The Split Bikes S1 City is an innovative idea, but does it hold up in the real world?
The S1 City Series is the brainchild of Dutch company Split Bikes. The idea behind it is a no fuss, portable bike designed for ease of use in the city. The result, however, is slightly different.
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Basically, the S1 City is a bike that splits perfectly in half and fits inside its own travel case. I’m not talking about folding here, I mean literally splits in two.
It’s possible to do this because of the bike’s “LOCtube” design. The method here is to employ two quick release-esque levers that you open to separate the bike at both the downtube and top tube.
While it sounds simple, sadly it’s not. Separating the bike at its junctions is neither clean nor flawless. Instead, it’s hard to get the leverage through the lever correct (altered using the nut on the bottom), it’s always either too tight or too loose.
Sadly, that’s not the end of it, either. I had real issues getting the two halves of the down tube to sit flush with each other – which created the terrifying proposition of the down tube coming apart – although it never did.
At a more fundamental level, the fact it splits in two doesn’t achieve much.
Whereas a Brompton folds, meaning it’s easy to transport, the Split Bike comes clean in two. The two halves are then held together by its cables, with no way to secure them to each other.
Similarly, the large 650B wheel size means snapping it in two becomes redundant, as you still have to lug large wheels around.
Regardless of these flaws, I can see it being useful for flying or putting in the back of a car. That is, however, if you travel long haul with your commuting bike. All the same it’s a nice touch to include a travel case in the price of the bike.
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Naturally, due to the separation points there’s also a high degree of flex throughout the bike frame. This becomes particularly noticeable when putting the power down or riding through dips and potholes.
The bike comes furnished with a host of good quality Easton Haven components, including bars, seatposts as well as cranks. Although, at the price of $3,295 USD as quoted on the Split Bikes site you’d hope this to be true.
The bike is disc equipped, with stopping duties taken care of by Magura. Happily, there’s plenty of power on tap – although lever reach is a little far out and there’s no means of adjustment.
Our bike came setup ‘Euro’ style, so either be prepared to adjust or spend the time altering the brake setup.
The bike turns on 650b wheels, which while awkward to carry are, at least, nippy. Maxxis Detonators are specced on the front and back. I found these to be a nice in between, providing good grip as well as decent rolling speed.
There’s also the novelty of a belt fed drive chain, which I quite liked. Like a normal single speed setup, its function is reliant on the chain tension negotiated at the rear wheel.
The novelty continues with the pedals. Rather than the usual threaded affair, Split Bikes instead use a less secure, quick release system to attach the Wellgo pedals to the bike. Worryingly, these were prone to falling out the cranks on hard hits.
The S1 City is a complicated beast. It’s an innovative idea that falls flat through a lack of functionality. It’s fiddly and awkward and isn’t as useful as Split Bikes probably likes to think.