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My negative A-Bike experience

Chat about your A-Bike, post details of your exploits, ask advice from other owners, etc.

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My negative A-Bike experience

Postby DJShrimper on Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:33 pm

I was really looking forward to getting an A-Bike. I have a journey to work that suited it: a 10 minutes walk to the station, 50 minutes on the train and then a 20 minutes walk at the other end.
I was hoping the A-Bike would cut each of the walking times by half, with the additional benefit of allowing me to catch a later train. Potentially, I was looking at saving 50 minutes a day! Great!
So I bought an A-Bike.
Unfortunately, it is not even twice as quick as walking. The journey to the station was cut to 6 minutes, even though it is partly downhill, and the quickest I could do the other end was 14 minutes (as you still have to get out of the station before I could ride it and at my work I had to walk from the office entrance to my desk).
So it hardly saved me any time at all.
Aside from this, there were some problems with the A-Bike in general and my one in particular:
1/ the seat really is a pain!
2/ with no gears, it is very difficult to ride up hill or with the wind against you.
3/ the small wheels mean you feel every bump on the road, and every drain or pothole becomes a object of fear!

with my A-Bike in particular:
4/ it came with no bell, which means the front brake handle hung loose
5/ the front brake bad was not aligned correctly with the wheel
6/ the clip holding the back telescopic tube fell off
7/ the push button on horizontal bar broke (the spring emerged from it)

And worst of all:
8/ the service at Future Now in the London Selfridges was appalling! Despite them selling me something that was dangerous (because of the above faults) they refused to give me my money back until they sent it away for analysis, despite me eventually ranting at the manager. I had to chase them 3 times and go there to get my money back.
My advise if you are going to buy an A-Bike is:
BUY IT ONLINE AND SAVE YOURSELF £25! Don't risk having to put up with the same rubbish service I had to endure.

It's a real shame as I loved the concept. With slightly bigger wheels, 2 gears (to get more speed and make hills easier), a more comfortable seat and improved quality, I'd buy A-Bike2 at a higher price.

DJShrimper.
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Postby Neural Connexio on Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:19 am

Hi DJShrimper,

Your experience is so similar to mine - my commute is almost the same. It actually halved my walking time and I thought it was great...but the wind and hills are very difficult to cycle on and the journey home, up a hill, was hard going.

Mine went back to Selfridges after the chain started slipping and the back wheel was making a grinding noise.. A-Bike tech support told me to get a refund or exchange, and selfridges complied although insisted on seeing the fault themselves before giving me a refund!

I'm now considering the strida but it is twice and heavy and I doubt it can be stored on trains as easily.
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Postby Izzard on Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:02 pm

I agree with your main three criticisms (seat, jolts and gears), and your suggestions for an improved (or alternate version). If it could have a less harsh ride, 2 or more gears and comfy seat, I'd like it... ..even if it weighed a kilo more.
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Postby bruceebonus on Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:15 pm

Uncannily, I was about to post a similar entry re: my own negative ABike experience. However I can also add further qualification due to the fact I also now own the Strida 3. I bought an ABike about 2 months ago. It went back about 2 weeks later. The problem?. It only fulfils two of the features needed of a folding bike. Compactness and practicality. In the case of the ABike .. only the former quality is present. As I said - I returned my purchase because of three shortcomings in its design.
1) Its slow - despite frantic pedalling and grim-faced determination - the average speed of the ABike is about 6mph or 1.5 x walking speed. It has no momentum - and lots of inertia due to it shopping trolley sized wheels.
2) Its uncomfortable - the seat is rock hard. The frame is light and unsuspended - so there is no `give' anywhere. Couple this with castor-dimensioned wheels and we have a recipe for a bone-jarring, vision blurring experience.
3) Its no fun. A combination of the above two problems creates the third. Your road-profile is low and narrow so you feel vulnerable. Car drivers think you are on push-scooter, pedestrians point and ... smirk ... and you are left wondering "what the hell am I doing here?".
Unless you are cycling on a billiard table-smooth surface (unlikely) or have a tail wind behind you .. Im afraid that in my opinion - the ABike is a classical example of form over function.
So two weeks ago I bought a Strida 3 with performance kit (folding bars/pedals/gel seat/mudguard colours) and its another concept altogether. Going back to what a folding bike must do - be compact and practical .. the Strida IS twice as big and twice as heavy as an ABike- no question. Unlike the ABike there is no way you can just shove it under a Debenhams Cafe table-pick it up and walk with it in one hand or store it in a suitcase. But .. its slim and can be wheeled when folded - rolled along with one hand-like a kiddies pushchair. So for train journeys. car journeys and shoving behind a desk at work - no problem whatsoever.
On the practicality front - this is where it wins hands down.
1) Its not slow. Average speed 12-14mph .. with minimum effort. I was shocked to find out ho easy it was to go up hills. The bigger wheels, clever gearing, Kevlar belt transmission means its quiet, efficient and very smooth in operation.
2)Its comfortable. Its bigger heavier aluminium/plastics frame and deep saddle with suspended seat - means most bumps and ridges are absorbed before they find their way arsewards. its just as smooth as my Specialized mountain bike. Not as quick but not far off and no more effort in getting places.
3)Its fun. When people point at it . they are intrigued and impressed .. not smirking quietly. It looks damned stylish - you can change the mudguards colours to Orange/Blue or Green at a whim as well. YOu are sat up high. And look over the bike and down at cars. Its stable. Minimal wobble and steering is positive. When I get home after being out on it - fold it away in about 20 seconds and place it against the wall of my front porch - I want to go out again-and have another go ... thats the difference with the Strida 3.

Like Mr Shrimpton - I too wanted the ABike to be the salvation of commuters and public transport-haters alike. There IS a market for such a hyper-portable mode of getting around. But not at the expense of practicality. If something is harder to use than the alternatives out there and not much cheaper than the alternatives .. folks wont bother no matter how much the King's Clothes Syndrom pervades.

The Strida basic is about £240 - almost the same as the ABike's new price. For another £85 you get more foldabilty and comfort but the basic bike is quite alright as is.

Finally - Customer Service. Sinclair Research helpdesk seems mainly to resort to FAQs being read out over the phone. Mayhem in Londond are better - the guys there are enthusiastic about their product - and seem keen to see it succeed - but most people will call Sinclair direct.

Strida helpdesk gets back to you with any questions in 6 working hours (or they give you a 10% discount) - the folks there know their product back wards and can supply parts (any part) over the phone - no messing. More personal. More reassuring.

So then - for what its worth - thats my two happ'orth.
If you want sheer micro dimensions - and are happy to compromise on speed and comfort ... go for the Abike.
The Strida is bigger, heavier and bulkier. But with this is standardisation (parts and servicing are going to easier) you get conventional comfort/speed and power-to-effort ratios as well .. and for the money - its not expensive compared to say a Brompton or Moulton .. and not at the cost of build quality either.

Sorry to upset any keen ABikers out there. I am NOT a Strida rep, believe it or not . these are my opinions only - and if this has helped anyone to narrow down their choice/s then great. I see things from a real-world viewpoint and have tried the two main contenders within it.
I hope Sinclair take folks' feedback seriously - make modifications as necessary and improve what could and really should be a great product.
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Postby Izzard on Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:27 pm

Yup - all good points. And a good description of the perception from others when you're riding it (and how you feel with people looking at you.)

It really takes a special kind of person to love the A-bike. And I really do hope they go back to the drawing board and find a good compromise.
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Postby DJShrimper on Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:27 pm

A colleague gave me a copy of the freebie paper "Metro" that had an advert for "Bike in a Bag"; a fold-up bike that was bigger and heavier than an A-Bike, but looked more rideable. Cheaper too. Has anyone any experience of this?
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Yeah I feel your pain right 'ere, man

Postby TarzanABike on Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:36 pm

I know what you're saying -

I just got my bike - I'm in California, USA -

I unpacked the package, tried to unfold the bike, and POP - that button in the middle bar came right out. I was screaming obscenities left and right, since being in California, no one will know how to fix this thing - yet.
It took me all my finger-bending finesse to get that spring to work correctly with that button!

The ride comfort is pretty bad. I can only ride it on smooth, new, recently paved roads and bike paths.

It's a toy, really. A pre-teen kid will be able to make better use of it than us adults, I think.
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Postby Neural Connexio on Tue Mar 06, 2007 10:16 pm

its a toy that gives me 30 minutes a day less commuting....not bad for a toy!
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Hardly Useable in the real world

Postby Chris on Mon Dec 03, 2007 9:21 pm

This little contraption is excellent in every way until you actually try and use it. Even having replaced the seat for something more comfortable I have come to realize that I will probably never use this bike again after only having cycled a couple of miles.

I wouldn't dream of using this in traffic, the tiny wheels and narrow set handlebars make it difficult to cycle straight. I have also found the steering VERY stiff.

In the real world there pavements and cracks that will soon have you sprawling or continually stopping or slowing down to navigate them.

The only place I could see this bike being any real use is somewhere like an airport or large factory where the floor is very smooth and flat. I remember seeing staff using little scooters in Copenhagen airport years ago, the A-bike would be ideal for them.

So, my A-Bike will sit in the corner, to be bought out only at dinner parties
where tipsy guests will try to unfold it and cycle around the table.
Chris
 

Confused...

Postby Sherlock Holmes on Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:53 am

I do not understand all of the criticism of the bike. I understand/agree that it is not the most easy bike to pedal or the most comfortable bike, but I think it is pretty shocking how great it really is.

I had read similar reviews/complaints as all of these before I bought a bike, but the bike has truly exceeded my expectations.

1. I do not know why everyone says the seat is so uncomfortable. In some ways, I think it is easier to find comfort on the seat than on a regular bike. Since you are more vertical on an A-bike as opposed to a regular bike, I find it much easier to shift my weight differently if I get sore, as opposed to a regular bike. It is more like adjusting your weight sitting on a flat surface, rather than being kind of forced in at an angle on a regular bike.

2. I do not understand the comments that you can not go very fast on your A-bike. I am very easily going 8-10 mph (or about 3 times as fast as the people walking next to me). Do you have the seat adjusted high enough? Also, I have found that if you are sitting more vertical you can get better leverage on the pedals, as opposed to being hunched forward on a regular bike.

3. I have been very pleased with how the A-bike handles bumps. Yes, you have to be more aware of where you are riding, but it really does pretty well I think. Another plus is that the bike stops very quickly and efficiently, so if you see a bump at the last second, you usually have time to still stop.

All in all, this is one incredibly efficient, time and space saving mode of transportation.
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Postby Timbo in Essex on Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:53 pm

Just to add my 10 penn'oth to the debate.

I have had my A-bike for exactly a year and still ride it most days between home and my station and Liverpool St. Station and Kings Cross where I work. Contrary to other people's experiences, I feel more confident in traffic, even London traffic, on my A-bike that I do on my Claude Butler. The small wheel-base and, it must be said, the small wheels make the bike much more manoeuvrable than a conventionally sized cycle; the narrow handle-bars and slow speed are especially usefully when riding between lanes of stationary traffic.

I think I must have a strange shaped bum because I don't find the saddle painful at all, although I accept it is unlikely to win any prizes for overall comfort.

Where I do have an issue with the bike is the lack of gearing, just one additional gear would be helpful, and the small size of the wheels, despite what I said earlier. Surely to have 8 or 9 inch spoked wheels would not compromise the weight too much but they would help me, as a balding 51 year old, not to look such a complete pratt when I ride the bike.

As has been mentioned in this and other threads, if there is to be an A-bike Mark II and I understand that there might be; some of the criticisms levelled at the design must be addressed otherwise the bike will remain forever a novelty rather than a serious means of transport. All power to Sir Clive but I do hope he comes up with something that may be a little heavier and may be a little bulkier but will be a more attractive/comfortable ride.

Until the Mark II comes out, I, for one, will carry on riding my A-bike on London roads in London traffic with great enjoyment.

Good luck to you all - we really must try and arrange another get together in the Spring.
Timbo in Essex
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epilogue

Postby Neural Connexio on Wed Dec 05, 2007 1:04 pm

Beat this for a negative a-bike experience:

I was on my third a-bike and went over the handlebars (the front wheel locked). Landed on my head and arm, both badly injured. I'm still recovering some 4 months later!

If you're interested in the other two a-bikes, the first one broke in 3 weeks (drive mechanism), the second a had a structural failure - the frame split open while riding.

Of course this is not entirely the fault of the a-bike but the different riding characteristics mean that its limits are reached far quicker when cycling. It did cut down my commute but did not do hills or wind at all well.

My family have begged me to not ride it again. I think I'll wait for a-bike mk2 :twisted:
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Postby Nigel Kellett on Sat Dec 08, 2007 1:35 am

Hi Timbo,

Just to make it up to a whole shilling, I liked your post & echo parts of it, except that I am a balding 48-year-old!

One thing I do wonder, though, since your A-bike must be pretty high mileage (and I may have missed a mention by you before in another thread, or can't remember), have you managed to escape the dreaded creeping fatigue crack on the rear lower tube below the quick release clamp? Looks like mine's started! :cry:

It was good to meet you in the summer with the others; a "next time" would be great!
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Postby Vekling logged in as on Sat Dec 08, 2007 1:57 am

if there is to be an A-bike Mark II and I understand that there might be; some of the criticisms levelled at the design must be addressed otherwise the bike will remain forever a novelty rather than a serious means of transport.


Hi Timbo. I hope they actually make an improved one. I have not dared to buy this one but like the concept of having as small as practical to ride.

Hope you are right that they make the Mark II then and a lot stronger and bigger wheel and a Sturmer 8 internal gear hub. Would be an instant success for the right price.
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Postby Binch Shin on Sat Dec 08, 2007 2:09 am

This topic seems too long!!
So I decided to make a summary here :roll:
1. Timbo is a balding 51 year old.
2. Nigel is a balding 48 year old.
Additionally..
3. Garry is a balding 36 year old.
4. Binch is a balding 33 year old.
Bicycles are Human Amplifiers - Mark Sanders -
Bintz's google profile(Buzz)
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