Designer and owner of Austin bikes, Wayland Austin, headed down our way recently to drop off the new ATTO folding bike and to give us the low-down on the new machine.
Austin Cycles has been around for a while now, starting out with the Lios Nano (quickly re-named after some copyright issues over the Nano moniker), which, after customer feedback, evolved in to the original ATTO.
The ATTO made quite a splash as a lightweight premium folding bike when it was released, with models used by both Team Sky at the Tour de France and Team GB at the Rio Olympics to get around.
Following on from that sort of endorsement, Austin tells us that Aston Martin’s Le Mans team will have a few of the new ATTOs on hand to get around the pits at the next legendary 24-hour race.
The latest ATTO sees a reworking of the main frame’s Toray carbon fibre selection and changes to the layup, resulting in a claimed 400g weight drop from the frame while still maintaining strength.
“Using carbon fibre allows you to lose weight without compromising strength, and by using high-quality components throughout means the bike will last longer, ride better and be easier to maintain,” says Austin.
It was decided however to use 20-inch carbon wheels rather than lighter 16-inch wheels: “Smaller 16-inch wheels meant we could have gone lighter but I believe the ride is too compromised when you go that small wheeled,” says Austin.
Some customers fed back on the original ATTO that they’d be interested in larger volume tyres, so the fork and rear stays have been redesigned to allow for larger tyre width on the new model.
A custom made travel/storage bag has also been introduced, which is handmade in the UK, because, as Austin explains: “A lot of our customers live in cities and having a bag to store the bike in, especially if you live in an apartment, is a necessity. Also, a lot of our bikes have ended up going to yacht owners where storage is a premium, and having the bike bagged also makes things tidier.”
The sailing tie-in may also have something to do with the frame’s construction and equipment choices. A carbon frame doesn’t corrode like metal when exposed to sea air, and in keeping with this all of the hardware used in the hinges is made from stainless steel, as are the spokes used in the carbon-rimmed 20-inch wheels.
The bag will retail for £199, but early adopters will get the bag included with the purchase of the bike.
Aside from the dedicated bag, Austin tells us that more dedicated accessories are on their way. The first is a set of self-supporting, full-carbon mudguards. He tells us that these have been designed using 3D printed carbon mounts and curved blades, which he claims are “super-stiff, rattle free, but also strong and light — they weigh less than 80g!
The mudguards have also been made to F1 standards, so they can be twisted and bent and they’ll flick back into place. “So no worries about accidental breakages when folding, or if the worst happens and a stone or stick gets between tyre and guard,” Austin remarks.
The choice of a Gates belt drive seems like an obvious one for a folding bike, with no oily chain to dirty your work clothes when carrying it or, more importantly, other commuters on packed trains.
I asked Austin why it seems Austin Cycles is one of the only brands to use belt drives on its folders and he tells us that “the main reason is that belt drive systems are expensive when compared to chain drives, but I wanted the bike to be clean and completely oil-free, as well as reasonably light, strong and fast.”
In addition to the belt-drive, hydraulic disc brakes have been used because they were seen as “a real-world benefit”.
Aside from the belt drive driving an 11-speed Alfine hub and the hydraulic disc brakes, the ATTO features a bespoke, super-long carbon seatpost and carbon bar.
We’ve had the chance to ride the ATTO for a few days and the low 7.8kg weight does make it feel surprisingly nippy. The handling feels pretty close to the Tern BYB that’s also in on test right now, but the steering response on the ATTO is a bit faster and a little twitchier because the ATTO’s bar pretty much sits in-line with the steerer.
Tern’s clever Andros stem gives you the chance to alter the stem length and angle to get a more full-size bike-like steering feel.
The braking is excellent, as you’d expect, the gear range and shift speed are spot-on, and the contact points are great with excellent Ergon grips and a saddle that’s comfortably shaped. The long carbon post adds plenty of compliance when you ride over rougher surfaces.
The fold is simple and can be completed in moments, and you can trolley the bike when folded, rolling it on its wheels and using the saddle as a handle.
The simple singlespeed version of the ATTO is priced at £2,250, while the 11-speed Alfine model featured here costs £2,750.
For more information on the new ATTO visit Austin Cycles
We’ll be giving the ATTO a full test soon, so stay tuned.