At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.What the road.cc scores mean
Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
Riese & Müller's iconic Birdy could be characterised as the over-engineered Germanic answer to a Brompton. However, while the Birdy Touring's ride experience does exhibit a strange 'bobbing' quality, it is also superbly comfortable with surprisingly impressive levels of power delivery and control. It is very, very expensive, though.
Here at road.cc, we don't do grouptests, which is a blessing to some extent. Trying to get multiple versions of similar bikes from disparate manufacturers or distributors can feel like herding cats. However, as luck would have it, at the same time as I was testing the Birdy, I also had the Vello Rocky on review, so (don't tell anybody), if you read that review (once it's published) straight after this, I've sort of snuck in a little two-model 'boutique-style' folding bike grouptest here.
The Birdy offers a strangely springy ride quality, far more so than the very, very stiff Vello. Thanks to suspension both front and back, there's a slightly bizarre sensation of bobbing up and down in the saddle – particularly when pedalling hard – that takes a bit of getting used. I suspect roadies and anybody focused solely on forward momentum will find it frustrating. However, it's hard to condemn the Birdy's ride because it's also very comfortable. Think of it sort of like a folding bike equivalent of an old Citroen 2CV; it's almost impossible to stop it lolloping and rolling but it's still quite impressive in its own way.
Just to check it wasn't my prodigious weight causing this phenomenon, I gave the Birdy to my wife, who is not a prodigious weight. She also experienced the bobbing, but she also said it was the most comfortable bike she'd ever ridden. I have to concur – it is very comfortable – but that bobbing is still pretty weird.
While some riders might far rather swap at least some of that obviously compliant bump-absorption for a bit more stiffness, pedalling is far from a turgid affair and the Birdy actually gets up to speed well. The Birdy marketing bumf suggests this is because the suspended wheels maintain contact with the ground better, and therefore create better drive.
Control is also surprisingly good. For a folder, reach is quite long, which provides a slightly more enthusiastic ride and, at speed, the Birdy handles very well. It's easy to place on the road and its geometry offers just about the most naturally stable riding position – for me at 6ft at least – of any folder I've tested. The bobbing motion of the suspension negatively affects the feeling of stability just a tad, but among all the folders I've tested, it is – again surprisingly – the easiest for getting out of the saddle.
In short, that wallowing suspension might not be to everybody's tastes, but this is an otherwise fun and capable bike to ride.
In unfolded form, the Birdy's geometry and riding position make it feel almost like a 'normal' bike. As I mentioned, the reach is good, as is wheelbase length. Stem height can be adjusted to one of five predetermined points, but even at the top one it might be a little low for tall riders wanting an upright position. I thought it was perfect for getting a bit of speed up. Saddle height was good enough to fit my 6ft frame and there was more seatpost available.
There's no getting away from the fact that the Birdy is a pretty funny looking thing. The main frame is effectively a single piece of aluminium engineering – no traditional tubes and joins here, this is monocoque all the way, albeit with a small integrated triangle heading down to the bottom bracket.
At the bottom bracket, there's also the pivot point for the separate hydroformed rear triangle. Like the Brompton and the aforementioned Vello, the Birdy's fold relies on this rear triangle swinging underneath the main frame when folded.
At the front, it's sort of similar, actually. The fork's two-arm suspension system effectively splits, with the front wheel folding underneath to sit alongside the main frame. It's all rather ingenious, although the stem ruins it slightly by utilising an old-school clamp that you have to undo to fold that in half.
Drop the saddle to lock everything in place, and you've got a very compact little folded package.
The Birdy has the world record for folding – 4.9 seconds – and despite its engineering complexity, it's actually fairly intuitive. I unfolded it initially without resorting to any instructions.
I tested the Touring Birdy here, which comes with a 10-speed derailleur gearset, as opposed to the City model with Shimano Nexus hub gear, or Rohloff model with – you guessed it – a Rohloff Speed Hub. Having a 32-tooth biggest sprocket does look a tad strange inset against an 18in wheel, but a derailleur setup is – normally at least – fine by me.
Gear changes were very positive and allied with the Driveline 52-tooth chainset, the 9-32 cassette offered enough options for just about anything – climbing is particularly easy. It's a bit of a shame that on a bike costing north of £2,500 you're 'only' getting Microshift XLE componentry at the rear mech – I looked online and the XLE rear mech is available for £29.99 from a well-known online cycle retailer. Call me a snob, but a £30 rear mech on a £2,500+ bike seems a bit cheap. Despite that, I'm actually quite a fan of Microshift kit so, functionally at least, there's almost nothing to complain about.
I say 'almost' because Birdy does make mention of the fact that, despite its low bottom bracket, it still complies with regulations regarding pedal strike when leaning over into a corner. What it doesn't say is that having a full size rear mech on an 18in rear wheel means you can get pretty close to striking the road with that, too. I doubt you'll be knee-down in the corners enough for it to be a problem, but just be aware that it's a lot closer to the floor than a rear mech normally is.
Finishing off the important moving parts are the Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes. These offer more than enough power, and after an initial 'grabby phase' provide excellent feel to make sure you use exactly the amount of braking that you need.
One little quirk about these, though, is that the front calliper is mounted on the right leg of the fork. It makes no difference to performance but does seem just a tad strange.
The Birdy runs on 18in wheels, rather than the Vello's 20in or the Brompton's 16in. The rims here are made by Alex, which again is another slight disappointment. (Fun game for the comments section – can anybody name a bike that costs more than the Birdy but also runs Alex rims?)
The more interesting part of the wheel build is the Shutter Precision front dynamo hub. We'll come onto the point of that in a mo. As a package, the wheels seem fine if exceedingly nondescript.
Tyres are a bit better for people looking for brand names. The Schwalbe Marathon Racers offer fantastic grip in the dry and should be good enough for year-round use in all but snow and ice. They're certainly a sensible out-of-the-box option to get the most out of your Birdy.
Folding bikes are always a bit weird when it comes to finishing kit, and the Birdy is certainly no exception. I'll start with the obvious stuff first: the Selle Royal Shadow saddle is great; the Satori Horizon handlebar is good; and the Ergon ergonomic grips are excellent.
We also get cute little Birdy-specific SKS mudguards, a little kickstand on the rear triangle and custom – although sadly not folding – pedals.
Best of all, though, the front dynamo hub powers Supernova E3 lights at the front and rear, and our Birdy also came with Riese & Müller's funky Birdy luggage rack (that's an extra £94), which cleverly drops down with the rear triangle in folded form.
According to Riese and Müller's website, the Birdy Touring sits in the middle of a three-bike range. Don't get your hopes up that there's a budget wonder there, though: the entry-level Birdy City starts at £2,579 and the halo Birdy Rohloff is a whopping £3,979.
Obviously, in that kind of price range, equivalent rival bikes are few and far between.
I mentioned the Vello Rocky I've also been reviewing earlier, which is similar in being almost a boutique folding bike, although it comes with a better Shimano XT gearset yet costs 'just' £1,352. If you've got the money, you could go for the even more exclusive and lighter Vello Rocky Titanium at €2,890 (£2,444.37).
Or there is the legendary Brompton. For £400 less than the Birdy, you could have one of Brompton's speedy and lightweight P Line models. So in comparison, you'd have to say the Birdy does look expensive.
Despite its fairly phenomenal price, though, I have developed a bit of affection for my little Birdy test bike. While I could never imagine spending that kind of money to buy one myself, there is a lot of innovative engineering here. Yes, its ride experience is unusual, but it's quite fun, very comfortable, and surprisingly fast and secure on the road. If you want something special, and you've got the money, certainly give one a test ride.
Unique folding bike with a lot of positives qualities, but it also has a strange tendency to bob, and that price, well...
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Birdy Touring
Size tested: n/a
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Monocoque aluminium with hydroformed aluminium rear triangle
Headset: TH No 10, semi-integrated
Crankset: Driveline 52T, including Hollow Tech bottom bracket
Rear derailleur: Microshift, 10-speed
Shifter: Shimano Deore, 10-speed
Chain: KMC X10 ( 111x )
Cassette: Sunrace 10-speed, 9-32t
Brakes: Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brake
Rims: Alex 18in
Front hub: Hub dynamo Shutter Precision
Rear hub: Sunrace, 32 Loch
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Racer 40-355 Reflex
Tubes: Schwalbe SV5
Saddle: Selle Royal Shadow
Seatpost: JD / Riese and Müller, aluminium 34.9 x 565mm
Seatclamp: TranzX, 40,0 mm, QR
Pedals: VP R&M Custom
Handlebar: Satori Horizon, 31.8 mm, 10°, B=540 mm
Grips: Ergon ergonomic
Front light: Supernova E3 Pure 3S
Tail light: Supernova E3 E-Bike Tail Light 2
Mudguards: SKS Birdy
Kickstand: Minoura for Birdy
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
This is a folding bike aimed at the serious commuter or even longer-distance cyclist. Riese and Müller says: "Whether you're on holiday or for everyday working, the Birdy takes you safely to any destination, with Riese & Müller Control Technology. Thanks to its unique folding properties and low weight, you can take it with you easily at any time: folded together, it fits onto any form of public transport or into any car boot. And it can also be adjusted to different rider heights just as quickly as it can be folded."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Birdy Touring sits in the middle of a three-bike range. There's the entry-level Birdy City starting at £2,579 or the halo Birdy Rohloff starting at £3,979.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are essentially the main selling points of the Birdy, and you can see why. They're very well engineered.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Aluminium monocoque for the main body of the frame, with hydroformed aluminium elsewhere.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Quite aggressive, almost 'real' bike geometry for the Birdy. I felt more head-down than on most other folders.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Very good in terms of height and reach. Only potential negative is that some riders might want slightly more handlebar height.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable to ride – the suspension front and back saw to that!
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Ah, now it gets tricky. Yes, this bike bobs and wallows almost all the time, but especially under pedalling input.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It still felt efficient, though.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Not super lively, but a bit more eager than plain neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
I was impressed by the handling. Aside from the bobbing, it was very surefooted. High speed freewheeling descents, for example, were great fun.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
No changes needed for comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
No component changes would make any difference here.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I'd suggest a higher-spec gearset would make things even better.
It's a folder, so its sprinting capacity is limited. But the Birdy is good for a folder.
It's efficient, but that bobbing really makes itself known on climbs.
On a £2,500+ bike, you really expect better.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Brompton has made its own gearset and I would suggest Riese & Müller would probably benefit from doing the same. Fitting budget drivetrain componentry to bike at this price point doesn't look good.
Wheels and tyres
Again, R&M branded kit, even if it was still produced by Alex, would at least look better.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes are probably the highlight of the package – they work well.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Absolutely not.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? To test, yes. To buy unseen, no.
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Vello Rocky (review to come) is similar in being almost a boutique-style folding bike, although it comes with a better Shimano XT gearset yet costs 'just' £1,352. If you've got the money, you could go for the even more exclusive and lighter weight Vello Rocky Titanium at €2,890. Or there is the legendary Brompton. For £400 less than the Birdy, you could have one of Brompton's speedy and lightweight P Line models. In comparison, you'd have to say the Birdy does look expensive.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Folders are so tricky to score because they often feature so much innovation and engineering yet, ultimately, they still have to be judged on the basics: ride quality, performance and value. Here, the Birdy does well on the first two criteria, even if that bobbing sensation is a bit off-putting. But even despite all the positive qualities of its unique design, the Birdy's price is just too much for most people.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure