Foldable bikes offer a pretty obvious trade-off: the convenience of something you can easily pick up and store in the corner of an office or small apartment, but with some compromises in the cycling experience. Typically, putting a greater emphasis on one of those will mean sacrificing a bit on the other.
But e-bikes offer the possibility to sidestep some of that trade-off, boosting aspects of cycling performance without adding much in the way of added bulk. And the Gocycle G4 provides an excellent demonstration of how well that formula can work out, offering excellent performance in a thoughtfully designed package that is easy to pick up and lug around. It’s not so good that it will completely replace a regular bike, but it comes a lot closer than I expected, and it has a number of brilliantly designed features.
All that said, the bike still has a couple of issues that temper my enthusiasm a bit.
Gocycle is an English company that was founded by a designer from the performance automaker McLaren. The original idea was to make a bike that would perform well while getting people to and from a train station but fold up neatly enough that it could be carried on the train. The result is a heavily customized design. There are a few standard components on it, but the frame and many of the parts are custom-made for Gocycle. The good news is that the freedom from conforming to standardized parts allowed for some truly inspired features.
But it also means that if you want some accessories that come in standard sizes—like mudguards or a rear rack—you have to buy them from Gocycle. Buy off the shelf parts, and there’s a good chance they’ll be the wrong size or have no way of attaching to the frame.
What are the positive aspects customization enables? It’s a very long list. Rather than a standard kickstand, the G4 comes with a pair of legs that tuck up neatly against the frame when not in use. Push one down, and both extend and spread out to provide a stable tripod with the rear wheel that holds the bike upright, even when it’s fully folded. Tucked into the frame is a bit of bungie and a clasp; the bungie is just the right length to allow the clasp to latch onto a knob on the handlebars when the bike is fully collapsed, holding it in the folded position even if you lift it and move it around. And the frame shape provides an obvious place to hold the bike when carrying it folded.
The seatpost inserts into a tube that’s not part of the frame, allowing you to adjust the height and lock the seat in place before inserting the assembly into the frame. This design also lets you remove the seat without losing the adjustment. Gocycle thoughtfully tucks an allen wrench for adjusting the seat height into the bottom of the seat itself, and there’s also a convenient handle for tightening the assembly into the frame.
Finally, most e-bikes with a single suspension place it on the front wheel, where it cushions sudden braking on bulky frames. But the G4 doesn’t have a bulky frame, and the suspension is on the rear wheel, which makes for a far more pleasant ride when seated. This effect is accentuated by the long seat post, which turns a small bit of compression in the suspension into a much larger bit of flex.