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June 11, 2016

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Birdy Rohloff Mark 3 (2016) review

February 5, 2016

I pre-ordered the Birdy Rohloff in July 2015 and received it in September of the same year. I felt the world’s best hub is a perfect complement to the capabilities of the Birdy. Whilst, I was waiting for my bike, the U.K. Distributor (David Miall & his team) very kindly lent me a Mark 2 Birdy with SRAM to use. I can make some brief comparisons to the Mk2 as a result.

The cyan blue is really nice in reality. The only way I was aware it was unusual and worked on the frame is because of pictures posted on Birdy UK, the social media site run by the distributor. Dealer pictures are somewhat poorer. The black frame with red wheels & red hub is distributed in Asia but not available in Europe. The colour options on the Birdy are very limited and it would be nice to see more available when ordering. A wider colour menu has really helped boost Brompton’s sales.

This is my first Birdy. I tried one of the older ones years in 2009 and didn't like the steering for some reason. Perhaps that was a subjective reaction at the time? The ride on this Birdy is agile with sure handling on London’s poorly maintained roads. The monocoque frame provides a firm ride where needed and the suspension works superbly. I also rode it on canal trails with varied terrain. Both the Brompton & Birdy are capable bikes on city roads but the dual suspension and Birdy frame design are superior on trails. Many FS bikes are too soft on firmer roads but the Birdy Suspension is very firm until engaged. It really does provide a very adaptive experience. My Birdy came with Schwalbe Apples which are great for varied terrain and very tough. The Rohloff is not meant to be a speed version anyway but it's still very fast and while I have done any comparative measures to my Brompton, it still feels 2-3mph faster even with the Big Apples. I'm have no doubt it climbs superbly and will have a very assured ride downhill given the core frame is so stiff.

 

I had a high-end full suspension Dahon Jetstream EX 2010 and the frame never stopped creaking despite all my efforts so I sold it on despite its beautiful looks & components. The Birdy frame is beautifully engineered with no such issues. The Dahon EX had hydraulic disk brakes but the Birdy ones are almost as good and the Rohloff single shift 14 speed is superb. The range is huge with an effortless ability to change and even jump several gears if needed. The lowest gear would hardly move on a straight and climb steep inclines with ease but yet the highest gear is very powerful. Despite using a relatively heavy hub the beautiful frame ensures the bike only weighs in at 11.5kg.

 

 

The supplied components are also high-end on the top bikes such as the Rohloff. Yes the bike cost £2700 but a Rohloff hub costs £900 alone in the UK. The bike also comes equipped with Ergon grips, a front Dynamo hub and the renowned Supernova lights from Germany. I have a few minor gripes as I find the stock saddle & pedals are not in line with the other parts and rather bland & cheap. A lot of people change these anyway. However, I'm surprised Birdy didn't match the Cyan blue bike with the perfectly matching cyan blue SDK saddle that I found within seconds of browsing the Internet. It is nice to be consistent with everything on a high-end bike. How many people supply Supernova lights though?

I find the fold seems to be tighter than the Mark 2 in line with the modifications in the stays and new frame. It doesn't fold as compact as a Brompton but it is still a relatively tight package compared to other bikes and the Brompton has a smaller frame & wheels. I have a Brompton and even after practicing extensively with the Birdy, I find the folding/unfolding process slightly slower. I have had a Brompton since 2009 so perhaps that's not a fair comparison. I do find the Birdy fold much better than the half fold process of many other rivals such as Dahon etc. There are no doubts the new Mark 3 fold is better & more compact than the Mk2.. The only major criticism is the front cable array is not as neat as the Brompton. That's ironic considering the cable routing through the frame at the rear is so neat and well designed.

 

 

I will provide updates but here is my summary of the first few months or occasional use:

Pros:

- Super frame design with improved fold. Locks neatly like the Brompton with favourable dimensions given it’s a larger bike.
- Not just superficial upgrades. It's more refined & a better fold than the Mk2
- Superb stiffness & frame has no flex. Creak free without folding hinge joints.
- Fantastic firm dual suspension system. Highly efficient dampening with no softness on firm smooth road surfaces. I'm 92kg and test suspension to the limit!
- The Rohloff hub is not overrated and is a great investment for all-terrain riding
- Some choice components especially the disc bikes & Supernova lights 
- Excellent ride & handling, extremely versatile. Great on trails or roads
- Looks lovely in cyan blue
- Easy to adapt for touring with front & rear rack stays.

Cons:

- Limited colour choices
- Cheap pedals for such a high-end bike. 
- Comfortable but blandly styled saddle
- Front cable array needs to be neater in line with rest of cable routing

Verdict 9/10. I will always love my compact Brompton but this is a worthy stable companion. It is a folding bike not a bike that folds and it has a superb dual suspension frame and hugely versatile riding ability. The Rohloff hub is not for everybody but the range & single-grip shifting is fantastic.

You can take the Brompton on light trails but it won't be as at ease as the Birdy or handle harsher terrain. Yet the Birdy is still a great city bike with agile handling & frame rigidity.

 

 

 

 

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