Words Derri Dunn | Photos Daniel Gould
There is an air of suspicion that hangs around bikes without a chain. The ‘real’ cyclists of the CA office seem strangely affronted by the notion of something without that most ideological piece of linked metal to drive them forth.
>> Read more: The best folding bikes
The Sidekick, though, is pitched firmly at a different classification of bicyclist — the ‘real-life’ riders. It has the distinction of being the first folding shaft-drive bike we’ve ever tested and in fact only the second shaft drive bike of any sort we’ve ever got our hands on at CA.
Coming fully equipped with neat mudguards, a wide, clip-down rear rack, bell, kickstand and hub gears, such a practically oriented machine, along with its innovative ethos as a folding bike, seems a natural home to a shaft-drive system.
If you’ve not come across shaft drive before, its benefits seem attractive, especially to those (like me) who laud the advantages of enclosed hub-gear systems. The
shaft is totally sealed from the outside world and the associated muck and grime, so there’s no sprocket scrubbing to be done, no chain-savaged trouser legs… basically you glide down the street in silence with no moving drivechain parts beyond the pedals themselves.
Nevertheless, one of the chief shaft drive bugbears was an issue with this bike: weight. Its folding nature defines that, at some point, you’re going to want to furl the thing up and carry it — which at 15kg is nothing short of excruciating. Exacerbating this, the folding mechanism was rather poor. We had some difficulty with the central hinge which involves undoing a QR then pulling down to unlatch — it’s clunky and not as robust as we’d like, considering you’ll want to trust it not to unhinge on you mid-ride.
The stem hinge was more interesting and the catch showed some promise as a refined design, but it too was a little awkward and unintuitive in use. Finally, the whole package didn’t neatly clip together, instead relying on a Velcro strap to stop it all springing apart. The whole folding package just really lacked the refinement of its competitors.
Still, folders are always a compromise between fold and ride quality and the latter proved a more rewarding experience. With its short wheelbase and small wheels, the handling, particularly at slow speed, was a touch erratic, but it was a long way short of being unrideable. With the low gearing courtesy of a Shimano Nexus hub and the silent glide of the shaft drive, it’s a pleasant experience drifting along at chill-out speeds.
As a shorter rider I found I had a feeling of sitting rather far back behind the bottom bracket and having to pedal forward, although taller riders didn’t have this perplexing geometry issue. Such is the one-size nature of folding bikes though; if you’re anywhere off average height, you might get a feel of some curious geometry quirks.
Riding the bike, we were grateful for the quality of some of the parts on board. As well as the shaft drive itself, there’s the much-loved Nexus eight-speed hub with its bulletproof characteristics, plus the Tektro brakes were plenty sharp enough for the speeds racked up by the Sidekick. There’s even internal cable routing — a nice little touch to keep things looking neat and avoid a tangle during folding.
Unfortunately, beyond these highlights, quality was a little erratic elsewhere. The frame itself was probably the main culprit — its crude fold has already been covered but it really was a heavy and unrefined beast. Considering it is presumably made specifically for this particular model and shaft drive, there were some perplexing unused cable holes and guides that were a bit untidy.
The kickstand clattered annoyingly on the frame while riding — such a small point but so easily fixed with a stronger spring or rubber boot.
The notion of a folding, chainless bicycle is a sound concept overall, though, worthy of some investment, so we’re happy to hear Dynamic UK is continuing to develop the model with some changes for next year.
The thing is, the £525 price tag is right at the budget end for folding bikes, but at present there are many others at this price that beat it for ride and especially fold quality.
We wouldn’t mind seeing this developed as a more premium product with a robust and well thought out folding mechanism plus, crucially, some weight shaved from the frame to make hefting it about a more realistic proposition. That would allow it to really show off its novel shaft-drive technology at its best and give it an innovative advantage over its folding bike competitors.
Dynamic Sidekick 8
Frameset 7005 aluminium folding frame, cro-mo fork
Gears Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub
Chainset Dynamic forged alloy
Brakes Tektro linear pull V-brake
Wheels Alex DA16 rims, Nexus/unbranded hubs
Tyres Kenda 20×1.75in
Bar/stem Alloy anodised
Saddle Velo plush
Seatpost Alloy anodised
Size range 14in
Dynamic City Runabout 8 £490
The Runabout pretty much does what it says on the tin. Other than its shaft-driven credentials, it’s a fairly basic sort of bicycle, albeit with that handy Shimano Nexus eight-speed hub and a suspension seatpost. Perfect for jaunts around town for the low-maintenance bicyclist. If you don’t need the complications of a folding bike, it’s a low-priced, care-free ownership option.