Mini-folders have made a couple of recent appearances in Bikeshop in the form of the Mobiky Genius which boasts quality engineering and a nice ride but is relatively heavy and the UK-designed Strida which has amazingly simple fold but is single-geared and has slightly unusual handling characteristics.
Now comes the Pacific Carry Me, the most basic, single-gear version of which weighs in at only 7.9kg and folds into a daintily small, long, thin package. This small fold size is accomplished by the use of 8in wheels. Yes, that's right, 8in wheels. After the critical panning of the 6in-wheeled Sinclair A-bike in the 'serious' biking press, it seems quite a brave move to introduce the Carry Me into the UK.
Rather to my surprise, it worked, and it worked pretty well. It has a pretty rigid 7005 aluminium frame and the micro-pitch chain transfers your pedal power quite nicely to the 48 inch gear. As you would expect on a small-wheeled bike, acceleration is pretty quick, in this case topping out at about 10mph (apparently you can average around 14mph on the two-speed version). The calliper brakes were adequate, though the back one could do with beefing up a little. Perhaps most surprisingly, the bike was pretty easy to power up moderately steep hills – no doubt the nippy acceleration helping you maintain a decent speed. Only on steep descents does the sensitive handling feel a little unnerving, but you get used to this and steering at speed simply becomes a matter of making very fine handlebar movements or just using your balance to steer. Even riding one-handed for signalling was perfectly practical after a bit of practice. You do need to keep an extra careful eye out for large potholes, though…
Where the bike is unique is in combining such reasonable rideability with such a small, light and extremely handleable folded package. Folding is mainly a matter of lowering the quick-release seatpost and bars into the right position and unclipping a seatpost catch then loosening a frame-mounted wingnut at the joint with the extra long head-tube. This then allows all three 'sections' – front end, main frame and seatpost – to concertina together, the hinged diagonal supports cleverly folding with them. The bike doesn't look simple to fold, but with practice it is. Catches secure the folded parts together (the seatpost catch uses the quick release lever and is rather fiddly), and folding bars and pedals complete the job. There are also dinky luggage racks front and rear that will carry small amounts of hand luggage. Its waist-high folded package can then be wheeled along platforms and pavements very easily on the small rack-mounted coaster wheels.
It seems to fill the need for a bike that will be taken in and out of trains, cars, the Tube and so on constantly (with practice we got a quick fold down to less than 10 seconds), with shorter rides of a few miles in between. For trips on decent surfaces where folding and carrying the bike by hand is at a premium, this bike would be hard to beat – if you can live with the lively handling of those 8in wheels.