Birdy World Sport folding bike  £939.00

8/10

The budget version of the fully-sprung German folder doesn't disappoint. It's an all-rounder that rides well.

Weight 11900g   Contact  www.r-m.de

by Dan Joyce   October 18, 2013  

The Birdy World Sport is a more versatile folding bike than similarly priced compacts like the Brompton. That's not to say it's better: the Brompton beats it hands down as a bike-rail commuter. It's not the best folder for touring or training rides either; that would be an Airnimal of some description. But it's a jack-of-all-trades folding bike that does all jobs well.

Good quality folding bikes aren't cheap. Folders already have to compromise between portability and rideability. Throw 'cheap' into the mix and it's too easy to end up with a hinged heavyweight that's awkward to carry and horrible to ride. That's why even an entry-level Brompton, that benchmark British folder, will set you back well over £800. The German Birdy is more expensive still, with the all the range comfortably into four figures. Except this one.

A price of under £1,000 for the Birdy World Sport means losing out on the refinements and options of the other models. There's no hydroformed tubing, hub gear, disc brakes, lights, or a la carte choices. What you see is what you get. And it comes in black.

It's still a Birdy, however, not a look-alike. It folds the same; the suspension is the same; and Birdy accessories like racks and bike bags will fit it. It reminded me very much of the old Birdy Red. Black, then, is the new Red.

Frame and fork

Like other Birdies, the TIG-welded aluminium frame and fork of the World Sport are unusual in a couple of respects. For one thing, there's no hinge in the main frame. That saves weight and, more importantly, eliminates flex. For another thing, there's suspension at both ends.

At the rear, there's a single pivot just behind the bottom bracket like there is on the Brompton. It's there so that the swing-arm (the 'rear triangle') and rear wheel can tuck underneath the main frame when the bike is folded. And like the Brompton, there's an elastomer bumper in between the top part of the swingarm and the seat tube. This is the rear shock.

It looks and is simple but works surprisingly well. Claimed travel is up to 60mm. At 65kg, the medium-density elastomer provided worked fine for me. Significantly heavier or lighter riders could retro-fit a firm or soft elastomer respectively; they cost about £15 each.

The front suspension also uses an elastomer – and again, firmer or softer versions can be fitted. It looks weird because of the leading link design. This kind of suspension fell out of favour off-road, where telescopic forks rule, but you still see some iterations of it on road; for example, the Moulton. A leading link fork has an advantage over a telescopic fork in that it doesn't 'dive' during braking. It also tracks well, so the steering feels firm. Pivot wear, a problem off-road, is a negligible issue on road. Fork travel is up to 30mm, so it'll cope with most potholes without bottoming out.

There's another advantage of this suspension setup for the Birdy that isn't immediately obvious. To fold the front end, you unclip the elastomer at the fork crown and tuck the front wheel under, rotating the fork on its pivots. Clever!

While the World Sport is a 'stripped down' Birdy, it nevertheless comes with frame-fitting SKS mudguards. You can fit Birdy racks front and rear too, although I would use a large Carradice saddlebag on an SQR block on the seatpost instead. It's neater, and 16-23 litres of luggage capacity on a folder is enough for me. Like most folding bikes, there are no bottle mounts.

Components

Like other Birdies, the World Sport uses 18-inch wheels. Nominally 18-inch, at any rate. The bead seat diameter is only 6mm more than the 16-inch wheel Brompton, at 355mm versus 349mm. That's close enough that you can use Brompton-sized innertubes in Birdy tyres, if you can't get hold of Birdy ones. (Bear in mind the Birdy rims are drilled for presta valves.)

I can't think of another bike that uses ISO 355 wheels, so it's not surprising that tyre choice isn't great. It's not as bad as it was; Schwalbe offer several decent options, including the Kojak (which I'd pick), Marathon Racer, and Marathon Plus. In fact, tyres are the one component that it's worth upgrading immediately on the World Sport. The Impac Streetpac tyres supplied are stodgy and don't excel in any area.

Gearing is 8-speed, like the Birdy Red of old, using a twist-grip shifter and a Shimano 2300 road rear derailleur. The range of 33-90 inches is fine for most situations, although bottom gear could usefully be lower if you live anywhere hilly or plan to use the bike for touring. You can't just stick an 11-34 cassette in place of the existing 11-30 as a 2300 rear derailleur won't cope with that. If you don't mind losing a bit at the top end, you could fit a smaller chainring.

The V-brakes offer more power and modulation than the brakes of most folding bikes, despite unavoidably convoluted cable runs. The rear is likely to suffer uneven pad wear due to angle of the pads as they strike the rim; the pads are nowhere near perpendicular to the brake arms. This wasn't a problem during the test, but long term you may end up tinkering with this brake more than you'd like.

A parallel-push V-brake would solve this issue but they're like hen's teeth these days. They survived for a while in Shimano's top-end XTR groupset but now seem to have disappeared even from that. So if you do want a set, the easiest option is to look for 'XTR V-brakes' on ebay. They come up now and again.

The World Sport's contact points are fine. The saddle is okay and the grips have a flared support for the heel of your hand, like Ergon grips, which provides extra comfort. The stem height is adjustable via a quick-release, so you can sit up more if you want. I didn't.

It's great that the World Sport comes with mudguards. They're usually one of the first casualties of cost cutting. They're SKS ones and the stays are sturdy, particularly the rear ones. That's important because the bike sits on its mudguards when it's folded. There was on problem with the guards of the test bike: the central bolt that anchors the rear mudguard to its stay was too long and rubbed against the tyre so much that the wheel wouldn't go round. Maybe the stays had been bent before the bike got to me? Maybe the wrong bolt was installed? I fitted a shorter bolt and had no problems thereafter.

There's also a kickstand. I removed this. A folder often goes with you when you park, folded up. And this stand is bolted to the dropout in such a way that it forms a closed loop around the wheel quick-release. To get the wheel out in the event of a puncture, you have to remove the quick-release entirely. That's not a problem when you're taking the wheel out but it makes it fiddlier than it need be getting the wheel back in again.

The fold

The quoted size when folded is 79x61x36cm. I measured the World Sport at 84x63x39cm. I can see how things like rotating the handlebar or moving the saddle might reduce the pack size, but they're not things I'd normally do when folding the bike. Folding or pop-off pedals, which the World Sport doesn't have, would also slightly reduce the volume.

  

Even at this size, the folded World Sport is small enough for an end-of-carriage luggage rack on a train or for any car boot. You might even get it on a bus if you stash it one of the optional carry bags to disguise the fact that it's a bike. It won't go between seat backs on train like a Brompton. It's considerably bigger.

The folding process isn't as quick or as neat as Brompton either. Evidently it can be done in 15 seconds; it took me at least 30, even after quite a bit of practice.

To fold the World Sport, you first need to put the bike into top gear. With the aid of the guide that's fixed to the bottom of the derailleur, this ensures the chain stays in place. Then you undo a catch at the seat tube and tuck the rear end underneath, much like a Brompton. The pivots are angled slightly so the rear wheel ends up just to the left of main frame rather than directly under it.

Once the rear wheel is tucked all the way under, you lock it in place by dropping the seatpost. If the wheel is not tucked under properly, you cannot drop the seatpost all the way down; I did this a couple of times until I got the knack.

Then you tuck the front wheel under. You need to pick the bike up, unclip the front elastomer from the fork crown, and tuck the wheel back under the fork, rotating the front part of the fork around the suspension pivots. The wheel rotates into position around quite a large arc, which might present problems for small riders – bearing in mind that you're holding the bike in the air with your other hand. There's also the potential to get your hand dirty on the front wheel. It's not a difficult procedure as such, but it's not as obvious or easy as most folding bike folds. Once done, the front wheel comes to rest to the right of the main frame and at an angle.

The final step is to undo the stem clamp and drop the handlebar down alongside the back wheel. The folded package stands up by itself, although it can't be rolled into nooks and crannies like the Brompton. Actually carrying the folded Birdy is no more difficult – it's bigger but not heavier.

The main difference between using these bikes for mixed-mode transport is that you want to fold the Brompton. The Birdy you fold when you have to. It feels like a minor hassle, whereas folding a Brompton or even a fold-in-half bike like a Dahon feels trivial, like folding an umbrella.

The ride

The Birdy's ace card is its ride quality. It rides better than any other folding bike with wheels 20-inches or smaller in diameter. There's enough reach that you don't feel perched on it, the frame doesn't flex, and there's enough trail that it doesn't steer like a shopping trolley. You can race down descents at over 40mph and the World Sport still feels stable and safe, something that can't be said for all folders.

The simple elastomer suspension goes a long way to offsetting the issues that small wheels have compared to large ones. It removes the 'chatter' you get from anything other than a billiard table smooth road. That's more comfortable, since the bike absorbs small bumps before you do, and it improves the rolling performance, because the wheels flow over bumps rather than being buffeted or balked by them.

For best performance, small wheels need suspension, as the late Alex Moulton realised 50 years ago, but the Birdy is one of a small number of folding bike designs that has it front and rear. Better tyres, which I mentioned above, would boost performance further.

I rode the World Sport over a period of months, across towns and cities and on hilly country lanes. It felt more like riding a hybrid than a folder. You could easily do big distances on it if you wanted, whether day rides or full-blown cycle tours.

Around town, the secure handling and suspension make bad road surfaces much less of a problem than for many small-wheelers. Hitting a shallow pothole is not a catastrophe on the World Sport, and you can ride over cobbles at pace.

In stop-start town traffic, the bottom bracket feels too high, however. It's a stretch to get a toe down at junctions. I wasn't troubled much as I'm an average height bloke, but short riders might need to get off the saddle when pausing.

Verdict

The budget version of the fully-sprung German folder doesn't disappoint. It's an all-rounder that rides well.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Birdy World Sport

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Riese & Muller say:

The Birdy is a cult object from the house of Riese und Müller. Anyone who has ever ridden a Birdy doesn't want to part with it. This bicycle is certainly not a spare or secondary bicycle, but rather provides just as much comfort and riding fun as it's full sized siblings. Make no mistake, Birdy is a full fledged bicycle. The need for joints in the main frame was eliminated by cleverly incorporating the folding mechanism into the suspension pivot points. Thanks to the simple folding mechanism (takes about 15 seconds), the small pack size (79x61x36cm) and light weight (9.9 kg), Birdy is easy to carry and stow almost anywhere. Numerous accessory options allow for the customization of Birdy to your individual needs. Information can be found in the configurator.

The World Birdy (they call it that) means two trim levels (that is, the Sport and the Comfort), each in a different color with a reinterpretation of the original birdy frame and all of the typical features of Birdy. These models are produced uniformly for the whole world which creates cost savings that we gladly pass on to you. The sport has a black frame with adjustable stem, 8-speed derailleur, fenders and kickstand.

I say: it's a general purpose folding bike.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Here's the spec list of the bike, plus various measurements.

BIRDY WORLD SPORT

Price: £939

Weight: 11.9kg (11.7kg without kickstand)

Sizes: one size

Frame and fork: 7005 T6 aluminium, TIG welded, with Birdy elastomer shock. Aluminium fork with leading link suspension. Fittings for mudguards and luggage racks.

Wheels: 47-355 Schwalbe Impac Streetpac tyres, Alex DV 15 rims, 24/32 Sapim 2.0mm stainless steel spokes (front/rear), Birdy front hub, Shimano Acera (FH-RM60) rear hub

Transmission: VP flat pedals; Sunrace 56 teeth chainset, 170 mm, with chainring guard; 113mm square taper bottom bracket; KMC X8-93 chain; Shimano CS-HG40 8-speed cassette: 11-13-15-17-20-23-26-30. Shimano SL-RS-45-8 twist-grip shifter, Shimano RD-2300 rear derailleur. 8-speed, 33-90inches.

Braking: Avid V-brakes with Tektro levers

Steering and seating: Velo VLG 519 AD2 grips; 520mm X-tas-y aluminium bar; Birdy Sport height adjustable stem; DiaCompe Al2 Aheadset. R-M saddle; Birdy 7075 aluminum seatpost, 34.9x570mm

Accessories: SKS mudguards, kickstand, bell

Contact: r-m.de

Measurements

Seat clamp centre to stem clamp centre (horizontal) 685

Effective top tube 585

Standover 535

Seat angle 73

Head angle 71

Fork offset 15

Trail 63

Overall wheel diameter (inc tyre) 448

Crank length 170

Seat tube length (centre to top) 363

BB to ground 304

Chainstay length 430

BB to front hub 575

Wheelbase 1010

Rear wheel hub spacing 135

Tyre width 47

ISO wheelsize at bead seat 355

Folded dimensions

Quoted 79x61x36cm

Measured 84x63x39cm

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Great ride. Fold not bad.

Rate the product for durability:
 
6/10

Mudguards seem a bit vulnerable. Derailleur gears are prone to more problems (principally when folding) than hub gears.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
9/10
Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Even the budget version isn't cheap, but it's a decent bike.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Great. I used it for train-bike journeys and rides in the countryside.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Suspension. Ride quality. Ability to take it just about anywhere.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The tyres. I'd upgrade them. A bit bulky compared to my Brompton. Doesn't have the Brompton's clever luggage system.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? If I didn't already have a Brompton, yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

Not the best folding folder but one of the best riding folders.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 1.78m  Weight: 65kg

I usually ride: Ridgeback Solo World fixed wheel  My best bike is: Planet X Pro Carbon Track (with front brake)

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

 

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

What an excellent review. It's quality writing like this that distinguishes road.cc from most other publications.

I keep on toying with the idea of a folder. I wonder has the tester ever ridden one of the Bike Fridays? They seem more in competition with the Birdy than Bromptons are.

posted by Ush [410 posts]
18th October 2013 - 13:20

34 Likes

great review - I think the brompton takes it just - on the fold

posted by pilchard67 [3 posts]
18th October 2013 - 14:20

29 Likes

Nice review although falling into the usual trap of focussing on the negative fold/size comparison to Brompton without making the same direct comparison on the vastly superior ride comfort and quality.
Not sure why you're folding it in that manner, I've always folded mine, as per red & blue manuals, front wheel first - utterly simple process regardless of height; unclipping the suspension clip apart all done entirely with one foot, again far simpler, clean and less hands on than unscrewing Brompton's frame clip. It is just as easy in reverse to unfold it & again beats the Brommy as everything self locates and automatically clicks into place.
I've had & used both regularly, still own a 12yo Birdy Blue from new. I've killed the dualdrive hub so have had to think long and hard about a major refurb of the Birdy or spending much the same buying a new or v recent second hand Brommy or new high spec Dahon/Tern etc & putting the Birdy into retirement. I've gone for the Birdy option, for all its age & many many miles, it's all round just so much more a better riding bike with an acceptably quick & compact fold vs the compromises the others offer.

posted by Shouldbeinbed [30 posts]
18th October 2013 - 17:03

38 Likes

Shouldbeinbed wrote:
Nice review although falling into the usual trap of focussing on the negative fold/size comparison to Brompton without making the same direct comparison on the vastly superior ride comfort and quality.

did you even read it? specifically, the section headed, 'The ride'?

the review wrote:
The Birdy's ace card is its ride quality. It rides better than any other folding bike with wheels 20-inches or smaller in diameter. There's enough reach that you don't feel perched on it, the frame doesn't flex, and there's enough trail that it doesn't steer like a shopping trolley. You can race down descents at over 40mph and the World Sport still feels stable and safe, something that can't be said for all folders.

etc etc etc

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7433 posts]
18th October 2013 - 17:06

38 Likes

Great review Dan ... one of the best reviews I've read in quite a while ... the format and detail was just right ... I enjoyed reading this. Cool

Nic

posted by nbrus [281 posts]
19th October 2013 - 10:47

19 Likes

Dave Atkinson wrote:
Shouldbeinbed wrote:
Nice review although falling into the usual trap of focussing on the negative fold/size comparison to Brompton without making the same direct comparison on the vastly superior ride comfort and quality.

did you even read it? specifically, the section headed, 'The ride'?

the review wrote:
The Birdy's ace card is its ride quality. It rides better than any other folding bike with wheels 20-inches or smaller in diameter. There's enough reach that you don't feel perched on it, the frame doesn't flex, and there's enough trail that it doesn't steer like a shopping trolley. You can race down descents at over 40mph and the World Sport still feels stable and safe, something that can't be said for all folders.

etc etc etc

Yes I did read the review, did you read my comment closely enough - particularly the bit you quoted from me?

I used the words *Direct* comparison very deliberately as per the specific direct comparison made to the foldablility of the Brompton that was not replicated in any other area of bike performance and I stand by it.

I find it increasingly tedious and lazy for pretty much every review of any decent folding bike to namecheck the Brompton specifically for fold and then hide its somewhat less than market leading other features in more generalised commentary.

yes folding is a significant feature of a folding bike, but so is the bike bit.

posted by Shouldbeinbed [30 posts]
25th October 2013 - 14:12

32 Likes

"It rides better than any other folding bike with wheels 20-inches or smaller in diameter" is a direct comparison. It's better. Like the Brompton's fold is better. So if you want a better ride, you should probably buy this. And if folding is your primary concern, you should probably get a Brompton. It's not hard, this.

Or does it have to specifically say "it rides better than a Brompton" for you to be satisfied? Not sure what your beef is with Brompton, but hey. I've ridden them; they ride okay.

The Brompton is the fold by which all others are judged, because it's the best. I want to know how it stacks up against that, as I'm sure do others. You're just going to have to suck that up.

You realise the Birdy got 8/10, yes? Same as the last (i think) brompton review on here, which got better remarks on the fold, and didn't do as well on ride. http://road.cc/content/review/20904-brompton-s2l-x

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [303 posts]
25th October 2013 - 14:40

36 Likes

I've been using a birdy red for 3 years. It's the same frame etc as the sport. I've upgraded it with a dura ace chainset and a shimano Deore Xt mech, sram trigger shifter and Deore lx brakes. Because it's a 7 speed, parts are so cheap and it's easy to service. I fold it to use it on the trains from Sussex to London, then to varying locations in London. The main difference I find is that it feels more robust and as I'm 6'3" I can fit on it. Bromptons, as good as they are, aren't designed for large people, or speed. Mine runs a 56t chainring and 11 tooth rear, it's easy to maintain proper road-bike speeds, try that on most folding bikes!
It doesn't fold elegantly, but 15 seconds is easily achievable. If you commute, if you like cycling, or you're tall, get a Birdy. If not, still get a Birdy Wink

posted by petrue [1 posts]
9th November 2013 - 8:37

23 Likes

Wave
What would interest me is a comparison with what seems like the nearest possible competition: the Mezzo.
I like mine; it folds almost as small as a Brompton (so smaller than the Birdy), rides reasonably well, and is more affordable. Current prices seem to be about £800, with some web offers of under £500, less than half the price of the Birdy.
Anyone ridden both and have a view?

posted by roops7 [1 posts]
17th December 2013 - 15:57

20 Likes

roops7 wrote:
Wave
What would interest me is a comparison with what seems like the nearest possible competition: the Mezzo.
I like mine; it folds almost as small as a Brompton (so smaller than the Birdy), rides reasonably well, and is more affordable. Current prices seem to be about £800, with some web offers of under £500, less than half the price of the Birdy.
Anyone ridden both and have a view?

Bit of a late reply - sorry, but I have briefly ridden a friend's Mezzo and own a Birdy (hydroformed 2010 model I think).

From memory, the lack of the suspension on the Mezzo made it feel rather a harsh ride. I've ridden 40 miles on the Downslink unsurfaced NCN route on the Birdy and have to say it's fantastically comfortable but also without a significant efficiency penalty. Until I got a CX bike it was actually my preferred bike for riding on mixed surfaces.

I also vaguely recall it feeling less sprightly, but that was a subjective impression.

I think they're both decent value but I'd definitely buy a Birdy again. I'd say test ride both (and try both stem options on the Birdy).

The only complaint I have aout my birdy really is that I'd like a lower gear, but then I do prefer to spin 90-100rpm rather than mash. I'm still looking at whether I could use an MTB mech to permit a wider range cassette or not (there might be clearance issues with the longer cage). I might switch to 9 or 10 speed while I'm at it to avoid big ratio jumps.

The folding expedition rack on the Birdy is very clever and allows you to take two small panniers with plenty of heel clearance without increasing the folded size at all.

DaveE128's picture

posted by DaveE128 [69 posts]
28th January 2014 - 14:18

13 Likes

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