Meet the Crosshead Sport – a new entrant to the folding bike market that is the brainchild of founder Stuart Lambert and which is focused on the ride, rather than the fold.
The raw aluminium bike costs from £1,800-£2,700 and weighs in at a reasonably wrist-pain-inducing 12.5kgs (Bromptons, for example, weigh 9kg-13kg). But it is festooned with a slick 10-speed gearing system powered by Shimano (Tiagra), rugged frame, 20” wheels and a customisability that sets it apart.
Velocity met founder and industrial designer Lambert in London’s Paddington to road test the beast, or rather canal towpath-test it. We can confirm that it is a tight, robust ride that feels more like the road bikes that Lambert loves than a fold-up for shorter journeys.
Describing his six prototypes, 3D CAD modelling and endless fine tuning, Lambert says: "It’s such a complex project you’ve either got to go for it and see it through or it will break you.
"What I’ve brought to the table is that this is about the ride. It would have all the equipment and feel of a road bike. There are some good commuter folding bikes out there: I wanted one that is the best to ride. That is the objective."
The bike is assembled in a factory in Deal, Kent, and production capability is on the small side for now – around 10 bikes a week. But the intention is to grow, with further models promised, including a race version with 20 gears (two chainrings at the front) later this year, an all-terrain one with disc brakes and wider tyres, a tourer with rack and mudguards and even, into the future, an already-designed electric version that may take on Brompton’s newest offering.
Lambert, though, is under no illusions regarding the market pressures ahead – not least Brexit – and is taking things as they come. He has already spent eight years developing the machine and patenting its unique "Z-fold" – so called because that’s how it looks in plan. Now it's a case of taking small steps to build awareness, attracting national retailers to supplement distribution straight from the Crosshead website. Accessories including bags ("that look like a normal day bag") will also follow.
Lambert was inspired to create the Crosshead – with help from Sir Clive Sinclair’s Abike designer Alex Kalogroulis – after buying a fold-up (he won’t say which) on holiday in Bruges, but being disappointed by its capabilities. He brings with him 20 years’ experience in the design industry in London and as a freelance designer in Milan, including at furniture firms Vitra and Herman Miller.
The name Crosshead comes from a component in engines that helps convert rotary into linear motion. It does not limit Lambert to folding bikes alone, he says.
Has the journey been stressful? "Absolutely, yes," says Lambert, who bankrolled 50% of the venture, putting in around £200,000 and downsizing his home, moving from Greenwich to Deal, to do so. "This is the terrain of the guy who just has to go for it. But I always knew it would be tough."
V’s view is that any new entrant to this sometimes difficult market should be supported, and we wish the Crosshead – along with Lambert and his seven shareholders – every success in their venture.