I have a real soft spot for mini velos and weird folding bikes, so imagine my excitement when I stumbled on the Giant MR 4 — a charming, practical and sadly discontinued Japanese-market-only folding road bike with rear suspension.
A folding what now?
The Giant MR 4 was an alloy folding soft-tail road bike that was built around 24in wheels. The bike was available in drop- and flat-bar models. It was only sold in one size.
The bike folds by first removing the front wheel, then removing a quick release on the front of the rear shock (!). This allows the swingarm to rotate forward, placing the rear wheel in the fork (?!).
If none of that made sense, this video should clear things up.
The rear suspension is built around a unified rear triangle (URT). This suspension layout was pooh-poohed for use off-road long ago, but it (kind of) makes sense for bikes like these, as it isolates the suspension from pedalling forces, but adds a degree of comfort while seated without requiring complex linkages or funky damping.
Why exactly do you love this bike?
While folding bikes always come with compromises compared to a regular machine, the MR 4 appears to combine most of the compact practicality of a folder with the ride quality of a normal road bike.
The geometry looks remarkably normal, it doesn’t require weird proprietary parts and it folds down enough to be usefully small. The idea that you and your MR 4 could easily hop onto the next Shinkansen after a ride is a very compelling idea indeed.
This charming ride footage — which includes an arduous coasteering hike-a-bike — also suggests that the bikes are a perfectly normal and pleasant place to spend a day.
However, it’s possible that the operatic rendition of Auld Lang Syne that accompanies the video is tugging at my homeland heartstrings and clouding my judgement, we won’t dwell on that.
However, none of this matters as, sadly, following an 18-year run, production of the MR 4 ended in 2017.
That the bike was limited to the Japanese market in the first place and is now doubly difficult to get hold of only adds to the allure of this weird little bike and I suspect that I — a self-confessed bike fashion victim — will be lusting after one for years to come.
Is the MR 4 a modern classic in waiting or a weird footnote best consigned to history? Are there any other quirky bikes that you think deserve recognition? Leave your suggestions in the comments!