Eyebrows and an initial dose of skepticism were raised around our office when an 18-pound carbon folder from Allen Sports USA arrived last fall, the first of its kind to be tested by yours truly. Allen introduced a full line of folding bicycles in spring 2014, with seven models ranging in price from $499 to $4,999.
Folding bikes with 16- or 20-inch wheels are versatile, portable and rideable for nearly everyone in the family. Riders who rely on buses, trains, boats and airplanes to get to work or enjoy an active vacation appreciate how small folders can get, and Allen decided to up the ante by removing even more weight by choosing a German-owned folding bicycle manufacturer in Taiwan to design and develop this line, according to company president Alex Allen.
Unlike the other folding bike manufacturers, Allens don’t fold quite as compactly. Spring-loaded catches on the left fork blade and non drive-side chainstay secure the frame when folded. With a claimed seven seconds needed to shrink an Allen, it’s quite easy to fold without tools thanks to the spring-loaded clamps on the top tube, stem, bars and seatpost clamp.
Many riders who’ve never been on a folder tend to assume it feels twitchy and gimmicky, but that’s not the case. All folders I’ve ridden over the years feel quite normal once you’ve set your proper saddle and handlebar height. The Allen has a certain smoothness that is unique; maybe the stiffness of the carbon frameset, mixed with the lower spoke count wheels? It’s hard to pinpoint, but riding a folder with a more road racing-friendly 52/36 carbon crank and a 10-speed cassette just feels fast.
The ultraX is designed around 20-inch wheels and when we say there’s plenty of carbon used we’re not kidding: frame, fork, crankset, handlebars, handlebar post, rims, seatpost, brake levers, even the saddle! Due to the saddle’s rather narrow profile and total lack of padding, one would be hard pressed to enjoy anything longer than 15 miles on the UltraX.
Remarkably, there’s a kickstand plate engineered onto the lower chainstays, as well as threaded fittings for a rear rack and fenders!
There were questions galore from strangers every time I got off the bike, and while the attention was nice, it became a bit boorish hearing the same old tired cliches: “How much does it weigh?” “Five thousand for that?!” Mind you, these all came from non riders—who ask the same thing of any bike not purchased at Kmart or Sears—so we just ignored them politely.
Allen has placed a 240-pound rider weight limit on the bike, which adjusts to fit riders up to 6-foot-5. Folded dimensions are 33.5 inches x 13.8 inches x 27.6 inches, and a carrying case is not included, which limits it as checked luggage unless you ask your dealer for the original cardboard box. The size and weight of non-oversize baggage for most airlines is 62 dimensional inches (the sum of the length, width, and height) and lighter than 50 pounds. The Allen ultraX measures 75 inches.
Overall, the Allen ultraX is a step in the right direction for carbon folding bikes, and appears to be enjoying first-mover status as well with no competition. Time will tell how durable the material is for use and abuse. The UltraX seems ideal for new-gadget travel junkies or young Silicon Valley commuters who like some unique carbon bling in their garages. the question is, will the rest of us make the same decision?
- Price: $4,999
- Weight: 18.6 pounds
- Sizes available: One