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Hummingbird Bike Review – an electric folding dream

Prodrive is the daddy of carbon fibre in the UK. Synonymous with Aston Martin, Le Mans and F1. So when Prodrive released the Hummingbird folding carbon fibre commuter bike, you knew it was going to be special

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Hummingbird Electric Bike Review

Ok so, previously my reviews have largely been limited to gadgets which go on bikes, this is my first time reviewing a bike. Seat, handlebars, a bit of carbon fibre… how hard can it be?

You read the PR stuff, chat with the teams involved, you play with the unit, formulate your opinion, and send it back – straight forward

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I very quickly found a problem with my previous approach to doing reviews – You need more than one pair of hands. Well legs. Well hands and legs. 

In fact you need a whole additional person!! Turns out that no tech reviewer is an island! Who knew! #notmylegs – ANYWAY!

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For the last week I’ve been buzzing around Nuneaton on a screaming yellow Hummingbird Bike by Prodrive.

In some ways, the Hummingbird is a little like it’s supercar stablemates. In that it is fun to play around with the configurator, and marvel at the abuse you could put your wallet through – an activity many people will have done with their dream bike/car from time to time. But I’d think it rare for someone to do with a bike which is designed, first and foremost, as a commuter bike! The fact that the Hummingbird is a product of Prodrive, and is the lightest folding bike in the world, goes some way to explain the interest and the expense.

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As Prodrive and the designer Petre Craciun are rightly proud of their work, I was lucky enough to be invited to Banbury and take a look at their workshop, along with the other carbon fibre toys Prodrive produces more regularly

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Simply walking in the Prodrive is an exercise in gazing longingly at fast cars parked everywhere from the car park, workshops and even the reception! Perhaps one of the smartest PR moves at Prodrive is in the waiting area of the lobby. Not just content with having hulking race cars in the lobby, they also put a window looking directly out into the workshop

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I was introduced to Petre and we briefly chatted about the discreet white Hummingbird Bike sat in the lobby. Unfortunately the Subaru’s and F1 cars do over power it a little!

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To wit Petre asked, before we go up to the Hummingbird lab, if I’d like a tour of Prodrive main works. Naturally I said yes! I’ve said in factory tours before such as when visiting Tacx or Elite – if someone offers you the opportunity to see a factory say YES! You meet amazing people there and getting to see behind the scenes is always a terrific experience

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What really struck me whilst walking across the factory floor as engineers were servicing the Aston Martin Le Mans race cars – is that Prodrive is not in the business of manufacturing pretty baubles. All of their machines are workhorses. Blisteringly fast, and eyewateringly expensive. But workhorses never the less. This was the first time I considered that the Hummingbird might be less of a vanity piece for the company, and more a genuine utility product

It turns out that Petre’s offer of tour wasnt entirely about being nice – it was also the chance for a a very subtle brag. In the below picture, the window in the top RIGHT, well that is Petres workshop!!

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Yes, as far as rooms with a view go, Petre has done rather well for himself!

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Bringing us nicely onto the Hummingbird Bike review itself. Gadgets are cool, but the stories behind the gadget, and what has driven someone to create them, can often be as interesting if not more so. That is very much the case here

The Hummingbird bike was Petre’s university project when studying engineering. His girlfriend lived on the fifth floor in a block of flats, where unfortunately her bike was unable to fit in the elevator, making biking to work more of a workout than most commutes. He had looked at other folding bikes, but had found the current market offerings either too heavy or clunky. Plus his engineering mind felt that the central hinge, common to most folding bikes, was a flawed design.

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The Hummingbird began as a discussion with his project supervisor about how the folding bike could be improved. The alighted on the concept of a carbon fibre folding bike, but with the pivot fold based around the bottom bracket. This idea subsequently became his final degree project, and subsequently the first prototype Hummingbird!

With the safety of his girlfriend the number one priority, Petre found that folding rear half of the bike was the key to getting the Hummingbird to work. Going through multiple iterations of hangers, balancing shape, weight, stiffness and durability to reach the current design

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Alighting on a single piece metal design which would hold all of the the main gubbins of the bike – rear wheel, gearing and brakes, Petre’s bike was born. With the Hummingbird he easily passed his course requirements, but more importantly Petre’s girlfriend had her new commuter bike!

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The original bike still sits in Petre’s office. It is very interesting even after Prodrive invested both into the Hummingbird idea, and Peter, how little of the overall form has changed from his initial prototype. Definately a case of refinement rather than reengineering

But where is the leap from project to product?

Petre’s girlfriend’s boss was very impressed with her new essential homemade bike, and ended up telling a friend. Eventually, the story reached the ears of Prodrive boss David Richards. In a turn of events fit for a Hollywood film, Petre found himself in talking to David Richards one evening. But that doesn’t found very Hollywood until David Richards, the carbon fibre supremo, begins to cycle Petre’s university project around his own kitchen island! David chose to invest in Petre that day

Thus the little carbon fibre Hummingbird bike came to Prodrive, and their fabrication workshops!

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Hummingbird Electric Bike Review – Design

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So that’s the Hummingbird bike story, let’s take a look at the actual product! On review is the electric hub equipped version, which *sharp intake of breath* nudges the price over £4000!

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Unsurpringly with the Hummingbird, there is a LOT of carbon fibre going on here. Handle bars, stem, seat post, forks and bike frame itself

The frame of the Hummingbird is a distinctly odd shape. Even more so when unadorned by the other components of cycling. Personally I think that it looks best, and most interesting, in yellow – especially so when in eBike form

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Other colours of carbon fibre are available though if you did want something less obvious. Similarly those with deeper pockets can have it any colour they choose

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Gearing is covered with a Shimano Alfine setup. Which can be selected in either single speed, or four speed internal hub variants. For those interesting in that sort of thing, a belt drive can also be specified

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Brakes are surprisingly responsive, and have excellent stopping power from the Trekro R359 callipers.

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It might seem an odd thing to raise, but the pedals are a very interesting aspect of the Hummbirdbird’s approach to folding. The pedals themselves are slim line, metal flats, and honestly feel a little narrow. Giving the impression as an unreasonable compromise towards the bikes design brief.

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However, they are not merely narrow for the sake of it! There is a metal pull, which releases the pedal. The pedal is then stowed behind the rear brake calliper when the bike is folded, giving a stream lined approach. Seeing how well the pedals are stored in the unit gives more leeway to the size

But If I was going to make one big criticism of the Hummingbird when it comes to components, it must be the saddle. Yes it has carbon rails, to keep the wait down, and yes the Hummingbird is the lightest bike of it’s type in the world BUT the Hummingbird is a commuter bike!! People will be riding it in normal trousers! Without the padding of a bib! I highlight this, because the saddle from the factory is quite possibly the most uncomfortable saddle I’ve ever encountered, and honestly it is a bit of a shame

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Hummingbird Electric Bike Review – Specification

  • Weight: 6.3kg in single speed form, you can go up to 10.3kg with eHub
  • eHub: by Zehus
  • Range: 40km
  • Wattage: 250 watts
  • Motor: Brushless DC
  • Battery: 5.3Ah, fully charged in 3 hours, replaceable
  • Fold time: 10.2 sec
  • Brakes: Aest CNC ultralight brake levers and Tektro R539 callipers
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano press fit
  • Dimensions when folded: 550mm (h) x 850mm (l) x 200mm (w)
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Kojak 
  • Saddle: Unbranded carbon rails
  • Available in 6 colours and polished carbon
  • Price: STARTING at £3495
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Speaking of colours, whilst there are the six spray colours already mentioned, there is the option for a beautiful polished carbon fibre. Although this option adds nearly £500 to the price, when seen in the flesh so to speak, the Hummingbird begins to move from a simple bike to a piece of art. I’m aware of at least one owner, who also plumped for the carbon fibre wheels at £900, and has simply hung his bike on the wall!

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Given the stratospheric prices you can push the Hummingbird to, I’m a little surprised that the available mudguards – it’s a commuter bike after all – are a cost option. Although I suppose, if you were being generous you could say the same is true of an Aston Martin, where everything is a cost option as well!

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Hummingbird Electric Bike Review – User Manual

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There is a user manual available for the Zehus hub HERE

Hummingbird Electric Bike Review – Electric Hub

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The Zehus hub is a very interesting option fro the Hummingbird, mainly means that unlike other electric commuter bikes, such as the GoCycle, the battery is not integrated into the frame. Everything with the Zehus hub is integrated into the wheel. Including the charge point! Simply unscrew the metal cap covering the axel to reveal a charging port

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There are several benefits of this pure wheel based ehub system. The lack of proprietary charger for one, meaning you can easily have an additional charger at work if needed

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The second, being that you can just remove the eHub wheel and use a normal wheel instead on the Hummingbird (Although worthwhile noting this is not quick release)

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The removal of the electric part of the bike is not something which is possible with many regular regular ebikes, or commuter bikes either. If you flip the concept of the eHub, it means that you can upgrade a regular Hummingbird bike to a Zehus at a later date (assuming you have the single speed version). It has to be said that with the eHub in place you do forfeit the original weight saving of the Hummingbird, but having the single speed wheel you have options. One day using the eHub to get to work to save your legs, the next zipping into down on just the 6.3kg single wheel setup

When you initially go whizzing around on the Hummingbird, if you haven’t used an ebike before, the initial experience is a bit of a let down. You shoot off down the road peddling along with the motor, trying to get to work quickly, yet ending up STILL hot and sweaty on arrival. I’ll be frank, on my first outing heading to work, I wasn’t impressed. Though that didn’t stop me leaving the bike in the corner of my consulting room hoping that it might stimulate engagement with any patient who might be looking to become more active

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The problem here was mine. I was riding the Hummingbird as you would a normal bike, and possibly still stuck in the “faster faster” mentality. It was only when I was cycling back home from a long day, and feeling very empty, that I noticed how easy the ride home was. Then the penny dropped, the eHub doesn’t help you get to places faster, it helps you to leave the car, and get to places you can’t normally without being a sweaty mess.

Yes you are legally limited to the 24km/hr in the UK, but that doesn’t stop the Hummingbird feeling like a joy. You dart so effortlessly on it, you have more fun than on a normal commute to work. It almost feels like cheating, which is what many people will tell you an electric bike is – IGNORE THEM WITH VIGOUR!

As I began to use the electric Hummingbird more, I really saw the benefits, but also potential disadvantages. The eHub is probably not going to help your fitness greatly. A surprising thing perhaps to say, as you’ll likely bike more. The point is that the effort you put in riding it is understandably is less – although in turn more than you would if just sat in a car or taxi. As a result, an already active person will benefit less than the person who was previously inactive

In terms of day to day use of the eHub, my biggest niggle is how you are reliant you are upon the bikes app to provide feedback on the eHub’s battery. For the price, I don’t think a series of wireless battery indicator LED’s on the bike, or even directly on the ehub itself would have been unreasonable? Thankfully I found that the 40km estimated range was a bit conservative, which is a good thing on a bike such as this. As once you’ve set the assistance level and the regenerative braking force, you are only really going to use to app to check the how much battery you have left, and it is easy to forget to do early on, as the system does feel like a normal bike in so many ways

Hummingbird Electric Bike Review – Using the bike

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OK, elephant in the room, what is the folding like? Seriously it is a doddle. Pull a lever in the handlebars to collapse the stem fold them in. Pull another lever to release the rear axel, and lift from the saddle. Lift, as the bike is built in such as way that the rear rolls under the front, allowing you to lock the handlebars against the rear wheel with the “Hummlock” clip.

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Folding things down really is a quick as you’d like. With everything stowed the shape of the frame now acts as a handle letting you carry the bike. Something which makes life much easier when moving around train stations

OK to be fair, the fold down is quick assuming you dont take the pedals off, which can be surprisingly fiddly to remove. Reflected in the fact the only time I did stow the pedals was when jumping on the train. as you don’t want to catch people, of where things didn’t fit as well – so mainly throwing the bike in the car!

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A little folding bike, dumped in the back of the car makes hospital off site parking so much easier. At a saving £9.90 a day, that would quickly rack up

The Hummingbird, out on the road is very much like it’s progenitor Aston Martins. If you plan on using an Aston as your daily driver, or regularly commuting on a Hummingbird, you are going to have to make few sacrifices in terms of ride compared to a “normal” commuter machine.

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The best way I can describe the Hummingbird is… twitchy. Don’t misconstrue me here, riding the Hummingbird, especially with the electric hub, is an utter blast, but you are aware of how high you sit, compared to the wheel size. You feel slightly top heavy initially, and really know about the bumps, but you adapt quickly 

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Hummingbird Electric Bike Review – Conclusion

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A major point that I’ve learnt about bike reviews is that my overall opinion takes longer to develop, which is surprising, as in many ways you’ve a simpler product. I feel the reason is that with a bike you have to look beyond the components to look at the character of the machine. You play with the bike, think you’ve formulated your opinion, and just as you are about to send it back, the penny drops, and you realise some additional epiphany for good or ill.

That’s pretty much what has happened to me with the Hummingbird. Over the review period, I’ve basically gone from “Cool idea and great story” to “This is a lot of money… I’m not sure” before it clicked, cycling home up the hill from the train stain to a “Now I get it!” moment of insight

So first things first. The Hummingbird is cool. There is no question. I’ve bombed around on a Brompton bike, and when you do you are just a guy on a Brompton. With the Hummingbird bike, even just jumping off at Sainsbury’s on my lunch break, people would stop and ask me what it is and want to know more. Yes the screaming yellow paint on my review bike may have played a part, but even the “simple” black versions draw attention

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This bike is eye-wateringly expensive – even if you try to argue that as this is the lightest folding bike on the planet you’ll save by commuting and taking the Hummingbird on the train. You’ll be commuting for quite a long time to cover the fact that your Hummingbird has cost nearly FOUR times as much as the cheapest Brompton.

As with the Aston Martin, the Hummingbird bike is something you buy with your heart as much as you do with your head.

If you opt for the electric hub version (and you really should in order to get the most out of this bike), you suddenly have an amazing bike, coupled with the ability to genuinely spin through town without the risk of getting your shirt sweaty before you turn in for work. Plus you can still have a separate fixed wheel if you want to forgo the electric push and get the whole calorie burn yourself. The only downside is the even bigger dent in your wallet if you go the electric route. So said with my head, I’m giving an official TG 4/5

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But wait – what about heart?

Knowing the story of the Hummingbird, and having enjoyed it for the last week, there is something I can only describe as magical about this diminutive little machine.

If you are in the market for a folding bike, and have pockets deep enough, I can only strongly suggest you check out this beautiful piece of engineering.

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Said with my heart, the Hummingbird can only get a 5/5 TG review.

You could save yourself a lot of money and buy something almost as comparable functionally. You can buy a cheap folding bike for under £750. Similarly, you can buy a Ford Mondeo rather than an Aston Martin. But a Ford Mondeo is a functional machine, and a great car BUT an Aston is essentially a passion project for both the engineer who designed it and the owner who get’s to drive it.

A Brompton will save you nearly £2000 over the cheapest version of the Hummingbird. Buy a Brompton and you’ll get a functional, effective commuter bike, but you’ll miss out on some of the magic that has been imbued by Petre into his Hummingbird passion project. If you are even able to consider a Hummingbird bike, take one for a test spin and listen to what your heart says before you make your decision

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. <br /> <br /> After learning a lot about olecranon fractures, I was introduced to the world Zwift, and slowly transitioned into writing about sports gadgets and the like<br /> <br /> Trying to keep up cycling, swimming and running whilst being a busy General Practice Doctor