Pacific Cycles iF Urban 700C pictures and hands-on

People are intrigued by folding bikes, as you'll soon discover when you hit the streets with the Pacific Cycles iF Urban 700C. People will stop and stare; they'll gawp at you folding what looks like a normal bike in half.

The biggest draw is that this is a full-sized folding bike. That means it has proper wheels, not tiny little wheels like a child's bike, but the sort of wheels you'd find on any hybrid or road bike: 700c wheels. 

The frame offers a unique tri-folding mechanism that effectively means you can release a lever and fold the bike in half, wheel to wheel. In reality, the folding mechanism is much more sophisticated than a central hinge: it's one of those clever pieces of design that you'll stand and admire. As will most other people.

We're all now familiar with the Brompton folding technique. It's almost exciting to watch an experienced Bromptonite (we made that word up) flip the back wheel under and go from a decent-sized commuter bike to something the size of a briefcase.

The iF Urban doesn't quite have the same degree of wow factor to it. Yes, it's a folding bike, but where the Bromptons of this world have commuter written all over them, the Pacific Cycles model doesn't quite.

Sure, you get a full-sized folding bike, but the biggest problem it faces is that when folded, it isn't that small (because you still have the full-sized wheels) and it isn't a stable package like a Brompton. We had no problem putting it out of the way on the train, but it doesn't balance particularly well.

You'll also find there there is nothing padded or protected when the bike is folded. If you place the iF Urban down on the Tarmac, you'll be scratching the frame or risk scratching the paintwork. 

The result is that the iF Urban 700C feels like a folder for those who are going to spend more time riding the bike than riding the train. You'll be able to fold it for storage, perhaps to tuck away in the corner of your office or flat, or to throw easily into the boot of a car.  

Folding is easy once you have the technique down, but you do need to watch your fingers. Parts of the frame are moving as you make the fold, so grip the bike in the wrong place and your fingers will be trapped in the mechanism.  

It's a rookie mistake and one you'll only make a few times, but don't say we didn't warn you. One of the nice things about the iF Urban when folded is that you don't have to carry it. You'll be able to roll it along in front of you balanced on the wheels, really handy to get you off the station platform, or into the office lift. 

Once folded there are magnets on the ends of the wheel nuts, which holds the bike together. It's fuss free, but won't stay stuck together if it gets knocked because it isn't locked in place.

The bike weighs 13.2kg, so it's pretty heavy, but not disastrously so. It measures 102 x 42 x 77cm when folded.

Keeping things clean is an 8-speed Sturmey Archer gear hub at the rear, a preferable option in this case to traditional gears. The range is impressive, so you'll have no problem spinning up hills and powering down the other side.

Disc brakes are in place to help you stop on the spot in busy traffic and in our tests we found that everything worked nicely. About the only thing you need to do is keep an eye on cable stretch to make sure the hub keeps changing properly.

In the saddle this is a comfortable bike to ride. The 700c wheels (the same size as a conventional road bike) make for a comfortable and stable ride. The frame doesn't flex to wobble around the folding mechanism, but we're not so sure about the folding handlebar stem.

The positioning on the bike makes this a "sit up and beg" style bike. As the front wheel is some way forward from the rest of your body weight, the front end can feel a little twitchy. It's comfortable, even on long rides, but you can't make any adjustments to positioning at the front end, so it never really feels like a sporty ride. 

The saddle offers plenty of height adjustment. At just over 6ft in height we found we could get a comfortable saddle position: if you're much taller we're not so sure, something you'd want to examine before parting with your cash.

So overall, the Pacific Cycles iF Urban 700C is a unique folder. The clever mechanism means you get to ride away on a bike that feels better suited to longer distances than some more-compact models. The conventional wheels mean changing tyres, spares, etc, are easy to find and give you a nice smooth ride.

It rides well as long as you accept the slightly twitchy front end and don't expect it to ride like a more serious hybrid. Therein lies the problem too. Priced at £1199 you really have to want a folding bike with full-sized wheels, because you can get a very well-specified conventional hybrid for £500 less.

That makes the iF Urban something of an oddity. Lacking the convenience of a compact commuter folder and lacking the ride of a "proper" bike, the iF Urban 700C might just make one too many compromises for some people.

That said, if you're short on space in your London pad, this is a bike that will give you better performance, while still being able to folded away so you can store it in the cupboard under the stairs.