Airnimal is an innovative, UK based company dedicated to the premise that one seeking a folding bicycle convenient for road, rail or air travel should not be forced to sacrifice the quality of their cycling experience.
Airnimal have accomplished this ambitious goal with three bicycles widely acknowledged to be amongst the best folding bikes currently available: the Chameleon, the Joey and the Rhino.
The Joey is probably the most popular of the trio, while the Rhino has excited cycling enthusiasts looking for a folding bike suitable for off-road trails with unpredictable surfaces. Airnimal complement these three models with reports of excellent customer service and good availability of parts and accessories.
The website clearly outlines the specifications of each model, and also features a page which allows you to search for your nearest dealer by region. The company can also be contacted by phone on +44 (0)1954 782020.
A principle feature of Airnimal bikes is the smaller 24" ISO 520 wheel (on the Chameleon and the Joey) or the 20" ISO 406 wheel (on the Rhino). It is these smaller wheels which allow the bikes to be transported so easily, without reducing the standing of the design in the eyes of the reviewers.
The Chameleon and the Joey are designed principally for use on roads, although they will also rise to the challenge of less adventurous off-road trails. Those aiming to tackle tougher off-road surfaces will be better served by the Rhino.
Travelling with Airnimal
According to popular opinion, any one of the Airnimal models will suit all but the most particular of riders. The only commonly cited quibble is that folding the bikes to meet the requirements of some of the train and air travel regulations can take several minutes, particularly if mudguards or various accessories are involved. This means that the bikes may not always be the best choice for the average commuter.
For the traveller, however, it is difficult to find a bike which is more perfectly suited to air travel or long distance car and train journeys. But it is not travellers alone who should consider buying an Airnimal: triathalons and other competitive cycling events have been won all over the world using Airnimals.
The Chameleon is perfectly suited to roads and some simple off-road trails. As the Chameleon is available in two sizes to accommodate riders between 152 cm and 193 cm, there are few people who will find its design unsuitable for their build.
The Chameleon is arguably the best suited of the three Airnimal models for the average commuter. The website proudly boasts that a Chameleon without accessories can be folded to fit on a train in as little as thirty seconds. Accessories, including shoulder straps which fit easily around the bike and lightweight covers, are available to facilitate further folding to satisfy more stringent rail regulations.
However, the real attraction of the Chameleon for those looking for a bike suitable for cycling holidays is the ease with which the bicycle can be folded for air travel. Airnimal recommends that a special hard case be used to transport the Chameleon, but the bike can fit into a normal suitcase if need be.
If you are planning to travel with your folding bike, bear in mind that it makes sense to invest in the protective case recommended by the manufacturer, particularly if you are planning to entrust your bike to notoriously less-than-gentle baggage handlers!
You should also beware of exceeding the luggage allowance of the airline. While the bicycle itself will not exceed the allowance of even the least generous airline, accessories can significantly add to the total weight, so it is best to keep them to a minimum for overseas travel.
There are five models of Chameleon available: the Adventure (the cheapest model), the Performance, the Performance Sport, the Ultra and the Ultima (the most expensive). The Adventure will meet the needs of most, but as differences in the specifications of the models are subtle, the best approach is to locate your nearest dealer on the Airnimal website and discuss your particular needs face-to-face.
Heralded by the Guardian as "a versatile bike that has a sporty performance but is also easy to fit into a modern lifestyle where space and time are often at a premium," it is easy to understand why the Joey is such a popular choice for cycling holidays. With all the conveniences associated with a folding bike, the Joey also manages to provide the rider with an experience remarkably similar to a larger, non-folding bike.
The Joey shares the main advantages of the Chameleon, including relative comfort compared to most other folding bikes and ease of folding. The aluminium frame ensures that the Joey is light enough for travel and easy manoeuvring, but still sturdy enough to be suitable for serious cycling.
Like the Chameleon, the Joey is best suited to roads, but should also cope well with the demands of some off-road trails. Hilly areas should also pose no problems, although the Rhino might be better suited to those who plan to cycle up extremely steep hills regularly. Simply put, the Joey is probably the best bike out there for riders looking for a bike which can be folded without hassle and still perform like a bigger bike.
The Joey is available in five different models: the Sport, the Commute, the Explore, the Explore Elite and the Move. The Joey Move has a Bionx P250 motor which provides an electrical assist, designed to accommodate those who "need a helping hand, but are still serious about their cycling". Discuss the specifications of each model with your nearest Airnimal dealer to be sure that you buy the bike best suited to you.
The Rhino is all that its name suggests: a formidable bike which will accomplish with ease almost anything demanded of it. The Rhino is designed to withstand the challenges presented by uneven surfaces and the most adventurous off-road trails, while still being easily transportable. While the small 20" wheels may look a little odd when tackling terrain usually attempted only on large mountain bikes, this is probably a reasonable sacrifice to make to avoid the hassle of travelling with larger, heavier bikes.
The Rhino will take a little longer than the Chameleon and Joey to fold and reassemble, but the process is still relatively simple and shouldn't prove to be too much of an inconvenience. This bike is the perfect choice for anyone looking for a folding bike which travels well and will deal with varied terrain.