Wheels etc: Kansi 3twenty
Brompton rival turns heads – but check the screws
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books 2013, and the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014.
Thursday 06 September 2012
Frame: Custom kansi 6061 aluminium tubing
Gearing: Internal or hub system; three gears
Brakes: Avid Single Digit 3 V Brake
Weight: 11kg fully built including pedals
According to the marketing bumf, the 3twenty's strength is its lightness. Eleven kilograms, with a larger wheel than many folders for extra speed (20ins). That may well be, but I've got a word of advice for its manufacturer. There's a missed opportunity here. This bike – as well as getting you from A to B relatively quickly on three gears – can also function as a man magnet. Add that to the bumf.
At every point of my Kansi journey, from folding and unfolding to riding across town or standing in a supermarket queue, men stopped and stared. It even worked for the more mature woman (my mum) who was left with it for two minutes while I nipped into Tesco, and a silver-haired gent sidled up. This response was similar to the public curiosity over the Brompton some years ago. People would gasp when I unfolded mine, as if I were performing a magic trick.
You can see why the Kansi is getting admiring glances today. It is sleek and stylish, with a super-light aluminium frame. If it transmogrified into a human being, the Kansi would be a Billabong-wearing skater dude.
Because the bike's hinges work with click-in, click-out levers, folding and unfolding is a dream – just rustle it a little and it all falls into place in seconds.
The men who stopped and stared kept asking what it was like to ride. "It's great," I told them, at the beginning. "Fast and nippy and it flies up hills." But a few days in, its ability to do all that, as well as win me friends, had to be set against less convenient considerations.
It might be light but it doesn't fold as compactly as others and cables can get tangled, before the folding technique is perfected. Neither does it always stay folded when you want it to. When it began to undo itself as I lugged it up stairs or into a restaurant, I began to yearn for Brompton's screw bolts (though the makers did insist this was a one-off fault that could be easily tweaked).
Its biggest inconvenience, though, came as I whizzed across roads and marvelled at its speed (it got me to work marginally quicker than my hybrid). Just when I was feeling as cool as a skater dude, I began to sink in my seat, inch by inch. Was I imagining it? No. By the time I was half way into my 40-minute commute, the seat was dangerously low and loose. Now people were looking for all the wrong reasons. The manufacturer said a washer in the seat clamp had accidentally been put in the wrong way round – again a one-off, not a generic failing in the mechanism – but either way, it is not a good look at best, and dangerous at worst.
At £725, it is cheaper (but not wildly cheaper) than a Brompton, with its weight advantage over that folder. The jury is out on whether what the Kansi gives in lightness and folding ease, it takes away in stability. And £725 is still steep. What is a dead certainty is that you'll gain the attentions of the high street on a Kansi. Just make sure they've screwed the seat in the right way.
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