Vello: Best Urban Folding Bicycle?
Folding bikes are nifty to have. They’re easy to store in a studio apartment or at an office. They’re easy to take on public transportation, and you don’t have to leave them outside and trust your U-lock will prevent thieves. For all that versatility, the ride quality typically suffers—tiny wheels and uneven weight distribution make these bikes exhausting to pedal, and it’s near impossible to look cool riding one. Bending over and releasing hatches to fold the bike up adds back pain to an already undignified routine.
The Vello folding bike doesn’t solve the ride quality and small-wheels problem. Its innovation is in the folding mechanism: Just dismount, lift the bike slightly, and use your foot to pop the rear wheel underneath the frame. It’s an elegant way to go from riding to walking, as you’ll often do with a folding bike.
Bulgarian-born, Vienna-based designer Valentin Vodev made the first Vello prototypes before a trip to Cuba, where he wanted to be able to ride around and fit his bike on public transportation. The trick is that the rear shock absorber is magnetic—when it detaches, the back wheel can swing forward. If you’re riding it, your weight and the magnet keep the frame solidly together.
The rear triangle pivots near the bottom bracket, and is held in place while riding by a magnetic coupler at the top of the seat stays. That coupler doubles as an elastomer rear shock absorber.
Other features include a folding rear fender, integrated head- and tail lights, and a QR code that can be linked online to the individual owner. That code is embedded under the frame’s varnish, and is intended to provide proof of ownership if the bike is stolen.
The Vello is being made in three versions: the relaxed-riding 8-speed Urbano, the more mountain bike-like 10-speed Rocky, and the drop-barred, slick-tired 10-speed Speedster. All three models feature a mix of components appropriate to their intended riding style, along with 20-inch wheels.
Now you too can have your own folding bike, funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, are available for pre-order with deliveries starting in March 2015.