Eyebrows were raised when the Airnimal Joey Endurance Plus arrived. For a start it’s missing the classic diamond frame that virtually every bike we test has. Look a little closer and you’ll see an array of quick-release levers, a telescopic seatpost and a separable stem. Yep, this is a folding bike.
We’re not talking Brompton’s super-quick origami-like fold that’ll get you on a train in a few seconds, but the all-rounder Joey – “from daily commute to world expedition”, as Airnimal puts it – is designed to offer the ride of a bike with full-size wheels.
That said, it still has a ‘first fold’ that provides a public transport-friendly package in less than a minute and a 10-minute ‘case fold’ that gets it into Airnimal’s own £279 Traveller case. And that’s the USP of the Joey, which is available in flat- and drop-bar options from £1,299.
Put the hammer down and this bike flies, just like the road bike it really is. Courtesy
This is a bike not just for day-to-day use, it’s one you can fly to Europe with for training camps, touring, sportives or gran fondos. A £175 trailer kit converts the case into a trailer for self-supported travel.
Airnimal also makes accessories – racks, packing kits, mudguards, light brackets – for just about everything.
But with those comparatively small wheels and all those foldy-bit shenanigans, how’s the Joey going to ride? Surely there have to be some compromises? Well, I couldn’t get any noticeable flex from the Joey and the performance was impressive.
For a start, those wheels are 26in size (ETRTO 559) paired with 28mm Continental Gatorskin tyres, which came up a tad narrow at 27.6mm. This is the ‘old’ mountain bike size so there are numerous tyre choices open to you.
The folding section doesn’t impact the Airnimal handling. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Hope RS4 hubs are super-smooth performers and smaller wheels, everything else being equal, are stronger than their larger equivalents. The downside is that you will feel bigger bumps more, but this never felt an issue on the Joey.
What really impresses, though, is just how well the Joey coped with everything I threw at it. City riding, long commutes, out-of-saddle sprints, even gravel and unsurfaced towpath, though you’d need different tyres in winter.
I thought the front end, with its removable steerer extension, would be flimsy. It wasn’t. And neither did the Joey feel soft or inefficient through the bottom bracket, that sizeable aluminium tube providing sufficient stiffness.
It’s SRAM again, and that 11-42 cassette helps with a good range of gears. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Put the hammer down and this bike really flies, just like the road bike it really is. Unlike twitchier, smaller-wheeled folding bikes you can easily ride this no-handed. You can pound out day-long rides, sportives or similar (yes, really). The smaller wheels accelerate rapidly and make handling very light – not twitchy, but certainly easy touch.
SRAM’s 1x gearing works very well, and Airnimal’s move to larger, 26in wheels, means the top gear is roughly the same as a 50×12 on a 700c wheel.
This may be slightly low at the top, but climbing is catered for both in and out of the saddle, where the light wheels proved extremely nimble.
Braking is fine from the Avid 7 mechanical disc brakes, but at this price I’d have liked SRAM’s excellent hydraulics. The Joey’s contact points are good too, from the Ergon saddle to the compact Pro bar and excellent Pro bar tape.
If you want a folding bike with a road-bike performance, this is one of the best options around, though it will cost you.
Airnimal Joey Endurance Plus geometry
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 72.5 degrees
Seat tube: 27cm
Top tube: 55cm
Fork offset: 3.55cm
Bottom bracket height: 30.7cm