Electric bikes are wonderful things; they extend the range you can ride, give a boost in hilly terrain, make bikes accessible to people with different abilities and ages. However they tend to be heavier than normal bikes.
That’s why the A-Bike Electric is so interesting. It claims to be the lightest and most compact e-bike ever made, much as Sir Clive Sinclair’s original A-bike was one of the tiniest and lightest bikes. Sinclair worked with product designer Alex Kalogroulis on the original, and Alex has worked on the electric version. It folds in ten seconds and has some wonderful specifications:
The beauty of a tiny folding bike is that they give you such flexibility. You can go intermodal by cycling to and from transit. You don’t need to find a place to chain it up because you can bring it in to work or stick it under a bench.
But like everything, there are trade-offs. Smaller wheels make for a less stable bike. They are more comfortable on a smoother pavement. You seriously do not want to hit a pothole. I ride a small-wheeled Strida, a folding bike with 16” wheels, but never been on an A-bike. However I looked at a pile of reviews from about 2006 when it was introduced and the consensus was that it was not very comfortable, the cornering “has to be a measured affair.” Doing speeds over 10 miles an hour required “nerves of steel” and “great concentration.” And you definitely did not want to hit a pothole.
However in the Kickstarter comments they address many of the issues that people complained about in the original A-Bike, including the seating, flexing and wheel size:
The original A-Bike had 6 inch wheels which many riders found too small. So we’ve improved this by making A-Bike Electric with 8 inch wheels. In terms of the frame, compared to the original A-Bike, we’ve updated it to make it stronger so it feels stable when riding and be more durable. The seat has also been improved to feel more comfortable. Overall this gives A-Bike Electric a much better riding experience, and especially now with the power assistance that makes pedalling a lot easier too.
The promoters claim that “The A-Bike Electric makes it so much easier to ride and go further, faster.” They have electrified a bike that was not easy to ride, did not go far and was not very fast. If they have solved those problems while keeping the portability and light weight then this might be one to watch.
The A-Bike Electric is up on Kickstarter and has already reached 149% of its target.