There are a few things that I have never understood about the CMYK folding electric bike, going back to when we first showed its prototype in 2009. Like why it is called a folding bike, when unlike a Brompton or my Strida, it doesn’t actually fold. The quill stem, the part that holds the handlebars, folds down, and the seat post goes way down, the pedals fold but the bike itself? Not really. But some would consider that a feature, not a bug; It makes it solid, and it is still a small, low, easy to carry multimodal bike, so that’s OK.
Then I never understood why they gave it the name CMYK, the short form for the four inks used in color printing, unless they were determined to get buried in Google searches. Which would be a shame, because it always was a nice little electric bike.
It’s a pedalec, which means that the power kicks in automatically when you need a boost, rather than a full electric with a throttle where you can sit there and do nothing. the 250 front hub motor is powered by a 24 volt lithium-ion battery that should pull you up to 30 miles depending on your terrain and your weight. At 26 pounds and with its compact design, you comfortably pick it up, and the cover is useful. This is a bigger deal than you think; When TreeHugger was owned by Discovery and had its offices in New York, we were not allowed to bring our folding bikes into the office, and many apartments won’t allow bikes in the elevators. The portability (and the cover) of this bike solves that problem. And it won’t take up a lot of room beside your desk at the office or in your apartment.
Finally, I had trouble figuring out what differentiated the CMYK 4.0 from its predecessor 3.0 version, beside the fancy app and electronics. Founder and CEO Manuel Saez tells us that the bike has an improved frame that ups the carrying capacity to 220 pounds, and bigger wheels. But the big deal is clearly the app.
It does many things; it finds bike paths, tracks your distance and cadence, crowd maps information to share with other riders about local issues and conditions. It integrates with transit to make multimodal travel easier. It has a lock and an alarm (but still use a U-lock!)
To top it all off, it has lights and fricking lasers that draw you a red bike lane. And wait, there’s more: a gyroscope and accelerometer that “captures subtle changes in terrain so that riders can map the road to determine best route by condition”, heart rate sensors built into the hand grips.
There is also a clever folding basket design with a weatherproof pouch for your phone and a slot for your U-lock, something designers rarely think about.
This is all wonderful stuff, but comes with one concern; I worry about people spending too much time looking down their phones and not enough looking at the road ahead. When I tried a phone-guided tour system in Copenhagen I almost ran into a tree, I was so busy looking at my route. You can have too much information.
Also, since I was outfitted with my wonderful hearables, I have found that I much prefer audio directions to looking at my phone. But even if you totally ignore the apps and the electronics, the price of the bike during their indiegogo campaign is a bargain; this is a bike that has been around for a while, with more than five years of development. It’s worth a look.