Helix the Great

“We’re a group of designers, engineers, and manufacturing professionals.  We’re also passionate cyclists.” If that hasn’t caught your interest then maybe this will: The world’s best folding bicycle.

Pretty bold words from a Kickstarter company that is just getting off the ground. Though said boldness led to just over US$2 million from roughly a thousand backers. A rather impressive way to start things off.

And that brings us to the Helix.

The aforementioned best folding bike, which also claims to be the smallest, safest, and lightest. That is an awful lot of superlatives to back up. Especially when new products come out on the market all the time with claims of “the most this” and “the best that.” Plus, the simple fact is that a vast number of startup companies never make much more than a promotional video. With that skepticism in mind, watch theirs and you’ll see why they are so confident in their soon-to-be product.

Some very intuitive original design features and a willingness to create something new which is better than what’s currently available, as opposed to copying other successful designs has a lot of people talking about the Helix folding bike. And rightfully so. The fact that it rolls when folded seems like such an obvious design, but it is actually not that common. Making a folding bike that is light, also seems like common sense, but not so in practice. Not so much the result of not trying, but more the result of not succeeding.

Obviously for hardcore cyclists, folding bikes are never going to match the performance of top-of-the-line, standard two-wheel machines. But for nomads the idea of something one can easily travel with on a plane, train, bus, or ferry has considerable appeal. Especially something as convenient as a full-size bike, which doubles as free transportation when arriving at [insert adventure destination here].

Soldiers with folding bike

Taking into account that folding bikes have not changed much over the years, there are a quite a few incredible things that really separate this bike from the rest of the ones on the market. Probably the one that stands out most though is that it has a one-piece titanium frame. Read that part once more. A one-piece titanium frame. Very cool. Most other folding bikes have small folding frames that are two pieces which clamp together. They are heavy, and the clamp is a weak point that always seems to have a slight amount of play. In addition, there is the extra weight of material to make the clamp. Even good clamps are clunky at best.

The Helix also boasts 24” wheels. Read that… okay that has already gotten annoying, but you get the point. Most folding bikes, even top-of-the-line versions, usually max out at 20” wheels. Just on visual preference alone, 24” is better. But if appearance was the only difference it wouldn’t really matter. 24” wheels ride faster, smoother, and more efficiently. It’s basic physics. (Or is it mathematics?) A larger wheel requires more energy to get up to speed, but once there it requires less to stay in motion. As well, unevenness in surface (e.g., cracks or bumps in the road) also has less affect on larger wheels. To oversimplify, one rotation will make you go farther, with each additional rotation adding to the gap, until eventually the same amount of energy will have you going twice the distance. Then thrice, and infinitely so on.

So why has nobody else made a full-size folding bike? They actually have. It’s just that all of those are quite a bit heavier. Dahon’s Jack D7 and Tern’s JoeP24 both have 26” wheels, and weigh 12.9 kg (28.4 lb) and 13.8 kg (30.4 lb), respectively. Pacific’s full-size IF Mode looks really sharp, but was actually one of the heaviest bikes at 14.7 kg (32.4 lb). As well, it’s retails for a whopping US$2,850.

Those are all noticeably heavier than Helix’s 9.6 kg (21.1 lb). Okay, so why compare some 26” bikes with a 24”, as of course the 26”s will be heavier? It’s because their 20” bikes are not even as light as the Helix. Take for example Dahon’s Speed D7 at 13.5 kg (30 lb) or Tern’s Verge X10 at 9.7 kg (21.3 lb), and never mind Tern’s 24” Eclipse P18 at 12.5 kg (27.5 lb).

The Helix is lighter than all those, albeit barely with Tern’s Verge X10, but that bike is a 20” that retails for US$1,950 (compared to US$1,600 for the Helix).

Moderately expensive? Sure. But it is actually one of the lightest, most compact, intuitive and easy-to-use folding bikes available. So far it seems like the Helix by a landslide.

Many people also rave about Bike Friday, but it seems that the majority of their bikes are rather pricey and only have 20” tires, which makes them not much different from the others mentioned. And while there must certainly be a few other solid companies out there as well, a quick bit of research shows that most are closer to the others than they are to the Helix in terms of overall package.

Note that in no way was this an exhaustive search, and if someone knows of a better folding bike please let us here at knowmadic news know in the comments. Furthermore, being a startup company, who knows if they will succeed and even be around in a few years. That is obviously a major concern for skepticism. But after much scouring of the Internet and plenty of recommendations from friends who aggressively bike, along with countless hours of personal cycling on a variety of bikes ranging from a hundred dollars to a few thousand, it led to the conclusion… the Helix folding bike is the new sheriff in town.