A folding bike is fantastic, right up until you fold it up and try to lift it. Suddenly, what seemed like an average bike, weight-wise, has morphed into a hefty lump, one that will happily twist your spine the moment you try to schlep it up even one flight of stairs.
The Hummingbird’s purpose is to be as easy to carry as it is to ride, and to this end, it has gotten rid of all the extras in order to reach a fighting weight of 14.3 pounds. For bike nerds, that compares to around 23 pounds for the standard S-Type Brompton folding bike.
Like many smart inventors, the Hummingbird’s creator, Petre Craciun, came up with the design to meet his own needs. Or rather, the needs of his girlfriend, Ligia (also part of the Hummingbird team). Ligia needed a folding bike to fit in her tiny apartment and in the building’s even tinier elevator. The Bickerton bike he bought her proved too heavy.
Then, Craciun's own ultralight carbon-fiber bike was stolen. Putting both problems together, he came up with the Hummingbird, so light that you never need to leave it laying around where it's vulnerable.
To get it this light, he started with a carbon fiber frame and added almost nothing else. There are no fenders on the prototype, it’s a single-speed bike so there are no gears, the little Brompton-sized 16-inch wheels only have 16 spokes on the front wheel, and the prototype foregoes a rear brake (the Kickstarter page promises that the production version will have two brakes).
The wheels aren’t the only thing the Hummingbird has in common with the Brompton. The fold is also almost identical. The Hummingbird’s rear triangle, the part that hold the back wheel on, pivots at the bottom bracket, the part of the bike where the pedal axle passes through. Unlike the Brompton, the folks behind the Hummingbird have managed to do this without requiring a chain tensioner to stop the chain from falling off as the bike folds. This further reduces weight, while still letting the wheel tuck under the curved carbon-fiber frame.
The bike still doesn’t fold up as small as a Brompton, though, and it also leaves the chain exposed, so you’ll have to be careful not to dirty your own clothes, or other commuters clothes, when you squeeze onto the subway at rush hour.
That said, the bike does solve the Brompton’s biggest shortcoming, which is its weight. The Hummingbird has one other thing in common with the iconic folder: both are made in Britain.
The Kickstarter offers the bike you see in the pictures (with an extra brake and fenders) for $1,500, with prices rising for future models with gears, bigger (20-inch) wheels, and more weight. The first units are expected to ship in August 2016.