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Editor’s note: Once again, we bring you an excellent guest article from Andrew “Doc” Li — looks like we’ll be giving him his own place on the Bikecommuters.com staff real soon. Today’s review is of the Biria folding bike; longtime readers may remember we had ANOTHER guest review of a Biria bike a few years ago. You may also notice that Biria didn’t give Andrew much time at all on the bike; less than a week. And we had to talk them into that…they wanted to give him only three days to try out the folder! In any case, he handled the short time frame with aplomb. Andrew, let it rip!
I think that people either love or hate folding bicycles. Regardless of your personal views on the topic, folding bikes have definite benefits and applications that may come in handy. What follows is a review of the Biria folder.
Over a period of a week, I had the opportunity to test out the Biria folder. Biria, originating from Germany, is better known in Europe and introduced its line of bicycles to the US in 2002. The company’s focus is producing comfortable, commuter oriented bicycles, and its claim to fame is its easy boarding “step in” frame design. The Biria folder that I tested out (the one that is currently advertised on their website www.biria.com) has the following features:
FRAME Aluminum, folding
RIMS Aluminum double wall with CNC
TIRES 20 x 1.20
GEAR Shimano 7-speed Revo
STEM Aluminum, folding
BRAKE Front and rear aluminum Tektro V-brakes
COLORS Black, red, white
I measured these specifications (which I did not encounter on the website):
Weight: 24.5 pounds
Dimensions: ~24 x 20 x 14 inches
Comfortable speed: ~15 MPH (pedaling at 90 rpm, this is obviously variable)
Set up time: ~40 seconds
I arrived at Bike Attack in Santa Monica who provided the Biria folder. The first thing I learned from the friendly staff was how to fold and unfold the bike. The mechanisms are similar to other brands (e.g. Dahon), and involve a handlebar hinge, a frame hinge, folding pedals, and collapsing seatpost. A notable difference is that while the Dahon uses a quick-release clamp for the handlebar hinge, the Biria folder uses a screw-down clamp, which in my view adds some time to the folding and unfolding process . Some Dahon models come with magnets to help keep the bike folded (though I have heard of some complaints about their inefficacy). The Biria does not have this magnet feature, but the frame hinge was relatively tight such that I did not have a problem with the bike unfolding unexpectedly during transport.
After some small talk at Bike Attack, I headed back to work. I folded up the Biria, and it fit nicely in my trunk. It took up more space than I thought it would, about 1/3 of the space. Overall, the Biria helped me save time; instead of setting up a rack and strapping on a full size bike, I just folded up the Biria and put it in the trunk. The folder also allowed me easy access to the trunk, unlike a trunk mount. The bike was also more secure as I was able to store the folder in the trunk, instead of having a full size merely strapped/locked to the rack.
From Bike Attack, I drove to a parking spot about 2 miles from my work. Parking at my workplace is excruciating and expensive. So for the past year, I became a hybrid commuter (part drive, part bike). This time however, when I arrived at the parking spot, instead of having to unstrap everything, lift off my full size, disassemble my rack, and put the rack in the trunk, all I had to do was open the trunk, lift out the folder, unfold, close trunk, and ride away.
And ride away I did. The 2 mile trip from the parking spot to work was a good preliminary testing ground for the Biria. I also took the Biria for a grocery run. The Biria felt strong and solid, and when I didn’t look down, it rode nearly like a full size.
Small wheels made for fast acceleration and ease with uphills. The steepest hill I climbed during the testing phase was about 500 meters of 10% grade and it felt great. The braking and shifting components on my Biria folder were of good quality, well tuned (thanks Bike Attack), and felt precise and responsive.
However, small wheels also made the Biria very sensitive to even the smallest bumps in the road and created significant oversteer. These two combined meant that when I rode down hills, one particular bump caused me to veer off unexpectedly. Another issue was that the maximum extended length of seat post is just right for my height of 5’ 9”. So it might be a bit small for bigger people.
When I arrived at work, instead of locking the bike outside, I saved more time, folded it up, and took it inside. I will say that 24 pounds is not insignifcant to carry, and moreover, the limited space in my office made storing the Biria a challenge (but obviously easier than a full size). When I went grocery shopping, I actually forgot my lock, so I folded up the Biria and put it my shopping cart. Easy enough. But good thing I was only shopping for a few things, because the bike took up about the whole cart space. Brompton folders have innovated the concept of rollers and “Eazy wheels” which allows the rider to push and use the folded Brompton much like a shopping cart.
Overall, the Biria is a well built folder with standard features. It rides nearly like a full size, and is easy to fold and unfold.
From my past experiences and brief time with the Biria, I feel that the following situations would make the Biria useful, and in some cases, more advantageous than a full size:
1. Park away from a busy (e.g. downtown) area, then bike in, avoiding parking nightmares and often expensive fees.
2. Bring with you on vacation in your car, RV etc. Great for short range exploration without the hassle of trying to find parking or storing a full size on a rack.
3. If you bike to work and then go out to dinner after, you can easily put the folder into your friend’s trunk, and then after a night out, then bike back from that location. In contrast, I have never been able to store my full size in my friend’s trunk. In these situations, I either had to bike to the restaurant from work or carpool with my friend and then have him drive me back to the workplace where I parked my bike.
4. Store the folder in a car that needs to be dropped off at the mechanic and bike back home (if your mechanic is near your home).
Do good and ride well.