Review: Pedal machines with small wheels – a better way to cycle

The market for “small wheel pedal machines” is relatively small, with these bikes normally serving a specialist market that is not always well covered by the traditional cycle press. This book of the same name is one of the few devoted to such machines. Author Julian Edgar is undoubtedly enthusiastic about small wheels and gives a very readable and personal take on them. It doesn’t claim it’s the definitive or unbiased guide, but it’s an entertaining overview.

Edgar is passionate about treadle machines with smaller than usual wheels, convinced that “in many situations [they are] much more practical than conventional high-wheel bicycles”. Feeling that “a lot of people are completely unaware of the benefits of small-wheeled bikes”, he made it his mission to spread the message with his book – or, if you’re already a convert, it’s “a celebration of what we both know”. .

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I would temper his enthusiasm a bit, as small wheels have different strengths and weaknesses than large wheels, making them more suitable in some conditions but less so in others. Being usable in some conditions is not the same as being optimized for all.

If a compact folded machine is your priority, having a small wheel is a big advantage; however, even Edgar accepts that the rougher the terrain, the less suitable a small wheel will be – which is why mountain bike wheels are generally getting bigger – and I doubt even Edgar will be able to reverse that trend.

So what arguments does Edgar have to convince us that he is right? Saying that smaller wheels provide more room above the wheels for luggage, easier suspension integration, take up less space and are lighter is true, but these are not the only considerations to decide what is best in any situation.

Also, claims that the smaller diameter puts less stress on a hub may be true, but that gets pretty tenuous – and the fact that inner tubes are smaller to carry around as spares is again correct, but it’s unlikely to tilt the argument for most people. Also, even though they catch less wind, the frontal area of ​​the complete bike and the man-shaped object above the wheel don’t really change – and the latter still accounts for the majority of wind resistance. anyway.

Edgar admits there are downsides to smaller wheels: the lighter weight reduces the gyroscopic effect; the reduced diameter makes rim brakes less effective; and the tires will sink a little deeper into soft surfaces. They also position the hubs closer to the ground and more prone to contamination.

I wouldn’t disagree with any of Edgar’s arguments in principle, I just think that in general there are a lot of other factors that go into choosing a suitable machine beyond wheel size .

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It gives a very good potted history of small wheel and folding bikes, and it brought back many memories of the early Moultons, the original Bickertons and of course the ubiquitous Brompton.

I also enjoyed a chapter on motorcycle restoration, including Moulton’s own Series 1. It is informative, well illustrated and reinforces the fact that while such projects can be rewarding, they don’t always make economic sense.

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Many pages are occupied with general information which applies equally to all bikes and which you can easily find elsewhere. I would rather have more pages on the specifics of small wheel machines that you usually won’t find elsewhere. for example, in the three pages devoted to a suggested touring packing list, there is absolutely nothing unique to small-wheeled machines. It’s just that you have shorter spokes.

Other points may be more size specific, but indicate that the bleeding is obvious: if you want to take the bike in your boat or car, it asks, “Can the folded bike actually fit in the space you You have ?”.

Edgar doesn’t go into specific bike and model details, which means the book won’t date so easily. Also, even with some of the brands mentioned, availability will vary from country to country as distribution agreements change, so don’t expect everything mentioned to be readily available wherever you are. – Dahon is easy for us, Bike Friday less, and no chance for Fortis (by Kogan) in this hemisphere.

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Recumbent trikes are everywhere. They don’t get much coverage in other books, despite being claimed to be “the most comfortable and stable treadle machines in the world”. Australian brand Greenspeed is his favourite, perhaps because that’s where Edgar lives.

Its location also gives it more opportunities to use photos of bikes riding on “our” side of the road, although most of the images are of bikes anywhere but on the road.

All in all a welcome insight into lesser known areas of the market, but while Edgar is good at explaining where smaller wheels can be beneficial, his obvious bias sometimes clouds his judgment as to what is the best.


One man’s crusade to tout the virtues of small wheels, with plenty of niche machines to enjoy

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Brand and model : Pedal machines with small wheels – a better way to cycle

Tell us what the product is for and who it is for. What are the builders saying? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From the publisher:

Small wheel pedal bikes are fun, fast and portable. They are ideal for daily commuting or holidays. If you’re a small-wheel bike enthusiast, a traditional bike owner who wants to explore other options, or just someone interested in green transportation, this book is for you!

This book explores the many benefits of small wheel treadle machines – convenience, portability, comfort and speed.

A bike with small wheels is ideal for your daily trips or to go on vacation. Bikes with small wheels can be folded into small packages, and the use of small wheels allows the production of innovative machines like recumbent tricycles – the most comfortable and stable pedal machines in the world. And small-wheeled bikes can be fast – the world speed record for a bicycle is held by a small-wheeled machine.

Major brands are covered, including the Brompton – the world’s best folding bike, the Birdy – a folding bike that uses front and rear suspension, and the Moulton – the world’s first best-selling small-wheeled bike. Want to go around the world with a bike that fits in a suitcase? Then a Bike Friday is for you. Travel, tour and catering – it’s all here. Discover a whole new world of cycling!

Written by prolific author, Julian Edgar, a lifelong cycling enthusiast who has owned, designed and built his own small wheel bikes.

* Going on small wheels – the advantages

* Fold your bike and take it everywhere with you!

* Move for convenience, fitness and speed

* Advanced cycle engineering and design

* Store your bike under your desk

* Recumbent trikes for stability and comfort

* Bikes that fit in suitcases – travel the world

* Reconstruction and restoration

* Brompton, Birdy, Moulton, Greenspeed and more!

* A Complete Guide to the World of Small Wheel Pedal Machines

Tell us a bit more about the technical aspects of the product?

Title: Pedal machines with small wheels

Author: Julien Edgar

Publisher: Terremonde

Date: June 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 96

ISBN: 9781787114012

Price: £14.99

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Enthusiasm for the cause.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The inclusion of generic tips that are not specific to smaller wheeled machines.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider purchasing the product? Yes – at significant discounts available.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? selectively

Use this box to explain your overall score

Edgar does a good job of explaining where smaller wheels can be beneficial, although his obvious bias sometimes clouds his judgment as to which is best – but it’s still a welcome insight into lesser-known areas of the market.

Age: 60 Height: Weight:

I usually ride: My best bike is:

I have been riding since: Over 20 years I ride: most days I would classify myself as: Expert

I regularly practice the following types of riding: Touring, club rides, sportsmen, general fitness riding,

Wiley C. Thompson