A box from Abio Bikes in New York landed on my front porch Saturday morning. The Albio Penza I received is a shaft drive folding bike, but when I pulled it from the box Mrs. Fritz squealed with delight at the wonderful purple color of this bike.
While the looks of the Albio Penza appeals to the right brain, here are the left brain details of this bike:
Folds to 32" x 23" x 14"
3 speed Shimano Nexus hub
Kenda Kontact 1.95" x 20" tires with reflective sidewalls
Fenders (front and rear)
Tail light built into rear of saddle
The beefy 1.95" tires and stiff locking hinges give this bike a very solid and smooth ride. The bike folds in half with a swing hinge in the top tube, similar to the way the Dahon Curve folds back on itself. Like some Dahon models, the handlebar also folds down, the seat post can be pushed all the way through the open bottom seat tube and the pedals fold in.
The differentiating feature of this folding bike is, of course, the shaft drive: the Abio Penza is one of the very few non-chain folding bikes available.
Shaft drives are heavy and noticeably inefficient -- I can feel the bevel gears as they grind against each other, there's resistance when I pedal backwards, hard pedaling bends the shaft enough so it rubs against its housing, and the shaft bike weighs two pounds more over the similar belt driven Abio bicycle. According to shaft drive afficiandos, the efficiency loss is about 8% compared against chain driven bicycles.
There are notable advantages of a shaft drive over chain drive bicycles: the completely enclosed drive shaft reduces maintenance, protects moving parts, and keeps your pants clean. You don't need to bag this folding bike to keep chain grease from soiling bus seats and other passengers. Some people also like the compact design of shafts over chains, especially if you want to completely enclose the chain in a chaincase. There's no danger of pinched or severed fingers, and with good maintenance the shaft drive can last for tens of thousands of miles.
When I ride the Abio Penza, I don't notice the shaft's presence unless I really pay attention. I believe the everyday bike commuter will not notice the 8% power loss, and the disadvantages may very well outweigh the benefits. I'll put the Abio Penza through its paces in everyday riding over the next couple of weeks and report the results at Commute By Bike.
In the meantime, I know Bike Hugger has received the belt drive Abio Verdion. Momentum Magazine will also feature several folding bikes in the January/February issue including, I'm told, the Abio bicycles.
IMPORTANT: Please post comments for this article at the new CYCLELICIOUS 2.0 version of this page.
If you're both a bike geek and a train geek, shaft drives have the added appeal of resembling certain types of steam locomotives (the crank end looks like a Climax, the wheel end looks like a Shay)!
Glad to see another chainless folding bike option on the market, but for about the same money, you can get a Dynamic 8-speed folding shaft drive bike (http://www.dynamicbicycles.com/buy/Bikes.php?prodid=60). The Dynamic 8-speed is SO much more versatile. 3-speeds is acceptable for cruising on a boardwalk, but impractical for daily commuting.