering something good that is a little different than the others, making them well worth checking out.
Another note about the seat and the fit.
Azub uses both a sliding boom and a seat slider on the frame. Fine, it’s easy enough to find that perfect adjustment of seat angle and leg length with any decent boom and seat angle adjustment system, but what is really noteworthy is that you can also adjust the location of your center of gravity on the bike, fore and aft, between the wheels. That’s pretty critical with a performance-oriented bent that allows a severe seat recline. Otherwise, as you recline the seat, you end up moving your CoG over the rear wheels, which causes a dangerously lightened front wheel. So, the upright-sitting crowd can to dial in their CoG same as the reclined crowd. Excellent design work.