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First ride review: Crosshead Sport Folder SF1A 10 speed

15 Jun 2018
Verdict:

New UK made folding bike aims to take on the established market with bigger than average performance

Price: 
£1,800

The Crosshead Sport Folder SF1A 10 speed approaches the perpetual conundrum of how to build the perfect folding bike from a different angle. Its designer Stuart Lambert sought to prioritise the ride first, resulting in a longer than average wheelbase, sizable 20” wheels, and standard non-proprietary parts list.

To accommodate all these the frame folds in two places. Dubbed the Z-fold it’s not the very quickest, but at twenty seconds it’s still fast enough to make the Crosshead a more than viable commuter.

Plus it ought to imbue it with full-sized rideability. Cyclist hopped aboard to check it out.

Buy now from Crosshead

The build

Made of polished and waxed aluminium the Crosshead looks best in the flesh, where the attention that’s gone into its component parts is evident.

Eight years and six prototypes have preceded the finalised design. The finished Crosshead is made up of many different cast pieces, linked by differently profiled tubular spars while its chunky cast aluminium hinges are reminiscent of the fixings on aircraft doors.

Having settled on 20” wheels as offering the best compromise between long distance efficiency and the need for a compact package, these form a crucial part of the design.

Our Sport model used 10-speed Shimano Tiagra gearing, which offers lower weight, more ratios, and snappier shifting compared to a hub system.

Hung elsewhere on the frame are a collection of standard aftermarket components, meaning customising the Crosshead to your requirements is easy.

The ride

Despite a short stem and narrow bars, the Crosshead feels towards the more stable end of the folding bike spectrum. Which is to say a little twitchy, but not enough to startle the horses.

This is largely due to its lengthy 110cm wheelbase and medium sized wheels.

Twenty inches compared to most brands' 16”, our test bike came with the robust and puncture proof combo of Shimano hubs and Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres.

Along with ‘normal’ handling and ride position, also high on the design criteria was using as many standard parts as possible. To this end, the drivetrain is based on a standard external derailleur and cassette.

The brakes, which come in either disc or conventional calliper varieties, are also regular products, meaning shifting and stopping is instantly familiar.

Similarly conventional are the bar and stem which gives riders the ability to easily customise the fit. As standard these can be raised or lowered a sizable 8cm via a mechanism built into the bike.

We found that increasing the reach of the bike even by 1-2cm with a longer stem massively steadied its handling by reducing the weight on the handlebars and moving the centre of balance forward.

However, with each centimetre of stem sticking the bars out further from the folded package, it’ll be up to the rider to decide where they want to strike the compromise.

Very stiff compared to most folding bikes, there's very little distracting flex to be found anywhere.

So we enjoyed riding to our destination, but what about when we got there?

The Fold

The Crosshead breaks down in six steps. First, the handlebars flip down. Next, the forward hinge undoes with a squeeze, allowing the front end of the bike to tuck under itself.

Then the rear hinge undoes to allow the back of the bike to also swing beneath the top tube. With the back of the frame also articulated horizontally about the seatpost, at this point, a little side twist on the saddle is necessary to help the back wheel into place.

Finally, the saddle drops, skewering the entire package and locking the folded bike together.

Picked up to carry under the top tube, the bike is hefty. Weighing around 3kg more than an equivalently priced Brompton there’s also more bits sticking out, meaning it’s more likely to catch against you as you carry it.

The result is we wouldn’t want to carry it much further than from the ticket barriers to the train.

We measured the complete package at 66cm x 61cm x 30cm, although a good bit of the width is accounted for by the brake levers.

Either way, it should fit under your desk and is within the size restrictions on most train lines.

Early impressions

I preferred the Crosshead’s secure fold to that of many of its rivals, although it lags somewhat behind the Brompton, which is likely to be its main competitor.

Its weight and shape also make it more difficult to carry.

However, once unfurled the ride outperforms most folding bikes, partly due to its use of a derailleur rather than hub gear system and the larger than average wheels.

So where will it fit in the market? At £800 more than an entry-level Brompton, it’ll appeal primarily to riders looking for larger-bike style performance, or attracted by the conventional gearing and possibility of customising the bike.

At 13.59kg it’s not light, although on the road this isn’t massively noticeable. Still, we’d love to see how losing a kilogram from the wheels would affect the ride.

As it stands the Crosshead is definitely one to consider if your priority is the ride and not portability. Plus the ability to tinker with its design is also intriguing.

Buy now from Crosshead

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