Austin’s folding design has been around for a couple of years, its lightweight design has attracted a fair few fans, with the likes of Team GB using the ultralight (7.49kg) singlespeed version to get around at the Rio Olympics – and we’ve also seen riders spinning around on them in the paddock at the Tour too.
At the heart of the Atto is a carbon fibre frame built using high-grade Toray fibres. The new Atto has seen plenty of development from the original resulting in a drop of more than 400g from the frame alone.
This means a complete bike that tips the scales at 10.4kg with the hefty Alfine 11-speed hub gear, or you could opt for the simple and cheaper singlespeed that drops down to around 8kg.
Sharp riding for a folding bike
The Austin Atto is among the best riding folding bikes available. Russell Burton
Some small wheeled folders can feel twitchy on the road, with nervous handling and not feeling at all stable. The Atto is better than most though, with its long wheelbase and big 20in wheels.
I do prefer my folders with BMX sized wheels, it may compromise the inevitable folded size, but I think it makes for a better riding bike thanks to the increased wheelbase (but at 6ft 2in I’m taller than a lot of riders).
The front-end steering response is still quicker than a standard bike, but it remains relatively stable at speed. Ideally I’d like to see Austin adopt a stem setup similar to the Andros stem on Tern’s new BYB, which offers a huge amount of adjustment.
Its design means you can get the handlebar out forward of the steerer, which would give a little more adaptability in the reach and slow the steering down a little. It would also give the Atto even more of a full-sized bike feel.
Lots of gears, lots of range
The Gates carbon drive measn oil- and grime-free running. Russell Burton
The 11-speed hub gear offers a huge range of gearing – with a 40 per cent spread (with each gear at 14 per cent intervals). That means the Atto can motor on the flat, but you won’t be troubled by even the steepest of climbs.
The Alfine hub is fully sealed and runs on an oil- and grime-free Gates carbon belt, so you’ve no worries about transferring oil and crud onto your work clothes.
You do notice a little drag with this set-up, but Alfine hubs have a bit of a reputation for taking their time to ‘bed in’ and, while you can feel a little drag when freewheeling, the gear shifts are smooth and accurate.
An Alfine hub alone will add 1,700g+ to the bike, and then there’s the Gates sprocket and belt to add into the mix. Still, it’s a trade-off I think is worth making if you value oil-free clothing and plenty of gears for all terrains.
It’s comfortable to ride
The Atto looks suitably sleek compared to most folding bikes. Russell Burton
Austin has chosen well when it comes to contact points. The straight Ergon grips have a comfortable rubberised surface and the slim diameter is comfortable to hold too. You sit upon a swoopy saddle with a pressure relief channel that works when you’re in cycling kit and when you’re in your civvies too.
The fat 1.5in Schwalbe tyres offer plenty of bump-smoothing compliance, but the Marathon Racer’s at 350g each aren’t exactly the lightest you can find (though they are tough). I’d quite like to see how the light (175g) Schwalbe One 20in x 1in tyres would fare here.
Neat Wellgo foldable pedals ensure that, once folded, the Atto doesn’t have any protrusions that can dig into your side when lifting onto a train or carrying up flights of stairs – because a folding bike needs to be both comfortable being ridden and carried.
The carbon fibre seatpost is very long at 650mm and does flex a little when riding hard. Russell Burton
The fold mechanism is simple; a single hinge in the centre (with a secure lock) halves its size and up front a second hinge drops the steerer and bar.
The front and back lock together with a powerful magnet (similar to Tern’s system) and you drop the carbon post down into the frame.
The 650mm long carbon seatpost does save weight over aluminium, but I found that, while the flex in the post adds comfort over rough surfaces (cobbles, and towpaths mainly), it has a tendency to ‘bob’ when your powering along on the flat. I’d like to see the post beefed-up a little to reduce the amount of bounce when really going for it.
The Atto comes with 38mm deep carbon disc wheels. Russell Burton
Now, £2,750 is a lot of cash to part with for a folding bike, but recently that seems to be the way. The Chapter 3 iteration of the Brompton SL is priced at around two grand, the Hummingbird X Paul Smith retails for £3,945 and Tern’s BYB costs £2,300. So it seems to be the year for high priced folders.
The Austin is a good example of a fine-riding, small-wheeled bike. It doesn’t fold as small as a Brompton, but it’s just as easy to haul because it’s not heavy.
I’d like to see the Atto optimised to make the best of its ride, and the tyres are an easy place to save a few grams as well as put a bit more pep in to the ride.
However, as things stand, it’s a good challenger to the dominance in the market from a few brands, and because the Atto is built around a smart chassis there’s plenty of room for tweaking and improving.