The Mysterious Minifold
American-born Tim Whitty owns the well-known Cyclecare bicycle shops in Kensington, London and Purton, Wiltshire. In 2003, at the Purton shop, he came across a fascinating little folding bicycle. It is badged as a Minifold, which sounds like the sort of name with which any folding bicycle enthusiast would be familiar. It isn’t. Neither Tim nor I, nor any folding cycle enthusiast we know, has ever heard of a Minifold.
In Tim’s photos of the bike, shown here, there’s a tape measure extended to 36 inches. This indicates that the bike is not much more than 3 feet long, which is a little less than 1 metre. The machine’s frame is unusual and interesting, in that it is primarily of cast aluminium but with several cast steel parts. As you can see from the picture below of the bike in its folded condition, the cranks fold in an unusual way: they hinge inwards, so that the pedals do not protrude.
The folding handlebars are somewhat reminiscent of certain French folding bicycles of the 1960s and this impression is bolstered by the old French-style reversed brake levers. The seat support structure, with its shallow-angled, hinged, square-section seat tube and bifurcated support strut, is quite novel. Square-section seat tube is, in itself, unusual, though not without precedent. The wheels and brakes are the sort of equipment that might have been used on a Raleigh child’s bike in the 1960s. Braking is provided by a combination of cable, rod and stirrup, whereas the wheels and tyres are 12-inch, wide section. The whole machine has the look of something created in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Tim’s guess is that this was a sophisticated and expensive prototype. He thinks that the ride was found to be unacceptable and that the Minifold project was therefore abandoned. This view is supported by the good condition of the machine and the fact that the original tyres show little sign of wear.
Why did it turn up in Wiltshire? A couple of old time cyclists from the Purton area have looked at the Minifold and suggested that, in view of the constructional techniques and materials used, there may be an aerospace connection. There was a Vickers (later British Aerospace) aircraft factory nearby in east Swindon and, though this no longer exists, there are still companies in the area that have their roots in the old Vickers operation.
So, if you have any further information about the Minifold, please get in touch.